Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Whistleblower's Story is Finally Told

 It's been thirteen years since my lawsuit against Oregon Youth Authority and the Education Service District I worked for for six years has been resolved. After my case was settled, I was physically, emotionally and financially bankrupt. I received a pittance of what my damages were but I decided not to appeal the decision, take what money they gave me and move forward with my life to rebuild and heal both physically and emotionally as well as financially. That has been a long journey. I have had flashbacks due to PTSD since the time of the lawsuit. My last serious one was when I took my case involving a traffic ticket that I believed was a set up to court in 2013. I had a few minor ones when I returned to Louisville, KY my home town after losing my home on the Oregon Coast to slowly re enter the world of volunteer work and leadership positions within the community and be a homeowner once again. During the five years I was there, I rebuilt my finances, continued to write and became able to finally qualifying for another home. In addition, I became a strong community leader and advocate recognized for my social consciousness and leadership abilities, especially as a member of the Portland Neighborhood Association's Board of Directors and establishing the Friends of the Library group for the Portland Library. I worked with the Education Committee to improve educational opportunities for youth in public schools. In addition, I worked with the League of Women Voters to try and bring back civics into the school curriculum and stop the Charter School Movement in Kentucky that was fueled by religious based organizations that wanted to receive public money for their religious based schools.  As a retired history teacher, I continued my writing and advocating for teaching American history to reflect the true story of our history not just White Man's political history. The reason I wrote The Peacemaker during my retirement in Oregon was to bring this story to the attention of our country. I took things slowly and did not take on anything I didn't think I was ready for, but I soon reclaimed my reputation and confidence. After three years, it was time to look for the right home that fit with my writing and vision of a sustainable economy. All this time, I avoided partisan politics and continued my independent status. 

I tried for two years to find the financing in Portland to purchase a home where I could do urban homesteading and work with the organizations that were bringing fresh food into the depressed neighborhood as well as planting trees and pollinating flowers to bring life back to the asphalt urban jungle. I volunteered in clean up projects and planting community gardens. I wanted to stay there, but the financing never became available. That is why I now live in Charlotte, NC working with my daughter on a property I have purchased to develop and restore and reclaim for organic gardening and a wildlife habitat and save the beautiful trees on the property from developers. I have stayed out of the politics of a partisan, divided country and used my writing to try and bring awareness to the problems inherent in this country since a republic that disenfranchised over half of its people was established in 1789, hoping that my writing and work I was doing on my property would be enough. I have been an independent voter since the election of 1988 separating myself from the partisan party politics of the country, but things have been happening since 2001, the ending date of my book The Peacemaker that I can no longer ignore.

 I have started to take a strong stand on my social media outlets and, although I will not vote for either of the major political candidates, I am taking a strong stand on what I see as reforms that need to be made in this country that are not being addressed by either political party or their leaders who are actually controlled by the corporate lobbyists who fund their election campaigns. I also think it doesn't matter which white, land owning man is elected President because our whole system at every level is broken, corrupt and in the hands of special interest groups. President Trump says he represents the people, but in fact, he represents the military, fossil fueled industrial complex and Wall St. billionaires while convincing one small group of people, his base, that he supports "the people" in their desire to return control of the country back to the common man. What this group wants, however, is a return to the time when Washington represented their White, Anglo-Saxon Christian views that has made this country "the great defender of freedom" instead of what is has been since its inception, an imperialistic empire building country like that of the English Empire. In doing this, President Trump has equated patriotism with jingoism, my country right or wrong, and labels any protests that happen as being unpatriotic and defying all of those symbols that represent our country and its imperialistic empire building. Please know that I abhor violence and am sad that property and business are being destroyed in the name of protest. This is not the least bit helpful. This is why I have decided to vote for Mark Charles for President and why I now feel the need to talk about my whistle blowing and what I have learned about its importance that goes far beyond what I did as a teacher to expose corrupt educational practices in a juvenile detention facility where I worked as head teacher and program developer for six years. 

One of the platforms of Mark Charles's candidacy is a rewrite of Amendment 13, that he says did not end slavery but only turned it over to the prisons. The following is the text for Amendment 13;

13 amendment of the Constitution

  • Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment ( Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. In Congress, it was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House on January 31, 1865. 

When I taught American history, even working hard to give a true picture of American history, I taught the 13th, 14, and 15th Amendments as one block of votes, 13 abolished slavery, 14th Amendment gave them citizenship and the 15th Amendment gave African-American males the right to vote. I never really delved into the importance of the 13th and 14th Amendments beyond that. The only one I emphasized was the 15th because it gave African-American males the right to vote before females, by making them citizens. Knowing how the 14th Amendment has been used throughout its passage, most recently in the Roe vs. Wade case I now know that although the 13th Amendment abolished slavery the 14th Amendment did something for females that has been of extreme importance in bringing about civil rights for females in this country. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States—including former slaves—and guaranteed all citizens “equal protection of the laws.” The added phrase at the end of that Amendment has been very useful to ethnic groups that may not have been slaves or women who were invisible, but no less recognized as citizens, in this country in 1868. Mark Charles has now brought something very important to the attention of the country. The extra verbiage in the 13th Amendment did not abolish slavery, it simply put slavery under control of the criminal justice system. 

