Monday, October 10, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

It is the Thursday after both the Nicaraguan and U.S. elections.*

Not surprisingly, in Nicaragua, the Sandinista incumbent candidate, Pres. Daniel Ortega, won with 72.5% of the vote.  The Sandinista Party has had the presidency since 2006 along with the clear majority in the Assembly.  The party is very popular mostly due to their successful policies and programs to ease the crippling poverty that plagues the majority, to improve the infrastructure of the country, and to expand business and access to the internet, as well as in other areas.

Surprisingly in the United States, the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, won the presidency and there will be yet 2 more years of a Republican House and Senate.  Why is this surprising?

The Republican House and Senate in the past 6 years have had some of the least productive sessions in the last decades which have resulted in people’s ever-growing needs not being addressed adequately.  

Add to that, while campaigning Donald Trump made comments that were degrading to people of color, immigrants and women; encouraged violence; and questioned loudly the election process itself…if he did not win, that is.   Most past presidential candidates have given voters an inkling of an idea of what kind of policies they would enact but he gave little indication of what his future policies would be; therefore, no one knows how he will govern…not really.

So now the “conservatives”** will have all three branches of the United States federal government which also includes the Supreme Court, because the Senate continues to refuse to allow our current president to appoint a judge, ignoring the U.S. constitution.  In other words, there will be no checks and balances, which scares many people and thrills others.
Despite many U.S. citizens not caring what the rest of the world thinks about their country and its politics, the rest of the world deeply cares about what goes on inside the United States.  Why?  The reasons are many.

The U.S. is currently the world’s greatest power, like it or not.  The U.S. has the most powerful military force in the world and has 7,100 nuclear war heads. 

Because of international finance and trade, when the U.S. dollar crashes so go many other currencies around the world.  Add to all that, the U.S. consistently ignores the sovereignty of other nations.

For example: before both elections, the House and Senate began looking at blocking all loans to Nicaragua because Daniel Ortega ran for a third term and “does not represent his people”.  Let’s recap:  Pres. Ortega got 72.5% of the popular vote while the U.S. Republican candidate, Donald Trump, did not even get 50% of the popular vote or - as I write this, it looks like - not even as many votes as Hillary Clinton.

Where do we go from here with no checks and balances?  I feel that we the people must assume the role of being the checks and balances for our government…and maybe that is the hope in all of this.  Maybe we will internalize what Abraham Lincoln said so many years ago, 

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.  

Maybe we will accept the  challenge and actually become protectors of our most vulnerable, of our nation, and of our world with our voices and our actions.

*We originally posted this on that date but subsequently deleted it by accident! Apologies to those of you getting this twice, the link on the website will now be this one.

**I put the word 'conservatives' in quotes, because in some areas (don't snort!) I feel like I am a conservative, I want to conserve our environment.  I believe that freedom for all is a conservative idea…the freedom to pursue happiness for ALL people.  I believe that valuing our work force is a conservative idea.  I believe that ending poverty is a conservative idea.  I believe that people paying their fair share for the infrastructure of a nation is a conservative idea.  I believe that investing in the future by investing in our children's well-being and education is a conservative idea.  I also believe that our constitution is mostly a good document and it includes the right to an attorney even if you are a rapist.

Carpe Passionis

I wrote this post for a blog I'm writing with my own more personal reflections, Full Disclosure  but wanted to share it here as well. It was originally posted here at 
Hope you enjoy it! - Becca 

In college I learned about community development from a professor who was both a genius and socially awkward. During an eclectic semester of visits to local churches, bowling alleys, skating rinks and even the Moose Lodge, he taught me to listen to what people talk about, the words they use, and to identify patterns to discern what is most important to them. I now do this unconsciously wherever I am.
For example, the last time I was in Seattle on a speaking trip I talked to a lot of people in many different settings and could see clearly that a common concern was being priced out of their own city by newcomer Millenials brought in by Amazon and Facebook who were willing to pay exorbitant rent. It was fall, so I could also see the only thing ALL Seattleites seemed to love unreservedly was Seahawks football. A friend of mine said,
“If you could find a way to link the work you do in Nicaragua to the Seahawks, then people would be passionate about it.”
This example seems silly, but there is something to be said for linking people’s natural passions to important social justice work. Doing this is often not possible, but sometimes it happens by accident.

