Monday, November 28, 2016

How Trump's presidency endangers American travelers abroad

This blog elsewhere talks about the increased danger aid workers from the USA will now face when working abroad, and many of these risks are the same for anyone traveling overseas. For instance, Trump has said he will reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture. This, coupled with his stated attitudes about Muslims, immigrants and refugees from Syria, has the potential to put people from the USA traveling overseas at risk, not just aid workers.

When I lived abroad from 2001 - 2009, and someone discovered where I was from, the European, Arab, Muslim, whomever I was talking to was almost always welcoming and warm. The vast majority of people did not judge me by the George Bush government nor my nationality. But that was a different time and circumstance: George Bush did not frequently threaten other countries with destruction and insult entire religions. He invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, which caused the deaths of many thousands of people, but there were also people in those countries that supported those invasions, and some neighboring countries that did as well. I worked in Afghanistan in 2007, and I made sure the Afghans I worked with knew my heart was in helping them, not bombing them - and everyone I encountered welcomed me (and many are still good friends).

By contrast to Bush, Donald Trump has been boisterous with his threats and insults and promises of human rights abuses and destruction. Therefore, if you are someone from the USA that is traveling abroad, that means you need to be even more cautious about to whom you reveal your nationality.

I did not wear anything that indicated that I was from the USA when I lived and abroad, and I did not volunteer my nationality unless I was asked directly. I strongly suggest you do the same.

If you are financially sound enough - privileged enough - to travel abroad, and people can tell you are from the USA by looking at you or hearing you, you can expect people to ask you about this election and how you voted. You have to decide how you are going to answer that. If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you will probably receive a warm reception; she is well liked and respected abroad in most (but not all) circumstances, and such a vote shows you do not support Donald Trump. If you did vote for Donald Trump, I strongly suggest you lie - except in Russia, where you will be embraced as a hero.

Distancing yourself on social media, including Facebook, from the policies and statements of Donald Trump could help you as you meet people from other countries, people deeply angered and further disempowered by Trump’s foreign policy. That doesn’t mean you post anti-Trump memes on Instagram or are ever obligated to say publicly whom you voted for. Rather, it could mean posting sometimes on social media of your support of and concern for Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, people in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Occupied Palestinian territories, human rights for immigrants, etc., and your condemnation of waterboarding, torture and any violations of human rights.

Another consideration is how the Trump presidency puts women at greater risk for harassment, at home or abroad. Again, as this blog about aid and development work notes. the incoming USA President has, by his statements and behavior, made it acceptable for anyone, including politicians and other government representatives, to rate women by their looks and to insult women reporters, politicians, artists and celebrities with most vile statements about their character, appearance – even their sexuality. It will be hard to demand such comments stop when the head of the most powerful country on Earth is saying the same.

Be careful out there. Don't assume that just because things have gone well for days or weeks they won't suddenly, and violently, go wrong. Keep your eyes and ears open, and get out of any situation quickly if there is even a hint it could turn sour. And have the number of your nearest embassy on your person somewhere at ALL times.

Friday, November 25, 2016

What I'll Be Doing Over the Next Four Years

Here's what I'm doing in response to the Trump Presidency, and finding out that at least half of the citizens in my country:
  1. First and foremost, I'm thinking about people that will be most at risk for harm during the Trump Presidency and Republican domination of Congress. I've compiled a list of resources to help people who will be losing their health care insurance and lose access to Planned Parenthood services, to help those whose schools will be under renewed pressure to downplay science in public school classrooms (saying that climate change isn't real, for instance), to counter police targeting of Black Americans, to help LBGTQ people regarding fears for marriage, parental and adoption rights, etc. I'll be relying on this list as I seek ways to help others and to counter attempts at civil rights roll backs. I will be vigilant in seeking stories of people in harm's way, and I will both publicize them and respond to them within my abilities. I will continue to financially support Planned Parenthood and my local National Public Radio affiliate, and I will be adding a third organization: Media Matters.
  2. I live in a blue state. I've written my Congressional Representative and my two Senators, saying what I expect them to do over the next two-four years. They will be sorely tempted to water down stances, to appease. It's vital that every sensible person in blue states write their Congress members and re-affirm the reasons we elected them.
  3. I will become involved in local politics. I have been accepted on my city's citizens advisory committee, and I will attend at least 11 of the 12 meetings in 2017. I will attend at least half of the city council's monthly meetings, and I will actively promote what they say and do via social media - something they don't do. I will be on the lookout for attempts by citizens or representatives to reject science, to downplay climate change, to discount or ignore ethnic minorities, to brand all Muslims as terrorists, to deride LBGTQ people, and to ignore sexism or racism.
  4. I have signed up for the email list of every one of my national and state legislators, and follow them on every social media account they have (sadly, some have none). I will comment on what they are doing and saying, for better or worse. I will attend their local meetings with constituents and I will publicize them to like-minded people so that even more of us attend.
  5. I am looking for how my profession is responding to the election, because it does affect our work, and I am looking for ways to respond as a part of my profession. I don't have a union - if you do, you need to look at what leadership is saying, and start pressuring them regarding responding to demagoguery, misogyny, racism and nativism (which is BAD for labor and BAD for business and BAD for our country). If Gregg Popovich and others can do it using their NBA platform, so can I.
  6. I will not appease. I will not meet racists "half way". I will not comprimise with those who abuse and demean women. I will not put being polite and peaceful over speaking out about human rights, racism, freedom of the press, people's right to affordable health care, etc. I won't sit silently as some deplorable person says, "I'm not a racist. I don't hate women. I just wanted change." I will remind them that the policies that got the loudest, wildest cheers at Trump's rallies were never about jobs - they were about how fat or ugly a woman was, or that immigrants are terrorists or rapists or drug dealers. Every time Trump says yet another insulting thing about non-USA citizens or Muslims, every time he promotes another anti-science myth, like that vaccines cause autism, every time he and Congress work to eliminate someone's hard-fought rights or health care access, I will remind them that this is the man they voted for, this is who they stand with, and if they don't, then they have to say so, publicly, for me to believe them. And if I have to stand up and leave a meal or a meeting, if I have to ask someone to leave my house, if I have to end a relationship, so be it, because to stay silent or to stay in that person's company would mean, even just to me, that I am giving approval to racism, sexism, nativism or any other form of hate. No regrets.
  7. I will not patronize anyone or downplay the stark seriousness of this situation by saying that "we all need to pull together" or "everything will be fine" or "choose hope!" Those are such insulting things to say to anyone feeling the depth of this situation right now. Such comments come from a place of privilege, from people who are either in denial about what's coming or who won't be deeply affected by such. Such comments are hurtful rather than helpful.
  8. I will continue to financially support my local NPR affiliate and to listen to it and international outlets, like BBC News, the English language version of Deutsche Welle, and the English language version of Al Jazeera, as well as watching PBS News Hours, in order to continue to have access to complete news that is not beholden to advertisers. I will not watch CNN news nor CBS News, as I used to, as they have shown an incredible lack of backbone in asking hard questions and in noting clearly and quickly when Donald Trump lies.
  9. I will let local TV stations and newspapers, national TV and radio and newspapers and appropriate nonprofits know about incidents of discrimination, bigotry, violence, harm, censorship or misinformation that I think can be traced to the agenda of Trump supporters. I will also write them and their advertisers when they appease the Trump administration or Republican-dominated Congress, when they do not ask tough questions, when they ignore their actions that harm people.
  10. I will not listen to people who say, "Stop whining!" Anyone in this country has every right to complain. Politics isn't the same as a football game, where nothing really changes after the game except stats on the web and banners in a hall and who gets a trophy. It's particularly ironic that these calls to stop complaining and fall in line behind the incoming President are coming from the South, which still pretends it didn't lose the Civil War and that the war wasn't over slavery.
  11. I will not listen to people who mock my activism. They are beneath contempt. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nonprofits to Support to Counter the Trump Presidency & Republican Congress

