Category Archives: Politics

Black Man. White Cop. You Know The Rest.

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Back in high school I wrote this thing about racism. It was a bit of a disaster. Since then, as a white heterosexual male, I have decided to specifically NOT write about racism if at all possible because the last time I did, things went badly. But I kind of feel the need to break that rule.

His name was Alton Sterling. And if I tell you he was a black man who encountered a police officer you already know the rest of the story. You know the story because it’s the story of Dontre Hamilton. It’s the story of Eric Garner. It’s the story of John Crawford III. It’s the story of Michael Brown Jr. It’s the story of Ezell Ford. It’s the story of Tanisha Anderson. It’s the story of Akai Gurley. It’s the story of Tamir Rice. It’s the story of Rumain Brisbon. It’s the story of Jerame Reid. It’s the story of Tony Robinson. It’s the story of Phillip White. It’s the story of Freddie Gray. It’s the story of Sandra Bland. It’s the story of being black and unlucky in America.

We hear these stories of police shooting black men and women almost as often as we hear about white men committing mass shootings. And each time much like mass shootings we are outraged and paralyzed. Our outrage is understandable. How can these terrible atrocities happen in broad daylight on the streets of the greatest country in the world? Our being paralyzed takes a bit more explaining.

Part of it is the uncomfortable truth that racism is alive and well in America. We did not kill it with Civil Rights. We did not kill it by electing Obama. And if we did not kill it, then we have to admit it’s still out there. We have to admit that some of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and maybe even ourselves are racist or have racist tendencies. And that is really hard to do. It’s so hard to do that it would be much easier to simply deny it and pretend that racism is over. But it’s not. And what are we to do with that?

Another easy option is to simply vilify the police. This is unfair. The vast majority of police officers will go their entire career never firing a shot at anyone. And not every police officer is racist. But the terrible actions of a few make the police an easy target for blame. If we can blame it all on the police then maybe, we do not have to confront any racism closer to home. But this does not work because police officers come from the community. Despite their militarized appearance, these men and women are members of your community whether they act like it or not. They did not arrive at the police academy with no racist thoughts in their heads and suddenly become racist. They were racist before they were cops and the modern police environment nurtures that racism.

There are good reasons for this. Even a fully trained and ethical police officer will still sometimes have to physically put handcuffs on another human being and then put that human being in a cage. For most people, this requires a bit of a disconnect. I have gone on ride alongs with police officers and watched it happen. I have seen the moment when the person a cop is talking to stops being a person to him and starts being a thing. A good cop will tell you that you have the right to remain silent. What they are actually saying is, “Nothing you say will help you because you are no longer a person to me.” Unfortunately this depersonalization does not just make it easy to put someone in a cage. It also makes it easy to put them in a grave.

We’re paralyzed because even if we confront these truths we still don’t know what to do about them. I know that I have biases. I am aware of them and I do my best to combat them, but it is not always easy or obvious. And even being successful does not change what’s happening in this country.

I have given this a lot of thought. These are my suggestions based on what I know. I am interested in what you think of these suggestions. I am interested in other suggestions. I am interested in finding things we can actively do to stop this.

Keep Racists Afraid

One of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is that racists think he has legitimized racism. When the Republican Presidential Nominee is saying things like “Look at my African American.” and calling Mexicans rapists bigots everywhere think that maybe it is okay to spout racist crap publicly. It is not. Fellow white people, any time we hear some blowhard saying racist crap whether it’s a stranger or your best friend, you need to call them on that shit. If we are going to ask our police departments to stop their systemic racism, we need to do the same.

Lethal Force

America has a love affair with guns. As a result we lose 30,000 men, women, and children every year due to gun violence. That’s ten 9/11s every year. Of those 30,000 about 1,000 are police involved killings. It is important to note that not all of these killings were unjustified, unwarranted, or unnecessary. It is equally important to note that far too many of them involved white cops shooting unarmed black people. In a time when we have Tasers, beanbag rounds, and verified de-escalation techniques using lethal force should be the cop equivalent of the nuclear option. It should never be used unless it’s the only thing you can use.

Federal Prosecutor

One of the biggest problems with police involved shootings is that the prosecutor who brings charges against the police is usually the same prosecutor who spends every other day of his life working closely with that same police department. Imagine this. You are a local prosecutor investigating a police involved shooting. If you charge the cop with murder, right or wrong, you are going to upset the rest of the police force which is going to make your job on every other case very difficult. Such a prosecutor is not likely to get endorsed by the police union during the next election. There is a clear conflict of interest in these situations. The way around this is to make every single police involved shooting a federal case with federal investigators and a federal prosecutor. Until this step is taken, I do not expect we will ever see a significant number of these cases actually get any justice.

Community Policing

One of the worst things to happen to modern police forces in this country was the use of surplus military hardware on the streets of America. Giving military weapons and vehicles to a systemically racist police department that already dehumanizes much of the population of a city is a recipe for slaughter. And that is exactly what we have seen again and again. If you give men weapons of war, they’re more likely to fight one. It should be noted that the blame cannot be placed on the police department or the military alone. The blame also falls on city councils and voters who do not approve adequate funding for police departments almost giving them no choice but to accept military handouts because they’re better than nothing.