The prison system (many of them for profit as The Shawshank Redemption points our quite well) uses the criminals in their care for all kinds of slave labor for which they receive money. In looking at the population of these prisons, the population of people of color far exceeds the population of the white community or other ethnic groups. As I read the 13th Amendment I began to think that criminal justice reform needs to begin with getting rid of that part of the amendment. That's not nearly so bad as Hitler's death camps, but if our prisons are to be reformed we need to take the profit out of it and put the money into rehabilitation programs instead. This is now where my whistle blowing experience comes in. 


When I was hired at my last position where I worked in a juvenile detention facility, I was hired because my resume made me a perfect candidate for the place. I had certification in language arts (either math or language arts certification was a requirement) a master's in social work with a specialty in juvenile justice, and experience in working with students with disabilities through an inclusion program that made me familiar with all the laws surrounding teaching students with disabilities and modifications needed based on their Individual Educational Plans. Since finding someone who actually lived in the small town where the camp was located was difficult the Special Ed Teacher would come only on certain days and check in with me about how the plans were being implemented. In addition, I had created an impressive independent living program for students in my consumer economics class at Chemawa Indian School outside of Salem, Oregon where I was living at the time.  All these things made me the right candidate to set up the academic part of the program and work with the other full time teacher who was also certified but in health. He could help me with math and science but his expertise was in the vocational part of the program. I went to work setting up teaching programs that would help students integrate their academics with experience in the vocational part as well as start setting up career programs for graduating students. 

Things went smoothly for a while but there were red flags from the start. one of them involved the showing of movies in the classroom. I had been unaware when I started the job that the reason for the vacancy was the resignation of the special education teacher who worked with my partner after she had filed a sexual harassment suit against him for showing The Klan of the Cave Bear. I didn't know anything about this movie but as I became familiar with the camp and its population (many of the long term residents were there for sex offenses) I understood why this movie should never have been shown at all let alone being offensive to the female employee. As I struggled with trying to find out what the policy was regarding movies, I realized there was none and that movies of this type were not only shown in the classroom, they were used by the GLC's (general life coordinators) during free time. I asked the head of the camp about this and he told me that what I came up with would be the policy for the whole camp. That was my first problem. I became the scapegoat for taking away the movies from the inmates because I was rigid and not able to understand the needs of hormonal teenagers. These were not hormonal teenagers, they were sex offenders, rapists and murderers who not only didn't need to see movies like this in school, they should not have been subject to them at all, but I was put in the position of being one who changed it all for them. In addition, as I started implementing a lot of programs, I noticed my teaching partner's nervousness as though I had something against him or would charge him again. That thought was not on my mind at the time. 

 The second one which was the one that brought everything to a head was the releasing of students during the school day to work with a supervisor basically to do labor projects that involved clearing brush, cutting down trees, digging trenches, etc. for community landowners who needed cheap labor for these projects. The students' were paid five dollars an hour for this work and it went into an account that was primarily to be a savings account for when they were released but they were allowed to use a portion of that sometimes to get pizza or even go into the city to eat at a fast food restaurant. If they worked during the school day, they received elective credits to go toward their diploma. Of course most of the work took place during the school day and many of the students were also on the GED program so there was no problem with getting them excused since they were just studying for the GED tests anyway so credits were not that important so going to work during the school day was not a problem until. . . Another thing changed after I came to work there. 

In 1996 Oregon passed Measure 11. This was a measure that changed the whole system of juvenile justice. Since young people were getting more and more involved in felonies and violent behaviors, Measure 11 required a 5 year 10 month prison sentence for anyone over the age of 15 accused of a crime that was associated with violence;  i.e. murder, assault, armed robbery and rape. That changed the face of Oregon Youth Authority. No longer were juveniles sentenced for 2 years or less, they were spending their whole high school life and beyond in prison. GED programs and credit recovery were no longer viable so the different facilities where students were locked up started high schools where students actually graduated. Attaining a diploma even if the student could return to high school was now the focus. At the same time the GED tests were becoming harder and harder to pass and the thought was let's get these kids a diploma because they had been the trouble makers in school and most schools did not want them back. That is where I came in. My expertise and knowledge of credits, standards and performance tests was invaluable as well as my knowledge of the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) program. When the program changed, releasing students for work changed as well and once again, I became the heavy. 

I talked with the Camp Coordinator and tried to explain all this to him and for a while, things worked well. We established a work board that I coordinated and set the schedule for when a student could be released for work or not. About one-third of the students at the 26 bed facility were on IEP's which meant that if going to work violated a modification they needed they could not go. That led to a problem because I had worked with the Special Education teacher to set up a tutoring program in coordination with local volunteers who worked with them two days a week. This was a requirement. In addition, I worked with tutors who came in to tutor for the GED program also, so those were days when the students could not work. As demands for students to go out on work crews increased I once again became the heavy for adhering to the school demands over work demands. The money coming in for the work program was important to the people who ran Oregon Youth Authority and the demands for me to sacrifice the education for work release increased more and more and my teaching partner certainly was not on my side. Over and over, he was sent to me to try and persuade me to release the students. When I refused he was astounded. "Why do you want to keep these students here and make things hard," he asked? I simply told him I was doing my job as an educator. Having been only a teacher of electives, I don't think he really understood although I kept trying to explain, but the situation was getting more and more unpleasant and I was having difficulty controlling the students in class when they couldn't go to work. Again, no one took my side. They went along with the label of me being a rigid teacher who could only enforce rules and I have to say the men at the camp agreed with them. 

