Dissent. Diversity. Unity.

Author

Josephine Moore

Josephine Moore has 12 articles published.

The Real Meaning of “Covfefe”

in Media and Society by

Covfefe: When you make a typo and then make a big deal about it so people talk about a silly typo rather than about the fact that you are pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord when humanity and life on Earth is facing a serious threat to our very existence due to climate change.

I don’t know how covfefe is pronounced because I don’t give a fuck.

Why I Am a Progressive

in Political Thought by

When I was in high school, religion and the existence of God were issues and questions my friends and I debated frequently. I was definitely agnostic. I find comfort in the tangible, the verifiable—I like data, and I enjoy math because I like the certainty of finding a correct answer.

One day (in biology class) I asked a friend of mine who was (and still is) deeply religious why he believed in God. It was a beautiful spring day, and he waved his arm toward the window (we’re both drama nerds, so we love the theatrical) and said, “Look at that life! The trees, the sky, the grass, all the animals out there! How could that be without God?”

For me, this was not a convincing argument. Science could explain the prevalence of life on Earth, and I scoffed at his simplistic faith that dismissed the explanations provided by human discovery and research.

Over the years, however, I have thought of this moment many times. And I have begun to think that although what he was saying was indeed simple, it also contained something fundamentally true:

At the heart of the existence and continuance of life is an essential mystery, an original seed, a moment of wonder. And this is what imbues all life with a sacredness and a call for reverence that must not be dismissed, forgotten, or chopped up and compartmentalized.

In this, I have come to see the divine in this wonder of life—its diversity, its strangeness, its imperfection, and its dogged perseverance. When I think about all the factors that have come together so perfectly so our planet can support such prevalence and multiplicity of life—the exact right distance from our sun, the perfect tilt of our axis that gives us all the cycles that ensure life continues to renew itself year after year, the composition of our planet in both water and minerals, and much more—I am in awe.

And I am deeply grateful.

But it is not enough for me to simply feel this appreciation or to offer up my thanks to a higher power. To truly honor this life, to give of myself in deep gratitude, I must do what I can to protect and care for this fundamental gift of life.

And the science- and data-loving part of me supports this conclusion. For when I look around at our glorious planet, I see this practice of protecting and caring for life everywhere. This is not just a human concept; all life on Earth does something to support, protect, and/or make possible other life on this Earth. This is the basis of any ecosystem: an interconnectivity of care that makes life possible and thrive for all.

Now, how each of us expresses this gratitude and reverence will differ among us. And I’m okay with that; after all, diversity is a part of life itself.

But for me, this reverence for the sacredness of life is what informs my progressive values and drives my political activism.

I advocate for single-payer healthcare for all because, as many have said, healthcare is a human right. But perhaps “right” is the wrong word here, as it calls to the authority of such human-made documents as the US Bill of Rights or the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For me, healthcare is life care, and to be a moral society, we must ensure that all people get the care they need to sustain their life as much as they can and desire.

I advocate to protect the environment and work to minimize the effects of climate change because we are destroying life on this planet and making it unlivable for future generations. We cannot simultaneously hold this gift of life as sacred and yet not work to protect and care for all life on our planet—including life still to come.

I recoil at the glorification and mindless race to needless war because I see—and don’t understand how others DON’T see—that it is a repudiation of all that a moral society holds true. It is to spit on our sacred gift of life.

In fact, all the issues that I and other progressives fight for—quality education for all, racial and gender justice and equality, housing for all, access to quality employment, affordable childcare, paid parental or family leave, ensuring security and dignity for our elder generation, caring for the sick and disabled—and what we fight against—grotesque income and wealth inequality; corporate rule and exploitation; oligarchy; government corruption; poisoning our air, water, and food supply; mass incarceration; extrajudicial killings; systemic discrimination; and on and on . . .

At the heart of all progressive values is a reverence for the sacredness of life and, thus, a commitment to protect and care for everyone in all of our communities, with no racial, gender, income, geographic, or other human-imposed exceptions.

So if someone were to ask me why I believe what I believe—why I am a progressive—I may wave my arm in a very theatrical way and proclaim, “Look at this life! I need to do what I can for it!”

Talking to Our Republican Representatives About Healthcare

in Healthcare by

The following is a post previously published on hillarysavoie.com. It is being reposted here with permission of the author, my friend Hillary Savoie, who is fighting for her daughter’s healthcare because any lapse or reduction in care could mean death for her dear daughter, Esmé.

 

I don’t want to write about healthcare, yet, somehow, I have to . . . because I am the mother of a child who is medically fragile. I am the mother of a child who relies on Medicaid and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. And right now? Right now I cannot afford not to write about it.