This is not how the police force always worked. There was a time when a uniformed police officer walked a beat. The police officer knew everyone on that beat and more importantly everyone knew the cop. If a cop had a problem on his beat more often than not he knew the perpetrator. It’s more difficult to use lethal force on someone when you know them. It’s also harder to vilify a police officer when they’re someone you actually know and who has demonstrated that they are simply there to keep the peace. This is what was known as community policing. It’s something that is lacking in most police departments. If you wonder if your neighborhood has community policing ask yourself if you know the cop that patrols your area.

Raise Non-Racists

One of the things you can do is raise your children to be tolerant. Raise them to celebrate diversity rather than be afraid of it. Tell them that we are strong because of our differences and that no human being is superior to another and all life is equally precious. Show them movies with leads who aren’t white. Have them read Between The World and Me when they’re a teenager. Do not tolerate hate speak from children. If we can all commit to this, we can ensure that in the future bigots are the only minority who are afraid.

These are the ideas I have. I do not know what else to do. While I was writing this a 32-year-old man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by police officers who pulled him over for a busted tail light in Minneapolis.

I am not okay with this being normal in the United States of America. I do not have all the answers. But I think it starts with talking. It starts by speaking up. It starts by giving a damn and saying, “Black Lives Matter.”

– Jack Cameron

Barely A Whisper Anymore

I woke up to the news that over one hundred people had been shot in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida last night. At least fifty are dead. After the initial shock of hearing the news a small voice I can barely hear anymore said, “Maybe this is the horrible tragedy that finally gets us to clamp down on gun violence.”

The day before, also in Orlando, Christina Grimmie, a young singer who was on the television show The Voice was shot and killed while signing autographs. I heard that small voice then too. And then I thought, “She’s probably not famous enough. It would have to be a major rock star.”

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John Lennon shot four times on December 8, 1980

Oh yeah. That did not do it. If someone can shoot and kill a Beatle, a dead rock star isn’t going to do it. Maybe if it was someone important. Someone powerful. A leader of some sort.

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John F. Kennedy shot and killed November 22, 1963

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shot and killed April 4, 1968

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Robert F. Kennedy shot and killed June 6, 1968

Wow. Clearly the death of one person is not enough to galvanize the American people to demand common sense gun control. You know what works on the news? Blonde girls. That gets people all upset for some reason. A blonde girl goes missing and everyone is up in arms and the 24-hour news channels cover it for weeks. What if a blonde reporter got shot live on television? Would that wake people up enough to do something about guns and gun control?

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Alison Parker shot and killed on live television August 26, 2015

Okay. I get it. One person whether they are an attractive blonde girl, the biggest rock star in the world, or President of the United States is not enough to make people rethink our policies on guns and gun control.

What about numbers? Statistics like the fact that more people died last year from gunshot wounds than from car accidents do not work either because they’re just numbers.

The kind of tragedy we need to wake people up to the horrible damage easy gun access has caused is something like a school shooting. Maybe that would work.

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Fifteen people shot and killed including two teenage gunmen on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School

Oh. That didn’t cause people to change their minds about guns either. Well, it’s high school. High school can be rough for some people. Hell, who didn’t want to kill someone in high school?

You know what no one could ignore? You know what would really get everyone ready to give up their guns voluntarily just at the sheer horror of it all? If someone shot up an elementary school even the most hard core gun nut would have to pause and think we need some sensible gun control laws. That maybe we should make getting guns at least as hard as it is to get a car. That would do it.

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Twenty-Six shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 12, 2012

Twenty-six dead. Twenty under the age of eight. And that was not enough to really enact change. And so I wake up this morning to the news that over 100 people have been shot and half of them are dead due to a gunman. And a tiny voice wonders if we will do anything at all about the easy access to guns in this country. But that voice has become barely more than a whisper because I know the truth. We will do nothing.

We sacrifice over 30,000 American lives every year and pay for the freedom to own guns with their blood. The Aztecs sacrificed lives to their Gods. Experts say they sacrificed as many as 20,000 people a year. We have them beat. We sacrifice so we can own weapons. We do not ask for volunteers. People are chosen at random and while most are poor, no matter who you are, you could be next. The fact that you have not been chosen is the only reason you still allow this to go on. Today, far too many will hear of a massacre in a gay nightclub in Florida and incorrectly think, “I don’t go to gay nightclubs in Florida and so I must be safe.”

Last night over 50 people unwillingly sacrificed their lives for your freedom to own guns. By next week you won’t remember any of their names and be just as shocked as you are right now the next time a mass unwilling sacrifice is made. And you will do just as little as you always have to stop gun violence and the easy access to guns because this is America.

– Jack Cameron

I Want No Part of Your Bloody Revolution

In 1991 I was a right leaning teenager who did not want to go to war. I was pro-death penalty. I was anti-abortion. I was anti-gay. I was also anti-getting-shot-at-on-the-other-side-of-the-planet. Eventually I met up with some acquaintances that wanted to firebomb the local Army Recruiting station after hours. They called me up to see if I was interested. I turned them down because it seemed like a stupid thing to do and it would not solve anything.