I've already noted resources for people that are most at risk by the policies and promises of the Trump Presidency and the Republican Congress. I hope they are helpful, and welcome additional resources in the comments section on that blog.

What follows here in this blog that you are reading now is a list of nonprofits, both (c)(3) and (c)(4), that will actively fight against the new President and Congress's nativism, misogyny, racism and fascism.

Since the election, I've struggled with the question "What do I do now?" I'm hearing others struggle with it. This is my attempt to say, "Here are some of the many options out there. Pick at least one to support. And get busy."

These organizations will actively promote pro-science, pro-human rights, and/or pro-women agendas on all public policy levels and in the media. These organizations aren't about "coming together" or "uniting" or other forms of appeasement.

This is also not a comprehensive list of every organization out there fighting the good fight, and I realize its a reflection of my own policy priorities and, therefore, leaves many out, but it's a start for those looking for initiatives to support and ways to fight against policies that will marginalize women, Black Americans, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims and more, that will promote anti-scientific ideas like that climate change is a hoax or that vaccines cause autism, etc.

Sign up for the email newsletters and blog updates from a few of these organizations, the ones that speak to you most, and "like" their Facebook pages, follow them on Twitter, share their social media messages, go to their events, and if you can, donate your time or money to them. You cannot afford to give money to and volunteer for all of them, of course. And if you share everything from their social media, you will drive all your social media friends away. Be selective.

For donating and volunteering, I suggest you pick one or two organizations to support, give it a few months, then add on or switch to others, give those a few months, etc.

Don't expect for every organization to be well-organized and ready to get you involved right away; many of these organizations are struggling with funding and/or have never been trained in volunteer management. Don't get turned off by an unreturned phone call or unanswered email. Keep calling, keep emailing, keep trying.

Just please do something. Don't just post to Facebook. And do NOT be silent.

I hope this resource is helpful, and I welcome additional ideas, and your personal experiences volunteering or working with any of the following, in the comments section.

What you can do:

Media Responsibility & Ethics

Donate to Media Matters, and/or like their Facebook page and share their status updates, as appropriate. Unlike the Society of Professional Journalists, which promotes ethics in journalism but doesn't call out journalists for not adhering to those ethics, Media Matters actively, frequently calls out unethical and/or incompetent journalism. I put this organization first because this is, by far, the most important issue to me, as it affects absolutely everything else on this list.

iMediaEthics is a not-for-profit, non-partisan news site that publishes the latest media ethics news and investigations into ethical lapses. It seems more focused on the UK than the USA, but it's a great time to be focused globally, as what's happening in the USA is happening elsewhere.

The Center for Media and Information Literacy is based at the School of Media and Communication, Temple University. It is a hub for research, outreach, education, and professional development on issues involving media literacy and information literacy locally, nationally, and internationally. It has a Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers and is  a member of the Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media & Information Literacy (GAPMIL), launched during the conference in Nigeria to give greater impetus to fostering media and information literate citizenries in the governance and development agenda.

Women's Reproductive Freedom & Health

Donate to Planned Parenthood Action Fund, like their Facebook page and publicize what they are doing.

Donate to and/or volunteer for your nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Bank & Finance Reform

Support Americans for Financial Reform, a nonpartisan and nonprofit coalition of more than 200 civil rights, consumer, labor, business, investor, faith-based, and civic and community groups. Formed in the wake of the 2008 crisis, the initiative is working to lay the foundation for a strong, stable, and ethical financial system – one that serves the economy and the nation as a whole. Among its many activities is advocating for and supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and advocating against predatory lenders, such as pay day lenders.

Science Education in Schools & Environmental Advocacy

Donate to Stand Up 4 Public Schools, an advocacy campaign for public schools to counter privatization efforts by National School Boards Association (NSBA).

Donate to the National Environmental Education Foundation, or at least like their Facebook page.

Sponsor a membership for a science teacher at a local high school in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest non-government general science membership organization and the executive publisher of Science, a leading scientific journal. Anyone can subscribe to the magazine, or like the AAAS Facebook page.

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) mobilizes program and policy experts, volunteers, staff lobbyists, community organizers and communications specialists to inform and inspire the public and to influence decision makers to ensure that our national parks are well protected.

Subscribe to The Scientific American, or at least follow them on Facebook. It's not a nonprofit, but it is the oldest continuously published magazine in the US and the leading authoritative publication for science in the general media. It has an agenda to focus on scientific FACTS and assaults on scientific knowledge.

