Another mind-numbing mass murder brings reflection

People visit a makeshift memorial near the Club Q nightclub on November 21, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Shocked? No. Resigned? Maybe. Numb? I hope not.

The slaughter continues. On the heels of two multiple murders on or near college campuses in Virginia and Idaho the week of Nov. 12 comes news of a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs nightclub catering to the LGBTQ+ community on Nov. 19.

A gunman entered Club Q during a comedy and drag show and started shooting, killing five and wounding 25 before an Army veteran disarmed him and subdued him with the help of another bar patron. The audience in the club was a mix of gay, straight and transgender people, out for an evening’s entertainment.

I can’t even lift up my head in prayer or ask, “Why?” I’m just overwhelmed. As are most of us with hearts or souls.

Americans, as a nation, have become inured to violent death and mayhem, especially on school and college campuses. It would be somewhat comforting to think our apathy is a byproduct of living through a pandemic that has killed more than 1 million of us – so far – not to mention the 6.6 million dead worldwide. But, no, I think we started to slide into apathy with Sandy Hook and tipped over with Uvalde. Maybe earlier than that.

Now, each new alert of a twisted soul targeting children, young people and people who are not like them brings a moan, a shake of the head and a “Not again.”

All of the killings this month have been horrific, disturbing and heartbreaking. But I want to pay special attention to what happened in Colorado Springs because it involved a community that deserves as much love and as much sorrow as the athletes who died in Virginia or the sorority and fraternity members in Idaho.

We don’t know yet the motive of the alleged gunman, but it’s not hard to wonder if he wasn’t inspired to act by the environment of increasing violence and harassment against LGBTQ people by right-wing extremists and homophobic and transphobic rhetoric by conservative politicians.

Some in Colorado Springs have already made the connection.

“Our community is under attack from politicians that spew vile lies to folks that believe them and act on their hatred. How dare they try to harm our transgender and non-binary youth for their own political gain and power?” Nadine Bridges, the executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado, said at a vigil for the shooting victims.

The atmosphere this year has bred fear, not only among the LGBTQ community but among those of us who have relatives and friends who are part of that community.

The politicians who help spread the fear through word and deed must stop.

To the politicians: Every one of us is part of the human family. Or, as many Christians believe, we’re all created in God’s likeness. That means all of us.

My advice is to learn to live with difference. In time, you may even come to accept your neighbor as part of your family.

Sonny Albarado is the editor of the Arkansas Advocate, which first published this essay.

Analysis: Democrats have issues that rural voters love. Maybe they should talk about them

U.S. Sen-elect Jon Fetterman of Pennsylvania arrives at the U.S. Capitol for new member orientation on Nov. 15, 2022 (Photo by Jennifer Shutt of States Newsroom).

Most mainstream media prognosticators continue to portray election results in an oversimplified box of geographical destiny. Rural people vote Republican, we’re told, while urban people vote Democratic. Under this model of high-stakes electoral politics and post-election-punditry, the suburbs must be the true “battleground” where territory can be lost or gained.As rural working-class voters, we see these results differently.

There is some truth to the stereotype. Rural voters as a whole have certainly trended Republican in the past several decades. That’s clear through voter data and the vast landscape of conservative red on electoral maps documenting county results or congressional representation. And while there are important exceptions to the rule—the Black Belt of the Southeast, the Mississippi River Valley, the Rio Grande Valley, Native American Tribal areas, New England —the core fact remains that Democrats continue to have a “rural problem.”

If Democrats want to win in a post-Donald Trump political landscape, they need to learn from this election’s events quickly. This begins with an understanding that rural voters do hold outsized political power even though we make up a comparatively smaller proportion of the population of most states. That means “showing up in rural” early and often is the minimum it takes to gain any notion of respect in our communities.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic U. S. Senate candidate John Fetterman campaigned in every county of the state while lifting rural people and rural issues throughout his campaign. Fetterman was able to flip a seat to the Democrats in a year of expected Republican gains. According to analysis from the Daily Yonder, Fetterman increased his support in rural counties by 2% compared with President Biden’s 2020 Pennsylvania victory. This marginal increase in rural support was one of the keys to Fetterman’s win.

