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Beyond Pride - In memory of Thurman Blevins

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In memory of Thurman Blevins

It has been reported that I am the first openly Transgender woman to run for the U.S. House of Representatives back in 2014. I am the first openly transgender woman in the state of Minnesota to be endorsed by a major party. This weekend I marched in the Minneapolis Pride Parade in celebration of the LGBTQ community. I am proud of the progress we have made. Yet, I remain conflicted about the enormousness separation of wealth and privilege that continues to plague our society. I can readily reflect on my own experiences of isolation, threats, prejudice, and persecution from police and the courts. I do so, not to compare my own experience with that of other marginalized communities but to emphasize a need to understand the cause of individual communities: to understand the intersection and find common purpose.

There is a hazard in trying to build coalition by erasing individual identities for the appearance of common purpose. That is the fallacy of nation-building: assimilating communities and deciding who shall be part of the protected community and who represents a disadvantage or threat to that community. The LGBTQ community struggles with the same gender equity issues that plague our society at large. The issues of the gay men are not the same for the lesbian community and neither is the same for the transgender community which intersects both genders. The issues of sexuality are not the same as the issues of gender.

It is equally hazardous to erase the individual struggles of other marginalized communities under the banner of People of Color. The issues of Mexican border immigration are not the same for descendants of the Atlantic slave trade. They are not the same for immigrants and war refugees of other nations torn by American imperialism. They are not the same for Jewish populations conflicted by a government that supports both Zionism and anti-antisemitism. They are not the same for Muslim populations persecuted primarily for their religious beliefs. This list is not exhaustive. It is only the communities where I have had significant engagement.

So I return to the issue of common purpose. I ran my first campaign in 2014 on the heels of the historic Minnesota Vote No campaign: the struggle for same-sex marriage. Even as I worked hard for it and celebrated its passage, I remained conflicted about the true significance of a reform that granted a great privilege to some but failed to address the enormous injustice of a government ordinance over family values. At the time of the marriage debate, I myself was engaged in a struggle with the family court to protect the rights of my son to be with a transgender parent. I am fully cognizant of the abuses of our foster care system, foreign adoptions, and the separation of indigenous families and immigrants at our southern border. I am fully aware of the abuses of the Violence Against Women Act, claiming to protect women while failing to protect the most vulnerable, fully protect the rights of children, and address the fundamental causes of sexual violence and domestic abuse. We have empowered, police, prosecutors, judges, and lawyers; even ICE, the DEA, and border patrol, but we have not empowered the people who are supposedly served by these institutions. As a nation, we have given up our humanity in favor of the rule of law. We have forgotten who makes the laws and how indiscriminately those laws are enforced. That issue of indiscriminate enforcement is exactly why “All Lives Matter” is an irrelevant retort to the issue of “Black Lives Matter”. Without equal protection under the law, there is no law. Without proper review of the law, there is no order. Therein lies the common purpose of all marginalized communities. It is meaningless to have equal rights if we do not have equal protection under the law and the institutions that enforce the law.

Police have become the focus for the failures of our criminal justice system. Police are on the front lines, enforcing that system of racial and ethnic disparity. They do have a role to play in addressing the bias within their own community and ensuring their own integrity. They can not be held blameless by any measure of quality for the services they do provide. Still, they are only the face of a much deeper issue.

On Saturday, I was in Winona to speak at a protest against the separation of children from their families at the Mexican border. There is no justification for this blatant display of inhumanity. We are a nation of immigrants and many of our ancestors came here for the same reasons: to escape war, persecution, and famine. The cause of this immigration can easily be traced to American drug enforcement policies and the global inequality of wealth. It is again reflective of a governing class that seeks wealth and power over social accountability. It is not an issue of law; it is a failure of leadership.

In the evening of Saturday, June 23rd, 2018, I received reports of another police shooting of a young black man in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thirty-year-old Thurman Blevins was shot and killed by Minneapolis police. Whatever “the law” decides, there is absolutely no justification for this blatant display of inhumanity. Sunday morning I am at the staging area for the Pride parade. The parade is delayed for over an hour because of a protest against police brutality. I reflect on the first pride parade nearly 40 years ago with 50 people, half of whom marched and the other half who remained behind to support the marchers and bail them out of jail. I am reminded that Pride originated as a protest against police brutality and I am recognizing what it has become: a corporate sponsored celebration of individual expression. I am realizing how little we have impacted the systemic systems of oppression and wealth inequality.

After the Pride Parade, at 4 PM, I am at the Minneapolis fourth Police precinct examining just how little progress we’ve made on major social justice issues. At 7 PM, I am at the vigil in North Minneapolis where the shooting occurred. I cannot begin to relate to you the depth of human emotion surrounding family and friends and community brought together by such an event: the anger, the emotional pain, and the fear.

