Redneck Lives Matter

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Playing on Payette Lake provides a metaphor for life

I have lived in Idaho almost 22 years, a third of my life. Idaho is the most Republican state in the nation.The state where a perfectly normal question is “Have you heard of the group Black lives Matter? Well, in Idaho Redneck Lives Matter.”  In rural Idaho, PETA stands for “People eating tasty animals.” (Probably shot with a concealed weapon, all perfectly legal.)

In this staunchly  Red environment,  I have transformed into a strong Democrat. I drive a blue car with a novelty license plate that says BLUEGRL. I am proud to be a Blue girl (Democrat)in a Red State.  I sometimes worry about the car getting keyed for advertising my political opinions.

I have a Republican friend who says Idaho Democrats could hold the state convention in a phone booth if we could find a phone booth anymore. Idaho Democrats running for statewide office get consistently  about 30% of the vote if the individual candidate runs a good campaign.   We haven’t had a Democrat elected statewide since our Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction, Marilyn Howard, retired in 2006. No other position has  even been competitive in the 20 years I’ve lived here

The miracle of Bernie Sanders in Idaho is that thousands of people showed up for Democratic caucuses all over the state. In Boise, there are still Bernie yard signs up. Before the Democratic National Convention several hundred people marched in Boise in support of Bernie.While I still see Bernie stickers on cars and yards signs, I haven’t seen any Hilary stickers. I got an email  last week that Hilary had hired an Idaho  field organizer, a young woman, recent  graduate of  the University of Idaho.  The email said Hillary could use some help in Idaho. NO KIDDING! Hillary and  Idaho? Talk about an oxymoron! The fact Hillary has paid staff in Idaho shows the fundraising process of the Democratic Presidential campaign.  Maybe Hillary has a field organization in Idaho to recruit Bernie fans. But the few I know wouldn’t vote for Trump. They may choose to not vote and thus the need for Hillary to have a grassroots  organization.Paying to organize Idaho Democrats for a national election is like seeing how many people you can get in a Volkswagen. You can run around a lot, create frenetic energy, spend a great deal of time but in the end the number will be quite small.

In this environment,  where there are no decent Democrats running for national office why do I remain a Democrat? Afterall, I will be voting for Republican Congressman Mike Simpson in my Congressional District. Congressman Simpson is a retired dentist who supported expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He recently got Congress to  pass the White Cloud Wilderness Bill, designating three areas in the Owyhee Mountains  as wilderness. This legislation took years of  work. In other words, Simpson is a good guy.  Why bother with  the Democratic label at all when I am clearly the minority?

I have wrestled with my Democratic values for some time. I am forced to when I am consistently in  the minority. Saying my political alliegence aloud can lead to crazy arguments and loss of friendships.

I grew up a Republican in Wyoming. I can remember standing on the tamarack at the Cheyenne airport. My sister was dressed in white holding glittery  gold poms poms along with other teenage girls. I tasted  the bitter bile of jealousy as the wickedly cold wind made my eyes leak because I wasn’t old enough to be a Goldwater Girl and stand with the cheering girls. Goldwater went on to win only  six states,  Arizona (his home state) and five southern states.  He even lost Wyoming and Idaho.

Early in my early professional career I worked for both Democratic and Republican Governors. I considered myself an independent, supporting the individual rather than the party.

I capitulated to dyed-in-the-wool, bright Blue Democrat as I saw the Idaho legislature become progressively conservative giving tax breaks to business, failing to appropriately fund our public schools, repeatedly defeating Medicaid Expansion. Last year in the legislature an emergency room physician testified that at least a 1000 low-income Idahoans  die a year because of lack of health care. Our Republican  Governor Butch  Otter’s response was, ” Lots of people die every year.”

My husband  and I give monthly to Idaho Democrats.   I am volunteering to stuff envelopes for state legislative races. All of this money and energy with no expectation of it making a difference. The question is why bother?

I got the answer on Saturday at Payette Lake in McCall.  I was sitting on the dock at Ponderosa State Park watching my daughter and her friend  jet skiing across the lake. A woman with head covered, black leggings and a beautiful white lace top got on the back of a new jet ski behind her husband. I presume she was Muslim and the man was her husband. After bouncing across the water at full tilt, she came back to the dock sporting a huge smile. At that moment it became crystal clear to me why I am a Democrat. Jet skiing provided  a great metaphor for living in our complex world. My Chinese daughter was out on the same water with the Muslin couple and behind me some black families who were speaking a language other than  English, also in full dress,  probably refugees, were playing on the beach and wading in the shallow water, laughing and splashing. All of us from very different backgrounds were sharing  the lake  linked by our human capacity for laughter and joy.

I am a Democrat because I believe all lives matter. Hurrah for Rednecks, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, Jews, Gays and everyone else! You all matter and American should be a big enough place that we can embrace and live with our differences.

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Everyone at the lake had a moment of shared joy across cultural boundaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Republic Convention reminded me of the Hunger Games

The-Hunger-GamesThe Republican primary season wrapped up last week with Donald Trump crowned the Republican nominee  for President in Cleveland.  Over the course of the last year, the American public has watched the 16  Republican presidential candidates drop to 1. After listening to a week of gloom and doom about the state of America presented by speakers at the Republican convention, I am reminded of the authoritarian spectacle presented in the first Hunger Games movie.