This week—after months of effort—my daughter and I met with our Congressman, John Faso, NY district 19. I’m not going to go into what an effort it was to get this meeting. Nor am I going to write about what I thought about it all . . . not yet.

But what I will do right now is share the statement I read to him:

I am here today to talk with you about my daughter, Esmé, and the impact that your recent vote on healthcare reform could have on her, our family, and others like us.
First let me give you some background.

I come from a good family—you know my stepfather. Your son has eaten dinner at my family home. I am well educated—Emma Willard, McGill University, and RPI for my PhD. I married an architect and engineer. He has a good job, good health insurance. We paid extra for the extra good health insurance since well before Esmé was born because it seemed like the smart thing to do. I was planning to be a university professor. I was planning that we would be a family who paid into a system and didn’t take out of it. And I was proud and happy to do that.

But then Esmé was born—and what we now know to be four genetic mutations dropped a bomb in all our plans. This kind of bomb is the kind that does not care how well educated you are, how good your job is, how much you’ve done right. This bomb came in the form of genetic mutations for us. Sometimes it is a car careening down the road. Or cancer cells. But I can tell you that I did not expect it. I did not ask for it. My daughter certainly did not deserve it—despite what some of your congressional colleagues have said about who does and doesn’t deserve pre-existing conditions. It was Esmé this time—but it could be your child, your grandchild. It still could be.

What does this bomb mean for us? It means my daughter almost died in my arms when she was three months old. It means I have held her through thousands of seizures in her short life, trying to tell her it will be okay, even though I do not know that it will be okay. It means my child will need help with everything that comes easily for you and me for the remainder of her life, which I pray will be longer than my own but know may not be. It means my daughter has twenty doctors and has spent months of her life in the hospital. It means I cannot hold the kind of job I trained for. It means that when we don’t have overnight nursing I sometimes need to pause before I walk into my daughter’s room in the morning because I am terrified she might have had a seizure in the night, that I will find her not breathing and cold. As some of my friends have found their children.

It means that I spend every single waking moment focusing on keeping her alive and safe and thriving. And I dream about it too.

What you did last week, how you voted—it was my nightmare.

You voted for $840 billion dollars in Medicaid cuts over ten years. Cuts that will directly affect the most vulnerable citizens—the 64 percent who are elderly, disabled, and children and take up 75 percent of Medicaid expenditures. This includes Esmé and the other 25,885 constituents in your district who are disabled and rely on Medicaid—the other 60,423 children in your district who rely on Medicaid.

Medicaid is already the leanest of health insurance providers—per capita costs are substantially lower than private insurance over the past decade and are rising more slowly. The cuts you voted for will come either in the form of removing high-cost individuals—like Esmé—from Medicaid waivers or in the form of cutting costs such as the hours of nursing care my daughter receives. They will cut the rates of pay for the people who care for her, many of whom can qualify for Medicaid on a forty-hour work week because the pay rates are so low. They will cut the equipment that gives mobility, safety, and health to children like mine. They will cut the support for special education and services in our schools, $4 billion of which comes from Medicaid. They will alter the way children’s hospitals provide care.

Disabled individuals of all income brackets rely on Medicaid waiver programs. They are essential safety net programs for families like mine who could easily be bankrupted by the extra medical costs not covered by insurance. They are critical for families like mine who cannot have two working parents and keep their child alive, who need to know that if my husband’s job disappears tomorrow, we will still have some way to keep Esmé safe. Medicaid keeps even a middle-class family in our situation like ours afloat, let alone those in far more dire financial situations.

Last week you voted quite plainly for a tax break for the wealthiest of our citizens. And you did so quickly enough that you were able to avoid speaking to your constituents at all. You could have addressed problems in the ACA without gutting Medicaid, without giving tax breaks to health insurance execs making $10 million a year, without throwing away the promises of protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

My daughter has fought for her life from her first breath. She has fought to move her body. To produce sounds. To breathe and swallow safely. She taught herself her colors and numbers as a toddler. She has taught herself to read at age four. She works like you cannot imagine every single day in the therapies she’s been in since she was two months old. It is one part miracle that she is alive, one part sheer determination on her part, and one part thanks to all those who work for her well-being. By all accounts my daughter should not have survived. If things in this world came to those who worked the hardest, my child would be queen of the free world. But life isn’t always fair. That is why those of us with power, with voices, with networks, with education—it is our job to be thoughtful and kind and compassionate toward those who, no matter how hard they try, will never be able to reach the place some of us, through sheer luck, start out from.