There are many politicians there. I have heard the promises they have made to this community. I understand the lack of credibility. The solutions exist. The cost of mass incarceration far exceeds the cost of early intervention and prevention. When police exist primarily to enforce criminal prosecution, they have no role in social intervention and reform. We need entirely new agencies to deal with public health issues of poverty, mental health, drug addition and issues which are not considered victimless: domestic violence, child abuse, sexual violence, and gun violence. What is lacking is the will to implement them. It is evidenced in the promise that they will fix the problem once they are elected. It is a promise this community has heard too many times.

It is a fundamental fallacy, that one must win in order to create change. For the people, we must find common purpose and change the political dialogue. That’s how we win. I am proud to stand against the establishment of wealth and power. I am proud to see myself as a member of all marginalized communities, even as we have yet to realize our common purpose and stand together for a shared vision of liberty and justice for all.

 


SEX WORKERS OUTREACH PROJECT

I am posting for comment the position of the Sex Workers Outreach Project.

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Sex work is work, and sex workers rights are labor rights. The criminalization of the sex industry exacerbates violences against sex workers, severs them from vital systems of support, and pushes sex trafficking further underground putting their lives at greater risk to violence. It is necessary to stand in solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement, recognizing that labor exploitation is a violation of human rights. We support sex workers’ fight for decriminalization as well as policies that protect their health and safety. http://www.new.swopusa.org/

I do support their position. It is consistent with my more general position that the laws which empowers the justice system to deny women control over their reproductive health, sexuality, and relationships continues to enforce gender inequity, domination and exploitation of women, and a double standard of moral oppression. I have seen and experienced similar failings in the Violence Against Women Act which has led to abuses of the system in divorce and child custody, failed to provide meaningful intervention and prevention, and commonly fails to protect the most vulnerable.


MARCH FOR OUR LIVES

OF COURSE, I SHOULD BE THERE! 50,000 people are expected to attend including 20,000 students protesting an intolerable level of gun violence and the growing threat against our young people.

I am a politician and these events are the place where politicians publicize their support for change. But it would be more accurate to say, this is where politicians empathize with constituents about the profound lack of inactivity in our government around major social issues like gun control. Because the true positions of our politicians are reflected in the bills they sponsor, the way that they vote, and the issues that they fight for.

I am also a member of the League of Women Voters. Our volunteers will be there registering voters to ensure they raise their voice at the ballot box in November and I should be there.

But I will not be there. Like millions of Americans I have lost faith in a political establishment that polarizes the issues, tells us it’s complicated, and beseeches us to be realistic. The time has arrived for a new political paradigm: a political party that serves the interests of the people. I will be at Rondo Library in St Paul working with the Green Party to secure their endorsement and join with the national Movement for a People’s Party because we have two major parties that have embraced global imperialism, the manufacture and sale of guns, weapons exports, and the militarization of our society.

The mass shootings, the police gun violence against people of color, even the expanding assault on immigrates are just multiple faces of the same issue: a political system so grossly dependent on the wealth of corporate capitalism that they are incapable of representing their constituents.

 


Gun Violence

Political polarization forces us to focus on the consequences of gun violence which have reached intolerable levels for most Americans. It is particularly evident watching America’s youth rise up in protest. It is an issue of great urgency which must be addressed but we see a disturbing level of inactivity and complacency from our political leadership.

Our focus on the consequences and what appear to be the obvious solutions only takes us part way. Too often we fail to recognize the political and economic narratives that drive the polarization of politicized issues. That political narrative is one of individual freedom. A corporate owned media has persuaded us to believe that guns represent civil liberties and self-preservation. The data supporting that narrative is extremely sparse when compared to the overwhelming sacrifice of victims and families impacted by gun violence.

That narrative supports the manufacture and sale of guns, as well as the broader issues of global imperialism, weapons exports and the militarization of our society. It undermines the reality of a society that has lost faith in our government, fostering a disturbing realization that our government can no longer protect us. The counter-narrative is not one of banning guns but rather restoring accountability in our political process, equity in the institutions of American justice, and balance in our economy. Perhaps then, we can begin to accept that guns will never make us free.


#MeToo

"In 1966, the organizers of NOW, The National Organization of Women, recognized that equality demanded economic independence for women, requiring a social restructuring that wouldn’t simply create employment opportunity for women but create economic value for the work done by women. Community work and childrearing would have to be shared more equally by husband, wife, and society.

Paula_Overby.jpgIndustrialization and technology are male spaces and war is the ultimate manifestation. The politics of wealth and power has functioned to exclude women from these spaces.

