2017: The Year of the Woman

I am done being polite. And I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell. ~San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz

It occurred to me as I scrolled through images of the mayor of San Juan wading through sewage with a bullhorn.

2017 is the year of the woman.

And not for the reason I thought it would be back in November, when I tearfully cast my vote for the first female presidential candidate.

It’s because of what women did after that candidate lost.

In the days after the election, when we were all living a strange out-of-body-experience and waking up 10 times a night to the hope that this was all just a terrible dream, women mobilized. A march was created, then multiplied; Facebook groups popped up all over the country; book clubs, resistance groups, support groups, action sites – many started by and populated with women – sprang up.

We’ve used the last 10 months to hone our skills, meet one another, learn best practices, and learn to fold activism into whatever free time we have – planning protests while deciding what to cook for dinner and calling our elected officials after drop-off.

We’ve seen pundits look quizzically at one another, gobsmacked that women seem to be saving democracy while shopping for school supplies. Their level of surprise and the quaint condescention dripping from headlines beginning with – “stay-at-home-mom-leads…” suggest that the media may never take our accomplishments seriously.

And maybe they never will.

Who cares?

It’s actually better if they never see us coming.

It’s better if they don’t realize that women who just successfully lobbied Congress to save their children’s healthcare had no formal training and had organized themselves just months before. Or that Shannnon Watts – now a powerhouse of gun-control activism – started as a stay-at-home mother of five with a Facebook page. It’s better if they don’t remember that Mothers Against Drunk Driving started because one woman got angry and decided to do something about it, or that aboveground nuclear testing ended because of mothers’ advocacy in the 1960s.

Women are used to being undervalued, underrepresented and overlooked. But that doesn’t mean we lack power. It just means we can fly under the radar. If we want to.

The mayor of San Juan (who was also called “este senior” by her male opponent) once explained in an interview that women are taught to be “play nice,” and in politics sometimes you just can’t.

That’s a lesson that many American women are learning first-hand.

We are out of patience.

We are done being politically correct.

We are ready to lead.

So, if you can’t join in the effort? We understand.

Just get out of our way.

Let’s get to work.


Tuesday: Oppose gun silencing legislation

The last two days have been emotional, to say the least. Gun violence has become as American as apple pie. That’s unacceptable. And while I, too, am inspired by the heroism exhibited by the people of Las Vegas in the wake of Sunday’s shooting, I’m angry that they were put in that position at all.

Here’s the long and the short of it: the NRA is very interested in de-regulating silencers.

And if you think that’s ridiculous, we’re on the same page. The loud crack of gunfire alerts potential victims to get down or get away. Had the people in Las Vegas not been able to hear the shots, they wouldn’t have even had a chance to protect themselves. And the first responders used the sounds to figure out the shooter’s location – so there’s no question that he would have been able to continue for far longer than he did had they been unable to hear the gunfire.

If we’re really interested in protecting people’s hearing, there are wonderfully-rated $15 headphones that do a great job.

So let’s get to what we can do: There are 18 Senate co-sponsors and 165 House co-sponsors of the “Hearing Protection Act of 2017.” (For those Missourians keeping track, Jason Smith, Vicky Hartzler, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Billy Long and Sam Graves are all co-sponsors.) But that’s not the only silencer-related bill that’s knocking around the halls. There’s also S.1505 – the “SHUSH” Act, which grabbed some additional Senate co-sponsors late last month. There’s even a second “Hearing Protection Act of 2017” kicking around the House (same name, different bill number).

Here’s a link to the co-sponsor lists of all of the bills de-regulating silencers: H.R.367, H.R.3139, S.1505, and S.59. Sadly, there are so many co-sponsors to this terrible legislation that listing all of them here would be overwhelming. So, check the links to see whether your congresscritter has supported this legislation and if they do, let them know that you expect better of them. If you don’t feel like checking the lists, just call their office and ask whether they’ve cosponsored or supported any of the bills.

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I am horrified by what happened in Las Vegas – and by the inaction in Congress that allowed it to happen. It is time for our country to stop catering to the gun lobby. I want to know why the Senator/Congressman/woman has co-sponsored legislation that would take away the one thing that alerts potential victims that someone is shooting at them. When I saw that he/she was in support of legislation that would de-regulate gun silencers – supposedly to protect peoples’ hearing, I laughed out loud. It makes no sense. That’s putting the hearing of someone who chooses to engage in a loud hobby above my life. Not only that, but you can buy well-rated headphones that protect hearing for $15 at any outdoor retailer. His/her support of this bill shows that he/she values the gun lobby more than constituents’ lives. That’s unconscionable. This carnage has to end. And I expect the Senator/Congressman/woman to do his/her part of make sure it does. Please ask him/her to rescind his/her support for this bill.


Wednesday: Support CHIP and Community Health Centers

It was a relief when the calendar turned to October 1 and the Affordable Care Act was still in place. But September 30 also marked the date by which Congress had to extend Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and extend funding for Community Health Centers. Because Graham-Cassidy sucked all of the legislative air out of the room, Congress let CHIP lapse – putting the healthcare of 9 million children at risk; it also let lapse the funding for health centers that support underserved communities across the nation.

What’s really bizarre? Senators actually supported reauthorization of CHIP and funding for community health centers – they just didn’t vote on it. In fact, a bi-partisan letter written by Senators Blunt and Stabenow and signed by more than 70 others laid out why community health centers are so important and why funding for them should be reauthorized. If funding is not reauthorized, cuts will start to be felt around December. There’s no time to waste.

This should have been an easy lift.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m concerned that the funding for the CHIP program and for community health centers has been allowed to lapse. I’m sure that the Senator supports continued insurance for 9 million children, and the community health centers that provide services for so many people in our state. I’d like to know what the Senator is doing right now to ensure that funding for both of these programs is restored.

Thursday: Help Puerto Rico – Oppose the Jones Act

Senators John McCain and Mike Lee of Utah have introduced legislation that would repeal the Jones Act, which requires American owned and operated ships to transport cargo between U.S. ports. Trump waived the Jones Act applicability for 10 days – which was at least a start, but is woefully inadequate (that waiver will expire this week). Other lawmakers have sought to waive the Act for a year or more. But a full repeal will help PR’s economy get back on track; in fact, some like McCain have argued that the Jones Act has been a major cause of PR’s stagnant economy.

I’ll admit that I have double and triple checked this – but the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute are also in favor of waiving or repealing the Jones Act.

WHAT?!? You guys. We might have a bi-partisan issue!

Call your Senators!

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to support Senator McCain and Lee’s bill repealing the Jones Act. Puerto Rico needs our help. Waiving or repealing the Jones Act will help them obtain what they need in order to recover – and it will allow them to do so for less money. Because they’ll be using federal funds in their recovery, that means that my tax dollars will be better spent. This seems like a win-win – Puerto Rico recovers more quickly, and our tax dollars are used more efficiently. Please ask the Senator to support a waiver or repeal of the Jones Act. Thanks!

Friday: Here are Other Ways to Help:

Let’s face it – there’s a lot to process this week. The devastation in Puerto Rico is real and will continue to unfold. The horror that took place in Las Vegas is also a developing story. If you’re looking to donate, here are some places you can start:

Las Vegas:

  • As of now, the Las Vegas Victims GoFundMe page that was started by the Clark County Commission chair has surpassed $3.3 million. (As of right now, GoFundMe has not waived its processing fee – but has done so in past tragedies.)
  • The National Compassion Fund will be giving 100% of donations received through their Las Vegas Fund to the victims and their families.

Puerto Rico:

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.

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