We all need to prioritize in life. What we prioritize says everything about who we are. I prioritize my daughter’s life—her actual life, her daily survival—over my career, over money, over being able to ever have a vacation, over having shiny new things, over my own ego, over the part of me that wants to sit here and tell you in no uncertain terms what I really think of what you’ve done as her representative rather than attempt to be polite. That tells you something about who I am, what I am about. What my life will be measured by.

With your vote you stated your priorities. You prioritized the wealthiest people in this country over the health, safety, and well-being of my child and children like her. And you did it surreptitiously. You did it despite the calls from your constituents begging you not to. You did it without waiting for information from the Congressional Office on Budget Priorities. You did it despite the clear majority of Americans who opposed the bill.

You’ve made it clear who you stand with. Who matters most to you. And it is absolutely not my child.

You are my representative. You are my child’s representative.

You seem to have forgotten that. And that is why I am here today.

Dear Democratic Leadership: Here’s How You Win

in Political Thought by

Dear Democratic leadership,

Today an article announced that the leadership of the Democratic Party has laid out their agenda: Win back the House and investigate Trump.

Please, I’m begging you. Listen to me: This agenda will NOT help you win.

If your focus is simply to win, then you will lose. If all you are doing is vying for power for the sake of being in power, people will not flock to the polls to support you.

Just as your 2016 election strategyignore battleground states in the general election, focus all of your rhetoric and talking points on bashing Trump and his followers rather than tell people who Clinton is and why we should support her, and offer only empty concern and superficial policies rather than real, substantial solutions to the struggles Americans facedid not bring you an electoral victory in November.

When 20% of American children are living in poverty, your focus should be on helping those families put food on the table and ensure that the utilities stay on, that they have a house to live in, and that there are good jobs that pay a living wage for struggling parents. Focus on these goals, and people will know what you stand forwhat you fight forand the votes will come.

As poverty, foreclosures, and hunger among the nation’s elderly continue to rise and as the GOP works to increase healthcare and drug costs for those 65 and older, fight to make sure that everyone can retire and live out their later years with dignity and security. When you tell everyone you can and whenever you can that you are doing everything you can for America’s aging generation, then people will know that you are on their side, and they will vote for you.

When tens of millions of people are facing the prospect of losing critical healthcare because of skyrocketing costs, put your energy into figuring out how to deliver truly universal coverage in the most cost-efficient way. If Democrats once and for all solve the problem that is the American healthcare systemnot just tinker around the edges, which is what Obamacare doespeople will take notice and will work to get you elected by getting more people to the polls.

When our schools are fighting for the most basic funding while Republicans are working to funnel money to the communities that need it least and away from those who need it most, you need to be battling every day for every American kid to have access to quality education and the opportunity to build a good life for themselves. If you do this, people will know what it means to be a Democrat and will proudly cast their vote for anyone with a (D) next to their name.

When our young adults are struggling under crushing student loan debt, a stagnant economy that offers very little in good entry-level jobs, and a cultural narrative that continually denigrates them, our Democratic elected officials need to work to relieve the burden of those with prohibitive student loan payments, make college affordable for all, revive the economy by supporting industries set to explode (e.g., renewable energies, technology), and begin changing the way we talk about and to our nation’s emerging leaders. Give the next generation your care, respect, and attention, and they will take heed and throw their energy and support behind you to make you the leading party for at least the next forty years.

But when your #1 issue focus is Russia, something that feels distant and abstract and reeks of Washington political game playing to the millions of Americans struggling to keep a roof over their heads and the utilities on, to feed their families, to get the healthcare they need to survive, to find a good, steady job that pays a living wage, you are not talking to voters.

You are talking to yourselves.

And there’s not enough of you in your narrow echo chamber to win elections.

Democratic leadership: Stop focusing on what YOU want, and start working toward what Americans NEED.

THAT’S how you win.

What Does It Mean to Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America?

in Political Thought by

What I’m about to say is going to anger a lot of people. And I’ve held my tongue (or, rather, my typing fingers) because of that—I’m at heart a people-pleaser, and I just want everyone to be happy. But I can’t always make that happen and still speak my truth.

Last week my family and I (me, my husband, and our two kids, aged six and four) were in an airport, waiting to board our connecting flight as we traveled home after visiting my in-laws. My children saw some American flags while we were sitting at the gate and began to recite the Pledge of Allegiance together.

A couple of minutes later a man came over and handed us $20 and said he’d like to buy our drinks on the plane. We looked at him confused—why? “I’m so happy to hear your kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I think it’s great. I’m active military, so it means a lot to me.”