“A woman's place is in the home:” a notion that has trivialized the role of women in society for centuries, perhaps since the dawn of property rights. Female spaces are the foundations of society: family, childcare, education, health care, and social organizing.

We have created a narrative of gender conflict where women fight for economic and social status by gaining entry to male spaces in a society that continues to devalue nurses, teachers, social workers, and childcare, highly skilled and demanding professions that offer little social mobility. We sexualize women, but deny them the right to fairly negotiate; rather, dominating them through false narratives about a protected class. Those protections would generally be unnecessary if women had true equality in American society.

As a transgender woman I have lived experience in both genders. I have experienced both sides of the issue: the indignity of being discounted, minimized, and ignored as well as the loss of due process perpetuated by the false allegations of political and economic agendas. 

The #MeToo movement is a symptom of broader social issues.  We must welcome the discussion but we must avoid suppressing the broader discussion. We must change the social narrative around gender equity, not by pressuring women into male spaces, but rather by valuing what women do, defining solidarity, not by class status but according to common purpose. We need to shift the narrative of wealth and power towards one of cultural evolution."


Government is not a business

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I remember a time when there was a strong relationship between business and community. With the evolution of technology and the mobilization of capital and labor, business has grown and consolidated. Many of the social benefits provided by business have diminished along with the diminishing workforce. People look to government to address the increased social burden. At the same time the migration of wealth has shifted the political parties toward policy that serves these wealthy global conglomerates producing a government in partnership with them. A government of the people can not thrive under this business model of government. A new political paradigm independent of this business model that exists solely to increase profit, will, and must, evolve to serve the will of the people.


Senator Franken Resignation

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I have felt a sense of optimism from the recent wave of pronouncements against sexual harassment and in support of victims. There has long been a need for a more in-depth, broader conversation of this issue, but I realize this discussion is not forthcoming. While women have universally experienced sexually inappropriate behavior, it is also clear that women are not united in our response to this issue.

I understand the desire of politicians to assume the moral high ground concerning allegations against Senator Franken, but I also understand the practical dilemma of failing to engage in the tough discussion and press for meaningful structural change in our political process and society. It is insufficient to define the issue as one of moral indignation. The circumstance surrounding Senator Franken offered us an opportunity to advance the broader discussion around gender discrimination, sexual violence, and domestic abuse. More fundamentally, it offered us an opportunity to advance the dialogue about the relationship between men and women.

In its original statement of purpose, the National Organization of Women declared their intent to “…take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American Society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof, in truly equal partnership with men.” Since then feminism has been undermined - at least perceptually - by an aggressive narrative of a man-hate rebellion. Feminism has become a conflict among women over divergent ideologies, competing with men for positions of power and influence while maintaining traditional social values around childcare, education, healthcare and social organizing. By demanding consequences without meaningful discourse around the relationship of men and women, I fear we have done little but reinforce that division, inviting a backlash that only serves to undermine the value of women’s social contribution.

I am dismayed by Al Franken’s resignation because I believe the ethics investigation would have placed a greater obligation on men to assess their relationship to the broader social narratives of women. I am disappointed that our most influential women leadership, Amy Klobuchar and Betty McCollum, have failed to take any public position on this issue. I do believe the ethics investigation should still continue.


Something's missing in our democracy

WE ARE MISSING A KEY ELEMENT OF DEMOCRACY---One of the candidates…

 

There has been an interesting pattern developing in the U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd Congressional District campaign, where Paula Overby has been invited and each time has indicated willingness to attend sessions where voters are invited:

  • Both Angie Craig and Jason Lewis agreed to participate in the Farmfest forum then withdrew when the participant list was released. Paula Overby was given 5 minutes to speak to thousands of participants.

  • Angie Craig also refused the debate at St Olaf College organized by the League of Women Voters (a live stream event that would have reached thousands of voters).

  • Neither Angie Craig nor Jason Lewis appeared for the Veterans’ forum,

  • Neither Angie Craig nor Jason Lewis appeared at the Dakota County Chamber of Commerce forum,

  • Neither Angie Craig nor Jason Lewis attended the Shakopee Chamber of Commerce forum where they have Kids Voting,

  • Neither Angie Craig nor Jason Lewis attended the Lake City Chamber of Commerce forum (although Lewis did provide a statement that was read by someone else--- Minnesota House Representative Steve Drazkowski)

 

Angie Craig, Jason Lewis and Paula Overby were invited to screen with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. All three screened with the newspaper, but only Angie Craig and Jason Lewis were even mentioned in the Editorial screening. `

 

Many of you may have seen the Minnesota Public Television debate between Angie Craig, Jason Lewis, and Paula Overby. It was a reasoned debate that covered all of the major issues in the campaign because all of the people on the ballot were included in the debate. Oddly enough, Minnesota Public Radio did not include Paula Overby in their recent debate…

 

Contrast this with KSTP television debate between Angie Craig and Jason Lewis which occurred yesterday. You will notice one missing participant. Paula Overby, the Independent Party candidate, was told in advance by Tom Hauser that she would not be invited.