Despite my conservative leanings, I ended up looking more and more at the whole political structure. I started reading Noam Chomsky. I went up to Seattle and watched the documentary Manufacturing Consent based on Chomsky’s book of the same name. And then I had this epiphany: The Republicans were corrupt. So were the Democrats. The whole damn system was corrupt and had been for decades if not longer. We needed a new American Revolution.

1992 was an election year and I would not be able to vote because I would not be 18 until a month after the election. This did not lower my interest in the election. I was angry at George Bush for getting us into a half-assed war. To my mind at the time we should have done nothing or gone right into Baghdad and declared Iraq the 51st State. This kicking them out of Kuwait but keeping Saddam in power and not really stopping them from doing the exact same thing again bugged me. Besides. George Bush Sr. used to run the CIA and was involved in everything from Iran Contra to the plot to sell crack in inner city neighborhoods to help fund more wars in Central America. He was a walking talking piece of the big machine.

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I still have my copy of Bill Clinton’s interview in Rolling Stone from 1992.

When Bill Clinton became the Democratic frontrunner, I had a subscription to Rolling Stone. They did an interview with him involving all of their top writers including Hunter S. Thompson. Each of the writers did an article about the interview. Each of them mentioned how Bill Clinton said he wanted more cops on the street while looking at Hunter. I liked Bill Clinton’s optimism. I liked that he was not an old man. I liked a lot of what he said. But he was a Democrat. That meant he was part of the corrupt machine.

 

And then there was Ross Perot. Perot wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He was a short firecracker of a man. A businessman from Texas who was somehow a billionaire. He was using his own money and insisted he could get America running the way he got his businesses running. He wasn’t afraid to say things that were not politically correct. He seemed pragmatic. I liked him. I bought his little book and read it. All I remember from that book is that he said that as a kid he wanted a job where he didn’t have to work outside. He was not part of the machine as far as I could tell. The establishment did not like him and I liked that. But he was a billionaire from Texas and probably not the guy who was going to help the common man. Still, there was something to be said for voting for a guy who was not a Democrat or a Republican because fuck the two party system, man.

I went to see Bill Clinton speak in Seattle during the election. It was an outdoor venue near the waterfront. They played David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ just before he took the stage. Regardless of your opinion of Bill Clinton and his politics, it is impossible to deny his ability to work a crowd. By the end of his speech I was all about this guy. When Ross Perot did a campaign stop, I saw him too and felt disappointed. That guy just didn’t have Bill’s charisma and seemed a bit unsure of himself. I didn’t quite believe Perot actually believed the things he said. I wanted so much to like Perot but I just couldn’t. I liked Bill Clinton, but he was part of the system and the system was totally screwed up and corrupt and needed to be destroyed.

As I said, I was not able to vote in 1992. So I did not have to make a decision. I watched all the debates. I watched Ross Perot quit, then come back, then quit again and completely implode. I watched Bill Clinton win and I thought about how it felt like a turning point for America. There was optimism in the air even though I was pretty sure it was bullshit. I mean I did not expect Bill Clinton was going to do a damn thing about the atrocities in East Timor for example. He probably didn’t even know where East Timor was.

Time passed. I learned more. I watched as Republicans started attacking Bill Clinton for fooling around as if he was the first President to ever do such a thing and saw their hypocrisy for what it was. Sure, the Democrats were part of the system, but at least they did not resort to this sort of character assassination. By this time I had changed my views on gay rights and abortion. I still thought the death penalty was necessary for some people and that everyone had a right to have a gun. But I really could not get past this ‘holier-than-thou’ crap pedaled by Congressional Republicans.

I started thinking about the system. The big corrupt machine. The eradication of the Middle Class. The completely hypocritical and useless drug war. The ‘tough on crime’ bills that ruined lives and did nothing to lower the crime rate and everything to increase the prison population. College was becoming so expensive that your parents had to make six figures or you needed a scholarship or a loan you would be paying back forever. The rich getting richer and richer while the poor weren’t just getting poorer. They were dying. Welfare recipients were cut to five years of service. After five years, you were on your own and could die for all they cared. The safety net for human beings was being erased.

I looked at all of it that I was aware of and came to a fairly disheartening conclusion: I cannot stop it without a lot of people helping me kill a lot of people. You aren’t going to convince the head of Walmart to stop keeping so much money. Talk to any seriously rich person and they will tell you how they are terrified of losing their money. It does not matter how much they have. I could see no way to create the revolution that I felt needed to happen without a lot of blood. And there was no way that blood would be one-sided. There were people who were alive right now who might have otherwise lived okay or even good lives who were going to die in such a revolution. And that’s when I made a personal decision.

I would not fight for the revolution. I understood those who wanted it. I wanted it. But if you seriously fuck with the system, the system will fuck you back. Every time. History is littered with examples. Look at Henry Wallace. Look at JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Look at George McGovern. Look at Edward Snowden. The revolution is tough. It will destroy your life. It will kill you. And each of those people had more money and more power than I will ever have. I am a bug to be squashed compared to those men.