When our Clinic health promoter Jessenia and I started Las Lobas, the group for teenage girls, we saw it as a necessary step to prevent teen pregnancy – we did it because we saw all the pregnant girls coming into the new mothers program, and it seemed stupid not to at least try to postpone pregnancy for the next round of girls. We didn’t start because we had a plan, or support for a program, or even knew what we were doing, we just started. Two and a half years later, we still have a steady group, not just of Las Lobas, but of their followers.
“I love hearing about the Lobas,” women will almost whisper to me when they see me – it’s the most common comment female friends and supporters will make to me about our work.
“¿Cómo te va con tus muchachas?”female community members and coworkers will ask. The work with Las Lobas - basically just loving and understanding some girls who’ve had a very hard time of it and trying to help set them on the right path - seems to touch a place deep inside adult women across borders and cultures.

The group has been funded – to pay for craft supplies, outings, snacks – by a woman who gives a monthly donation in honor of her mother, who had a special place in her heart for teenage girls. Women have sent personal hygiene products, craft supplies, messages of encouragement, curricula, suggestions. Of course Jessenia and I spend time discussing the current challenges and successes of each girl together, but other female staff members get in on it, too. Danelia is special friends with one girl who has been a hard nut to crack, Luz Marina dispenses advice and hugs, Fabiola banters with them. Diana has been so interested that she’s followed each of their paths from the sidelines, set up countless educational outings for them, and now has spent two months teaching them to make, cost and sell hair clips.

Wherever Las Lobas go, they receive outpourings of support. As soon as I call up a woman and say, “I’d like to bring a group of girls by, we’re trying to help them see options besides just getting pregnant,” these women invite us in to their homes, workshops, workplaces, schools. They open up in front of the girls talking about their own lives – “I didn’t start school until I was 10.” “All I ever want to do was sew.” “I was one of 15 children.” “I walked to school barefoot.” They give the Lobas things – t-shirts, bags of cloth scraps, purses, candy, whatever they have available. They give advice, “Don’t start your family too early.” “Listen to your mothers.” “Stick with your studies.” “Stay in the program.” And they inevitably wish all of us luck.

For the last two and a half years, I’ve watched as our ragtag group of struggling and sometimes surly girls elicits responses of extreme generosity and empathy from women of all walks of life, and I think, this time, by some stroke of dumb luck, we’ve managed to harness a passion. – Becca    

Thursday, October 6, 2016

My Grandson's World

Mike and I are sitting in the Sacramento (UC Davis Hospital...the one that I was in last year) waiting on our grandson to be born.   He will have a wonderful mother,  Cassie,  and a wonderful father,  our son, Coury.  He will have extended family that will love him. These parts of his life I have no doubt.
But what world will he inherit?   The world is getting warmer.   Today a category 4.5 hurricane hit the Caribbean Isles.

Will there be enough food to feed people because of droughts and floods?  Will wars increase as water becomes scarcer and arable land mass shrinks?

This little one will be raised at least for  a good while in the States.  What will this look like for him?
Race riots as the blatant injustices are never addressed?   Will his school be shot  up with no gun control on the horizons?   Will he live in a country where the poor gets poorer and poorer as the rich get richer and richer? 

His Mama is a doctor so there is less chance he will grow up poor, but both his Mama and Daddy care about immigration  and justice. Coury interprets for Spanish speakers and Cassie will be working with migrant workers...will their emails and phone calls be monitored as government claims more and more information under the guise of keeping its people "safe"?

So many questions on this night as we sit and wait.   So many questions as we listen to debates and hear speeches.

Hopefully soon I'll hold this child I'll love.  As I hold  him I'll pray  for saneness and kindness to take precedence over greed,  power,  meanness and insanity.

I'll pray...and work... for him, Elliot, Charlotte,  Eibhlin, Orla,  Isamar, Kadence, Ana, and all our children,  grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and strangers. - Kathleen