Donald Trump Acceptance speach
Trump accepting Republican nomination.
For those of you who haven’t seen the first Hunger Games (2012).  The movie is set in a futurist society, the  Capital of Panem. The leadership keeps the peace by annually hosting the Hunger Games.  Participants in the games, called Tributes, are a randomly selected  boy and girl from each of 12 districts.  The Tributes fight to the death until only one remains in a nationally televised event called the Hunger Games.  The Games are kicked off with much fanfare, drawing the viewer in by being both terrifying  and fascinating in the leadership’s total lack of humanity.  The battle to the last person standing takes place within a televised  bubble in which new barriers for contestants emerge on a regular basis, reports of the progress and trials of the teens is routinely  broadcast throughout the nation.  A solitary cannon boom notifies the nation as each child is killed by another.

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President Snow, presides over the Panem and the Hunger Games with an iron fist.
This event is presided over by President Coriolanus Snow, the ruthless, tyrannical and primary antagonist. He is a cruel and manipulative dictator who has no qualms about using force to maintain discipline.   The Games are intended to give citizens a little bit of hope by allowing the victor to live but not so much hope that citizens revolt.

You may ask what is the similarly between this dark movie franchise and the Republican primary season?  The Republican primaries proved to be a hard test not only for the candidates but for the Republican Party. The divisions created during the primaries have recently been discounted by National Republican  Party Chairman Reince Priebus . But the fracture lines are still there.  Many prominent Republican chose to stay away from the convention. Senator Cruz’s caution to the convention goers of “vote your conscience” resulted in boos, personal rejection by  mega-funders and media assessment of the fall-out of Cruz’s speech possibly  ruining his political career.

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Senator Cruz is booed for telling Republicans to “vote their conscience”.
In between the opening of the convention and the Cruz political theater, Melania Trump became involved in a plagiarism controversy.  Her eloquent speech lauded for it’s sincerity upon close review was remarkably similar to Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008.  While imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I am sure the attendees at the convention would not have liked to have Michelle Obama be their  guiding light. Mrs.Trump’s speech became the major media story for at least 24 hours. Finally, the story was put to rest when a loyal Trump employee, Meredith McIver, was offered up as the responsible person for the mistake. This tempest in a tea pot is still not over.  A major Democratic super pack, the Democratic Coalition against Trump has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging Trump broke the law by using his personal corporation to help with the campaign.

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The best parts of Mrs. Trump’s speech were from Mrs. Obama 2008.
On the final night of the convention, Ivanka Trump presented a winning view of her father.

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Ivanka Trump presenting a positive image of her father at the convention.

She described Trump as a family man committed to gender equally; evaluating workers results rather than positions, degrees, gender, ethnicity or color;  understanding the need to make child care affordable and accessible for working women (a position ardently opposed by Idaho Republicans  and probably nationally) and committed to making America great again by focusing on results and talent rather than degrees and bureaucracy.  Though I strongly disagree with her dad on many of his political positions, I found Ivanka’s  portrait of her father quite compelling.  To put my faith in Ivanka’s  Trump, I have to forget that this is the man who described women during his highly publicized career as fat, pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting and when asked about these characterizations by Fox News Megyn Kelly described her as “a bimbo”.  Angry about Kelly’s tough questions during the debate, Trump took to twitter saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever. ” (August 7, 2015).  These are not comments of a man who understands and respects professional women.

Like the Hunger Games, the entire Republican primary season has been hosted under the magnifying lens created by  the intense and constant attention of national media.  There is no escape either for the willing participants (the candidates) or Americans.  Every sound bite, twitter, picture, comment is captured and reflected out to the world to see.  We know who was fired and why, who said what and when. Similar to the Hunger Games, the media keeps score of each day. During the convention, the Washington Post ran a daily analysis of the winners and losers.  This constant attention to ever minor and major detail has moved campaigns from a civil discussion of legitimate policy differences to the rancor  of realty TV where every day people shout that the opposition should be shot or sent to jail.  Conveners at the Republican convention ganged up on each other  and on those of us with different beliefs outside the convention as if having a difference of an opinion makes one an enemy rather than an neighbor who pays the same taxes, sends their children to the same schools, drives on the same highways  or sits in the same pew  at church.

After listening to the Republican presentations at their  convention, one would think that Hilary Clinton is President Snow come to life on American soil.  In this fiction, Mrs. Clinton is single-handily responsible for every ill in this country rather than one of the most respected women in the world.  Scapegoating, laying the blame for societal ills on one person, is much easier than developing cohesive national policy.  At the Republican convention, we heard many platitudes about “Making America Great!” and very few specifics about how we would achieve a new unified vision of the future.  I wanted to hear specific proposals on how to bring  our nation with admittedly many challenges together so we can build on the multitude of strengths we share.

This election is not a reality TV show, it is not a game with winners and losers, it is not a movie with three sequels, it is about what we as Americans want for our future.  I, for one, am not yet ready to give up on civil discourse and the ability to look for concrete solutions to the many pressing problems facing us.  Like Katniss Everdeen at the end of the Hunger Games, I refuse to follow the rules presented at the Republican Convention.  I will not demonize the opposition.  I am anxious to hear real solutions to real problems.

Katniss Everdeen
Katniss Everdeen, heroine of the Hunger Games, leading the effort at reform by refusing to follow the rules of the Game.