Things became especially difficult when my husband died suddenly. My teaching partner kept going to the principal with complaints that I was working too hard and a lot of my problems stemmed from coming back to work too soon and working during the summer. It was too much for me. That could not have been further from the truth. My job has always been a source of comfort in times of stress, but things were becoming difficult. Things went from bad to worse when my teaching partner decided to retire and his job became available. The camp did need a vocational teacher to run the shop but the numbers of students did not really support two fully certified teachers. One of the ways that the numbers had been inflated was to count students released for work as being in school because when the credits were assigned at the end of the day, these students were listed on the count because they were receiving elective credits. Sometimes, we had only two students in class and I think my partner liked that. 

Be that as it may, when he retired, a job posting went out for a teacher. I pushed for one with experience in shop because that was the bulk of the work the second teacher did in addition to supervising GED testing and help with classroom instruction. There was a teacher who lived in the city who was certified in elementary education and worked as a substitute. She was a good teacher but in my opinion was not qualified for the job. I made more trouble for myself when the principal told her that I didn't want her to have the job. Things were going from bad to worse. I was having more and more difficulty with the students and my partner who was retiring was absolutely no help. The job had been advertised in bigger communities. That's how I had learned about the job and had actually moved to the city to take the job. This was a man who came in and asked about the job one day. I told him he would have to speak with the principal at the ESD (Education Service District).  He briefly mentioned that he had experience working with special education students but he had no vocational experience. I told him again he would need to work that out with the Education Service District and Human Resources. 

Two days later my principal called and asked me what I thought about the man. I said he seemed nice, he did have special education experience but could he run the bike shop? Evidently, what my principal reported was that I liked this man and wanted her to hire him. Again, not the truth. He was hired and immediately went to work becoming a buddy with the students instead of a teacher. He was lax and had almost no knowledge of standards or how to work in programs that required meeting standards and testing in order to get a diploma let alone vocational experience, but he quickly established himself as the one who could work with the students. I had set up several independent study programs for students who were just one or two credits shy of graduation as a way of letting them be released for work. I had to do this because what the other teacher was doing was assigning credits in English by letting them write a report about what they did at work. That would have been okay with me, but the reports were read and thrown away and they were nothing that could be considered worthy of English credit. 

When the new buddy came in he became the one everyone wanted to be the main teacher. No one wanted to work with me because I was too rigid. So, to keep the peace I let the new partner set up the program for a student who only needed a credit in English to graduate and be released. He showed it to me and it looked great. The problem was the student was not doing what he was supposed to do and when I pointed that out, my partner said he would take care of it. Things were getting more and more difficult for me.

Students were allowed to use the classroom computers for independent work because the computers at the camp were off limits. In order to use the computers, a teacher had to log in and then monitor what the students were doing as well as the web sites they were using. I was working in a different classroom one day when I heard my partner give the password to one of the students he was working with. I became suspicious and had the computer tech come out and check usage of the computer. What he found were dates of use on weekends and after school hours. In addition, one of the web sites was Hitler.com a site used by a proclaimed Nazi skin head. At the same time I asked my partner to show me the completed file of independent study work that was due at the end of the week. What he showed me was definitely not worthy of a credit. I told him what needed to be done and he said he would take care of it. Not only did the student not complete the work, my partner turned in the transcript to the office as complete and the student graduated. What happened then was unbelievable to me. 

When I reported the incident, instead of asking my partner for the completed work, I became the one who was investigated and the end result was that I was to be transferred to a facility more suited to my rigid style. It was at that time that I obtained a lawyer who informed my employers of my intent to sue if they transferred me. A transfer would have meant selling my home that I had purchased with my husband and move back to Salem where the work was. When that happened I was put on administrative leave with pay while my allegations were investigated. Part of my allegations was that the environment had become so hostile, I did not feel safe there. And I was right. I received anonymous phone calls and was stalked when I went out in public. After a whole semester on leave in which no one came to me for lesson plans nor let me be involved in teaching in any way, I was called back to work under a Letter of Reprimand that was to serve as a warning with a plan of assistance that I was to follow in order to make it possible for me to work there. I could not go back to work and my attorney filed suit on my behalf. which resulted in what I described above. I know about the corruption in the prison systems. Although this was a juvenile camp with responsibilities to provide education and other programs to rehabilitate youth so they could return to society, this was nothing more than a revolving door. The camp operated to keep youth in line the best way they could and keep employment for as many people as possible. The work/study program was a farce and I now know that the verbiage in the 13th Amendment keeps marginalized people, even youth, at the mercy of servitude for the benefit of those in charge not for the person imprisoned. Let's start criminal justice reform by de funding the police and by this I mean giving them more training on deescalating violent situations where their help is needed but then employ the help of others who might be able to assist in keeping these corrupt institutions from being no more than a revolving door. I share this story not as a victim but from someone who has first hand knowledge of what is happening in the prisons so that justice may be served.  


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Prophecy From The Peacemaker

 September 11, 2001

Paul Littlebear looked out the window of the taxi winding its way through New York traffic toward Newark, New Jersey's international airport. He leaned his 6'2" frame forward; tapping on the window separating the driver from the two fares in the back. "Is traffic always this bad?"