I like Bernie Sanders. I agree with almost everything he says. I donated to his campaign. I have a bumper sticker with his name on it on my car and it’s been there for months. He is right that we need to get money out of politics. He is right that we need a political revolution away from never ending war and towards actual progress for the people of this country. He is most definitely a guy who does what he feels is right regardless of consequences and I respect that. If I were the young man I was in 1992 I have no doubt that right now I would be telling you how Bernie Sanders is our only hope for a sane outcome in this election and that a vote for Trump or Hillary is just more of the status quo in varying degrees. I would be shouting it to anyone who would listen and commenting on any Facebook thread of a friend silly enough to disagree with me because the big corrupt machine needs to be brought down and sure, we can all agree that Trump is terrible, but Hillary Clinton isn’t going to destroy the machine any more than her husband did. I would have ‘B-E-R-N-I-E’ on my forehead in permanent marker.

I am not the young man was in 1992. A few weeks ago I looked at the electoral count and realized that Bernie Sanders simply did not have the votes he needed to become the nominee. In every state he lost someone complained about it being rigged or about some sort of corruption or cheating. Maybe some of it was true. Maybe not. It did not matter. Not really. I was around in 2000 when I watched George W. Bush actually steal an election. This was how American politics worked. It’s like bedtime when you’re a kid. You might not like it or agree with it, but it is what it is and sure, you can change things but that’s not going to actually matter until next time anyway. They are not going to retroactively give it to Bernie.

And so I put my support behind Hillary Clinton. This move upset quite a few of my friends. They did not understand it. They thought I was compromising my values. Their mistake was thinking that just because we endorsed the same candidate we had the same values. That simply wasn’t true. My values are fairly simple. I want to be able to live my life with as few uncomfortable moments as possible while helping as many and hurting as few people as I can. I do not have any interest in being a soldier and I never have.

Hillary Clinton will likely lead us in what will basically be a more conservative version of Obama’s administration. The drone strikes will continue. Guantanamo will not close. And the use of force will always be on the table. But we will get a modest minimum wage increase, continued healthcare, continued gay rights, equal pay for women, and some actual infrastructure funding that is sorely needed. None of those good things will happen under Trump. Trump will not work with the Democratic Congress on anything he doesn’t care about. I drink Coke, but if you’re all out of Coke, I’ll take Pepsi because Diet Coke is terrible. I’m not going to burn the store down because there is no Coke.

Yes, the big machine is still out there making the trade of human lives for profits. In many ways it is stronger than ever. And for that very reason I do not have a lot of interest in directly fighting it. Back in 1992 you had to firebomb a recruiting station to get arrested. These days if you go to the wrong website, you can be put on a list, you can be detained indefinitely without ever being charged with a crime. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen who spoke out against America, who advocated violence towards American people, who conversed with terrorists, but he never actually killed anyone. He mostly talked and wrote. That did not stop the Obama administration from killing him. It did not stop them from killing his 16-year-old son two weeks later despite his son being suspected of nothing at all. He too was an American citizen. Neither of them had a trial. We live in a very dangerous world where money is the only goal or God and suspicion is all that is needed to have you incarcerated indefinitely or killed. If you want a revolution, fine. But changing things takes time. If you want a revolution right now then it’s going to be bloody and people you care about are going to die for it. And I want no part of it because there is absolutely nothing pointing to that revolution being successful and even if it were, what guarantees are there that it would be any better?

I realize that you could read all of this and simply determine that I am a coward too afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I doubt anyone who really knows me would agree. But to make it clear, yes, I am aware that the entire political structure is corrupt and in desperate need of change. Yes, I am aware that Hillary Clinton does not have a spotless record and does not share every opinion I have. Yes, I am aware that for most of us our wages have gone nowhere, our job prospects are minimal, and in just about any way you look at it our lives could be better than they are. I am also aware that none of this will be resolved before November. You can go on and on about ‘What if this..’ and ‘What if that..’ and tell me all about how Bernie is the only real choice and how anyone who is voting for Hillary must be asleep and not awake like you. Go ahead. But Jill Stein and the Libertarian guy’s name that I can’t even remember aren’t popular enough to win and Bernie is not going to win anything if he isn’t the Democratic nominee. In November your choices are a former First Lady of Arkansas, former First Lady of the United States, Former US Senator, Former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presumptive Presidential Nominee who happens to have a former President of the United States as an advisor and spouse OR you can choose a person who publicly said women need to be treated ‘like shit’, a person who has said he is willing to nuke Eastern Europe, a man who encourages his audience to beat protesters, a man who calls Mexicans rapists, a man who makes fun of people with disabilities, a man who raped his first wife and said it was okay because spousal rape was legal at that time, a man who suggests we should keep lists or have people wear something to signify what religion they are, a man who failed to make money while owning a casino, and a man who repeatedly talks about wanting to sleep with his own daughter.