Fetterman’s victory highlights another key ingredient for Democratic campaign success in rural: Embracing a working-class populist agenda. This approach includes leaning into progressive policies and messages popular with rural working-class voters, like fair wages, the right to repair your stuff and holding corporations accountable for price gouging.

Pre-election polling of rural voters has some clear guidance on rural voter opinions. The 2022 Midterm Election Voter Poll (RuralOrganizing.org was a partner in this election day poll) found, for instance, that one of the most overwhelmingly popular issues among rural voters is closing tax loopholes and requiring all corporations with more than $1 billion in profit to pay a 15% tax. Eighty-one percent of rural and small town voters support this position.

A similar finding was made in October in a Daily Yonder rural voter poll conducted by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

“A solid majority of rural America is populist economically. … We need to start talking about corporate greed. We need to start talking about how to make this economy work better for working families, including rural working families, and how price gauging is unacceptable,” Lake said. Read more

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Time change ticks me off

Fall back, they said.

You get another hour of sleep Sunday, they said.

Uh huh. Tell that to my cats. Joey & Chandler don’t understand the unceremonious, utterly depressing end of daylight saving time. Or much of anything else except the siren song that is the opening of the flip top on their Fancy Feast can. That, they understand.

It’s light outside. It matters not that it’s the ungodly hour of 6:45 a.m. so they are awake and howling at the foot of my bed. Free cats to good home. OK, make that so-so home.

Let me join the chorus of all who want daylight saving time to be permanent starting next year. A bill to that effect is languishing in Congress (“where good ideas go to die”) mostly because there’s pushback from health experts who say it messes up our melatonin production which can cause all manner of mayhem: increased risk of heart attacks, falling asleep in class or behind the wheel, forgetting to record “The Bachelor”… tragic stuff like that.

Some object because DST means children wait for the school bus in the dark. That’s terrible, I agree, but did you miss the part where my sleep is being interrupted? How selfish can y’all be?

Because I wear a sleep mask (TMI?) it’s always dark until I tell it not to be but this, THIS abomination of a time change means the cats’ clocks are still on DST and this is NOT good. On the first day of standard time, I shoved my “Starry Night” mask up my forehead, surveyed them with not so much tenderness as homicidal rage and…got up, fed them, and started my day at the ridiculous hour of 7:30.

Yes, yes, I realize many of you get up at 5 a.m. every day and similar foolishness so you can “center yourself for the day” with yoga or a daily devotional or meditation. Weirdos. How many times have I heard someone I formerly liked say: “I enjoy the peacefulness of pre-dawn, the way you can drink your coffee and hear the birds begin their chirping. It’s beautiful.”

No, it’s not. It’s nighttime. Go back to bed. Unless you have these HORRIBLE cats batting at your sleep mask right now like it’s a lizard that has crawled onto your face in the night.

I hear you: “Some of us have to go to work!” OK, first of all, you’re being a little huffy and dramatic but that’s pretty much my default, too, so all good. But the point is, I don’t have to go to work. I did that already and now I don’t so this seems to be more of a YOU problem.

But the very WORST thing about the spirit-crushing end of daylight saving time (besides the shaming of your non-smart appliances which must be manually reset like it’s flippin’1995) is the new schedule in the faux nighttime.

4:30 p.m.: Why is it dark outside? Must be later than I thought. I’m going to have a glass of wine and cook supper.

5:30 p.m.: OK, dinner is ready. Huh. The outside lights have come on. Weird. The mail hasn’t come yet.

6:00 p.m.: Duh Hubby asks about my day, and I remind him since he retired and has been here all day, he has pretty much watched it unfold. He looks hurt so I toss him an ice cream sandwich, seal trainer style, and he’s happy again.