"Just sit back and relax, Buddy. You're going to get to the airport on time."

Relax. Paul never did know how to relax. He looked at his twin sister, Pauline, calmly stroking the beads on the ancient belt she held in her long, slender fingers. Although the belt was worn and tattered, its value was immeasurable. Paul studied his sister holding the priceless covenant chain. How could two people who looked so much alike be so different? Paul looked at the sleek, raven hair so much like his own, hers in braids and his tied in a pony tail reaching to his shoulders. Pauline's blue eyes were fascinating and inviting, his were brooding, announcing stay away from me. Pauline's eyes met her brother's as she said, "Settle down, Paul, we'll make it."

"We'll make it." Those words reminded him of that time years ago when those words helped him get through the court ordered drug rehab program and his first year of sobriety. Paul's irritability reminded him of the truth of the saying, "One Day at a Time." Paul kept telling himself to think only about today's events; nothing else mattered. He took a few deep breaths, sat back and closed his eyes. He was tired, in fact exhausted.

"Here we are, right on time." Paul jerked, opening his eyes as the taxi pulled over to the loading zone under the United Air Lines sign. He opened the door and stepped out, helping his sister before grabbing the luggage from the trunk. After tipping the driver, the two walked into the airport terminal to check in for United Air Lines Flight 93 headed for San Francisco.

The Peacemaker begins and ends on September 11, 2001. That date in American history was the defining moment for America as we faced the beginning of the 21st Century which would be full of challenges brought on at the very beginning of our history, cycles of never ending wars, recessions and depressions, and the unending struggles to unite the country so that it could live up to the words listed in the Preamble to the Constitution - 

 We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

Those who were around on September 11, 2001 wondered about those words as the United States faced the dawn of a new millennium. Anyone who had lived through the 20th Century and who studied the history of this country could tell you that at that time we were far from living up to the promise of these words written by our Founding Fathers in 1787. What went wrong? What would the 21st Century hold with the threat of nuclear warfare, terrorism, the slow disappearance of  the Middle Class, urban unrest and violence not only in the home but on urban streets everywhere? What was going to happen to the environment suffering under the intense heat of global warming?

These issues continued to be part of the debate in 2009  when I published the first edition of The Peacemaker, revising it in 2010. When I finished the book, Barack Obama had been elected to the Presidency - another watermark in changing the course of American history. This is what I wrote in the Epilogue to the book :

As of June 8th 2008, the Oneida Land Claim dispute is still stalled in the federal courts. There is still controversy in every part of the nation over Indian sovereignty and whether indigenous people (changed the term from Native Americas) should pay state and federal taxes. In the summer of 2008 Wall St. took another dramatic downturn and the economy is in another deep recession. The United States is deeply entangled in war in Iraq, and Israel and the Palestinians continue waging war. Osama Bin Laden will probably die from old age (wrong) despite the billions of dollars spent chasing him. History was made in the Election of 2008 pitting a female and African-American male in a dramatic race for the Democratic Party's nomination for President. Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president: however, Obama's mother was Caucasian.

The Peacemaker is about realizing our unity. America is a country of blending. We are not an Aryan nation. We are one people from many different ethnicities and cultures. We are one nation and the key to our unity must be in coming together as one celebrating our different heritages and traditions that enrich us as we put aside past hurts and grievances. If we cannot make peace in our families or in our communities we cannot make peace in the world. We must become a nation of peacemakers - not peacekeepers. A peace that is kept with weapons of destruction is not peace at all. We must learn to resolve differences with words of love and forgiveness not by overpowering those who differ with us. In Alex Haley's book Roots Kunta Kinte's teacher during his manhood training teaches that you do not get rid of an enemy by killing him. Instead, you create generations of enemies among the descendants who continually seek to avenge that death. 

As we make peace with the human race, we must also make peace with the earth that sustains us. We must learn to live in harmony with the earth once again and help it heal from centuries of abuse. We are children of the same creator and of one family no matter which creation story we believe. We are all peacemakers. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. 

 As I write these words in 2020 I look around me and what do I see. I see weather catastrophes, wildfires, flooding, intense storms and wildfires recurring every year wiping out the homes and fortunes of the people living in drought prone areas and on disappearing shore lines. I think about social media and the decline in American decency and literacy and inability to think critically about events - primarily because we, as a nation, have lost our connections to the earth that sustains us and have surrendered to partisan politics and "education" by celebrities or mass marketers instead of reading and dialogue. I think about the emotional tirades of people screaming about "erasing" history because they really don't know anything but the lies of white man's political history that have been propagated by those white land owning men who founded this country to serve them and not "we the people." 

The Peacemaker is a generational saga a story that incorporates the history of all the people in this country - a family living out the formation of a country that moved from 1720 to September 11, 2001. Although it is the story of one family it is truly not his story (those who founded the republic) but our story. It is the story of the struggles for those left out of participation in the "democratic republic" and explains how we got to where we were on September 11, 2001 and why we are where we are today.  

When I finished the book in 2008, Obama had just been elected President. The book ends on September 11, 2001 but there is an Epilogue with some predictions about the nature of an Obama Presidency and what I think should be important. Unfortunately. President Obama was unable to bring the country together and in 2016 everyone knows who was elected President - a minority President which shows the need for reform in the Electoral College.