I know for some of you nothing I say will make Hillary Clinton someone you can vote for. That’s fine. If you want to vote for Trump. That’s fine too. If you want to vote for a third party candidate or write in Bernie Sanders or Minnie Mouse, you can do that too. We at the very least like to pretend it’s a Democracy and no one should take away your right to cast your vote however you want even if that means not voting at all. You have that freedom. As do we all. It your choice.

However, you do not have the freedom of absolution from the consequences of that choice. You do not get to say, “It’s Hillary’s fault I didn’t vote for her because she didn’t court my vote enough.” No. You did not vote for her because you did not want to. People fought and died to make sure you have the right to vote. The least you can do is own that responsibility.

It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to feel like maybe the world needs a horror like Trump to wake up. Such feelings are understandable but ignore the human cost. It ignores the people who will suffer and die under Trump. Right now bullies are hassling kids and using Trump slogans to do it. If he were President it would be even worse.

I understand that to some Hillary is the enemy and always will be. But you have to choose your battles. You want to fight with all your might to get Bernie in? Go right ahead, but that’s a battle you will not win. I personally think it would be better to vote for the person most likely to work with Bernie when he goes back to the Senate and that is not Donald Trump. It’s Hillary Clinton who voted the same as Bernie 93% of the time.

But damn, isn’t that kind of bleak for a leftist revolutionary? We can’t get the progressive in office so we have to go for the establishment candidate who is just going to give us more of the same of what we have had the last eight years? We can’t take down the machine because it will destroy us? We have to live actually live with this? Yeah, it can be depressing and disheartening if you look at things in a certain way. But I don’t.

Instead I look at this simple truth: There is more good than bad. Don’t believe me? Let me leave you with this story.

I have a good friend named Kristopher Brannon. We went to high school together. He was the one driving the car that took me up to see Bill Clinton back in 1992. For the last ten years he has been tirelessly advocating for the return of the NBA Super Sonics to Seattle as the human mascot, Sonics Guy. He has been to thousands of sporting events, parades, grand openings, festivals, and council meetings. His work is so prolific and inspiring that a documentary was made about him called Superfan. It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival three weeks ago. After spending the weekend in Seattle for the premiere, Kris came back to his home in Tacoma to find it ransacked. His collection of Sonics jerseys and memorabilia were stolen. So was his late father’s ring. It was devastating. You want to talk about discouragement? Imagine spending a decade making thousands of appearances, collecting hundreds of unique and rare items, and then it’s all gone.

And then something happened. A friend of his started a crowdfunding campaign. She set the goal at a modest $1,000. It would not replace what was lost but it could help get him back on his feet. The $1,000 goal was met in hours. In two weeks that the campaign has been up, over $7,000 has been raised by over 200 people. (You can still donate to his campaign by clicking here.) There’s a benefit concert happening later this month. Kris had his possessions stolen by one person. He was helped by hundreds of people. Yes, the machine is out there and fighting it is near impossible. But there is good right here right now. This will be true regardless of who gets elected in November. It’s important to remember the basic goodness of humanity.

I’m not writing this to convince anyone of anything. I just had some stuff I needed to get out. If it resonates with you, great. If it doesn’t, oh well.

– Jack Cameron

How The 1% is Killing Us All

 

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Click on the image for more from Mike Luckovich.

I’m going to tell you a true story* about one man and then I’m going to tell you how I feel this story is basically a micro version of what is happening in the United States to anyone who isn’t a millionaire.

Dave is a handyman in his 60s. He lives in a shop in Kent. It’s pretty much just a garage. It has no running water. It has no electricity. His landlord, Matt charges him $350 a month. He works for landlords fixing up their properties when they need it. He built my front and back porches. He is currently fixing a wall that had some water damage.  He is a likable guy with solid skills. He’s getting old and can’t do as much as he used to, but he’s still working and typically charges about $12 an hour plus material costs. (Charging more has historically resulted in less work.)

One of the landlords he works for happens to be Matt, his own landlord. Dave has been living in his shop for the last four years. In that time he has done dozens of jobs for Matt. One time last year Matt asked him to spray some mold killer and paint over some black mold in an apartment that Matt owned. Dave arrived and found that a family was living there. The room with the black mold was the baby’s room. And the black mold wasn’t isolated to one small spot. It practically covered the ceiling.

Dave called Matt and told him that this was a much bigger job than simply spraying some mold killer and painting over it. This stuff was clearly in the attic as well on the surface of the ceiling. Matt told him that replacing the ceiling and getting into the attic was going to be ‘too expensive’ and demanded that Dave paint over it as requested. Dave refused. Dave then warned the family about the dangers of the mold and how the spores get into the air and cause all sorts of health problems especially for children.

A few months ago Dave was called to that same apartment to fix a leaking toilet. The same family was there. He took a look at the baby’s room and saw that Matt had found someone to paint over the mold and now it was growing through the latest paint job. He again talked to the family but the man he talked to said he was afraid to confront the landlord because he didn’t want to get kicked out and he couldn’t afford to move.

In January Dave did some work for Matt. The work totaled about $1600. When Dave was finished with the work, Matt said that he would pay him soon but that he couldn’t pay him at that time. A month later, Matt had property Tumwater that had been burglarized. He asked Dave if he could stay at the house a few nights until he had it rented out. Dave and his grandson drove from Kent to Tumwater and back for nine days. Shortly after that, Dave’s truck broke down. The transmission had gone out in it.

