Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wyoming GOP's Gay Vendetta Has Unintended Consequences

Wyoming_Capitol-2012-07-15_1437
Wyoming recently joined the ranks of many other states and began issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples. This didn't sit well with the bigots in our state who began inundating local newspapers with hateful letters to the editor that local heterosexual marriages were at risk and that in general our state was going to hell in a hand basket. It isn't surprising that republican lawmakers in the state have retaliated against the new law with attempts to undermine it. The most startling manifestation of the GOP's vendetta against the LGBTQ community in Wyoming is House Bill 83, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill would essentially legalize discrimination of all types in the state of Wyoming. The bill authorizes “defenses against governmental action that burden religious freedom.” And it states that anyone will a “sincerely held religious belief" cannot be punished in any way for refusing to perform an act unless it is “essential to further a compelling government interest.” The idea is that a photographer or wedding cake baker cannot be held liable for their discriminatory behavior if they refuse to serve a gay couple if the solicit services for a wedding on the grounds that the photographer or baker is morally compelled to decline the services due to their religion. This is shameful piss poor behavior that should not be tolerated. I cannot believe that my state is considering making this law. There is the obvious issue at hand, the shameful discrimination against the LBGTQ community encoded into law, which cannot be ignored but there are also unintended consequences. What if a doctor feels morally obligated to refuse a woman's abortion? Or a man's vasectomy? Or a child's vaccinations? What if a pharmacist refuses to dispense birth control? What if a teacher refuses to teach evolution or climate science or sexual education? What if a landlord refuses a home to someone because he's Muslim? What if a Muslim land lord evicts someone because he's Christian? Where does it end? In the rural communities of Wyoming you can't always go to another doctor, or find another pharmacist or a new teacher. There may only be one and if you are denied services you may be out of luck. Discrimination is a serious issue with serious consequences. Making it legal and giving it rights is absurd and shameful. Real people will pay real really high prices for this and for what? To protect the feelings of a bigot? To make it easier for them to hate? I say no. Not in my state. Not in the equality state. Here we treat everybody decently. Here we live by the code of the west, we look everybody in the eye and say, "Hey, I know you may be different than me but I also know that where it counts we're the same and so I am going to treat you like I would treat myself." That's how cowboys do it. They don't hide behind God as an excuse to treat other human beings badly. They don't tolerate rude behavior in each other. There is a code to the west and people who want to use God as a false sword and shield are a pitiful example of what our state stands for. We are bigger and better than that. Cowboy Code

Talking About Sex - Let 'em Be Little

gender-23777_640When I was in fifth grade, my friends were talking about sex. One friend was curious about oral sex and spoke about it in pretty vulgar terms on the school bus regularly. Another friend wanted to practice sex positions on a pillow at sleepovers. Remembering this, I started to get nervous as my son's first sleepover outside our home approached. I began to think that maybe it was time for him to have "the talk." I talked to my husband who adamantly insisted that our son was too young, and tried to convince him that kids these days were talking to their parents about these things from an early age nowadays. All I could do was get his blessing to continue on my mission to educate our son myself. Slightly overwhelmed, I started asking for advice. I started with my sister who laughed with me as we remembered how our own mother had attempted this Herculean task by being as straightforward as she could; even though her own mother hadn't spoken to her at all on the subject. Next I turned to my friends online who offered a host of advice ranging from "make it a part of frequent, every day conversations" to "Cover the basics of intercourse, aka how babies are made, buy him a book that tells him all the rest." The best advice I got was to,"tell him as much as you think he needs to know at this time; this should get as far as the part about safe and protected sex. Indicate that he can ask questions any time and then call it a time for ice cream." One friend pointed me toward a video online from the eighties. That seemed like an option, if my son seemed uncomfortable talking directly with me. Armed with the proper vocabulary, with my video waiting on cue on my iPad and my speech all scripted out in my head, I called my son upstairs to talk to me. I started out just like I had been advised... "So, I wanted to talk to you about sex and I thought maybe we could start by you telling me what you know about it." "Nothing" he grunted. "Are you embarrassed?" I asked, noticing he had already shut down. "No." "Do you want me to tell you what sex is?" "No. I am not worried about it right now." Not ready for this, I stumble a little bit. "Because you don't have to talk to me about it. If you want I have a video you can watch in private." "It's okay mom." "Alright. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. But I would prefer if you don't learn from your friends or the internet, so when you are ready please come to me or your daddy. If you want, you can talk to your granddad. Do you understand?" "Yeah. My friends aren't talking about it." "If they were, you wouldn't be in trouble. I just want you to have the facts. Would you be more comfortable if I got a book and you could just look at it when you were ready?" "Yes." "Ok, then that's what we'll do. Go play." And that was it. It was over almost as fast as it had begun and I never had to say the word penis. My son had led the way. He wasn't ready. It was as simple as that. I had pushed my own experiences on him and refused to see what my husband had seen all along, that my son was not me. His friends were not my friends. His experiences are not mine. Just because the kids I grew up with were shockingly advanced for their age, doesn't mean that my kid is growing up in that same world. And thank goodness for that. My son is eleven and he is still worried about video games and basketball. Oh be still my beating heart. My eyes well with tears as I am filled with gratitude and I am reminded of another piece of good advice I have been given. My dad told me long ago to let my children be little. They are only that way for a little while. You blink and suddenly they are grown. Yes, it is important to educate our children. It's important to give them the right words and the facts. It's important to give them the morals that go with those facts that will keep them well in life. But it's okay to let them be little too. It's okay to follow their lead and let them tell you when they aren't ready. There's no rush here. They have plenty of time to figure these things out without the adults in their lives hurrying things along. Let them be little for as long as they'll let you, because one day you'll be wishing that all your kid was worried about was video games and basketball.