We tried to refuse the money—my husband makes a good salary, and if anything, WE should be buying HIM a drink on the plane because he’s the one serving our country in such a fundamental and possibly ultimately sacrificial way. But he insisted we take his money. Hesitantly, I put it in my back pocket, and the man went to board the plane (active military are one of the first groups to board).

My husband turned to me and said, “I feel bad taking his money. We didn’t even teach them the Pledge of Allegiance.”

This is true: they learned it at school. To be clear, we didn’t choose to NOT teach them the Pledge of Allegiance—it’s just not something we’ve thought to prioritize in the limited time we get with our kids (we both work full time).

But the thing is: I do have a little bit of an issue with making kids pledge allegiance to a flag.

And before anyone starts leaving angry comments below, let me break this down to help you understand why.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God,[*] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
—The Pledge of Allegiance, 1954–present
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
—The Pledge of Allegiance, 1923–1954
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
—The Pledge of Allegiance, 1892–1923

To me, making a pledge—a binding promise—of allegiance—devotion and loyalty—is a serious thing. It is personal because it binds the person to that which they pledge. Any pledge of allegiance should be made with a full understanding of what it means—its significance, what it asks and demands of a person.

A pledge of allegiance should be made thoughtfully, carefully, without being compelled to do so, and with the ability to comprehend what that pledge entails.

My kids have no idea what they’re saying when they say those words. They have not been taught what this pledge means. No one has talked to them about the significance of a pledge or of allegiance. And certainly no one has talked to them about what is meant when we make this pledge of allegiance to a flag.

Not a person. Not an ideal. A flag. A symbol. And a nebulous one at that.

What is the American flag a symbol of? The easy answer, of course, is the United States of America. But why should a person make the individual choice to bind themselves in loyalty to the United States of America? What about America is so special that we, as individuals, should not only pledge our allegiance to it but also compel our children to do so without even giving them an understanding or a choice of what we are asking of them?

What is America? What does it mean? Is it a set of values? Is it the American people? Is it our geographic territory? Is it our shared history?

What are we promising to remain loyal to? What does this promise demand of us?

And should we all agree on what we mean when we make this pledge?

Is it the values and guidelines set forth by our founding documents of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

If so, I can get behind that. If that’s what we mean, yes, I will pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution and Bill of Rights every day of my life. Happily. Proudly.

These guidelines and statements and structures set forth a foundation of values, rights, and a relationship between a people and their government that I believe in, even as they are in places vague and open for interpretation—they remain living documents that help us stay on a path of democracy and liberty even as our world changes and evolves. They are the blueprint for our national community, our sense of what we mean when stand for our country and when we stand together as a country.

And this is why I’m particularly bothered by recent comments by Donald Trump, who lamented that our constitutional system of checks and balances is hindering his ability to efficiently do what he wants to do, saying, “It’s an archaic system. . . . It’s a really bad thing for the country.”

Yes, that’s right, folks: the man who has taken an oath (a pledge) to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” just said that our Constitution is bad for America. If you’re angry at me for questioning what it means to pledge allegiance to a flag (and compelling our children to do so without first ensuring that they understand what they are pledging) but you are not completely outraged by Trump’s comments here, then I’d like you to do some soul searching, because this is a contradiction.

The Constitution established “the Republic for which it [the Flag of United States of America] stands.” If we have willingly and thoughtfully made the Pledge of Allegiance, then we need to be aware that what we have pledged allegiance to may need defending right now from the man who may seek to break his own presidential oath.

Does the flag symbolize a love of the American people?

You know what? I can get behind that too. I don’t agree with everyone in the United States, but I believe all people (even non-Americans) have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe we all have a right to live with dignity and kindness and compassion. I believe in community and caring for one another. I believe all people deserve love, regardless of their political views, their family background, their religion (or lack thereof), their ethnic and/or racial heritage—all of it. I hold a general love for all people based solely on their humanity, and this, of course, includes all Americans.

But I look around at all the people who proudly make the Pledge of Allegiance and who believe that we should compel children to recite it beginning as soon as they can ape the words—and I don’t believe all Pledge lovers and defenders actually love and are willing to defend ALL Americans.

On every kind of media, I see people all too willing to walk down the path that our corporate propagandists and political party leaders are leading us down, paths that divide us and encourage us to hate each other, blame each other, and see each other as fundamentally wrong, as deficient, as less worthy of kindness, compassion, understanding, empathy, and basic human dignity.