A week later Matt called him and asked him to do some work on a property in Bremerton. Dave said, “I can’t do it. My truck’s broken down.”

Matt said, “I can drive you there.”

Dave responded, “What you can do is pay me the $1600 you owe me so I can fix my truck.”

“You’ll get your money, but I need this done today. I’ll just pick you up.”

“And where in your Tesla will we put my saw? Where will you put my ladder? How will I get to the hardware store to get supplies?”

By late April he had still not been paid one dime from Matt. Eventually Dave was able to get his truck fixed using money he made from other handyman jobs. (Like the ones my landlord has him do.)

One day just before May 1st, Dave and Matt ran into each other at the grocery store. Dave said, “You owe me rent for the last few months.”

Dave said, “I don’t owe you rent. Rent is $350 a month. That’s $1400 rent for January through April. You still haven’t paid me the $1600 you owe me. By my count you owe me $200.”

Matt got angry and said, “I’m not paying you any money. And your rent just went up to $500 a month which I know you can’t afford so I’ll start eviction proceedings.”

Tomorrow Dave is talking to a lawyer to get this settled. I talked to him today. He said, “I’ll get this sorted out. Until then I’m gonna work. It’s all I’m good for.”

As I said at the beginning, Dave’s story has a lot of things that I believe apply to those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be in the top 1%. He’s paid below a living wage when he gets paid at all. His employer cares only for profits and nothing for the safety or welfare of those who help him make those profits. When someone becomes undesirable, they increase costs to price those people out of the market.

While not everything below applies to Dave’s specific situation, much of it does and the things that don’t apply to many people who are in similar circumstances as Dave. There is a concentrated effort on the part of the 1% to drain whatever power the rest of us have to nothing.

Here is the one and only conspiracy theory I truly believe in because the evidence is everywhere and it requires no collusion or secrecy on anyone’s part. Their attacks are overt. And they do it with impunity because they know we’re as afraid as the guy in the apartment with the black mold who is literally forced to choose between living somewhere unhealthy or not having a place for his family to live at all.

Here are some of the things that get legislated to make sure the poor don’t only stay poor but get poorer.

– Keep cutting funding to public education

– Keep wages low

– Increase cost of living expenses

– Restrict access to health care

– Restrict access to birth control

– Restrict access to abortion services

– Cut public assistance

– Increase taxes on the poor

– Increase college tuition to unaffordable levels

– Replace affordable housing with smaller more expensive ‘luxury housing’

– Give tax breaks to millionaires

– Eliminate restrictions on guns

– Implement mandatory minimum sentencing

– Privatize prisons so they are for-profit
Each of these things has been championed by prominent Republicans across the country over the last thirty years. The result is fairly simple. If you are not rich, you will be working harder and for more hours and less pay in order to simply maintain the lifestyle that previous generations could attain by simply working one full time job. If you fail to work hard enough, there will be no social safety net to save you. One of the few things you can get your hands on is a gun. Two out of three gun deaths are suicides. So maybe you decide to take yourself out after all of society has deemed you a failure for not playing along.

Or maybe you are desperate enough to commit crimes at which point, you end up in prison. Thanks to the for-profit prison system you’ll be able to make corporations money in the same way you would have working a dead-end below-living-wage job. Either way, you’ll be doing your part to make the rich richer. This is the system that is in place at this time and Republicans are only making it worse.

And I haven’t even mentioned the part where if you’re female or not white, your options and advantages are even worse than that. As a woman you’ll make 70% what men make in the same job. As an African American you’ll deal with systemic racism on all levels of society that make getting that job more difficult and authorities more likely to treat you violently.

I don’t have a solution for this. Voting for Democrats might not make things worse, but I don’t think they’re going to necessarily make things better in any real sense regardless of how progressive they claim to be if only because they can’t negotiate with the terrorists the Republican Party has become.

For a long while I wondered what it was going to take before things got violent. Then I realized things have been violent for a while now. It’s just that we aren’t even coming close to being what might be called a Resistance. Instead we’re being slaughtered in the street by militarized police forces and anyone who steps out of line can simply be labeled a terrorist. When someone within the government decided that the government having access to every phone call, email, and cellphone in the country was not okay, he had to go to Russia to avoid prosecution and is labelled a traitor.

I have asked myself what I should do about this and the truth is I can’t do much and neither can most of you because you’re like me just struggling the best you can to pay bills so you can make rent. It’s kind of difficult to make a concentrated effort at resistance when you’re spending all of your energy just trying to make enough money to survive.

As I said, I do not have a solution for you, me, or Dave. My solution for myself has been to enroll in college in the Human Services program. I did this both because I genuinely want to help people and because given all of the things I mentioned, there are going to be millions of people who need professional help. I figure one of the handful of growth industries in this culture is going to be counseling people who are trying to cope with a world so wildly out of balance that the richest country in the world also happens to have some of the highest child poverty in the world. I won’t be able to change the world, but I might make some people’s worlds better. Maybe I’ll find I can do more. Maybe it won’t make a lick of good. But I cannot look at what’s going on and do nothing.

