After The Orlando Shootings, We Have Blood On Our Hands. . . And We Wail.

imageAfter the Orlando shootings I could not even speak about it or cry about it. It felt like a strangely biblical moment. In the Bible, people wailed. . . and I wailed after the shootings. That’s what they immediately became, the “Orlando shootings.” That follows the “Charleston shootings,” the San Bernadino shootings,” the “Newtown shootings,” and on and on.

This last shooting LGBTQ people were targeted. They were. The shooter had his own sexual identity issues. It appears he was self radicalized, according to the press, who have helped us continue to blame someone else so we don’t have to look at ourselves in the mirror – yet again.

Our son happens to be gay and my wife and I love him ferociously, like all parents love their children. . . and beyond the limits imposed by words. And it was my son’s face that I saw in the faces of the 49 victims. But more than that, I saw the face of Jesus in the faces of all the victims in Orlando, the majority of whom, like Jesus, were people of color.

Jesus, forgive us, for we know not what we do.

We, as a nation, do our now tragically routine shtick after mass murders of our children and friends who are gay. Let’s get real. We don’t learn. LGBTQ folks have long been our country’s victims of convenience and choice and continue in that horrible role in this “shooting.” Don’t like that characterization? When will we as a self proclaimed Christian country muster the moral honesty and Christ like courage to own the madness that we continue to allow to happen? There is blood on all our hands. For that, I wail.

Pastor Heidi Neumark, a thoughtful Lutheran pastor I am proud to know, and who works at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan in New York City, poignantly wrote these words after the Orlando shootings: “The killer may have been Muslim but the Church has blood on its hands. ‘The voice of your brother’s blood, your sister’s blood is crying to me from the ground,’ and like it or not, it’s crying from our bloodstained pulpits. It’s easy to move from – ‘This is wrong, this is a sin’ to ‘this is from the devil, this is evil. . . You are less than who God has created you to be. Less than human. Subhuman.’ Or ‘Untermenschen’ as the Nazis put it. This gives sanction to hate and violence even if that is not the intention. Intended or not, the results are deadly. So when queer young people are murdered in NYC, most often transgender women of color, I do blame preaching. When LGBTQ young people are slain in the night, I hear the ancient blood pulse of God’s beloved crying from the ground. And like it or not, it’s crying from our pulpits. Our churches seem to love slow, drawn-out debates while lives hang in the balance. While God’s children are slaughtered with abandon.”

The House had a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting and some of my fellow Democrats got pretty testy, some walking out and some chanting “where’s the bill.” Man, an entire moment of silence for victims who were slaughtered and silenced forever by a homophobic killer. Speaker Paul Ryan did not disappoint us, chiding the Democrats for essentially being out of order. Our House is way out of order. I wailed . . . again.

Then our Democratic Senators had their turn, staging a 15 hour filibuster – with their goal being to try and get Senate Republican leadership to even bring gun bills/amendments to the floor for a vote. My understanding is the Senate was to bring four such gun bills/amendments to the Senate floor tonight – with all expected to fail, largely along party lines. Two common sense amendments (background check amendment and terrorist watch list amendment) have already failed and my friend and former Senator (who my wife and I campaigned for and contributed to when we lived in North Dakota), Heidi Heitkamp, was one of three Democrats voting against one amendment and the only Democrat voting against the other amendment. Saddened and angered beyond words. Are you listening to this nonsense? Are you, too, wailing?

Another surreal part of this outrageous routine is that our President makes another trip to meet with those shot in Orlando and the families of those killed. . . an all too familiar pilgrimage that calls for wailing but that our country has now reconciled itself to being, disgustingly, routine. That pilgrimage took place this past week as well. Yet there is nothing “routine” about this to the people who were shot because of who they loved.

As our state legislative leaders continue to spend precious time arguing about where transgender folks should pee, LGBTQ people are slaughtered in Orlando, and these same elected officials offer their “thoughts and prayers” to victims and their families. But please, please, make people fearful, without any historical evidence, for the safety of your daughters entering bathrooms.

The Washington Post reported this month that state efforts to limit LGBT rights included the reality that since 2013 “legislatures have introduced 254 bills, 20 of which became law. According to data collected by the American Civil Liberties Union and analyzed by the Washington Post, the number of bills introduced has increased steadily each year. In the first half of 2016 alone, 87 bills that could limit L.G.B.T. rights have been introduced, a steep increase from previous years.”

These actions by our elected state lawmakers send the constant, horrible, inhumane and nonChristlike message that LGBTQ folks are “less than”. . . less than the lawmakers who continue to be mostly old heterosexual white guys. Because somebody has to be “less than.” This makes me physically ill. And we wail.

Yet, one thing about wailing is it necessarily means making some real noise. That’s where I intend to focus my energies and resources in the future, making some real noise. Unapologetically. Wailing through action means working to get rid of homophobic, racist leaders who thump their chests about their Second Amendment rights as our children, grandchildren and friends are regularly and needlessly slaughtered by assault rifles by a sick homophobic man who had no business being a gun owner.

When did we permit common sense gun control action to save lives to become equated with taking away someone’s right to legally own guns? If voters don’t act, and get rid of elected leaders who continue to target LGBT Americans with their homophobic fear mongering and worrying more about their own reelection than doing the right thing, than this is what we get – deserved or not. If we complain and don’t act to make changes to stop hateful discriminatory laws targeting our LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors, and implement common sense gun control, then we are complicit in this continuing American tragedy. There is then blood on all our hands. We have choices. Let’s consciously provide opportunities to choose another path.

Will you please join me in choosing to wail loudly?

A Presidential Candidate Who Makes Racist Comments About A Federal Judge . . . and the Elected Leaders Who Embrace Him.

imageDonald Trump taunts himself as a successful and savvy businessman. He’s great. Just ask him.