The Angel Tree

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As a mother who struggles to get by month to month, I always dread Christmas because I know that I cannot provide the gifts my children want and expect. Every year, I have to find a way to put presents under the tree with little or no resources to do so. I have successfully met the needs and wants of my children each year by utilizing the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.
This year I have tried to encourage my Facebook friends to adopt people like me from the Angel Tree program, and I was surprised to learn that many of them had an issue with the Salvation Army. There is a pervasive rumor that the Salvation Army is cruel and prejudiced in its dealings with the LGBTQ community.
When I asked Leslee Rodgers of the Las Vegas Salvation Army about that, she was outraged. She said that no matter what, their office served every need that they possibly could, without asking about sexual orientation. She was very upset that this rumor was still circulating, and said that it was just that, a rumor. The Salvation Army works to meet the needs of all people, including the LGBTQ community, with love and devotion. “We don’t ask about sexual orientation, we just ask what your needs are and work to meet those needs.”
Leslee’s office was one of the first in the nation to disperse the Angel Tree gifts this year, and they did it in a unique way. Instead of giving each family a plastic garbage bag full of gifts that may or may not be what they need and want, Leslee set up a store like setting where the parents could each come in and pick out the toys that their child would like for Christmas. She still gave away enough toys for 1,600 families (or 5,000 children), but this way each child got exactly what they wanted.
I spoke to other Angel Tree programs in Laramie Wyoming, where they will be helping 400 families, and in Denver where one of 36 Salvation Army offices will be serving 800 families, (one can only imagine how many children that multiplies out to in the city of Denver.) It is clear that there is a need for this program, and that the people who need this program are tiny people, innocent people, people who have been taught that if they wake up on Christmas morning and the tree is bare – it’s because they’ve been bad.
Yesterday, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Salvation Army to pick up my bags of gifts. With hope in my heart, I prayed that my childrens’ needs and wants were met. When I arrived I gave my name to a woman behind a desk who asked for my ID. She checked the list, and sure enough, there I was next to two boys, one 8, one 11. She ferried me through the masses of bags till she found two with our numbers on them, and I was pleased that they were nice and plump. She offered to help me carry them out and I was happy that I indeed needed help with my treasure.
Waiting on the curb for my mother, I explained that the Explorer that pulled up in front of us was not mine. I did not want her to think we were too well off. Knowingly she assured me that it was ok as she helped me load my bags in the back.
When I arrived home I carefully went through the bags. There were clothes, shoes, gloves, a winter coat, snow pants, two toys each… Yes! This will make a nice Christmas. All I have left to provide is stocking stuffers and perhaps, if I can afford it, another pair of gloves.
But wait… a little card. I opened it carefully. Inside was a hundred dollars and a note. The note was to my son. It said that he should use the money to Christmas shop for his family because the true gift of Christmas is in giving.
I waited patiently for school to let out. The hundred dollars and note burning a hole in my pocket. I could not wait for Daniel to come home from school. All the efforts of the Angel Tree program had built up to this moment. It did not matter what rumors swelled about the Salvation Army, nor whether they were true or untrue. It did not matter what politics surround the poverty-stricken people of America at Christmastime. What mattered was that my son’s true Christmas wish was about to come true.
Daniel walked through the door all bundled up and noisy. He presented me with his daily homework and papers. Finally, the moment came and I explained that I had something for him and where it came from. He took the note from me, and the money fell out. His eyebrows shot up. “For me?” he asked. “Kind of.” I said. “Read the note.” And he did. “Wow.” He said after a long pause. “I know exactly what I’m gonna get you Mom.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wyoming's State Director UniteWomen.org Writes Her State Representative

Dear Cynthia Lummis,

I am a domestic violence survivor. I am a Wyoming citizen. I am a wife a mother, a sister, and a daughter.