– Jack Cameron

*Names and specific details have been altered to protect identities.

Bernie über alles

berninator
It is no secret that I am a Democrat. I am fairly vocal about it on my Facebook page, on this site, and elsewhere. In 2008 and 2012 I donated to Obama’s campaign. In 2016 I have donated to the Bernie Sanders campaign. I have a Bernie bumper sticker on the back window of my car. If you ask me who I want to be the next President of the United States out of the current people running, I will tell you Bernie Sanders. And yet that is not enough.

Unlike many of my fellow Bernie Sanders supporters, I believe that Hillary Clinton is an incredibly accomplished woman with the best resume a Presidential candidate has had in my lifetime. I also believe that if Bernie fails to get the nomination, Hillary Clinton is a fine second choice who I will be happy to endorse, support, and help elect. This, for many, is falling short of being a True Bernie Supporter.

To add insult to injury I also feel that what the Republicans want more than anything since they failed to find a viable candidate is for Democrats to rip each other apart and so I refuse to bash Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I do not see any reason that I should do what the GOP wants me to do unless they pay me. It would seem many Bernie supporters I personally know would prefer to work for them for free.

In the last two days I have been personally approached online and off by multiple friends of mine who are Bernie supporters. Each of them has tried to convince me that Hillary is a terrible Presidential candidate and seem genuinely upset when I refuse to agree with them. Keep in mind these are personal friends who know that I am already a Bernie Sanders supporter. Given the chance to vote for Bernie in the election I will and they know that. And yet, that is somehow not enough.

When I tell people that I feel Hillary is a near equal candidate to Bernie, far too many Bernie supporters get angry. It’s important to note that I said ‘near equal’ not ‘the same’. Bernie and Hillary while both being Democrats are very different. Hillary is a terrible substitute for Bernie. However she is a fine candidate in her own right. I could explain why, but I do not feel the need to. Plenty of others have done a far better job of that than I can.

My point in writing this is to point out that if you treat your allies (who are already voting for your candidate) like the enemy, you are failing at supporting your candidate. In November I will be voting for Bernie Sanders or I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. And I am fine with either choice regardless of how many people might want me not to be.

– Jack Cameron

UPDATE: I was reminded that there is a contingent of Bernie fanatics who believe that Bernie should run as an independent if he fails to get the nomination. This of course is the only hope for the Republican Party to get the White House in November. Splitting the Democratic vote will only help someone like Trump get in the White House. It will not result in a Sanders Presidency. When I point this out these people typically say that Trump as President will just make ‘the revolution come sooner’. These are living, breathing, and allegedly thinking Americans who genuinely want a violent revolution of the United States with apparently no regard for the loss of life that may result. The breadth of the short sighted stupidity on display in this scenario is amazing.

Luckily, Bernie Sanders himself is far smarter than many of his followers no matter how fanatical they may be. He’s said so himself that he’s not running as an independent.

When It Comes To Abortion, There Should Be No Controversy

jackson-clinic

The last abortion clinic in Mississippi

 

Abortion is an issue that polarizes people. Anti-abortionists do their very best to restrict a woman’s access to legal and safe abortions all over the country. In Mississippi there is only one place in the state you can safely and legally have an abortion. The state has almost three million people. It also rates second in the nation in teen pregnancy.

Those who advocate for a woman’s right to choose will often argue that since it is the woman’s body and life that is most closely impacted by being pregnant, she should have the choice of what to do about it like any other health issue.

The problem is that those against abortion see the unborn fetus as a living being and think of abortion as murder and there is no argument to be made that will convince most of them that the fetus does not deserve every bit of protection we would give any other human life. This argument has been used again and again both in legislative buildings and in the defense of killing doctors who perform abortions. Given that this fundamental difference is so significant, I will not be arguing for or against it. What I am going to do instead is make an argument about abortion that I believe can be adopted by those who feel abortion is a woman’s right and those who feel it is no different than murder.

I know this sounds like a tall order, but I’m a liberal Democrat and my Dad is a Born-Again Christian who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and when I explained this to him, he and I agreed. I am genuinely hoping I am able to sway some more people with this because as I see it, there should be nothing controversial about abortion whatsoever.

Before 1973, abortion was not legal in much of the United States. This does not mean that abortions did not occur in the United States. They did. They occurred in unsterile environments with unqualified people who often left the pregnant woman permanently injured or dead. They occurred with women trying home remedies that often left them sick or dead. The only time they occurred with any semblance of safety for the pregnant woman was when the wealthy would hire a doctor to perform them. We know these things happened. We have hundreds of women and relatives of women who have bravely told these stories.

We also know the lengths that some pregnant women will go to in order to have abortions because there are states where anti-abortion laws are so strict that women have had to go to great lengths to get an abortion, including driving out of state, trying one of those home remedies, or getting butchered by an unscrupulous doctor. This is not something that only happened in the past. It happens today.