This savvy businessman, who has been involved in voluminous litigation over the years, and is running for president, makes racist remarks about the federal judge presiding over one of his pending cases.

Did Trump file a motion to recuse the judge in this case for his alleged bias? He has that opportunity you know. I’m guessing he did not. Why not? I’m guessing because his attorneys would have advised him that, stragically, it does not make much sense to try and get a federal judge, born in Indiana and of Mexican heritage, recused from your case because, as Trump railed, Trump is building a wall between Mexico and the United States to keep Mexicans out and the judge is Mexican. Really? Yes.

This is not what we would expect from a savvy businessman. This is, well, stupid. This is also racist. Yes, racist. This is coming from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. That part is frightening. No doubt this will finally disqualify him? Wait, you don’t know Republican leaders.

It did not take me 30 years of practicing law to understand that I should probably not insult the judge presiding over my clients’ cases. I’m pretty sure my niece, who is in middle school, understands that. It’s common sense.

Let’s ponder this teaching moment. What are we teaching our junior high school students, and all our children, when Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, calls out Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, for making these racist remarks, then says he’s still supporting him for president because he’s more likely to support Republican policies than Hillary Clinton? The recent New York Daily News headline said it well with a picture of Speaker Ryan with the headline “I’M WITH RACIST!”

Remember, Donald Trump was one of the original birthers, questioning this country’s first black President’s citizenship. Remember, Donald Trump wants to keep all Muslims out of “our” country. Remember, he also wants to build a wall to keep Mexican rapists out of “our country.” Oh, and remember, he thinks women who make the agonizing decision to have an abortion should be punished. He insults women who ask him hard questions. He mockingly calls a female U.S. Senator, “Pocahontas.” He makes fun of and mocks a journalist with a disability. And on and on it goes.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, who I don’t always agree with, talks about the flawed logic of Paul Ryan’s calling out Trump’s racist comments, and yet still endorsing his policies. It’s about an underlying issue of character. Brooks points out if someone has racist views and desires to be our country’s commander in chief, it does not even get you to the policy consideration stage. Your racist comments and behavior fundamentally disqualify you to lead this country. That makes sense to me. America? If America is fundamentally against racism, we cannot elect a racist candidate, can we?

What if Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, made these types of racist comments? Even one of them? Seriously, she’d be done. She’d be drummed out of the race by Republicans and Democrats. And why is that? Why does Donald Trump get this free pass? Do we dare talk about our continued double standard for women, particularly the first woman ever to have a realistic chance to be the most powerful leader in the world? But sexism can’t have anything to do with it . . . in our America?

As we listen to the hateful racist rhetoric spewed by Donald Trump, are we still wondering what’s up with these Black Lives Matter folks who speak to the broken racist systems we continue to embrace in an America steeped in white privilege? As the Republican Party leaders rally around a racist Donald Trump as their presumptive presidential nominee can we not look deep into our hearts and souls to acknowledge our own culpability in continuing this systemic racism? Can we not see that elected Republican leaders embracing a candidate spewing such racist comments does nothing to help improve race issues in our country and actually moves them backwards?

I’m saddened and embarrassed by our Republican elected leaders that continue to support Trump to lead all Americans. I apologize to people of color in America for the actions of these mostly white, male elected leaders, who embrace Donald Trump to lead all Americans. This is not the American dream, but the American nightmare.

We have choices. Do we continue to move through these historic moments with blinders on? Does America endorse and support a racist to lead all Americans? Do we have the moral backbone as Republicans, Democrats and Independents to speak out against Donald Trump, a person who lacks the underlying moral integrity to be our country’s president? I challenge folks to take this opportunity to make history, to ask why the bar for Hillary Clinton is so much higher than for Donald Trump. Do we ever acknowledge, as a country, our sexist and racist history? Do we have the ability, as a country, to be bigger than party politics and to look out for the best interests of all Americans?

Many Republicans continue to be focused on trying to generate dirt on Hillary Clinton. This has been a familiar and unsuccessful theme for the past 25 years. That’s easier than looking at your own burning house. But this is bigger than Hillary Clinton’s “damn emails” or her getting large speaking fees from Wall Street while in the private sector.

North Dakota’s lone Congressman, Kevin Cramer, a Republican, sadly, helps make my point. When asked about Trump’s statements about not getting fair treatment from a “Mexican” judge, Cramer said he did not think Trump’s statements were racist at all. Cramer is quoted as saying “[b]ecause if he was racist, he’d confine his criticism to a race. Donald Trump offends everybody equally. . . For him, it’s business. It’s probably ill-mannered, it’s probably not great politics, but it’s also part of what some people actually like about him.”

Are you kidding me? This type of statement, along with the Speaker of the House’s schizophrenic comments, should scare the hell out of everyone. North Dakota appears to have, as its sole Congressional representative, a person who does not even know what racism looks like. Speaker Ryan knows it when he sees it, condemns it, but supports the racist candidate anyway. Cramer may be hoping his blind support for all things Republican and Trump will help land him a position in a Trump administration. As a friend of mine recently asked, “Will that position be Secretary of ‘Uff Da?'”

But this is no joke. Do our elected Republican leaders get a free pass to endorse the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who is a racist? Do we give them that pass? Our elected Republican leaders are putting politics ahead of country. It’s on us, the voters, if we continue to elect such people, who support a racist, to represent us.

The world is watching. Our children and grandchildren are watching. More than that, they are depending on us all, as Americans, to speak out against this racist presidential candidate as well as those who support him. This is the time that defines character. Contrary to what Donald Trump is telling folks, we do not need to make America great – again. America is great. Part of that greatness means showing up and calling out racists and those that support them. Will we take action? Will we be the America we say we are and need to be? I hope so.