Sign up for updates from The Union of Concerned Scientists, like their Facebook page, and donate to them as well. They are a science-based, non-partisan non-profit that works with scientists and citizens to educate the public, media and policymakers about climate change.

Follow the Alliance for Climate Education on Facebook. The Alliance teaches young people how to fight climate change and take control of their future. ACE has an award-winning assembly that it's presented to more than 1.8 million students in thousands of schools. Students can sign up to be part of the Action Network or apply for a fellowship and anyone can Book an ACE Assembly.

Sign up for updates from Citizens Climate Lobby and follow them on Facebook. It is a non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. They provide opportunities to engage at the local level with fellow volunteers and trainings on their Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal, building relationships with your elected representatives, writing letters to the editor and op-eds, facilitate presentations and events

Get involved with What We Know, which helps us understand the science behind the realities, risks and response to the climate challenge. It's an initiative of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest non-government general science membership organization and the executive publisher of Science, a leading scientific journal.

Sign up for updates from The Climate Reality Project is bringing the facts about the climate crisis into the mainstream and engaging the public in conversation about how to solve it. They help citizens around the world reject the lies and take meaningful steps to bring about change.

Join The League of Conservation Voters works to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities. LCV, in collaboration with our state LCV partners, advocates for sound environmental laws and policies, holds elected officials accountable for their votes and actions, and elects pro-environment candidates who will champion our priority issues.

Join the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution and climate science in public school science education.

Join the Natural Resources Defense Council combines the grassroots power of 1.4 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of nearly 500 lawyers, scientists and other professionals. You can find ways to get help their campaigns on their Action page.

Join the Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization — with more than two million members and supporters. Our successes range from protecting millions of acres of wilderness to helping pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. More recently, we’ve made history by leading the charge to move away from the dirty fossil fuels that cause climate disruption and toward a clean energy economy. In addition to working at the national level, they have local chapters.

Donate to and become involved with Voces Verdes is an independent non-partisan coalition of Latino business, public health, academic, community leaders and organizational partners who advocate for sound environmental policy to combat climate change and support clean, renewable energy. We recognize the importance of balancing economic growth, environmental protection & prosperity and are able to provide Latino data around climate change and health.

There is no "friends of the Bureau of Land Management" nonprofit group. Instead, there are dozens of locally-based groups all over the USA that support specific BLM-managed areas and advocate on their behalf that you can join, such as Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (Friends of MNWR), in Oregon; Friends of Red Rock Canyon (FORRC); Trail Tenders, Inc., in Baker City, Oregon (National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center-Flagstaff Hill); Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners in Kanab, Utah (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument); Pompeys Pillar Historical Association in Billings, Montana (Pompeys Pillar National Monument); Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Ashland, Oregon (Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument); Anza Trail Coalition in Tubac, Arizona (Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail); Snake River Raptors in Boise, Idaho (Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area), and many others. Use Google to find the ones nearest your area, using the official names of public lands and the word "volunteers" or "friends".

Civil Rights

Support the NAACP Legal Defense Fund by liking them on Facebook, signing up for their updates, and donating to them. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 75 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.

Support the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU, which aggressively engages in litigation, communications, public education effort and legislative initiatives. They also have an excellent online training regarding what to do if you are stopped by police officers, immigration officials or the FBI.

Support the official Black Lives Matter Organization initiated by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza. #BlackLivesMatter is intended to build connections between Black people and their allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.

Look for organizations in your area that promote the civil rights of the incarcerated and that advocate for citizens watch dog groups over the police. Also, if your local police or sheriff's department offers a citizens academy, take it, along with other friends and associates that believe #BlackLivesMatter. Let the police know you are watching, force them to get to know you outside of their policing activities and ask the questions you think they should be answering.

Look for Latino and/or immigrant support groups, like Adelante Mujeres in Washington County, Oregon, or The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), an advocacy and organizing group focusing on achieving human, civil, and labor rights for immigrants. Sign up for their newsletters, like them on Facebook, go to their events, and if you can, donate your time or money to them.

Support the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), which is lead from by Native American people themselves. "We work in close cooperation with Native Americans and other organizations that have similar missions in determining which issues will be pursued and the amount of emphasis to be placed on each issue. The focus of AAIA's work is on areas that are vitally important but not adequately addressed by government or other organizations. AAIA is unique in that, in addition to providing assistance in the area of national policy, we also work on a grass roots level as well as being the oldest policy/advocacy Native non-profit in the country.

Join PFLAG, a national, very respected initiative committed to advancing equality for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), and uniting LGBTQ people with families, friends, and allies. PFLAG supports, educates and advocates.

Support the National LBGTQ Task Force. One of my dearest friends, a nationally-known Christian pastor (yes, I know, I'm an atheist - he still loves me) said that he loves it when people write him and ask which LGBTQ organization is most deserving of financial investment "and I am able to point, without a moment's hesitation, to the National LGBTQ Task Force, the nation's first, oldest and most progressive LGBTQ rights organization."

Report incidents of hateful intimidation and harassment to local law enforcement first. After reporting such an incident, submit a description of the incident to the Southern Poverty Law Center using this online form. This will help them in their work of monitoring incidents around the USA. The SPLC also is working to stop workplace exploitation and other human rights abuses of immigrants and all working people – filing strategic lawsuits, exposing civil rights violations, educating the public and the media, and pressing the federal government to act. The SPLC is also working in the courts to ensure that LGBT people achieve full equality under the law, including legal challenges to young people subjected to "conversion therapy", a disproven, tortuous form of therapy supported by the incoming vice-president.

Look at the web sites for all of the churches, temples and mosques in your city or county. Look for those that have inter-faith events and, if you are a believer in any of the religions involved, go to such events and help publicize them. If any of these communities of faith are involved in human rights advocacy, and/or inter-religious education and tolerance, consider finding out more and, if appropriate, get involved. If you are a member of an intolerant, anti-Gay congregation, such as the Methodists, "like" the Methodists in New Directions Facebook page, to learn how to change this policy within your church and at the church leadership level - or join an open and affirming congregation, such as United Church of Christ.