I am concerned with your choice in the vote for the HouseViolence Against Women Act. The House's version of this bill is watered down from the Senate's. The House version does not protect many women in Wyoming that are just as worthy of safety as I am as a straight, white, citizen. It does not protect lesbians, it does not protect Native American Women, nor does it protect illegal immigrants. The Senate version protects everyone and I cannot fathom why you would not vote for it.

I think of a dear friend, Jackie. She is also a mother, daughter, sister and grandmother who lives here in your state and deserves the same protections from the law that I get. Should it matter that she is a lesbian? I don't understand. Why do you vote for laws that imply that it is ok to rape or beat her?

I live in Laramie. I pass the site of Matthew Shepard's death weekly. I think about him and others like him and I tell myself that Laramie and Wyoming both learned a lesson from his loss that we promised to never forget.

Then, you make a vote like this, and I wonder if you have forgotten.

Let me remind you. We are done with hate here. We no longer choose to participate in the most vile aspect of hatred - the tolerance of injustice.  You may not be aware of it, having spent so much time in Washington, but we do not tolerate violence against anyone in Wyoming. Not even against people who love others of the same gender. Not even illegal immigrants. Not even Native Americans.

As a former victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and abuse I can tell you that the common thread in these crimes is Power. When a woman believes that no one can or will help her, she is trapped not by her abuser but the society that implicitly condones his behavior.

The reason that I must stand up, and speak out against your vote here is simple. Choosing a law that gives power to abusers over their victims is always wrong, no matter what. To seperate any group, for any reason, as unworthy of the protection of the law is offensive to a nation that knows that all of us are created equal. It is beneath the creed of our Equality State. It is a betrayal of women. It is an assault on justice.

Miss Lummis, I understand that your party pressures you to make absurd votes like this. I understand that our system doesn't always make it easy to do the right thing. The fact is that you have to stop and ask yourself what motivation you have to vote against the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. Are you afraid of stepping away from the party line?

You should be afraid of the rapist who finds that he can rape as often as he wants so long as he picks victims not protected by law. You should be afraid of the husband who beats his wife and tells her she has to take it because no one will protect her. You should be afraid of seeing my name beside yours on the next ballot. You should be afraid of Saint Peter and that moment, as you stare longingly at pearly white gates, when he asks you to explain why you didn't protect the women you were responsible for.

The validity of a woman's rape, or broken nose, or terrifying abuse has nothing to do with what gender she loves, what country she was born in, or what color her skin is. Next time you get a chance to vote on an issue that protects women, please make sure that you choose to protect all of us.

Sincerely
Sarah Zacharias
Wyoming State Director UniteWomen.org

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Send Jenny Some Love

Do you enjoy my posts on The Blue Route and The Bucking Jenny's Facebook and Blogspot?

If you do, be sure to donate if and when you can.  Thank you for supporting my efforts at providing a progressive voice from the Rockies. ~ Sarah

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dear Mr. President

Some of you may remember my viral letter to Mitt Romney, (which you can view at this link, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/09/20/1134324/-Amazing-Open-Letter-to-Romney). This time, I thought I would drop a line to our president. Here it is.


