How We Have Failed Since September 11, Redux

First posted here on September 10, 2014

How We Have Failed since September 11

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

The new generation of leaders

The Friday Photo

Decatur High School, Decatur, GA

Students walked out or took a knee on Wednesday because #enoughisenough. I stood with them and for them.

Breaking bread in a mosque

The Friday Photo
January 27, 2016

photo from the internet

Heeding the observation a wise friend shared with me the day after last year’s election, I am making a concerted effort to desegregate what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the most segregated hour” in our country. In November I visited the church just a block down the street from my house, a congregation established by former slaves not too many years after the end of the Civil War.

Last Friday, along with my husband and a friend, I attended the monthly community dinner at the Islamic Center of Macon. All three of us were warmly greeted and welcomed for the evening. My friend and I joined the women on their side of the partitioned room, where younger children played and roamed freely from our side to the one where the men gathered. . There were prayers, a practice round for a children’s quiz competition, and wonderful food.

Environmental advocacy connected all of us during dinner conversations. Our concerns ranged from food resources, clean water, and ways that the women we shared a meal with could be active in stewardship. In turn, we were invited to participate and support an interfaith women’s organization in Macon, and of course, to return again to join them.

The mosque where we gathered was vandalized in December 2015. When funds are secured they will relocated to a larger facility better suited for their needs. For now, on the edge of a neighborhood in the early stages of gentrification, just blocks from larger affluent Christian churches, faithful and peace-loving Muslims gather every week to worship, and when visitors appear, they open their arms to hug them as most welcome guests.

Judge by actions, not words

Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, told CNN that people should stop judging the President-elect by his words, and instead judge him by his heart.

OK. Let’s use his actions as a measure of his heart.

Trump mocked a reporter who is physically disabled.

Beauty pageant contestants said he would walk into dressing rooms while they were nude and not excuse himself immediately.

The President-elect has been taken to court by contractors he refuses to pay.

He agreed to a settlement of $25M in lawsuits brought against the defunct Trump University including a penalty due to the state of New York for claiming to operate a “university” when it wasn’t one.

Trump cheated on his first wife, Ivana Trump, with the woman who became his second wife, Marla Maples.

Although he has five children, Trump refuses to do any of the physical care of his children.

Trump picked a fight with Khizi and Ghazala Kahn, whose son was killed in military action.

If we let Trump’s actions serve as the measure of his heart, that isn’t any more encouraging than his words or Tweets.

 

Being Present Redux

I thought the hardest day of 2016 was going to be the morning of November 9th. My eight year old grandson, who said a woman ought to have a chance at being president, called to ask me who won the election. I couldn’t choke back my tears. I guessed the worst thing I would do in 2016 was tell him that I was seeing a world I didn’t want for him.

I was wrong.

Less than a month later my 10 week old grandson, Brayer, suddenly stopped breathing, and his 26-year-old parents made the hard decision to remove him from life support.

Brayer
Brayer (the morning after waking his parents up every hour during the night)

There aren’t many hours left in 2016, but after putting part of  Christmas dinner in the oven on Sunday and walking down to the cemetery to find my daughter and son-in-law sitting by their infant son’s grave, well, 2016, I don’t have anything more to give, and those two young parents don’t either.

As November’s disappointments settled in, and the month of December has crept along, I find myself returning to a commitment I made in 2012, which was a promise to myself, and others, to Be Present in 2013.

As the election season sped up this year, I knew there would be lots of work ahead.  I didn’t think the work would be bare-knuckled battles against the Twitter-length ideas of a man with a really bad comb-over, scary illusions of his abilities, the temperament of a tired three-year old, and a failure to understand that facts are facts, regardless of whether they go along with what you believe or want for yourself.

My calendar has dates marked for Being Present. Events are easy because they require setting time aside in advance. The bigger challenge for me is Being Present in some capacity every day. It means living my values every day, and holding businesses, community leaders. elected officials, and their supporters, responsible for theirs. This is not the time to look away from hate, racism, intolerance, violence, and so many isms.

On November 9th I told my grandson Chase I will do my best to build a better world for his generation. I have to Be Present every day in 2017 to do that work. And in doing so, my hope is that the ragged edges of my heart will begin to mend too.

