My state’s on fire

American Robin. December 16, 2019.

This photo was taken last December, but it feels fitting for today because the robin is looking to the north. As I write this, people are being evacuated north of here due to the East Troublesome Fire that exploded from about 35,000 acres to 127,000 acres after 60 mph wind gusts last night. The fire jumped the Continental Divide. Rocky Mountain National Park is on fire. Homes are burning. East Troublesome Fire is currently the fourth-largest wildfire in Colorado history.

Colorado has been on fire with multiple wildfires for the last four months but I’m told I must vote for the presidential candidate who believes climate change is real, yet keeps telling us he opposes a Green New Deal and won’t ban fracking. I’m told I must help the Democrats reclaim the Senate by voting for the candidate who drank fracking fluid and opposes a Green New Deal. It doesn’t matter to them that I’ve spent much of those past four months inside as my lungs can’t handle the smoky air; I owe them my vote.

I’m angry and exhausted and just about cried out.

Solidarity with workers

Everything is produced by the workers, and the minute they try to get something by their unions they meet all the opposition that can be mustered by those who now get what they produce.               ~ Harry Bridges

 

The Senate is currently conducting a farcical SCOTUS confirmation hearing (during a pandemic, while several Senators are COVID-positive) for a woman who will do the bidding of the powerful elite: crush the working class. The Republicans are seeing the culmination of their decades-long plan to stack the courts with anti-worker judges who will forever change the face of this country. The Dem party pretends to resist but they are equally comfortable with this outcome because they aren’t either jobless or working 2-3 jobs to scrape by, nor are the Dem elites starving, facing eviction, saddled with astronomical medical debt, or living in frontline communities as the climate crisis worsens. This latest SCOTUS judge will consolidate their wealth and power. All’s well.

It’s way past time we rise up.

Foliage and fury

I took this photo almost exactly one year ago, a fair representation of what the contoneaster in my yard looks like right now. So why didn’t I just step outside to get a current picture? Because it’s smoky. Still. And I don’t want my lungs burning. Again.

October 7, 2019

I can’t emphasize enough how damaging these months of Colorado wildfires (not to mention the fires raging throughout the western US) have been not only to the environment but to our collective health, both physical and psychological. Trapped indoors while the climate crisis worsens and those in power do absolutely nothing to avert worsening disaster. Colorado has a Democrat governor and Democratic-controlled House and Senate. But hey, Vote Blue No Matter Who.

Anyway, Happy Monday.

Never happen in the U.S.?

Before the military coup in Chile, we had the idea that military coups happen in Banana Republics, somewhere in Central America. It would never happen in Chile. Chile was such a solid democracy. And when it happened, it had brutal characteristics. ~ Isabel Allende

We’re so confused now, focused on “is he/isn’t he” which gives them time and room to maneuver. They wouldn’t even need the military because there’s an army of white supremacists on standby.

I realize this makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist, a paranoid crackpot. But this isn’t a solid democracy, not by a long shot.

#Caturday mood

Marcel and I are in solidarity with anyone else chewing their nails and/or shredding their cuticles today. I’m not so much nervous about what’s going to happen as pissed by the knowledge that the Democrats will handle this latest end run by the Republicans in their usual spineless fashion. The Democratic establishment only plays hardball against the left.

September 14, 2020

The one piece of good news is that I’m pretty confident I won’t be coughing up a hairball. Marcel? Not a given.

 

(ETA: for my own historical reference, I want to note the Senate approved five judges just this past week with the help of the Democrats who during the Obama years passively accepted MANY judicial vacancies at the hand of Mitch McConnell.)

This is a climate emergency

August 15, 2020

What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?     ~ Henry David Thoreau

Zippy took this photo last month and while today’s air quality isn’t nearly so orange, I’m not spending any time outside. The local air quality index reads “Unhealthy for sensitive groups.” I’ll go out on a limb and say I think this translates to “the air is unhealthy for everyone and everything.”

Exceptionalism?! All over the United States, people are hiding indoors to escape the ravages of the climate crisis. And our elected officials don’t care, so it’ll only get worse.

Nostalgia

State Forest State Park.              June 12, 2019.

June 2019 seems like a lifetime ago (hell, February 2020 already feels like historical fiction), and I just spent time looking through photos from one of last summer’s camping/hiking trips. I remember how hot it was in the Bockman Campground when the sun rose in the sky and how happy our doggo was every time we came upon a patch of snow during our 8-mile hike. I remember waking up to a moose grazing next to our tent. I remember photographing this old building, thinking that with a little fixing up, it might make a nice place to spend my days.

We didn’t camp this summer. We’ve only hiked in the nearby open space. Until this country gets its collective act together, it seems I’ll have to make do with memories.

Let it snow

February 7, 2020

Colorado continues to burn and those of us living along the Front Range are being told to create “safe rooms” with air purifiers.

It was undoubtedly a stupid thing to do, but Zippy, Emma, and I walked early this morning. We’ve been trapped inside for days and couldn’t take it any more. I wore my mask and we walked at a leisurely pace. No heavy breathing as we went up and down the hills of our neighborhood. Partway through the walk, Zippy remarked on the thick air and put on his mask. Overall, we felt okay.