Dear Mr. President,
On the eve of your re-election, I thought I would send you a very special thank you. Thank you for being such a fine leader and admirable human being.
When you gave hope to our nation in 2008, you inoculated us against a second great depression. When you bet on America with an 8 billion dollar stimulus, you wagered on America's middle class. When you did that, you reminded us of our fundamental values, and encouraged us toward a great future.
My love affair with your message is intense. I suspect that I am not alone. I remember that, when you appeared on scene, you changed America. I would go so far as to say that when we met you, you made us want to be a better nation. Thank you for that.
I have watched you, every day for these past four years, and I see a man who loves us. I see a man who has the audacity to hope for the best for all Americans, the 100% of us! (You never leave Americans behind, not even the 47% of us that your opponent dismisses with malice.)
When I look at you, I see a man who judges Americans, not by the color of their skin, or the contents of their wallets, or the language they speak or the gender of the person they love... But by their love for their neighbor and country, and if they are their brother's keeper, and if they are willing to improve our nation by leaving spite and greed behind.
Thank you. Your presidency has reminded us, of the great lessons of our history. You reminded us of Jeffersonian liberty, and Washingtonian honesty. You reminded us of Abraham Lincoln's unity and FDR's New Deal security.
Mr. Obama, you are the embodiment of Martin Luther King's dream. You are the stone of hope that rolled from a mountain of despair. Each night, when I tuck my sons in to sleep, from a house of poverty and a home built on struggle, I do so knowing that your mother did the same.
Each evening, when I encourage them to work at their studies, I promise them an America where any child with a dream has a chance and because of you... I believe my own promise. Mr. President, you are proof that I speak the truth in your very existence.
I am proud, this fifth of November, to be an American citizen who will be blessed with the opportunity to vote for you tomorrow. I am thrilled, Mr. president, to know that when I vote for You, I am voting for Myself, My Sons and My America! When I mark the ballot next to your name, I am certain I will weep with gratitude that I live in this exact moment in history, and that I am able to lend my voice your chorus.
I know that you will give my family the ability to survive in spite of tough odds in return for my vote. You will give us access to affordable healthcare and education, you will move our nation onward still toward our dreams of equality, you will work tirelessly for national economic stability, you will ensure international safety and you will be a leader who fights for the little people... Like me and mine.
Mr. Obama, thank you, for devoting yourself to us. Thank you for fighting for my son's opportunities. Thank you for sticking up for me and my rights to my body. Thank you, for supporting marriage equality for my gay family members. Thank you for bringing my childhood friends home from war. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for Obamare, which protects so many that I love.
Mr. President, thank you for your audacity, your tenacity and your loving determination. You have pulled our nation forward toward a bright future.
I hope... Nay, I know that come Wednesday I will add my voice to the multitudes in offering you congratulations on a second term, until then Sir, keep up the good work.
Sincerely,
American Voter, Mother, Sister, Daughter, Wife, Writer and Friend,
Sarah Zacharias

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Credit Due For Chris Christie

In September of 2001 when our president, George W. Bush, spoke about the terrible tragedy of the eleventh, I was very moved. I watched him stand there, with a grieved face holding that fireman's badge up for all of us to see, and I felt that bond of being fellow Americans, which supersedes party lines. My blue heart wept alongside the president's red one.
It has been more than a decade now, and twittertentionspans have become an epidemic. We have forgotten the unity of September 12th which we had vowed to remember always. We have forgotten that when tragedy strikes Americans, we bleed not blue, we weep not red, we stand not divided. When tragedy strikes Americans we stand united.
I have spent the better part of my life following my liberal values, and developing a personal belief system which is based left of mainstream. I am proud of this. I see absolutely no deviation from my values in supporting George W. Bush and his tear filled eyes on September 12th 2001. In fact, I feel pride for standing with my nation and its leader. Just as I feel pride today, in standing with Chris Christie.
Last month, Gov. Christie spewed a load of nonsense laced with hate with a sick passion at the RNC as the Keynote speaker. Nearly all of his rhetoric was directed at our fine President Barack Obama. I was incensed by Christie's words. In fact, in response I flamed him in my own way, roasted slowly in front of hundreds of thousands on the Internet.
I suspect that if asked in a setting where he could be genuine, Christie would admit to holding every word he said in that speech as true in his heart to this day. His politics have not changed any more than G.W. Bush's did when the towers fell.
All the same, it doesn't look like that right now, today, as we watch Christie slap the President on the back, greet him warmly, and sing his praises. In fact, to the GOP it must look like Christie is betraying them, and in the last moments of the election at that! They have, to my knowledge, berated him for working with the President on at least three FOX, one ABC, and 2 CNN newscasts.
For shame.
It should be wildly apparent to anybody watching the travesty of Hurricane Sandy's wake that now is not the time to fall divided, split by loyalties to party lines. Now is the time to stand united. Now is not the time to be Republicans and Democrats. Now is the time to be Americans.
It is not Gov. Christie's Jersey Shore in ruins. It is America's Jersey Shore in ruins.
When I watched the devastation of the East Coast, I felt much like I did in September of 2001. In both cases I felt a lot of things, but partisanship wasn't one of them.
Just as Mr. Christie would most likely stand by his political RNC speech, I stand by every word I have ever said about that man and his rotten politics. Unlike the GOP, I will give him the highest praise for one thing he has done, for which he deserves respect; he loves New Jersey more than he hates Barack Obama.
The GOP obviously doesn't - else they'd give credit to Christie, where credit is due. Because they choose not to praise his hard work and devotion to his people, the GOP and their leader, Mitt Romney show their true colors, and I tell you what, they ain't red white and blue.