 

Through a child’s eye

The Friday Photo
December 18, 2015

12369182_10208375557452912_3859738501300737842_n
photo by Ella Cummings, 8 years old

Last weekend my granddaughter used an old iPhone to take
pictures during our overnight trip to Atlanta. She took this
picture in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

When grandparents are the parents

Last week the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Gov Nathan Deal said this about Georgia’s families where children are abused, or worse, murdered,“When was the last time the press or anybody else asked the greater family, ‘Why didn’t you do something about this?’ It really galls me, quite frankly, to see an able-bodied grandparent complaining about the fact that DFACS didn’t do something to protect her grandchildren. And my question is, well, where were you?’ ” (DFACS is the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services).

Where were these grandparents? US Census data from 2012 says this about grandparents and their grandchildren:

Number of grandparents living with grandchildren                    265,530
Percent responsible for grandchildren                                                  46.9
Percent of grandparents  raising  grandchildren for 5+ years          38.8
Percent of households with no parent of grandchild present           32.8
Percent of grandparents over 60 years old                                           34.1
Percent living in poverty in 2011                                                             25.2
Number of households with grandparents and grandchildren   171,939
Percent of all households in Georgia                                                        4.9

Grandparents in Georgia who care for their grandchildren are eligible for a whopping $50 per month from the state of Georgia. Have you priced diapers, day care, or children’s books lately? Fifty dollars doesn’t begin to make a dent in the costs of raising a child.

Single grandparent Deborah Paris, who is raising three grandchildren, told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer “Our system will pay a foster care parent to take care of children and supply and do what they need for them,” she said. “But me, as a relative or actually grandparent, you give me little to no assistance. … Our system is just awful.”

We need to address multiple problems concerning the welfare of children in our state. Gov Deal shouldn’t begin by making grandparents the scapegoats where the state has failed.

 

How we have failed since September 11, 2001

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

Being asleep at the wheel is costing GA taxpayers

From Better Georgia

When it comes to expensive, frustrating and broken websites for government programs, the President’s got nothing on Gov. Nathan Deal.

Georgia taxpayers are shelling out nearly half a million dollars a week just in overtime pay to fix Gov. Deal’s broken system for Georgia’s neediest families – those applying for help to feed their families.

And, what does Gov. Deal think about this problem?

He told 11Alive’s Rebecca Lindstrom that, despite a November letter from the federal government warning that unless the state takes corrective action, $75 million in funding could be in jeopardy, he was unaware of the scope of the problem until recently:

I’d only become aware that it was of that magnitude just fairly recently.”

Gov. Nathan Deal, March 14, 2014

WATCH: DFCS spending $470,000 week in OT to fix food stamp backlog

For months, Georgia’s neediest families have found it almost impossible to apply for food stamps.

They’ve often waited on the phone for hours only to be disconnected.

Those who were lucky enough to have internet access got repeated error messages on the website. And thousands of Georgians who already qualified for assistance were accidently kicked off the program. In early March, DFCS officials acknowledged a 100,000 case backlog.

Half a million tax dollars each week in overtime costs.

$75 million of federal funds in jeopardy.

Thousand of families in crisis.

And Gov. Nathan Deal is asleep at the wheel – again – during a preventable crisis.

Sound familiar? It should.

Ignoring problems until they become a crisis that threatens the health and safety of Georgia families and costs taxpayers millions is an all-too-typical pattern for Gov. Deal.

This time, because the governor’s appointees invested in an out-dated, insufficient system to process applications for food stamps, Georgia taxpayers are now on the hook for nearly half a million dollars a week in overtime cost alone for the 2,000 DFCS employees who are struggling to fix the mess.

Despite spending nearly a half million dollars per week, callers are still left holding for hours and more than 44% of the calls still go unanswered.

Not being able to get their calls through is more than an inconvenience for Georgia’s 1.9 million recipients of food stamps. Getting cut off means going hungry or scrambling to get help from local charities – or both. Of those who qualify for food stamps in Georgia, 52% are families with children.

Nearly a quarter of those receiving food stamps are 6 years old or younger.

The media has been reporting on this growing crisis for months.

Yet, Gov. Deal was unaware?

We don’t know why the State of Georgia invested in a technology boondoggle, but we know, from his own mouth, that Gov. Deal just wasn’t paying attention. Now, instead of creating more problems for needy Georgians caught up in this crisis, Gov. Deal should wake up, pay attention and stop wasting our  tax dollars.

Call Governor Deal’s office today. Tell Gov. Deal that instead of making it even harder on Georgia’s neediest families, he should fix the system his political appointee broke. And, after you call, let us know how it went. Call now.

Sincerely,
Bryan Long
Executive Director
Better Georgia