It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world. ~Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
*Note: The pep talk below was first published in April, before many of our new friends joined us. (Welcome!) While our numbers have swelled, our need for messages about strength and unity hasn’t lessened. I hope those of you who have read these words before are reminded of how far you’ve come since you first read them, and those who have recently joined us are inspired to keep moving forward. Onward, upward, and in solidarity ~ Michele
Have you ever seen a redwood tree? They’re majestic and towering – scraping the sky while standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow redwoods in what feels like impossibly close quarters. In fact, they can get so tall that their circulatory system can’t pump water to the whole tree, so their upper needles have adapted to drink fog right out of the sky. You’d think that anything that can grow that tall would have roots penetrating deep into the earth, wouldn’t you? Something so tall, so heavy, so vulnerable to the wind and the weather must counterbalance its height with roots at long as it is tall, right?
The roots of these trees – which can grow higher than a 30 floor skyscraper – rarely grow more than 12 feet underground. Instead, they spread out laterally – extending over 100 feet from the tree.
And that’s where the secret of their stability lies.
Each tree’s roots interconnect with the roots of neighboring redwoods; those trees hold hands with their neighbors, and so on and so on, such that each tree is connected, one with the other throughout the forest. In our Darwinist dogwood-eat-dogwood worldview, we look at a forest and assume the trees are trying to one-up each other; each is vying for light and air and water, after all – which are valuable resources that diminish with each new member. It stands to reason that the trees would block each other, ensuring they get the most and the best of what nature has to offer.
But rather than competing, they’re connecting.
No one tree ever truly stands alone.
So when the forest floor floods, the mat of roots they have created secures both the strongest and the weakest and keeps all of them solid. And when the gusts of wind come that would otherwise rip a tree from its bed, its neighbors steady its base and keep it grounded. Standing alone they are powerful, majestic, strong. But together? Well. Together they’re invincible.
One might even say they’re indivisible.
So much the same for us, fellow Resisters. There will be days when the winds are so fierce and so violent that any one of us would be toppled. There will be days when the flood is so deep and the water so murky that any one of us would be drowned. And there will be days when we think we just can’t keep standing.
It’s on those days when our greatest strength, our unity, will carry us on.
Let’s hold hands.
Tuesday: Make Congress Own It – They’re the Adults in the Room
I’ll admit, after yet another weekend punctuated with bizarre tweets from POTUS, it was cathartic to see Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) – himself the subject of Sunday’s early-morning Twitter melt-down – tweet that the White House has become an adult day care and that someone missed their shift on Sunday morning.
I would laugh, but the stakes are too high.
It’s hard to give the reaction each calamity deserves when we are living in a constant state of outrage. Isn’t it?
But here’s the larger problem caused by these tweet-bursts: Trump is undermining our national security, and – once again according to Senator Corker (the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee) – potentially putting us on a path to World War III. I suppose the adults in the room don’t approve of our commander-in-chief referring to a ruthless nuclear-armed dictator as “Rocket Man.”
But it’s one thing for our MOCs to make statements to the New York Times or to send off a missive on Twitter. It’s quite another for them to publicly vote to protect us from a dangerously impulsive president with unilateral ability to launch nuclear weapons. And that’s what we need.
Months ago, bills were introduced in both the House and the Senate that would restrict any President’s ability to issue a first strike of nuclear weapons. Frankly, this should have been the law all along. It’s high time that we make it so. It’s broadly supported by a number of groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists (who are apparently more concerned than usual).
The House bill is HR669; on the Senate side it’s S.200. Both are titled the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act. Let’s take to the phones (and faxes!):
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. Maybe some of your constituents find it entertaining that the President of the United States is engaging in Twitter wars with foreign leaders and members of Congress. I don’t share that reaction. I’m really concerned; when the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says he’s concerned that we could be on a path to World War III, I don’t know who wouldn’t be concerned. I know that the Senator/Congressman/woman can’t restrict Donald Trump’s access to Twitter. (Not even his Chief of Staff can do that, apparently.) But it’s the Senator/Congressman/woman’s duty to restrict his ability to act impulsively with nuclear weapons. Congressional approval is needed to declare war; it should be needed to issue a first strike of nuclear weapons. We need the Senator/Congressman/woman’s leadership right now, and I hope he/she will use it to protect his/her constituents and support the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act. Thanks for your time!
Wednesday: Support Puerto Rico and Ask Your MOCs – What Gives?
So, we can all agree that Congress should have already passed some kind of aid package for Puerto Rico. It’s infuriating to watch this humanitarian crisis unfold, while the Senate goes on recess and the House continues to pretend there are things more important than clean drinking water for American citizens.
To be fair, Senator Cornyn introduced Senate Resolution 278, which expresses “condolences” to the victims, explains the terrible economic and personal crises befalling the residents of Puerto Rico, and commits to providing “necessary resources” to helping them rebuild. It basically does nothing but offer thoughts and prayers, but even that is just sitting out there, dangling like a rotten banana.