I see people shrugging with indifference or even scowling in contempt as fellow Americans are killed and beaten without justice or humanity, as entire communities are abandoned economically and culturally and then decimated by mass incarceration and addiction, as millions of people struggle to make ends meet, provide shelter and food and healthcare for their families, and face impossible choices for their very survival.

How can anyone love America while they also hate or are indifferent to Americans?

Are we “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?” Are we really?

Are we pledging allegiance to this great land we call America?

We should definitely do that. I support that all the way. Yes, please, let’s pledge allegiance to this land.

Let’s vow to defend and protect our land, our water, our biodiversity, our air. Because it is amazing. And we love it. As well we should. Because we live here and depend upon this land and water and air for our very survival, as do the generations that will (hopefully) follow us.

This geographic territory that makes up what we and the world demarcate as the United States of America is our country. The country we claim to love. And we treat it like shit and are destroying it.

We are destroying our own country.

We are destroying our—the American people’s (see above)—ability to survive. To eat healthy food. To breathe clean air. To drink potable water. To not be ravaged by devastating storms and debilitating droughts and destructive fires. To not have our land taken by the rising sea.

How can anyone love America and not care about this land?

What about our shared history?

This is a hard one.

The republic of the United States of America has a great and proud history of grit and determination and idealism made law. We fought for our freedom from an oppressive, parasitic monarchy. We built this nation from the ground up. We took on massive projects that transformed our ability to trade, to move around this country and explore, to build a strong and thriving economy. We were instrumental in defeating fascism that threatened to take over the world, and we then helped rebuild economies globally, not just for our allies but also for those we vanquished. We should all be proud of our country for these things.

But we also built this country through the theft of its land from its native people, a theft that was made possible through genocide, destroying families and communities and cultures. And we continue to steal from and poison and disparage Native Americans.

We built this country and its thriving economy through the abduction, cruel and inhumane subjugation, bondage, and forced servitude of people from another land, which saw the murder of millions of Africans through the slave trade; the rape of millions of women; the physical, emotional, mental, cultural, and economic abuse of generations of black people, abuse that continues to this day in different, evolving forms.

We built this country while we subjugated and devalued an entire gender, reduced them to property, and denied their political voice until relatively recently (it is not yet a century now that women have had the right to vote). And we continue to treat women, their work, their contributions, their voices, their bodies as inferior, as less worthy, as objects to be used and disposed of as the patriarchy sees fit.

I could go on. But the point is: How do we pledge allegiance to a country that is both so great while also so flawed?

Someone once told me that if all of us were perfect, there would be no need for love.

To love America is to embrace our shared history—our imperfect legacy. It is to be proud of when we did good, but it is also to listen with all of our being to those who ask us to acknowledge and own when we failed humanity, when we ignored our own values, as set forth by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. To love America is both to honor our accomplishments as well as to always actively remember and seek to correct our failures of humanity and morality.

When I make the Pledge of Allegiance, this is also what I am promising to do.

I only hope that when we all make this pledge, we think about what it means to us. What does that flag symbolize for each of us? What are we promising of ourselves when we take this oath of loyalty?

What are you willing to do to uphold your pledge of allegiance?

To finish the story that began this post: my husband and I never purchased drinks on the plane—because it was a short flight, it was late at night, and we needed our energy to get our tired kids through the airport, to baggage claim, and then to the car. The man who gave us the money turned out to be sitting in the row in front of me, and I tried to give it back to him: as I said, we didn’t need the money, and I’m sure he needed it more than we did. But he refused. A few days later, still feeling bad for taking that money, I donated it plus another $20 to Wounded Warrior Project. And then I started writing this post.

I agree with him that the Pledge of Allegiance should be taken seriously, and to me this means that it should be respected, that it should be made with thought and care and understanding. I don’t think children should be compelled to take a pledge they don’t comprehend; instead I think we should teach them about it and allow them to participate when they feel they are ready. Because then it will mean something to them. Then it will be real and not just a bunch of words strung together because an authority figure tells us to say them.

After all, wasn’t the Revolutionary War fought in resistance to an authority figure making us do things because he said so?

[*] Note that “under God” was not added until 1954. I am not religious, so when I make the Pledge of Allegiance, I simply don’t say that part, and I know that my pledge doesn’t need it. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which is part of what I am pledging my allegiance to, tells us that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This tells me that people have the right not only to practice whatever faith they believe in but also to not practice a faith if they do not believe. For this reason, I object to this later addition to the Pledge of Allegiance because it is in contradiction to one of the components of what we are pledging allegiance to. It should also be noted that one religious faith, Quakers, do not allow the taking of a pledge, period. And the Bill of Rights protects their right to not pledge allegiance.

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