It is curious to me that the same conservatives who tell me that gun control will not work because criminals don’t follow laws are under the impression that laws restricting abortion will stop abortions. There’s a certain cognitive dissonance there. But if we know laws will not stop or lower abortions, maybe it is time to look at what we know works.

For starters we need to look at the cause of every single abortion ever performed: pregnancy. If we can limit the amount of pregnancies, we limit the amount of people who might want an abortion.

A popular idea among conservatives is to just tell anyone who does not want a baby to not have sex. This is a roundabout way of imposing antiquated religious beliefs on poor people. Sex is not simply for baby creation and it is not something you should only do if you have enough money. Sex between consensual partners is a human right. More to the point, we know that telling people to abstain simply does not work.

If we look at states where abstinence-only sexual education is mandated we find that there is a significant increase in teen pregnancy and STDs. This is because getting teenagers to avoid something by telling them not to do it, is like putting a steak in front of a dog and telling him not to eat it. It doesn’t work. It does not take an expert to understand why those with little cash and lots of hormones might engage in sex. It also does not take an expert to understand why a young woman who becomes pregnant who is poor might choose to have an abortion.

I would love to point to a state where there is solid nonjudgmental, non-religious sexual education, but there really isn’t one. So instead let’s take a look at Sweden where sexual education has been mandatory since 1956. Sweden’s pregnancy rate per 1,000 people is less than a third of ours.

It is clear to anyone paying attention that giving children accurate sexual education helps lower the pregnancy rate and as mentioned earlier, less pregnancies means less abortions.

Even when people are properly informed and educated about sex, they may still engage in unsafe sexual activity, especially if it is difficult to get birth control. This is why we do not just need good sexual education. We need access to free and low cost birth control. Studies have shown that when women have access to free birth control unwanted pregnancies go down. These two things lower the pregnancy rate dramatically and when there are less unwanted pregnancies, there are less abortions.

Now, let’s review:

  • Abortions happen whether or not they are legal.
  • Illegal abortions often put the life of the pregnant woman in danger.
  • Nonreligious, non-judgmental sexual education and access to free and low-cost birth control lowers the abortion rate more than anything else.

Given these facts the only logical thing to do is provide good sexual education, free birth control, and offer safe, legal abortion services for those women who choose to have abortions.

Any other alternative either increases the abortion rate or puts the pregnant woman’s life in danger. In either case, you can’t call yourself ‘pro-life’ while putting a woman’s life in danger or deliberately blocking something you know will lower the abortion rate.

Nothing I have said here is opinion. Each of the things said here can be verified. I’ve included links and there is more information out there if you are so inclined to find it. I welcome discussion, but if you are going to say that anything in this article is not true, please cite your sources.

Ultimately, those in favor of cutting funding to Planned Parenthood or creating new laws that restrict a woman’s right to choose are at best misguided and at worst simply anti-woman. Hopefully this article helps make sense of an emotional issue.

– Jack Cameron

Other Sources:
http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/597-abstinence-only-until-marriage-programs-ineffective-unethical-and-poor-public-health

When Your Family Tree Includes Bigotry

Up until recently I had two Facebook profiles. One was my ‘public’ page. (You can find it here at http://facebook.com/jackcameron.) The other was my ‘personal’ page. Much of my family does not share my political or religious views and they do not much like it when I share what I think about these topics but I try to do the family thing and keep in touch. So I made a page where I can update them on family stuff without offending their delicate sensibilities.

A few weeks ago I chose to take down my personal Facebook page. This was the result of accepting something fundamental about much of my extended family and I feel like I should share it.

My grandfather on my mother’s side once trained his black lab dog to bark at black people. Growing up I heard relatives use racial slurs in conversation without any discomfort. I didn’t have a black friend until high school. Neither my brother nor I have ever had a long-term romantic relationship with someone who was another race.  I come from a white family that has been and in some cases still is entirely comfortable with racism.

This is not to say that we are all racists. There are those of us who recognize the mistakes of past generations and have moved past the bigotry that was commonplace in society in the previous century. I have family members who I love very much who have managed to become more open to other races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and lifestyles. I have other family members I love who are unable to move on and remain bigoted. They likely will remain bigoted the rest of their lives.

So when I called my brother out on my personal page for his endorsement of a bigoted candidate, I was met with a fair amount of hostility from some family members because I had previously said I would not talk about politics. It struck me that they were more upset about this than they were about my brother spouting his support for a racist Presidential Candidate. They were more comfortable with racism than they were with conflict.

From one perspective, they were right. I said I would not talk politics and religion and I did. It was then that I realized as a vocal liberal Democrat and atheist my social media page should reflect those values. My personal page was not really personal at all. It was a placeholder to placate people I’m related to by blood but who have very little in common with me. If they weren’t related to me, they wouldn’t be my friends. In other words, my personal page was essentially a page to make the bigoted members of my family comfortable with my online presence. As soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I took the page down.

It’s okay though. The family members I know and love I keep in touch with online and offline. The others are just people I’m related to. I’m under no obligation to make them comfortable. This is especially true for the bigots. I am me. I won’t pretend to be somebody else. If that offends anyone, I don’t much care.

– Jack Cameron