6:30: Why is Lester Holt on? It must be close to midnight. What time is it? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

7 p.m.: Bedtime. Because why not? It has been dark forever and I’m now essentially a day drinker who eats dinner at an hour favored by hospitals and nursing homes everywhere. Make the madness stop, y’all.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].

Freedom and democracy in America 2022. What it means. Why we guard it

FDR’s “Four Freedoms” as they are inscribed on the FDR Memorial wall in Washington, DC – Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike CC BY-SA 3.0

Over the past two years, I have thought quite a bit about what it means to be an American citizen, and about my responsibilities as a government employee, even beyond my years of uniformed service in the Army. While I have engaged my U.S. Army War College students on the topic, I offer the disclaimer that my comments do not necessarily represent the official policy of the War College, the U.S. Army, or the Department of Defense.

As Americans approach the close of 2022, we have a lot to reflect upon from the era of COVID-19, its associated economic turmoil, ongoing international conflicts, and the political rancor of the mid-term election season. Domestically, we continue to struggle with this great experiment called democracy for our society and its national culture, which defines the daily experience of the many peoples (citizens and those who aspired to be) inside of our American borders.

Today we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day and follow the tradition of Presidential Proclamation established by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. In November 2021, it opened with: “Thanksgiving provides us with a time to reflect on our many blessings — from God, this Nation, and each other.  We are grateful for these blessings, even — and especially — during times of challenge.”

Addressing global chaos and turmoil with the emergence of the Second World War in his January 1941 State of the Union Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of four freedoms as values of democratic societies.

In preceding years, totalitarian and fascist regimes of Germany, Japan, and Italy continually demonstrated disregard for such values. In his exhortation, FDR was building the case for U.S. intervention for the sake of others — that is, the security of allied governments and their people.

Here are the words of FDR:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.”

The themes of FDR’s speech are poignantly captured by the imagery of Norman Rockwell’s series of paintings, “The Four Freedoms” featured in The Saturday Evening Post. For each issue, the respective painting was accompanied by an essay from a renowned American writer.

As I re-read each one, the essay that spoke to me most in the current context of our American political and social debates, and as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, was penned in March 1943 by Filipino immigrant, Carlos Bulosan. Rockwell’s iconic cover painting features the happy American Family of multiple generations sitting eager with anticipation around the holiday table laden with plenty. Read more

Florida is turning its back on the New South, embracing its Dixie-fied past

A Confederate memorial stands on the lawn in front of the Florida Historic Capitol building on April 27, 2022. Photo: Danielle J. Brown

Florida was once a New South state.

From the early 1960s to 2000 or so, Florida had leaders who looked to the future, determined to leave Jim Crow behind and separate ourselves from the likes of Alabama. We had governors committed to equal justice, open government, and voting rights — however imperfectly achieved.

No more. With the reelection of Ron DeSantis, and ultra-conservative victories in gerrymandered congressional districts across the state, Florida is sliding back into the mire of its Old South past.

Now, before y’all start yelping about how Florida isn’t really Southern, let me just remind you: Florida was third to secede in 1861, after South Carolina and Mississippi. North Florida was plantation country.

We can pretend that history doesn’t matter, but our justice system — much of it a relic of when white people were terrified that ex-slaves might wreak revenge on them — and laws like “Stand Your Ground” allow us to kill or incarcerate a disproportionate number of Black people. The way Florida’s ruling Republicans try to ban ideas they don’t like and encourage an absurd sense of white victimhood is more Mississippi than Minnesota.

You don’t have to like grits and sweet tea to behave like a member of the Pork Chop Gang.

As for DeSantis, he’s George Wallace with a Harvard Law degree and a talent for plausible deniability.

This isn’t a surprise. DeSantis didn’t really try very hard to disguise his racism when he ran for governor in 2018. He’d appeared at white nationalist conferences alongside the likes of David Horowitz and Steve Bannon.

DeSantis insisted he didn’t know those guys were racists; I mean, come on: “How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement someone makes?

Perhaps someone could tell him about Google. Read more