Regulating Gun Ownership & Advocating for Gun Safety

Support the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in its work to change laws, change the gun industry and change the culture regarding gun laws in the USA. They are not working to ban guns but, rather, to cut the epidemic of gun deaths in the USA.

Support Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark. "As gun owners and strong supporters of the Second Amendment, Gabby and Mark know we must protect the rights of Americans to own guns for collection, recreation, and protection. But they also agree with the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, that commonsense protections from gun violence can prevent shootings from shattering communities like Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown. Even commonsense solutions to protect our communities from gun violence have been hard to achieve. Why? Because entrenched interests like the gun lobby have used big money and influence to stop Congress from acting. Until now, the gun lobby’s political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed the influence of average, law abiding citizens. No longer. With Americans for Responsible Solutions and likeminded friends engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and supporting lawmakers willing to take a stand for responsible policies, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby and their dangerously deep pockets.

World Affairs

Contact the International Rescue Committee to ask what groups in your area support refugees and then contact those organizations and ask how you can help.

Find and join your nearest chapter of the United Nations Association or the World Affairs Council, go to their events, sign up for their updates, like their Facebook pages, and become better-versed in world affairs and international policy and the consequences of more than 60 million people in the USA supporting Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress.

Not really an advocacy group regarding public policy, but if you are looking to donate a nonprofit fighting poverty in the developing world and helping the most vulnerable, I suggest CARE International.

Political Representatives

Write your Congressional Representative and Senators that are members of the Democratic Party and your state legislators that are members of such, if any, and tell them you expect them to not engage in appeasement and, instead, to stand strong against all policies that will marginalize women, Black Americans, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims and more, that will promote anti-scientific ideas like that climate change is a hoax or that vaccines cause autism, etc. Here's an example of such a letter.

Look at the web site for your city and county governments. Look for the names of the citizens advisory committees/commission. The planning commission will be one. Some cities have arts commissions. Some have public safety commissions. Try to join one. Keep trying to join one until you get on board. Look for ways to advance a progressive agenda, an anti-Trump, anti-Republican, anti-fascist agenda via that membership.

Final thoughts

Should you become involved in the local Democratic Party, or the League of Women Voters, or any other partisan or non-partisan group that works to educate and register voters? Sure. But focus your efforts as a part of those or any other organization on unregistered voters and young people; you cannot change the mind of a fascist, including someone who is in denial about such. I will make no more efforts to change the hearts and minds of those that vote for xenophobia and racial supremacy, who want to assault the civil liberties of others, whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact is celebrated in screams and memes that shame me to the core. Remember that, after WWII, the allies focused their education efforts on young people in Germany, on putting into place institutions and policies that would prevent a rise in fascism there. The fascists there didn't change - they just died off.

There are non-violent ways you can actively fight against the new President and Congress's nativism, misogyny, racism and fascism.  Pick at least one to support. And get busy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

No, it wasn't about the economy

I see post-election ecstasy of some, mostly via social media, and in that shared online glee, there are no statements about protecting nor creating jobs, reducing drug prices, improving financial ethics, improving health care coverage for all Americans, promoting economic prosperity for ALL Americans, or preventing another global financial meltdown. There’s no mention of these things at all. Instead, I see constant cheers for vicious myths about Muslims and Mexicans, for insults regarding confident, intelligent political women, for comments and memes that make fun of the looks and ethnicity of our current President and First Lady and for bombing foreign lands.

So, yeah, pardon me if I don’t join in the belief that this was a vote by marginalized, forgotten people - because their own words say otherwise.

November 22 update: someone just sent me the link to this opinion piece and it is RIGHT ON:

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: "Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America." Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete bullshit.

And in addition:

Hillary Clinton has received more votes for President of the USA than any white man in history:

1992 Bill Clinton 44,909,806
1996 Bill Clinton 47,401,185
2000 Al Gore 50,999,897
2004 George Bush 62,040,610
2016 Hillary Clinton 63,715,574 (and counting)

January 7, 2017 update:

The data keeps showing, again and again, that Trump voters were NOT voting for the economy - they were voting for racism and sexism." A new paper by political scientists Brian Schaffner, Matthew MacWilliams, and Tatishe Nteta puts the blame back on the same factors people pointed to before the election: racism and sexism. And the research has a very telling chart to prove it, showing that voters’ measures of sexism and racism correlated much more closely with support for Trump than economic dissatisfaction... a bulk of support for Trump — perhaps what made him a contender to begin with — came from beliefs rooted in racism and sexism. Specifically, the researchers conclude that racism and sexism explain most of Trump’s enormous electoral advantage with non-college-educated white Americans, the group that arguably gave Trump the election." The paper is here. Shoutout to this Vox web site and this web site for bringing it to my attention.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Essential reading this week

Essential reading of the last two weeks:


What to Do About Trump? The Same Thing My Grandfather Did in 1930s Vienna.
From Tablet. An excerpt:
"Treat every poisoned word as a promise. When a bigoted blusterer tells you he intends to force members of a religious minority to register with the authorities—much like those friends and family of Siegfried’s who stayed behind were forced to do before their horizon grew darker—believe him. Don’t try to be clever. Don’t lean on political intricacies or legislative minutia or historical precedents for comfort. Don’t write it off as propaganda, or explain it away as just an empty proclamation meant simply to pave the path to power. Take the haters at their word, and assume the worst is imminent."


Phillip Howell, November 10 at 12:36pm, via Facebook:

Not all Trump supporters are racist, misogynist, xenophobes. All Trump supporters saw a racist, misogynist, xenophobe and said "this is an acceptable person to lead our country."

You may not have racist, misogynist, xenophobic intent, but you have had racist, misogynist, xenophobic impact. Impact > intent.

So when you get called racist, misogynist, and xenophobic -- understand that your actions have enabled racism, misogyny, and xenophobia in the highest halls of our federal government, regardless of why you voted for him.

You have to own this. You don't get to escape it because your feelings are hurt that people are calling you names. You may have felt like you had no other choice; you may have felt like he was genuinely the best choice for reasons that had nothing to do with hate. But you have to own what you have done: you have enabled racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.

Impact > intent. Always.