Just now, though, I stepped outside to get the mail. I was only out about thirty seconds, but as soon as I came inside the coughing started. I’m now closed off in my writing room with the purifier. The coughing has subsided but my lungs are burning.

Colorado had a Senate candidate (Andrew Romanoff) who centered his campaign on the climate crisis and a Green New Deal. He understood what’s at stake in this climate emergency. So how did the Democratic establishment respond? Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and Colorado’s governor (Jared Polis) stepped in to crush Romanoff in the primary and prop up the oil and gas candidate (John Hickenlooper). Thanks to their interference, this November I’ll have the “opportunity” to vote for Hickenlooper (and Biden). Basically, a ballot filled with candidates who’ve  made it clear they don’t much care about the people or the planet.

The most I can hope for at this point is that the wildfires are contained by the general election.

Eviction is an act of violence

This pandemic continues to expose the many holes in our inhumane, capitalism-obsessed society. We’re about to see an enormous surge in the numbers of people who are unhoused. Those figures were already shameful and they’re about to become catastrophic. For the last three days, I’ve worked with the Denver chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) as a housing advocate offering support to those facing eviction. The stories I’ve heard made me scream, rage, cry, and cry some more.

Image by Rusty Gouveia from Pixabay

Silly me, I thought it made sense to encourage an elderly couple infected with covid to emphasize their health issues during their eviction hearing in order to buy time before they were forced to move out. Wrong. I listened in yesterday during their virtual court hearing as the husband described the difficulties of his health issues and then reminded the judge that it was against public health and safety to put covid-positive people out on the street. Was the judge affected by this sound argument? Not at all.

The good news is that their eviction notice/notice to quit was served incorrectly and now the process starts over. That will buy the couple time to, I hope, recover before they’re forced from their home. That’s considered a victory in this hellscape reality.

I’m waiting to hear back from a young couple who had their eviction hearing this afternoon. There are three generations living in that apartment and the family has been desperately searching for a new place to live ever since getting their notice to quit. There’s nothing out there for them.

Tomorrow is the hearing for two brothers. One lost his job at the start of the pandemic, but the other still had a job with reduced hours which allowed them to hang on by a thread. Then second one lost his job when the employer couldn’t hold on any longer. Their unemployment benefits took so long to be processed they are now facing eviction. They spent all of July looking for a new home but, surprise surprise, no one wants to rent to two unemployed people.

In both cases, the tenants had always paid their rent on time and tried to arrange payment schedules during this hard situation. Didn’t matter. The landlords are determined to kick them out in the street during a pandemic.

We are a broken society. There is nothing great about a country that not only allows this kind of abuse but intentionally puts laws on the books that inflict trauma on its citizens. Eviction is an act of violence.

It is way past time to rise up.

Colorado’s on fire: we need a #GreenNewDeal

I live in Colorado. There are currently four wildfires burning around the state. Here’s a tweet from a Colorado journalist this morning:

I can usually see downtown Denver from my front yard. The last few days the buildings have been obscured by a smoky haze. Right now, I can see the tops of some buildings. But that “good news” is deceptive. I just spent about ten minutes outside, thinking it was okay because there wasn’t a strong odor of smoke. Wrong. I’m now coughing and my lungs are burning.

Just over a year ago, I participated in our Sunrise Movement hub’s first art build. We gathered to create a banner to pressure the Colorado Democratic Party to vote for a presidential debate focused solely on climate.

Our first art build on July 24, 2019. Boulder, CO

Our pressure worked and the representatives for the CO Dems voted YES to a climate debate. However, Tom Perez and the Democratic National Committee shut down our voices. There was no climate debate during the presidential primaries, despite the fact that the majority of people in the U.S. want meaningful action on the climate crisis.

Only two presidential candidates (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) included serious climate plans in their platforms. Bernie’s earned an A- from Sunrise Movement. The presidential candidate the establishment contorted themselves to install as the party nominee? Well, Joe Biden earned an F-.

My state’s experiencing a years-long drought and record-high temperatures and is literally on fire right now. Except for Rep. Joe Neguse, none of the Colorado congressional delegation supports a Green New Deal. The Democratic representatives all understand that climate change is real, but unless they push for bold and meaningful action, they are no better than the climate deniers in the Republican party.

Meanwhile, Colorado burns.

All hail the king

Western Kingbird. Grand Island, NE.   6.2.20

The U.S. Senate just adjourned until September 8 without passing a stimulus package. They’re going back to their comfortable homes and lives, oblivious to the pain and suffering of the peasants. If we’re going to be ruled by an entitled aristocracy, I’d prefer to bow down to a feathered king.

YES to beer NO to fascism

Two days ago, a neighbor a couple houses up the street started flying one of those TR*MP Keep America Great flags. It made me ill. Yesterday, the house across the street from that flag-flying home displayed their own Keep America Great flag. Today? The house next to that second house is sporting a Tr*mp yard sign.

I can’t even.

