Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

Thanksgiving 2017: Keeping Hope Alive

Rev. William Barber II leading a song at the end of a news conference


Laurie and Debbie say:

For the first ten years of this blog, we wrote a Thanksgiving post, listing good things that had happened in the year since the previous Thanksgiving. (We know  the shameful history of Thanksgiving very well; we also like taking stock of good things.)

Last year, less than three weeks out from Trump’s election, we couldn’t bring ourselves to write that post. Instead, we wrote about how we were feeling, and how we were redirecting the blog in resistance.

This year has been one of the roughest years in American political history, and next year is probably not going to be much better. The catalogue of atrocities, cruelties, threats, and stupidities of the current White House and Congress is amazingly long.

Debbie listens regularly to Deray McKesson‘s podcast, Pod Save the People. Deray interviews an extraordinary variety of people on that show: politicians, activists, cooks, fashion photographers, you name it. The interviews are all done through a political lens, and he always asks the same question:

“What do you say to people who have given up hope, people who’ve been fighting forever and feel like nothing changes, people who think the fight is useless?”

That question has as many answers as Deray has interviewees. We each have our own answers, but that’s not where we’re going today. Instead, we want to mention just a few of the literally thousands of initiatives around the country and elsewhere, all fighting against the forces of hate  and contempt–the forces which right now are undeniably running a large portion of the world.

#Take a Knee: Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who led the the San Francisco 49ers to the championship playoffs in 2012 and 2013, decided not to participate in standing for the U.S. national anthem, as a direct response to police murder of black people. He carefully and respectfully chose to go down on one knee rather than any other form of protest. His motives have been viciously misrepresented, and his career is on hold. At the same time, he spawned a nationwide movement: from sport to sport, from pro sports to colleges to high schools, from men’s sports to women’s sports, and (although not enough) from people of color to white people. When Trump got on the anti-takeaknee bandwagon, even some rich white football team owners fought back. And that fight shows no signs of stopping.

After the nakedly inhumane conditions in the Grenfell Tower in London resulted in a fire that caused the deaths of at least 80 people, Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour Party are calling for an expenditure of at least one billion pounds for sprinklers in comparable buildings. It’s too soon to say if this practical proposal by Corbyn will succeed, but Labour’s star has been rising, and we predict that Corbyn’s call will see some response.

One of the factors fueling the Republican power imbalance is flagrant gerrymandering in many states, including Michigan. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to change this, but so do the citizens of the gerrymandered states. And in case you thought they didn’t care, a group in Michigan trying to put a limit-to-gerrymandering state constitutional amendment on the ballot has collected well over the 315,000 signatures they need, much faster than they expected, and without paying for signatures.  Almost all state ballot measures have to pay for signatures, so this reflects how many people in Michigan are aware of gerrymandering, and want to do something about it–even though it’s an issue that in 2016 was thought to be technical and boring.

#MeToo: The last month and a half has seen an unprecedented series of downfalls and firings — for sexual harassment. We are still in the early days of this process, and no one knows how it will shake out. However, it is a tectonic victory when famous and powerful men are losing their jobs for treating women (and sometimes men) like sexual party favors. Alyssa Milano was the immediate instigator of the #metoo hashtag which took over Twitter and Facebook for days and days, and we also pay homage to Tarana Burke, who started the phrase more than ten years ago.

Disabled people are a particular target of every authoritarian, purist movement in history, and the Trump White House and Republican congress are marching in lockstep with that history. Disabled people are also at the heart of all kinds of resistance, and in 2017 many disabled folks have covered themselves with glory, taking risks that few of the rest of us are prepared to take. Here’s just one example.

Ten protesters, most of whom have disabilities, were arrested …  in the Denver office of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner after staging a sit-in that lasted nearly 60 hours. They are part of a larger network of activists who believe they are literally fighting for their lives in their efforts to stop the Republicans’ health care bill.

The activists are members of ADAPT, a national disability-rights organization, which staged a similar protest in the Washington office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on June 22.

The protesters, which included four people who use wheelchairs and two with cerebral palsy, arrived Tuesday and sat in a 15-by-12-foot room for more than two days.

The Republicans have long claimed some kind of incomprehensible moral high ground, where they will go to any length to protect an unborn baby, but will drag a 10-year-old out of the hospital to be deported, where they will extol the value of military service and starve veterans, and so on and so on. Fortunately, there are real moral movements developing in the U.S., and Reverend William Barber is leading one of them.

 Barber has set for himself the daunting goal of spreading the Moral Mondays model nationally to resist what he views as the dangerous economic and social policies of the Trump administration.

He’s heading efforts that will train an army of activists in the nation’s most conservative states and put the issue of poverty front and center in American politics. Barber said he sees his efforts as the unfinished work of King, who was assassinated in 1968 shortly after announcing a campaign to improve the lives of poor people.