Sidenote: as I mention below in our discussion of CHIP, there’s a bill winding through the House that funds CHIP while also providing an additional $1 billion for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program. That sounds like a lot, but it’s not nearly enough. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that even before Hurricane Maria, an additional $1 billion in funding would have sustained Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program for less than a year. So if your legislator’s staff proudly expresses support for increased Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, please thank them for the intention – but tell them Puerto Ricans need more.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m just horrified that nothing is being done for Puerto Rico. Rock stars and broadway stars and celebrity chefs are doing more than the United States government. Why the hold up? What is Congressman/woman ____ doing right now to help the people of Puerto Rico?
Thursday: Support Kids’ Healthcare
If this feels like groundhog day, I completely understand. Once again we need to call our legislators about CHIP – the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program. It’s a bipartisan, highly effective and well-liked program… the funding for which our lovely members of Congress allowed to expire at the end of September. Some states will run out of funding in the next few months; others will have a bit longer to plan. (Check the link for a map, where you can check the status of your state.) But all states are confronted with the distinct possibility that their CHIP funding will disappear.
Now, most folks think Congress will indeed re-fund CHIP. But until they actually do, states are put in the terrible position of having to wind the program down. They can’t presume that Congress will refund it, and state governments don’t turn on a dime. So the best case scenario now involves your state having to waste your taxpayer dollars winding down a program that enjoys bipartisan support because our MOCs couldn’t get their act together.
Can you tell I’m annoyed?
So let’s take to the phones (or faxes) to let them know how we feel, shall we? And again – one of the bills making its way through the House would fund CHIP, but would provide for woefully inadequate funding for Puerto Rico. HR3921 attempts to deal with two significant funding issues in one bill – and while it does hit the mark for CHIP, it comes up incredibly short for Puerto Rico. The Senate Finance Committee passed a very strong reauthorization bill – so let’s reward that effort and encourage more of the same.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I’m really surprised that the funding for CHIP hasn’t been renewed. Our state will now have to expend funds and resources winding down a highly effective program that’s gotten bipartisan support. So, because of the federal government’s inability to pass the CHIP funding bill before September 30 – or in the weeks since – our state government is going to waste even more taxpayer money. This is ridiculous. I urge the Senator/Congressman/woman to do whatever he/she can do to move a clean CHIP funding bill forward. [When you are talking to your Congressman/woman’s staff, you can add: But I want to make sure the Congressman/woman knows that the funding level for Puerto Rico that’s provided in the Healthy Kids Act (HR3921) is far too low for the extent of the humanitarian crisis they’re undergoing. That bill might hit the mark for CHIP, but it misses it entirely for Puerto Rico.]
Friday: Oppose Trump’s Tax Breaks
The “tax reform” package that the GOP is trying to ram through Congress via reconciliation (yes, the same procedure they tried for ACA repeal) is just a terrible-awful-no-good-very-bad-thing. The tax breaks that it provides are predominately for the top 1% – and more specifically for the top .1%. The details are still being unveiled – but what we’ve seen shows more of the GOP’s tired take-from-the-poor-give-to-the-rich playbook.
What’s been proposed is a $1.5 trillion tax cut that would deliver 80% of its tax cuts to the top 1% (incomes over $900,000) – and 40% of its tax cuts to the top .1% (incomes over $5 million). The bottom 80% of us get a measly 13% of the tax cuts. Meanwhile, most Americans would be worse off because the tax cuts are to paid for with cuts to important social programs, like – you guessed it – Medicare and Medicaid. There’s a lot of talk about the need for simplicity, and helping small businesses by cutting passthrough income tax rates (psst – 70% of pass-through income is accrued by the top 1% – so this isn’t a cut that’s focused on helping mom-and-pop hardware stores), and making it possible to file your taxes on a postcard.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a tax code that doesn’t cater to the wealthiest donors in the GOP stable than be able to file my taxes by postcard. (I mean, geez – doesn’t everyone e-file anyway?)
So let’s let our MOCs know that we’re not interested in cutting taxes for the wealthy so that we can get fewer services and a bigger debt.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m concerned with what I’ve heard about the “Tax Reform” plan. It’s a tax break for the wealthiest of Americans, which will be paid for by cuts to services that Americans want and need. These cuts overwhelmingly benefit people who make a million a year or more. Cutting the taxes of donors might be politically helpful, but it’s harmful to the rest of us – including most of Senator/Congressman/woman _____’s constituents. I know the Senator/Congressman/woman came to Washington to make the world better, and this kind of tax plan doesn’t do that. Oh – and doesn’t Senator/Congressman/woman ___ think we need to see Donald Trump’s tax return so that we can see how this tax plan would benefit him personally? I sure do. Thanks!
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.
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