Mr. Trump has been President for four years. It has been a time of a division so great that I am wondering if we will ever unite. Trump's presidency began with national and international protests challenging the validity of his election. For four years members of the opposing party have been crying about this but have done almost nothing to reform the Electoral College. That is the problem. President Trump's advisers did a better job of playing the Electoral Map and building on the sketchy politics of the Democratic Party. Now, after four years, we have a repeat of the 2016 election with even more division and hate and a world wide pandemic that has somehow been made a issue by the Democratic Party. 

Bernie Sanders further split the Democratic Party by bringing out the corruption and control of corporate America which also controls the funding and in return, controls the leaders they get elected to office. What has been done about this? Have there been any efforts to establish term limits for members of Congress? Congress has surrendered its legislative power to partisanship so strong that nothing can be accomplished. What about lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court? And during all this the average public sits around concerned about Mr. Trump's abuse of power when they don't realize we have given him that power. We have become a country ruled by executive orders, government regulations, and the fossil fueled lifestyle promoted by the military industrial complex. I don't know and don't really care which Presidential candidate wins the election, but I will predict in four years it is going to be the same ole same ole unless we go back into history and look at what went wrong and then try to re invent the American democracy. That is why I wrote The Peacemaker http://kentuckywoman.net. 

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

It's About Systemic Racism - Not Individuals

 This blog was inspired by posts from two people on my social media page who were irate (as they should be) over the release of a man incarcerated for domestic violence because of the Covid 19 Virus. This man killed the woman who was responsible for his incarceration and then as far as I can recall, killed himself. That, in itself, could be another blog. The posts I read were angry (as they should be) over the fact that this man was released from prison and then killed his victim. The picture of the man indicated that he was Caucasian.  On one of the posts, in response,  I simply asked, "What would you have done?" The angry response showed that the person did not even read my comment or understand that it was a question but simply responded (paraphrase) I don't know how this can be more obvious, an accused, dangerous person released from prison? 

I really had been interested in an answer, perhaps to stimulate a conversation on this topic. After that response, I started thinking about the situation through a lens of experience working in the criminal justice system and knowing the dilemma of making sure inmates' health is protected and that they do not die as a result of the incarceration. This problem has gone far beyond treatment in prisons and has been taken to the streets to demand social justice on the part of colored people who find themselves in contact with law enforcement. 

The nation, in general, is divided; people are angry, mob behavior has come in to take the place of order. I cannot help but think about how Radical Republicans and scalawags took advantage of the chaos in the South to destroy a Reconstruction that was based on "malice toward none and justice for all." The challenges we face in this country because of this is one of the reasons we are still fighting the Civil War, but this is not what my blog is about. 

It is about systemic racism that was the basis for disenfranchising the majority of the American population from participation in a supposed democracy and the struggle to incorporate others through using the Constitution, especially the Amendments known as the Bill of Rights throughout our history. One of the things I notice about the very vocal group that makes up much of President Trump's base is that the efforts of these disenfranchised groups to obtain their rights are somehow a threat to their "rights" and an attempt to erase our glorious history. So long as this is what is being promoted and people (on both sides) are unwilling to start thinking and reading beyond jingoistic phrases and rhetoric from political leaders who want to stay in power, we will continue to fight the Civil War with ignorance and unwillingness to face how our very Constitution and, many times, the way civil rights is interpreted by the court system to continue the back and forth ignorant, emotional tirades that each group uses to prove, "racism doesn't exist" and no progress can be made. Therefore, I write this blog knowing that unless I have some celebrity post something that validates what I am saying, no one will pay much attention. In spite of my resistance against doing this, I am writing the blog because at least I can put the subject to rest for me. 

Overcrowding in the prison system has been an issue for generations. In fact, I was encouraged when both sides of the aisle came together to make progress on criminal justice reform. In fact, President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, encouraged him to make criminal justice reform the pivot point of his election. Instead, the President and his advisors chose to stick with the economy, and rely on his rallying cry to his "base" in huge events that did nothing but stir up jingoism and knee jerk responses. That backfired on him and he is now gathering as much support for his administration as being non racist by dividing the country even more in this "who is most at fault?" I do not blame the Trump Administration entirely for this division, I also do not like the Black Lives Matter" group's approach to that group being the group that is demanding reform rather than look at the idea of racism in general against all those disenfranchised from the "democratic" system set up in 1787 and go to the root of the matter. 

So, I asked myself the same question and my response gave me insight into systemic racism that exists and still gets covered up because of all the noise. As stated earlier, the criminal incarceration system is responsible for the health of inmates in their care regardless of the nature of the crime, even those on death row. When I worked in the juvenile justice system in Oregon, I became aware of the protocols in place to protect the physical health and safety of the inmates that were always under investigation should an inmate die or be injured while in their custody. The dilemma faced by the people running the prison system has been greatly exacerbated due to a virus that requires social distancing, hygiene and face masks. Whether this prisoner was accused of murder or perhaps a less violent offense, the system is required to protect them all. How to best do that when the prisons are overcrowded in the first place? Take a look at releasing some prisoners. Here is the point I am making about racism.