A Democratic Opposition
By George Packer, The New Yorker
An excerpt:
"President Donald Trump should be given every chance to break his campaign promise to govern as an autocrat. But, until now, no one had ever won the office by pledging to ignore the rule of law and to jail his opponent. Trump has the temperament of a leader who doesn’t distinguish between his private desires and demons and the public interest. If he’s true to his word, he’ll ignore the Constitution, by imposing a religious test on immigrants and citizens alike. He’ll go after his critics in the press, with or without the benefit of libel law. He’ll force those below him in the chain of command to violate the code of military justice, by torturing terrorist suspects and killing their next of kin. He’ll turn federal prosecutors, agents, even judges if he can, into personal tools of grievance and revenge."


A t-shirt I saw online:

"You thought I was a Nasty Woman before? Buckle up, Buttercup."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Live in a Blue State? Write your Reps NOW

For the entire tenure of President Obama, Congressional Republicans worked to block or undo every action he undertook. In response, instead of pushing back hard, President Obama and Congressional Democrats worked to compromise on every issue, watering down positions and bills to please the GOP.

If you still have a US Representative or Senator that's a member of the Democratic Party, it's time for you to write them and tell them what you expect them to do in the face of the coming onslaught of legislation and rollbacks.  

Here is the text of my November 13, 2016 letter now on its way via postal mail to the Honorable Jeff Merkley, the Honorable Ron Wyden, and the Honorable Suzanne Bonamici, my Congressional representatives as a voter and citizen of Washington County, Oregon. I encourage you to write a similar letter to your reps if you, too, live in a Blue State:

Representative Bonamici and Senators Merkley and Wyden,

I hope that, by now, you have realized that voters for Donald Trump were not voting for more jobs. They were not voting for more employment opportunities for people that pay fair, living wages. If you didn't already, I hope you realize these people were, in fact voting
  • for the elimination of civil rights gained by LGBTQ people over the last five years
  • in support of a ban the entry of Muslims into the USA and of aggressively surveilling any Muslim already here
  • to stop women from accessing abortion and birth control services and to punish women for accessing abortion services
  • to fully militarize and otherwise empower police to enforce “law and order” regarding Black and Latino Americans and other racial minorities
  • against science, including climate change, evolutionary biology and human reproductive health
  • to support anti-science myths about vaccine safety, such as that it causes autism
  • for the elimination of the Affordable Health Care act, which they believe will make insurance premiums cheaper
  • and against all foreign aid.
These are the policies that got the loudest, wildest cheers at Trump's rallies. These are the policies that got his voters out to the polls, despite the Trump campaign having such a pitifully, shockingly small grass roots/on-the-ground get-out-the-vote operation compared to the Clinton campaign or any campaign of the last 20 years. These are the policies that got Trump elected and the ones that a majority in Congress now feel emboldened to pursue.

A majority of Americans may support this man, but a majority of Oregonians do not. So long as you represent this majority in Oregon, you have an obligation and a mandate to stand against these policies. Oregonians, including myself, elected you for this role. We do not want you to “come together” or “unite” with people who openly support or try to downplay nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny and racism. We do not want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with deplorables nor with apologists for such. This is the time to stand tall and to stand firm, to say no to bigotry and the rolling back of hard-won civil rights gains. History is watching. We are watching. The members of Congress from blue states like Oregon are our country's only hope. Please don't let us down.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Helping the most vulnerable under year one of the Trump presidency

The new President and GOP-dominated Congress will move very quickly to dismantle key government programs millions of people rely on - including yourself, your family, your neighbors, etc. - and to create a very exclusionary, anti-intellectual climate in the USA, and there is no way, politically, to stop them for at least the next two years. They have the full support a militant right-wing voting majority in the USA for their actions. They have a mandate.

I'll leave discussions and recommendations for political organizing for future elections and leave fruitless suggestions and conversations about changing the hearts and minds of the rabid, angry, bigoted majority of American voters to others. I don't meet racists halfway. I don't meet people who abuse and demean women halfway. Instead, for now, I am focused on scrounging together some protections for people and the environment for at least the next two years. Because I care about my country and its people, and because looking out for each other is, truly, the American way.

In the coming weeks, those of us who care about our country and its diverse, multicultural population will need to look around at the most vulnerable people in our lives - family, work colleagues, neighbors - and assess what they are going to need urgently, as critical government programs are slashed, funding for critical services withdrawn, various initiatives eliminated, and the general climate becomes more openly hostile and dangerous for those in society that are not white, middle-class and Christian. Educate yourself about these safety net and civil liberty options so that you can access them, and so you can refer others to them.

Health care

If you have family or friends on Obamacare, urge them to make all preventative care and treatment appointments as soon as possible, and to get all of their prescriptions filled quickly. This health care coverage is going away and there will not be a replacement for most people on Obamacare, so everyone needs to use it while they have it. If you can, drive people that need transportation to appointments, offer to visit them in their homes after medical treatments that keep them somewhat immobilized, and keep them up-to-date about final dates of coverage as the GOP moves to eliminate their health insurance coverage. What options will be after Obamacare is eliminated and millions lose their health care coverage, I cannot say, as there has been no affordable option proposed to replace it. As the date gets closer, I'm hoping others will compile lists of safety net organizations and affordable emergency health care options. For now, let's try to get everyone who has Obamacare to use it fully, to get the health care they need immediately and to get all the preventative care they can now, while they have coverage, that could prevent health and financial disaster in the coming months/years.

Planned Parenthood will now be under siege like never before, and the militant right wing voting majority in the USA wants to see it gone and all women forced to carry every pregnancy to term, regardless of the circumstances of a pregnancy or the health of the woman. For many women, Planned Parenthood is their ONLY option for gynecological services, birth control, counseling regarding adoption, and, indeed, pregnancy abortion services. Find out where all of the Planned Parenthood clinics are in your state, so you know where the nearest one is to someone that you talk to that will need their services. Consider donating to the organization (you can donate locally rather than nationally, if that makes you more comfortable). And keep up-to-date regarding local efforts to change zoning or other regulations that will result in a clinic's closure - local outcry can keep local officials from buckling under the pressure of state legislators and Congress to close Planned Parenthood clinics.

