A Flock of Butterflies…

You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world. -Andy Andrews

Yesterday I watched a video of Elizabeth Warren. (Full disclosure: It totally made me cry.)

Sitting there in my office (well, the converted attic of our house, which is perpetually too hot or too cold and frequented by our trio of rescue cats who are never fully satisfied until they’re ALL on my lap) I heard her reflect on her early career as she walked along the law school campus where she had her first job teaching law.

The camera followed her through the halls of the law school where as a young professor she tried to prove herself – to prove that she was smart, and capable, and driven – while raising her kids on her own.

She talked about the porch swing she installed in her office, and the bright green wall she painted behind it. About the nights she spent doing laundry after the kids went to bed, and class prep at midnight.

And she talked about the hurdles that working parents, especially single working parents, have to overcome.

And she talked about her Aunt Bee.

Because without Aunt Bee, we might never have met Elizabeth Warren.

Those of you who are parents will recognize the situations she describes. The babysitters that don’t show up, the daycare centers that close, that smell, or that you can’t seem to trust for some reason.

And so, with childcare options dwindling, Law Professor Liz Warren – a woman with dedication and passion and talent for days – thought she’d have to quit.

And then her Aunt Bee called. And Elizabeth cried to her Aunt Bee.

Aunt Bee arrived two days later, with seven suitcases and a Pekinese named Buddy. And Aunt Bee didn’t leave for 16 years.

Were it not for the decision made by that one woman, it’s very likely that Senator Elizabeth Warren would not have been a law professor.

Or a Senator.

She probably would not have been charged with creating the Consumer Protection Agency, nor would she have been in a position to take corrupt corporations to task.

She probably wouldn’t have touched the hearts and minds of people across the country.

She probably would not have made me cry in my “office.”

Now, I’m not going to go into who I think is the best candidate or who I’m supporting in the too-packed-field of Democratic hopefuls.

But what I am going to say is that all of the amazing things that she’s been able to do in her life are because of hard work and dedication, yes – but they’re also because of the decision that Aunt Bee made during a late night phone call to do something for Liz.

Imagine what would have happened if Aunt Bee hadn’t come with her seven suitcases and tiny dog? I bet Liz would have influenced the world no matter what life situation she found herself in. Don’t you think?

After all, my political coffee group is made up of professional women who had to leave their fancy jobs for the very reason Elizabeth Warren thought she’d need to leave hers. There is no hiding a sharp mind and dedicated heart. At least, not for long.

But there’s a limit to what you can reach when you’re constantly knocked off track.

So Liz isn’t the heroine of this story, really.

Aunt Bee is.

Because of Aunt Bee, Liz could become Elizabeth Warren.

Every day we make choices about what to do, what to support, what to focus on. We make choices about what actions we take and what roads we’ll travel.

We don’t often get to see the impact of those decisions. At least not right away. But there is a ripple effect that goes so far beyond those initial waves of impact.

I’m sure Aunt Bee knew full well that by supporting her niece she was making Elizabeth’s life easier, and giving her choices that she’d otherwise never have.

But do you think she realized that she’d – literally – change the world? That she’d change American public policy, shape consumer protection law, educate hundreds (thousands?) of legal minds, and help launch a presidential campaign that – even if unsuccessful – will set the policy framework for decades?

Probably not.

Every single one of you that’s reading this today is shaping the world, whether you realize it or not. (And frankly, whether you like it or not.)

You’ve probably heard of the butterfly effect from chaos theory – that something so (seemingly) insignificant as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings over here … may cause a tornado over there.

I imagine all of us as a flock of butterflies fluttering along, sparking massive change and lifting the world with the collective strength of our tissue-paper wings.

I’m so glad that we’re all together, making so much of a difference – whether we see it in the short term or not.

Okay, friends, let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of July 30

Tuesday: Protect SNAP Benefits

The Trump administration has been trying to curb Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, and previously called food stamps) funding for a while now. And that’s kindof odd, because SNAP not only helps people eat – it actually stimulates local economies while doing so. (That pesky Butterfly Effect!)

In fact, George Bush boasted about adding people to the program during his tenure. (And here’s a little known fact – it was originally created to help farmers sell their excess yield. The restrictions on prepared foods and toiletries make more sense in that context, right?)

But, like it or not, Trump has the program in his crosshairs.

At issue is a new restriction that revises eligibility requirements and has the potential to take SNAP benefits from 3 million people.

Why are they so fussy? Because a millionaire with gobs of savings who was not “earning” any income was deemed eligible for the program and wrote an article about it. So now they want to make sure that anyone who applies for the program doesn’t have savings.