 

If any of your stations would like to invite Paula Overby to present her positions to the people who are actually voting for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd Congressional District, you are more than welcome to contact her at:


Political Polarization

The current dysfunction of the political process is rooted in a lack of open, candid discourse between candidates and the voting public. A study from Princeton University (September, 2014), Testing Theories of American Politics, concluded that the U.S. is no longer a republic. “The US has become a country led by a small dominant class comprised of powerful members who exert total control over the general population — an oligarchy.”

My opponents have the support of powerful interests in the form of PAC's, Committees and Funds. I am the candidate who is solely funded by individual donations. As a result, I will represent you, the citizen; not the 40 or more PAC's that frame one of my opponents' campaign issues, or the many corporate sponsors who frame my other opponents' political positions.

I have traveled all over the district listening to the issues that are important to you. Summarizing these issues they would include: consumer protection; protecting jobs; preventing excessive regulation; protecting people from unfair banking and credit practices; ensuring patient centered health care; eliminating predatory drug pricing; protecting commitments to our veterans; protecting voters from unfair campaign practices; and protecting senior care. Solutions already exist but we need to start putting people first.

I pledge to you that I will make my office completely accessible to you as citizens, so I can have your issues and ideas to frame public policy in the United States House of Representatives. That’s what I can do to represent you fully in Congress…


What do Women Want

Maybe Equal Pay isn't the problem

 

According to supporters of the Women's Economic Security Act, women want equal pay! Seems perfectly reasonable on the face of it. They also want maternity leave and an appropriate time and space to breast feed. A woman can't be fired if she has to take time off to care for her children. WESA supporters are thrilled. It's progress they say. There's also talk about paternity leave which would also seem to make things “more equal.”. Yet there remains the uncomfortable caveat that “we still have a long way to go”. If you embrace our current political process then the more important question becomes, “where are we going”.

 

I am one of those women. I'm a mother. I raised three children. I worked full time to provide for them. I made sacrifices in my career so I could care for my children. It was difficult for me to accept travel which was a major draw back in those days. I got bad reviews for the time I took off to care for my children. It means little to me that there is a law now that says I can't be fired for that. In these days of at will employment I wonder how I would enforce it. I was fortunate in not having to worry about equal pay. I was always at the top of my pay grade so generally I was earning more than many of my peers. What I wanted is what many women had; more time with my children, more time with my family, time to volunteer at their school and attend field trips and school events, more mommy play days. I wanted to be valued as a woman.

 

Women still provide most of the child care, most of the volunteer hours, most of the family organizing and care for aging parents, yet women are taking on an ever increasing financial burden. Women are now the primary wage earners in 40% of our families. That number jumps to 60% for Native American women and women of African heritage. What are politicians really offering to women: all day kindergarten and day care for children as young as three. That may seem like a welcome relief to women struggling to survive in minimum wage jobs but what does it say about our social values. Will the state raise our children so women can do service work. Quite honestly, what solutions are being offered on either side of the gender gap. If woman’s work doesn't pay a living wage how can they ever hope for economic independence. It is exactly this inequality of wealth that sustains the exploitation and abuse of women. 

I am running for the U.S House of Representatives in the Second Congressional district because I believe women need representation that's focused on women's social values. The enormous inequality of wealth hurts women and children the most. Women should have the same economic opportunities as men but defining women by their economic worth does not respect women's social values. Globally, research has shown that ethnically diverse and divided nations that elect women rather than men to key national leadership offices end up with better economic performance. America now ranks ninety-eighth in the world for percentage of women in its national legislature, down from 59th in 1998. That’s embarrassing: just behind Kenya and Indonesia, and barely ahead of the United Arab Emirates.

 

If women believe themselves unable ot lead their own political organizations, I fear that it does not bode well for the future of women in politics.

 

http://www.american.edu/spa/wpi/upload/Girls-Just-Wanna-Not-Run_Policy-Report.pdf

http://www.american.edu/spa/wpi/upload/2012-Men-Rule-Report-final-web.pdf

http://www.thenation.com/article/178736/why-does-us-still-have-so-few-women-office#

http://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/articles/node/1633#.U776afldWSo

Patterns of Democracy by Arend Lijphart



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