Public schools / public education

Public schools, both K-12 and universities, are the heart of our democracy and our country's long-held, long-practiced principle of equal opportunity. In addition, healthy public k-12 schools prevent crime, because they keep kids busy and give them skills needed to handle a variety of situations, let alone become employed someday. Public schools have been severely defunded already - such defunding causes schools to fail, thereby allowing Republicans to point to school failings and assert that public education should be eliminated altogether. The new president and Congress will ramp up these defunding efforts even more, and quickly, far more quickly than you can mobilize politically to stop them. Remember: this assault on public schools is what the militant right wing voting majority in the USA wants - YOU are in the minority and, therefore, you cannot stop the cuts from coming at this point and for at least the next two years. What can you do? If you can, volunteer at at least one of your local public schools, and donate any funds you can in the next 12 months to help kids in your community have school supplies, educational materials, arts programs, outdoor programs, sports activities, etc. You can donate directly to the school’s foundation, or you can do so through Donors Choose.

In addition, there will be an even greater push to remove science from schools, to lie to children and tell them evolution is not a scientific theory but a mere belief, that there is as much "scientific" proof for Biblical timelines of the Earth and universe, that climate change isn't real or that, if it is, it won't adversely affect them, and that abstinence from sex is the only education they need about human sexuality and reproductive biology. Such lies about science hold our young people back in life and in the workplace, and will further hold our country back economically. You must be on the lookout for these anti-science efforts in schools. Find out how textbooks are chosen at your local public schools and ask to see them. Ask your children what they are learning in science class, and be ready to march into a school board meeting and speak up if you think science is under assault in your local school system.

Black Lives Matter

The new president's "law and order" rhetoric, and his overwhelming support by law enforcement officials, makes it sound like it's open-season on Black Americans, especially Black American Men. The GOP-dominated Congress will be only too happy to accommodate the new president's "law and order" dreams - remember, this is also the desire of the right wing voting majority in the USA, so they feel there is a mandate for this.

Enroll in your local police and sheriff department's next citizen academy, and encourage all of your Black colleagues and friends to do so as well. Attend every public police event with these colleagues and friends and make sure local police see your face and know your name - and so that you know theirs. Force them to deal with you in a very public, non-law enforcement capacity. Assert your right to meet them, to attend their events, to assemble and to fully participate in the community. Always be respectful and peaceful, always, but assert your rights to exist, to be seen, and to be respected yourself. White people: be allies for Black Americans.

Film anything in public that you see that might be a violation of someone's rights by the police, and pass on a copy of that film to the ACLU and to national press. Share it online as soon as possible, absolutely. If you feel your life would be in danger if you do this, however, don't do it.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) promotes the civil rights of people of color and works to eliminate race-based discrimination. Find your local chapter for ways to get involved. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund fights for racial justice through litigation, advocacy and education.


People who are easily identified by a casual observer as an immigrant or child of an immigrant, based on their skin color, clothes or accent, will be especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence in Trump's America - the loudest cheers at his rallies were his anti-immigrant comments.

Get to know your neighbors, and if you discover they are immigrants, or children of immigrants, let them know you are an ally. Look for immigrant support groups, like Adelante Mujeres in Washington County, Oregon, or The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), an advocacy and organizing group focusing on achieving human, civil, and labor rights for immigrants. Sign up for their newsletters, go to ther events, and if you can, donate your time or money to them.

Contact the International Rescue Committee to ask what groups in your area support refugees and then contact those organizations and ask how you can help.

Gay rights

The new President and the GOP-dominated Congress are dedicated to eliminating all of the legal gains by people that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), including marriage rights - it's what the majority of voters in the USA have voted for, one of many anti-human rights, anti-equality issues that drove them to the polls in such numbers. Many people who are LGBTQ are terrified regarding their marriage status, their parental status, and their individual futures because of this election. PFLAG unites people who are LGBTQ with families, friends, and allies, to provide support, education and advocacy. Get on a mailing list for your local chapter or the national office at the very least; even better, join your nearest chapter for a meeting.

Other human rights concerns

Donald Trump is on the record as planning to create a militarized deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants from the USA, to ban the entry of Muslims into the USA and aggressively surveil any Muslim already here, to punish women for accessing abortion once he makes it illegal with the help of his Supreme Court appointees, to reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture, and to change our nation’s libel laws and to restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The GOP-dominated Congress will support him in these endeavors, and the majority of American voters will cheer him on - it's what they want, it's what the voted for. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will do its best to challenge these actions in court, and if the ACLU can hold these actions off for two years in the courts, and a miracle can change the makeup of Congress, Trump could be stopped from these violations of human rights and cherished American beliefs. Sign up for their email newsletter at the very least, and donate if you can.

The Southern Poverty Law Center fights hate and bigotry and seeks justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality. They effectively fight hates groups, including all those alt right groups and traditional bigoted groups that proudly endorsed Donald Trump for President. Get on their mailing list at least; consider a donation as well.


Be on the lookout for bullying of, or by, your children. The new President's behavior gives children and teens in particular a green light for insulting others because of their ethnicity or religion, their physical appearance or their physical disabilities, and for insulting women, even assaulting women. Have frank, regular conversations with your children about what bullying is, what sexual assault is, what you will do to ensure they are safe, and what you will do if they engage in harassment or insulting, demeaning behavior of any kind regarding another person. And practice what you preach: if a family member, a work colleague, a neighbor, a store clerk, a bed and breakfast owner, anyone in your presence, engages in Trump-like insulting, demeaning behavior regarding another person because of their ethnicity or religion, their physical appearance or their physical disabilities, or because she's a woman, say, "I will not tolerate listening to such demeaning language." And then you leave, or you tell them to leave. Don't try to negotiate, don't try to argue, don't yell - just end the conversation and remove them, or yourself, from the situation.


Per their victory in being found not-guilty of any crimes in association with their armed, terroristic takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, militant right wing white men are planning for other armed takeovers of government-owned public lands. Federal agencies are training their staff on how to handle armed invasions and stay safe, but many nonprofits and state agencies are unprepared for such assaults. If you work or volunteer at such, ask about such preparations, and encourage a meeting with staff from federal parks, monuments, reserves and other sites to find out their plans and see how you might use such to formulate your own in the case of armed invasion by these right wing groups, now further emboldened by the militant right wing voting majority in the USA. If you are at a park of any kind and you see people with guns, call the police immediately and leave the area.