Why choose this white man who was accused of murder over some other populations that were in for less violent offenses? In fact, that was what part of the criminal justice reform act was all about? I am sure that there were many inmates who fit this description who might have been released to homes with ankle bracelets and monitors and visits by parole officers instead of the one inmate (who happened to be white) accused of violent crimes. In this manner room could have been made to isolate those criminals who were more of a threat to society and protect them from Covid 19 while following all of the recommended protocols. I believe his release was about systemic racism in the way white prisoners are treated over people of color. Maybe my readers, if any, don't see it this way, but if you don't, instead of responding with angry, judgmental words, I would be interested in knowing what would you do? Or, if you are a Christian, what do you think Jesus would do? .  

Monday, July 20, 2020

History Erased Declaration of the Rights of Women July 4, 1876


Declaration of Rights and Sentiments of Women
Prepared by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Presented at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848

Who has not heard of the Declaration of  Independence? This milestone of freedom written on July 4, 1776 declared the reasons necessary for the colonists to declare their independence from Great Britain. Not only is this document preserved and housed among the great documents of freedom in Washington, DC, every American student of history has studied this document in classrooms all over the country. Until I started doing research on my own when I was teaching American history in Albuquerque, NM, I had never heard of the following document, let alone the place where the document was presented in 1848. In that year, seventy-two years after the founding of this "free country" a group of women found it necessary to hold a convention where they outlined the abuses they had suffered as females being denied the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men--both natives and foreigners. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns. He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master--the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement. He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women--the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands. After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be profitable to it. He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known. He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her. He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church. He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man. He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for a sphere of action, when that belongs to conscience and to her God. He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make willing to lead a dependent and abject life. Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which long to them as citizens of the United States. In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and National legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions embracing every part of the country. (Lucretia Mott, Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock, Amy Post, Catharine A. F. Stebbins, and others, discussed these resolutions, which were later adopted.) WHEREAS, The great precept of nature is conceded to be, that “man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness.” Blackstone in his Commentaries remarks, that this law of Nature being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid, derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; therefore, Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is “superior in obligation to any other.” Resolved, That all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and therefore of no force or authority. Resolved, That woman is man’s equal--was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such. Resolved, That the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want. Resolved, That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is pre-eminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies . Resolved, That the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman. Resolved, That the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill-grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus. Resolved, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her. Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise. Resolved, That the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities. Resolved, therefore, That, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means, and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, I both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and many assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind Resolved, That the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.   

This was the call to action given to the 300 women delegates at the convention and the final solution was that females could not achieve the aforementioned goals unless they attained the right to vote. Thus, the beginning of the women's suffrage movement. It is astounding to think that only 100 of the 300 female delegates signed the document. In addition most of the males who had not been invited to the convention but attended anyway who were given the right to vote abstained. This was the climate among not only those men in power but females themselves who did not agree with what was written. In understanding this history, and uncovering it for all to see instead of erasing it, the student can understand the great divisions among females that survives through this day.

The women who attended the convention at Seneca Falls went from there to a meeting in Philadelphia where they organized the Underground Railroad System. Frederick Douglas had been one of the men who attended the meeting and who voted for the Declaration. These women were the extremists, the radicals of their day and conductors of the Railroad were in constant danger of being caught and prosecuted. Although the slaves were emancipated after the Civil War and black males were given the right to vote in 1865, women were still a long way from achieving this goal. 

In fact another Declaration of the Rights of Women was written by Susan B. Anthony on July 4, 1876, the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.       

https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2017/03/21/declaration-of-rights-of-the-women-of-the-united-states-july-4-1876/


Women were still being denied the right to vote and were still unequal to men in all the categories listed in the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments of Women. Once again, this history was erased from the textbooks I studied both in high school as well as college when I was pursing a degree in history. Once again, I was fortunate that women began to organize and start demanding equal treatment and raised the consciousness of this woman at least. As I read all the wall posts about certain groups having their history erased, many of these posts come from women themselves and I cannot grasp this. Why is this happening?

I was watching a program on TV with an interview of a woman who has written a book for women about another Declaration of Rights of Women to help women understand how they are still invisible in this country and how they themselves are still trying to demand rights from a "man's world." Again, I ask myself, why should this be happening? We do not need to push the male controlled, patriarchal system that is still in operation no matter what the politicians say. We need to demand reform and demand that our history not be erased, that it be taught and that measures to reform those documents of freedom that have historically ignored females be made all inclusive with all the rights granted to men being granted to females as well.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Democratic Party Elects Joe Biden President in 2020 Election

January 6, 2021 
Washington, DC

On this date in 2021, this could be the possible headline announcing Joe Biden's election as President by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives. Few people really know about the process to elect the President and because of two men who received a minority of the popular vote in the last twenty years but became President,  this is the only possible scenario that concerns people. Because of that, however, there has been a movement that is getting stronger to have the state legislatures change the way their Electoral votes are cast to make the outcome of the election reflect the actual will of the people.

There have been all kinds of arguments about the role of the Electoral College as a fight between large and small states being the reason this system was set up by the Founding Fathers in the first place. Earlier, I posted an article about why the Electoral College was actually founded. To a certain extent it had to do with large and small states, but the main reason this system was set up was to provide a system free of the partisan power struggles between the states trying to get their "favorite sons" elected to this powerful position. At that time political parties did not exist; in fact the Founding Fathers never dreamed that the struggle for power between large and small states would become a partisan struggle between the red and blue states. In fact, George Washington, in his Farewell Address, seeing the beginnings of separation into parties by Federalists and Anti-Federalists warned against the formation of political parties. Therefore, the Electoral College was set up to elect the President.