Shall we begin with the fact that this country, built on genocide and slavery, was never great for a whole lot of people? Or the blatant transfer of money and power to the already rich and powerful? Maybe the rollback of environmental regulations and climate denialism? The deployment of Homeland Security to crack protestors’ heads and shoot them in the faces? Or maybe the 1,000 COVID-19 deaths per day? Etc., etc., etc.? Great, indeed.

My reaction to the neighbors? I wanted to fly an Antifa flag, but Zippy worried the ignorance surrounding that message would result in violence directed at us. So what was his preferred message? F*ck Tr*mp. While I approve that sentiment, this moment is much larger than that loathsome individual. Negotiation ensued.

I’m pleased to announce I found a message we’re both happy to display.

I also ordered an Earth flag to replace the one we displayed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Many people in our neighborhood fly U.S. flags and I doubt they’ll even see past all their red, white, and blue, but that’s okay. An earth flag will help me remember we’re all in this together.

ETA: Here’s something from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
12earlywarningsignsoffascism

Does any of this sound familiar?

Rx for what ails me

Today’s been exhausting on multiple levels: personal, professional, societal, and human-on-the-planet. I just took a much-needed nap and am now posting this burst of yellow as a reminder of all the beauty in our world.

July 12, 2020.

Next on my self-care agenda? Scrubbing out my kitchen sinks.

Please do whatever you need to take care of yourselves.

Hello, Universe

I’ve been struggling  and I know I’m not alone. We in the United States have been told in very clear terms that we are on our own. Our government serves the wealthy and powerful, and that’s it. We the People get crumbs while the elites party on.

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

Mental health is a huge issue for many, many people right now. Life’s always been a tough row to hoe, but this pandemic has upped the ante. I’m fortunate in that I have my writing. The middle-grade novel I’ve worked on for the past eight months has been my lifeline. I am very grateful for this project. However, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be sending the manuscript to my agent by the end of the month. And then what? Each time I think of COVID minus a writing project, my anxiety surges.

So here’s my official statement to the universe: Hellooo, I am open to new story ideas!

 

Thankful Thursday: Sunrise Movement

Today I’m (again) exceedingly grateful for Sunrise Movement. These young people are  fighting with moral clarity, passion, and a fierce determination.  They endorsed Green New Deal candidates across the country and played a key role in Jamaal Bowman’s victory in New York on Tuesday and what is looking like a victory for Charles Booker in Kentucky. Incredible!

And next up is Colorado’s U.S. Senate primary on June 30th. Sunrise endorsed Andrew Romanoff and I can tell you Sunrise Colorado is on overdrive. Phonebanking, flyering, etc. On Monday, we were in front of Hickenlooper’s house and the crew got me so fired up that I shouted myself hoarse and clapped a big ol’ purple bruise in my palm.

 

Here are some of my Sunrise cohorts in the streets. June 2020.

The tides are turning and the young aren’t going to settle for entrenched, corporate politicians. Change is coming!  So, so grateful for Sunrise Movement! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Defund the Police

The growing movement that calls for defunding the police, instead putting that money into community programs, is getting push-back from the pundits, elites, consultants, establishment politicians . . .aka the comfortable/powerful. Why?

The policemen or soldiers are only a gun in the establishment’s hand. They make the racist secure in his racism. ~Huey Newton

Photo credit: Ira L. Black – Corbis – Getty Images

We dump obscene amounts of money into police departments around the country, departments that harass, oppress, and murder Black people.

The NYPD’s budget is $6,000,000,000. That’s more than the city spends on health, homelessness, youth development and workforce development COMBINED.

That NYPD budget is higher than the entire military budget of Ukraine, a country with a population 5x that of NYC.

NYC spent $229.8 million on police misconduct lawsuits in a single year.

But it’s not just NYC. Austin’s police department budget is $440,000,000. That’s more than the city spends on public health, housing, libraries, city planning, parks & recreation and EMS combined.

Minneapolis spent more than 11 percent of its budget on policing. For comparison, just 1.5 percent went to the Health Department.

LAPD budget: $3.14 billion

CDC budget: $11 billion
+ EPA budget: $9 billion
+ FEMA budget: $3 billion
+ OSHA budget: $558 million
_____________________________
= TOTAL: $23.6 billion
**************
US police budget: $115 billion

I could go on and on, but it’s pretty clear: this insanity must end.
#DefundPolice

Shared moon

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.                       ~ Sojourner Truth

Centuries in the making

March 1964 photo by Marion S. Trikosko (donated to public domain)

I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.  — Malcolm X

People before property

              Denver from my front yard.             May 27, 2020.

Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thankful Thursday: hoopla edition

This morning I woke planning to run on the trails. Then I looked out the window and saw tree branches bouncing in the wind. Instead, I opted to hoop inside.

Hooping with my niece D in Ohio. August 15, 2019.

I haven’t hoop-danced in quite a while. I’ve attempted it a few times over the past months, but couldn’t summon enough oomph. This whole pandemic situation and the blatant desertion of working people by the political elite of both parties is exhausting. And infuriating, rage-inducing, horrific, etc. And did I mention exhausting? No dancing for this one.

Until this morning. People, I hoop-danced for 25 minutes and pretty much grinned the whole time!

Take that, you soulless ghouls. I refuse to be broken.