You will need to watch local city and county planning meetings and review all minutes intensely, as this will be a prime time for local officials to propose developments that threaten the environment, including clean water, and threaten public lands and tribal lands. These local officials, in partnership with mining companies, ranchers, oil companies and others, are counting on you to stay away from public meetings and to not read public meeting minutes.


USA money for international work will be severely cut in the coming months. This will create further humanitarian crises among women and children in particular. Even more people are going to die as a result. The organization that I think is most worth supporting with your dollars, if you can, to help with the refugee crisis abroad, as well as disaster relief as it arises, is CARE International.

In addition, you need to stay up-to-date on what is happening internationally. Just like all people on Earth, Americans from all walks of life are affected by the global economy and, directly or indirectly, dependent upon it. What the President and Congress do can help open markets to US businesses - or close them entirely. Watching USA-based news channels is not enough to know what's going on; listen to BBC world news on the radio or via the Internet at least twice a week. This will help you to be able to anticipate what is going to affect your employment or international travel. It will also help you to be able to talk reasonably and respectfully with immigrants, including refugees, in the USA.

I have a lot to say about new cautions for traveling and working abroad, but I'll save that for another blog.

Other resources

Jezebel has also published a list of organizations that help address women's safety and health, immigrants' rights and needs, and critical environmental issues, as well as organizations that fight against discrimination and bigotry. Bookmark these lists for future reference, and be prepared to call any of them if you think something is happening that is harming someone, even if you don't think what is happening is illegal.

The press

Let local TV stations and newspapers, national TV and radio and newspapers and appropriate nonprofits know about incidents of discrimination, bigotry, violence, harm, censorship or misinformation that you think can be traced to the agenda of Trump supporters. Document these incidents - date, time, place, and players. Write about them, blog about them. Film them whenever possible. Remember that it can take the press a long while to cover something, and they won't unless you bother them regularly to do so, and provide them with plenty of verifiable information. None of this will change the minds of Trump supporters, but it will make them think twice about abusing, demeaning or censoring others.

Hoard money

You need to save money like never before. It is now very likely that another global economic meltdown is coming, because of Trump's protectionist policies and his promise to undo important treaties and other international agreements. Your family needs at least enough money in liquid assets - CDs, savings accounts, etc. - to cover your expenses (mortgage or rent, health care insurance, car insurance, utilities, gas, pet expenses, for nine months to stay reasonably safe. Look for ways to downsize and to save. And absolutely dump Bank of America, Wells Fargo or any other big bank - switch to a credit union!

Final thoughts for this blog

I will not patronize you or downplay the stark seriousness of this situation by saying that "we all need to pull together" or "everything will be fine" or "choose hope!" Those are such insulting things to say to anyone feeling the depth of this situation right now. Such comments come from a place of privilege, from people who are either in denial about what's coming or who won't be deeply affected by such. Such comments are hurtful rather than helpful.

If you are not going to be affected by the severe funding cuts and protectionist trade policies, if your health care and family's safety and employment will all be just fine, if you won't be targeted for harassment because of your skin color or religion or sexual orientation, that's wonderful - enjoy the sense of peace. But millions are going to be at risk, millions who did not vote for the GOP. We are now in a profoundly dangerous situation, and now is the time to protect ourselves, our family, our friends, our colleagues and our neighbors that are most vulnerable. Unless and until American voters come to their senses - and I am quite certain that it's not going to happen in just two years, not even in four years - this is the new reality, not just for the coming months, but for many years.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic." We now have power without love, and it will be reckless and abusive. And "Oh, it's all going to be okay" comments are sentimental and anemic. Spare me.

I no longer believe in any innate wisdom of or goodness in humanity, let alone regarding the American people. That deeply held belief on my part, a faith I've had all my life, ended on November 9, 2016. I believe there are good people, but I am now skeptical that most people are good, and that a majority of my countrymen are sensible and, at their heart, compassionate and loving. That belief is now gone.

I will make no more efforts to change the hearts and minds of those that vote for xenophobia and racial supremacy, who want to assault the civil liberties of others, whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact is celebrated in screams and memes that shame me to the core. I do not compromise with racists nor with people that abuse and degrade women. I do not reach out to fascists. I do not seek reconciliation with people celebrating the end of civil liberties and health care access for millions. If there is anything this election taught me, other than that most humans are, in fact, not innately wise and good, is that deplorables cannot reached - not with reason, not with facts, not with appeals to humanity. You just have to hope they die off and are replaced by younger, more compassionate people.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

To those who voted for Donald Trump

To those who voted for and otherwise supported Donald Trump, some questions:

To my friend down the street who, next year, will lose the only health care insurance she’s been able to afford since her divorce - Obamacare - and who has no other affordable options for health care insurance, what do you say to her?

To the raped women, the women who discover their fetus is stillborn at 7 months (late term), and all the other women that need to abort their pregnancies - what do you say to those women?

To the gay people who will want to get married and have all the legal protections granted other married couples, as is the law now but won’t be at some point after Jan of next year - what do you say to those people?

To your son who proudly says, "I grabbed a girl at school by the pussy, just like our President elect!", what do you say to him? And what do you say to the girl he assaulted?

To your pre-teen daughter who sees photos of the first lady naked, with her finger stuck in her vulva, what do you say to her?

To those working in this country as an illegal immigrant, who know the soon-to-be first lady worked as an illegal immigrant in the USA for a few years, what do you say to them?

To Khizr and Ghazala Khan, what do you say to them?

To the child who was brought over illegally by a parent, and is now 25, has never been in trouble, has finished high school, is working and paying taxes, has never been to the country of her birth, and speaks only English, but in the next four years, will be deported: what do you say to her?

To those who make a living exporting goods to other countries, who will be financially decimated by the falling dollar and the retaliative protectionist measures other countries will take, who will have to close their businesses and lay off American workers, what do you say to them?

To journalists who are threatened with bodily harm for negative reporting against the government - not in Syria or Afghanistan or Russia but right here in the USA, as has been promised by your candidate, what do you say to them?