What few people know, however, is that there is another consideration provided in the Constitution. Should neither candidate receive a majority of Electoral Votes, the House of Representatives then decides who will be President. Why the House of Representatives? Because in 1787 the House of Representatives was the only House of Congress elected by the people. Senators were not elected by popular vote until 1913 when the 17th Amendment was passed. " The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913, making the election of senators by popular vote. However, presidential elections still operate under the Electoral System. The Electoral College is made up of representatives who are generally selected by the political parties at their state conventions." And it is the state legislators who make the rules about how the votes are cast. By tradition, although this was never part of the design, states follow the winner take all method of assigning Electoral Votes. This is what has allowed the election of two minority Presidents in the last 20 years of American history.

The only President to be elected by the House of Representatives was John Quincy Adams in the election of 1824. https://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/1800-1850/The-House-of-Representatives-elected-John-Quincy-Adams-as-President/#:~:text=About%20this%20object%20John%20Quincy%20Adams%2C%20the%20only,Secretary%20of%20State%20John%20Quincy%20Adams%20as%20President. If you will read this article, you will see that his opponent was Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson was a war hero and touted as the hero of the "common man." John Quincy Adams was a Federalist who believed in a strong federal government. It is interesting that John Q. Adams only served one term and in 1824 Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party, was elected to the White House, ushering in the age of the common man and "universal suffrage." At this time universal suffrage referred to giving white men over the age of 21 who were uneducated and didn't own property the right to vote.
It is interesting that Andrew Jackson, the old Indian fighter, laid the foundation for ridding the Indian problem east of the Mississippi and by taking away all their lands, he was, indeed, able to help the common man own property. This part of history has been ignored and even the people who promote teaching about the Trail of Tears have little understanding of the importance of that event in the eventual decline of the Indian population under Manifest Destiny. Poor teaching of history combined with students' blatant disregard for history have led to a country that is ignorant, segmented and divided and vulnerable to any myths used by either partisan side in truly understanding the reforms that need to be made in this country to achieve social justice and liberty for all.

There is a movement in almost all the state legislatures to join what is called the National Popular Vote Interstate CompactAct. https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/written-explanation. To date, 16 states have passed this agreement and the vote is being considered by many state legislatures. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the effect on the vote if only those 16 states implemented this system of electing the President - keep the Electoral College but apportion the Electoral votes according to popular vote - not winner take all. This is used for illustration only because the Compact will not go into effect until enough states approve it so that the total number of Electoral Votes reaches 270 - the number of votes needed to elect the President. The article is actually an attempt to debunk the myth that without the Electoral College "California would elect the President." Hopefully, you will read to the end.

The states that have already approved the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Act  represent 196 Electoral votes and everyone of these states is considered a blue state. https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/  Political experts have put all these states in the blue category meaning it is a Democratic win. The Electoral vote count in these states is 308, meaning that if the Democratic candidate wins in all those states under the current system, the Democrat would win the election. Let's assume for a moment that these states used the popular vote as a method of assigning Electoral votes. That means that Donald Trump would win a share of the Electoral votes in all these states, enough to drop the total to around 210 (this is only guesswork). Now, what happens.

Donald Trump's Electoral vote count in red states is only 167. If he picks up a share of the Democratic votes his total might even come close to the Democratic total. There is one set of Electoral votes that has been left out of the equation. Those are the swing states, those states that have voted for both Democrats and Republicans at one time or another and this is really where the candidates focus their attention. These states are Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and possibly Nevada. The Electoral vote total is 91. Capturing these states becomes critically important to both candidates even more so to the Democrats if they lose some of their Electoral votes to Trump. Again, this is hypothetical to make a point. Attention has always been focused on these states and that is why it is important to know that they are the key in electing any President. So, what if neither of the candidates win enough Electoral votes to hit the magic 270? Then, in January of 2021, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives would choose Joe Biden as President. Again, this is just hypothetical in order to make a point. Big states such as California, Illinois and New York have always had an impact on the election, but the point being made is that if the vote is determined by the Popular Vote this will not happen. It can only help everyone make sure their vote is counted when it comes to electing the President of the United States no matter where they live. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will be on the ballot this year. Please consider voting for it and get rid of a system that no longer serves its purpose. 


 * Just a side note. Why is it that Donald Trump has suddenly held a briefing on the status of the Corona virus and his Administration's success at flattening the curve for the first time in two months? Vice President Pence's claims about the curve being flattened are only partially true and many of the states experiencing a surge as serious as the one in New York are badly needed by Trump in the upcoming election - two swing states - Arizona and Florida- and the traditionally Republican state of Texas with 34 Electoral Votes. Both sides are playing politics and the American people are caught in the middle.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Why Juneteenth is a Big Deal

Imagine it is mid May, 1945 and you are a reporter standing in front of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland recording release of prisoners from the Concentration Camp. You watch as emaciated forms walk under the sign Arbeit Macht Frei, some wobbling alone or on crutches, others walking being supported by one another. As they walk past you hear their conversations. How long were you here? Where did you come from? What do you know about prisoners from other concentration camps? Do you know the names Anne and Margot Frank or Peter Van Daan? It seems to you that the most important thing on these former prisoners' mind is finding out about loved ones lost to them during this terrible period known as The Holocaust, a time in history that will never be forgotten and now taught in all the history books - lest we forget.