Yes, you read that right. They want people to spend down their savings to, oh, around $3k, before they’re eligible for SNAP. Sound like a catch-22? You’re not alone in thinking that.

Rural communities would be hit particularly hard by this rule, and it will even impact school lunch programs. (Again, that pesky Butterfly Effect…)

The backlash to this newly-proposed rule needs to be swift and savage, folks! Please got to the Federal Register and let them know what you think of this new rule. I wish I could give you some guidance here, but they can batch sort comments if they are similar, so it’s best if you go with your heart.

Link to Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/24/2019-15670/revision-of-categorical-eligibility-in-the-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

Wednesday: Tell Republicans to Start Taking Election Security Seriously

Senate Republicans have blocked election security and cyber security bills – even after hearing Mueller’s testimony. Election security should not be partisan, but right now the GOP is standing in the way. The House has already passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (HR 2722), but it’s not gone anywhere in the Senate. Let’s see if we can change that, eh?

Forty Senators – 38 Democrats and 2 Independents – have cosponsored the Election Security Act of 2019. You can see if your Senators are cosponsors HERE.

It’s parked in the Senate Rules Committee, where no action has been taken. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is the Chair. Check HERE for a list of members.

Script to call your Senators: Hi, my name is __ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because Russian interference in our Democratic process is a big deal. And after Robert Mueller’s testimony last week, I assumed that our legislators would make protecting our election infrastructure a priority. But I’m not seeing anything that suggests that to be the case. What is Senator ___ doing to protect the upcoming elections? Has he/she cosponsored the Election Security Act of 2019? Why not? [And if you’re in Missouri: When is Senator Blunt planning to get serious and move that bill out of committee? We’re all watching, and I’m really disappointed. If this is as serious as an issue as I’m sure the Senator – who is on the Intelligence Committee, after all – knows it to be, then why hasn’t he held a hearing, or made a statement, or explained why he doesn’t want to support this bill?]

Oh – and if Senator Blunt’s team tells you that it’s up to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to better police their platforms, you can say what I said:

“Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do not have a duty to protect this country. Their CEOs did not take an oath to protect and defend the constitution, but the Senator did. Our country is being attacked by a foreign power on his watch, and it is not an acceptable answer to blame for-profit companies that are subject to Congress’s jurisdiction. You cannot tell me that the powers of the United States government are not sufficient to find and implement guard rails that these companies must follow, and if that is in fact what you’re saying then you’ve proven current leadership isn’t up to the task and needs to be replaced. It is inconceivable to me that the Senator would not care about the integrity of our elections, but his refusal to act – or even speak – on this issue says volumes. His constituents are watching, and the optics of this are just terrible.”

As you can tell, it was a lively chat. 😉

Thursday: Join the Gun Sense Action Network Team

(H/T Chop Wood Carry Water!)

If you’ve been looking for a way to get more involved in the gun reform advocacy world, check out Everytown for Gun Safety’s Gun Sense Action Network. It’s a team of volunteers who dedicate an hour of time per week to call potential voters or volunteers. Sounds like a great opportunity – and a great cause!

Click HERE for more information and to sign up.

Friday: Ask Senators to Support S.2135

Last week the House passed H.R.3239, which does crazy stuff like ensure anyone detained by Customs and Border Patrol has access to drinking water, toilets, sanitation facilities, hygiene products, food, and shelter – and is given a medical evaluation.

The Senate version of the bill is S.2135, and at this point only Senators Udall, Heinrich and Sherrod Brown have cosponsored. Let’s get on the phone and find out why our Democratic (and Republican) Senators aren’t supporting this bill.

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I’m surprised Senator __ hasn’t supported Senate Bill 2135, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act. This is a humanitarian crisis, and we need to treat the people in our custody with respect and in a humane way. What is the Senator’s position on this bill?

Inspiration Station! Some good things happened this week…

ICE attempted to bring a Tennessee man into custody, but his neighbors were having none of it. Three cheers for community! Read one of the many articles about how they protected him HERE.

The city of Las Cruces, New Mexico earned its nomination as the nicest city in America for its treatment of 1600 asylum seekers who were brought to it by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. The city welcomed them with open arms, and stands as an example for all of us to follow. Read about this great town HERE.

One asylum officer said she simply won’t enforce the new “can’t go through Mexico” rule that the Trump administration is trying to push through, saying that it would violate her oath to the Constitution. Let’s hope she’s the first of many! Read more about her HERE.



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