When we think about all of these people putting their feet, their passion, and their money where their mouths are, supporting all of these grassroots movements and hundreds more, hope is a little easier to come by.

Thanksgiving 2015

Laurie and Debbie say:

If you’re reading the newspapers, or news blogs, the last couple of weeks have been an  easy time to be discouraged, and thus a hard time to be thankful. And that’s why sitting down to write this post has been restorative for both of us. Without forgetting Beirut, and Nigeria, and Paris, still having heart for millions of refugees seeking shelter, we can still hold up a long list of things that have gone well (sometimes surprisingly well) this year.


The Black Lives Matter movement is a brilliant positive response to an ongoing American criminal practice, the murder of Black people and other people of color by U.S. police without prosecution, or even investigation. While there’s nothing new about these murders, the national spotlight that was turned on them after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 has been new. We’ve seen widespread, sustained protests, a completely new level of attention to documenting and publicizing these crimes, and even the occasional indictment and prosecution of a policeman (including the indictment of Jason McDonald this week after the death of LaQuan McDonald). Without the activists of Black Lives Matter, these murders would still be the dirty little secrets of urban police departments, and the private griefs of the victims’ families.

Thirty-six years after the Iranian hostage crisis, the nuclear weapons treaty with Iran was approved by six major world powers, including the United States (despite the best efforts of the American right). This historic agreement, which went into effect on October 18, has been in negotiation for ten years, and will stand as a major success of the Obama administration. Sanctions on Iran have been lifted, and Iran’s nuclear program has been terminated.

The Keystone XL pipeline tar sands pipeline, darling of oil companies and hated by environmentalists in Canada and the U.S. was finally rejected by President Obama this month. Much credit to the First Nations activists of Idle No More, who not only fought tirelessly against the pipeline, but have also contributed to changing the conversation and making sure indigenous voices are heard in environmental disputes. (In related news, Royal Dutch Shell “voluntarily” pulled out of its plans for Arctic drilling for the foreseeable future, citing lack of profitability — in large part due to the roadblocks environmentalists have successfully put in their way for the last several years.)

A consortium of African and American doctors have found a permanent cure for sickle cell anemia, a disease which seemed intractable until recently.

Progressive election results around the world include:

  • Jeremy Corbyn, a genuine progressive taking over the Labour Party in Britain,
  • Justin Trudeau ousting the Conservatives in Canada (and immediately appointing a cabinet that is 50% female and reflects the geographic breadth of the country);
  • John Bel Edwards becoming governor of the very Republican state of Louisiana, where he intends to accept the Medicaid expansion for Louisiana, which will effectively bring the Affordable Care Act benefits to his constituents; and
  • Antonio Costa, Socialist, emerging as prime minister after a constitutional crisis in Portugal when the conservative austerity pro-Euro party refused to give up power.

In keeping with these victories, Bernie Sanders is making a more than respectable showing in the race for the U.S. Democratic Party nomination, and by doing so, is making sure that (at least when the Democrats talk), the conversation is about income inequality and genuine solutions. Nationwide street protests have led to minimum wage increases around the country (in 14 states and the District of Columbia so far this year, not to mention various city ordinances), and other workers’ rights issues, such as regular schedules, are in the news.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court stunned the country by making three fantastic decisions in quick succession:

  • In King vs. Burwell, the court rejected a crucial challenge to Obamacare;
  • In Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities, they declared that housing discrimination can be upheld without proof of intent, and can be decided on statistical grounds. Since intent is almost impossible to prove, this is an extremely important distinction; and
  • In Obergefell v. Hodges, they legalized same-sex marriage on a national basis.

While American prisons and the rights of prisoners and ex-prisoners remain an enormous national disgrace, just today the Governor of Kentucky restored voting rights to almost 150,000 felons who have served their time. And the Federal Communications Commission finally made a clear, fair ruling preventing predatory charges on phone calls made by or to prisoners.

Speaking of improvements in areas of national shame, transgender immigrants now have the right to be housed based on their own gender identification.

Sports and politics often intersect, and a remarkable example was the football team at Mizzou, where not only the Black players, but many of their team-mates and the coaching staff, joined the protesters calling for the ouster of the University president. The protest was successful, and the new interim president is making profound changes.

And finally, the miracle of 3D printing is changing lives around the world. In one terrific example, the technology is bringing water purification to the third world; as a bonus, the raw materials are the plastic soda bottles we throw away. Other 3-D printing innovations this year include cheap building materials and aids for patients with hemiplegia (one-sided paralysis).

So, things to celebrate in hard times.

Thanks to Richard Dutcher for helping us remember the year’s good news.