Now imagine you are a reporter covering the day on June 19, 1865 when federal soldiers marched into Houston ordering that all people held as slaves in the state of Texas are now and forever free.
You go to a nearby plantation and watch as slaves hear about Emancipation for the first time and begin to understand what that means to them. They are now free to pack up their belongings and leave the plantation to which they have been bound since they were born. They are now able to put any family units back together and go freely to look for other relatives that were sold to other plantations or who ran away. Imagine the joy! This is what freedom means - to travel and go about freely and live in family units just like their masters!

You notice that there is someone in the crowd telling the freed slaves about a gathering in a place in Houston called Freedom Park. The freed slaves look at him in astonishment - you mean we can gather in a public place!  "Yes, so long as you do it peacefully," comes the reply. Freedom - this is what emancipation means.

You get to the park and you notice there are Black people who can read and write who are reading the Emancipation Proclamation and explaining it to the crowd without being hauled away or beaten. A revelation occurs to some - I can learn to read and write.  Freedom! People are coming with food and mingling and talking to one another about relatives and friends. You even see some of your own! Freedom!

There are tables full of traditional foods prepared by female members of the community and set onto tables for the freed slaves to eat - not masters. Freedom! Everyone is singing and dancing for their own enjoyment not for the masters- Freedom!

When the day ends these slaves return to the plantation as free people, they begin to absorb what this freedom means and then start to build a new life, but they do not forget this day. They mark the date June 19, 1865 on a calendar so that no matter where they are in the following years, they will come together with family and friends to mark the day they received their freedom from tyranny the way their white masters did on the 4th of July, but this observance is a little different from that celebration.

In order to understand how the Juneteeth celebration is observed, I attended many celebrations in and around the state of Kentucky from 2015-2019 when I moved from my home state. I also did presentations at the Portland Library on the history of Juneteenth and the long struggle to get the day declared a federal holiday not just an observance day. As I started learning how the day was observed, I decided to write a short story about an adolescent growing up in the Portland Neighborhood of Louisville, Ky. The story is about his coming of age on this day, but it also creates a picture of the Black community in this neighborhood with its roots in slavery and how they celebrate the day. The story is entitled Juneteenth and it is found in my collections of short stories Finding New Pangaea available at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/finding-new-pangaea-ms-brenda-c-duffey/1126177417. It is also available in kindle format.

The observance of Juneteenth follows closely the observance of the original Juneteenth celebration. It is a celebration of family and oftentimes there are large family reunions at state parks in the area. Traditional foods are served and it is just a big family picnic with tables spread with traditional foods and children laughing and playing and reuniting with distant family members or meeting new ones. Education is also a component. Some of the observances of the day are marked by original plays that tell the story of slavery and freedom. For the most part, it is just people having fun enjoying the same freedoms that the white Anglo-Saxon males attained on July 4, 1776. That day is marked by ringing of bells and fireworks displays along with national celebrations in Washington, D.C. with spectacular entertainment by national choruses and the singing of patriotic songs as well as a lot of flag waving and red, white and blue. Just like July 4th Juneteenth is, indeed, a big deal because this day marks the day on which they received all the freedoms listed in the Constitution  just as July 4th marks the day Anglo-Saxon men and other Black freedmen attained the right to self-government and their freedom from absolute monarchies that denied them their rights as English citizens. July 4th was also a landmark day for oppressed people in other countries. It is unfortunate that these Founding Fathers did not include all American citizens at this time. So Juneteeth is a big deal to the African-American communities and just like July 4th the day needs to be at last declared a federal holiday. *

Just like the struggle to get Juneteenth declared a federal holiday, the journey of not only African-Americans, Native Americans, women and other people of color has been long and difficult. In 2020, all of these groups are still held in bondage and prisons and still struggling to get the freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights so the country can live up to the words of the preamble to the Constitution:

          We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect union,
establish justice. 
provide for the common defense
promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.


Monday, June 15, 2020

Why All Lives Matter Landmark Supreme Court Decision

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement. Although the movement began to end segregation and discrimination against Blacks in the South, when the Act was passed it was all inclusive - the language was not specific to one group of people; it banned discrimination in public places or in the work place based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Today, that all inclusive language resulted in a victory for the LGBTQ community in a decision handed down by the Supreme Court and delivered by a conservative Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices making this a 6-3 decision. 

Two members of the LGBTQ community who had been fired from their jobs for entering into same sex relationships took their case to court and it ended up in the Supreme Court which today upheld their right to keep their jobs regardless of sexual orientation. For the two conservatives on the court, the decision was made based on the wording of the text of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which mentioned the word sex. If the Civil Rights Act had been specific only to the rights of Blacks, this protection would have been denied the LGBTQ community which has suffered from discrimination as long as any other group in this country. That's why it is important to keep in mind that George Floyd, a Black man, is more than a Black man. He is the representative of all of us who have suffered from police brutality, injustice and discrimination. The leadership of Black Lives Matter has the opportunity to make important changes in our system for the betterment of all. I hope when dialogues begin and things start to change that the leadership will remember it's not just about Black people; please include all those groups that have suffered from injustice and discrimination for too many years. They are standing in solidarity with you because they know too well themselves the brutal consequences of hate and injustice.