To my colleagues in Ukraine who suffer every day under military assaults by Putin, who must constantly battle his relentless online propaganda machine that drives business and money away from their country to the point that they are on the brink of financial collapse, what do you say to them?

To Syrian refugees, who have lost their homes and businesses - the doctors, the farmers, the nurses, the teachers, the government workers, the computer programmers, the food sellers, the janitors, the mechanical engineers, the biologists, the university instructors, and on and on - who have family and neighbors who have been murdered, who have been brutalized, who are desperate for help and safety - what do you say to those people?

To the members of Daesh, which you mistakenly call ISIS or the Islamic State, who have recruited young Americans by feeding them a steady diet of messages that says the USA hates Muslims, that the USA wants to punish Muslims - do you compliment them on being right?

To my dear friend from Afghanistan, who helped me so much when I worked there, who I was going to see again for the first time in a decade because she was invited to come to speak at a conference in Sacramento in May, but will not be able to get into the USA because the visa situation will change next year regarding Muslims - what do you say to her?

What do you say to each of these people?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

could small towns flourish again?

I have this fantasy... a fantasy that doesn't involve Benedict Cumberbatch... but I guess it could... anyway, I have this fantasy that my husband (not Benedict Cumberbatch) and I find this dying little town full of empty, historic buildings and houses, in Kentucky or Pennsylvania or Missouri ... or even a dying neighborhood in a big city that isn't considered cool, like Detroit. And many of our friends and their families move there too. We all buy houses. I open and manage a small European-style bed and breakfast. My friends open and manage a coffee shop that also serves light breakfast food all through lunch, a UPS store, a convenience and ice cream store, a pub with at least two pool tables, a gas station, a campground, and any other business they want to. We stay there, we work together, we run for local office, we socialize regularly, and we delight when others move to our little piece of paradise and join in making it work. Our town becomes a day trip destination, or a great place to stop for a day or an evening. More people move there. The people already living there aren't upset that city people are moving to their rural paradise, or at gentrification; they're happy at the restoration of economic vitality and community.

I retreat into my little fantasy sometimes when I'm feeling down. I think I owe someone a cup of fantasy sugar or something I borrowed...

I love traveling back roads and visiting small towns. I've loved such long before I became a motorcycle rider. As we road through rural Idaho a few months ago, we went through small towns that were quaint and lovely and compelled us to stop. And we went through small towns that looked empty and dying and sad.

How are some small towns hanging on while others are dying?

I now live in what I consider a small town, population 21,083. What this town has that dying small towns around us don't have:
  • a high school (and two junior highs and a few elementary schools)
  • a grocery store
  • restaurants (not many, but we have some!)
  • reliable, frequent mass transit to get to metropolitan areas
  • thriving farmer's market lead by and championed by a nonprofit
  • immigrants
Okay, we also have a small university, with about 3500 students, but I think that, even if we didn't have that, with all of the above, we would be doing as well. Because of those core qualities, we also have lively, active cultural organizations, including a historical society, a craft arts alliance and a community theater and lots of local businesses. There are not only reasons for local people to walk around town, there are reasons for people from other cities, including Portland, to come here and walk around. My husband and I also love leaving this town and going out into the rural areas around us - to vineyards, to garden nurseries, to hiking trails, and to any place open to the public in the middle of nowhere, from tiny antique stores to the Tillamook Forest Center.

Vernonia, Oregon is about 30 miles away from us, and it has a lot of what the town where I live has, even though it's much smaller. In addition, it's the end of a 21-mile paved, car-free trail for hikers, bicyclists and horse riders. It's Oregon's first rail-to-trail, and it's turned Vernonia into a highly desirable weekend destination, with some very good restaurants and a gorgeous setting.

My hometown of Henderson, Kentucky was dying when I was a kid in the 1970s. Now, I'm floored when I go for a visit: there are restaurants downtown, shops, and amazing festivals: the W C Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival, a bluegrass festival, a songwriter's festival, a performing arts center., and the world’s largest displayed collection of John James Audubon art and artifacts, and a gorgeous, landscaped river front, none of which it had when I was growing up there.

Growing up in Henderson, my family made fun of Paducah, Kentucky. "I spent a week there one day" my father would say. Now, Paducah has an Artist Relocation Program that offers incentives for artists to relocate to its historic areas. The program has become a national model for using the arts for economic development. It has a improv group and, dare I say it, a flourishing comedy and music scene. It's a lovely little town!

We visited Wallace, Idaho, population less than 1000, earlier this year. Every downtown building in Wallace is on the National Register of Historic Places, and many have been beautifully restored. The 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes paved bike path passes through it. Interstate 90 goes over it, and they've turned the area into a massive vendor area for their annual flea market. It's not only a must-stop if you are in the area, it's worth going out of your way for. It's one of my favorite small towns ever - and I've been to a LOT of small towns.

By contrast, we also went through Oakley, Idaho, about the same size and also billed as a historic town. It does have some lovely homes. But downtown was dead. Were the restaurants open? Was anything open? We couldn't tell as we drove through - no sandwich boards on the sidewalks, no obvious, easy-to-see "open" signs, no colorful banners... Oakley is near City of Rocks, and we loved camping in that reserve, but a lot of people would probably prefer to camp at a place with flush toilets and bathrooms and a restaurant nearby. Supposedly, Oakley has an RV park, but we never saw a sign for such. The town looked and felt dead.

One coffee shop or one antique store isn't going to transform a small town. But one obviously-open restaurant, with a patio, is going to compel a lot of people stop. A sign that shows camping nearby means campers might come back through for breakfast or supplies the next day - if they know just by glancing around as they pass through that they can get such. A "bikers welcomed!" sign really does make motorcyclists stop at a restaurant or hotel with such rather than a place that does haven't such - and motorcyclists often stop where they see other bikers stopping.

Many small towns in the USA are dying, and people are lamenting that fewer and fewer people, particularly families, are living a rural life, or even interacting with rural people. But I've seen some small towns thrive - because they knew they had to change, that they couldn't be exactly what they were 50 years ago. People need paid work, and they need health care coverage, and for most families, that means they must live in a big city. But people have different needs and desires at different phases in their lives, and I think a lot of small towns are missing out on prosperity because they aren't willing to change and to think about what would make them attractive to new families - including immigrant families.