Susan Collins, hurry next door for a chat with Patrick Leahy…

Vermont’s two longtime senators, in my view, are the best of the lot. Patrick Leahy exudes integrity. Bernie Sanders is, well, Bernie, a man of the people, a true believer, a good socialist.

It was 1974 when I taught American Politics at Hartford High School in White River Jct., Vermont, when Patrick Leahy first ran for the U.S. Senate.

My students and I counted the Senate ballots on election night. We guessed early on that Leahy had won, the first Democratic senator ever elected from Vermont, now the longest-serving U.S. senator.

Leahy is not a grandstander. He’s a true Vermonter. His word is sacrosanct.

All those years prior to the rise of Rudi Giuliani with his make-believe lawyer shenanigans, when contracts were often sealed by a handshake in New England towns,  Leahy learned integrity.

If he says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath, you can take it to the bank.

Susan Collins is mixed up. Staying in the Senate may be sacrosanct to her, but at what cost?

Mainers are tired of her concern, her reservations. Oh she voted against tearing down the Affordable Care Act, only when it became the safe maneuver within her party.

Sen. Collins: We’ve got the picture. You’re wobbling on the fence prior to the Kavanaugh vote.

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Susan Collins, you’re about to land on your ass. Save yourself. Rush next door to your Vermont neighbor’s office. Now.

 

 

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Go Vote…like your life depends on it!

Sitting at the Red Garter bar alone on a Friday night, a perky young blond woman sips on her watered-down drink.

I’m considering aloud which beer to order.

Would I like the light, citrusy Barrio Brewery beer on tap?

“Oh, that’s a good one,” she chimes in, which leads to more chatting.

“I don’t vote,” she tells me. “My husband knows all about that government stuff. I don’t.”

“It’s not a big deal,” I assure her. “You’re a nurse. You’ve got a brain.”

On education, she’s clearly frustrated by the size of her six-year-old son’s first-grade classroom. “Thirty-two kids in first grade is too much,” she repeats at least three times.

“See, you know how to vote. Who’s going to do something for education, for your son? Arizona ranks last in per-pupil spending behind Mississippi and Alabama,” I say.

“Really?” She seems distressed for her dishonored home state.

“Garcia, the Democratic candidate, is a former teacher,” I tell her.  “This governor hasn’t done a thing for education. In fact, he mysteriously disappears funds allotted for it.”

“Oh, he was a teacher,” she says, encouragingly.

Perhaps she’ll end up voting for the first time, a professional woman in her thirties. Imagining that her husband is on the other side, that she’s afraid to speak up in opposition, I feel sorry for her.

So this is what we’re up against: nonvoters. But The Pew Research Center reports that primary voting is up, especially for Democrats.

Here’s what we can do: chat more about the importance of the 2018 midterm elections – at bars, schools, dentist offices, or waiting in line  to check out at Trader Joe’s.

Will it be more effective than anonymously knocking on strangers’ doors, which I’ve done in the past? I don’t know. It’s worth a try. Let’s go surfing for a Giant Blue Tsunami on Nov. 6!   0901go vote

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Primary Work

Guessing each voter’s party affiliation is tiring.

My job as the Opposing Party Judge at the August 28 Arizona Primary allowed me to ask each voter to choose a party ballot.

She’s a Latina so she must be a Democrat, I thought, but at least five well-dressed Latina women veered to the other side.

How come? Teaching at Catalina Foothills High School I discovered that wealthier Latinos held tight to their dollars, and could be as greedy and heartless as some of their white counterparts.

I worked hard for my moneyed status, or my people gained citizenship ‘the right way’ [without trekking through the treacherous Sonoran Desert in scorching heat to reach the U.S. border].

The lovely woman sitting in her wheelchair to my right  — the Republican judge who signed voters in — was reading “The Chicken Soup Guide to the Christian Woman’s Soul.”

“My family was in the military. They were Democrats who referred to the other side as ‘communists,'” she told me. “They were mad when I transitioned to the Republican party a few years ago.”

I didn’t ask why she made such a stupid move as a disabled woman who couldn’t afford medical treatment. So determined was I to not discuss politics, a milestone for me.

Most older men clung to the Republican side.

As she requested a Republican ballot one middle-aged woman said, “I’m beginning to wonder why.” I kept quiet and stayed calm.

After the polls closed a Republican co-worker opined that the Electoral College should be eliminated.

“Well, we would have a different president if that were true,” I said, adding the Hillary Clinton would have won by three million popular votes.

“Oh, I didn’t know that, I only vote,” the lovely disabled woman said.

Of the 2,500 voters in our precinct who opted to vote in person, instead of by mail, three to one requested Democratic ballots, a good sign in hoping-to-flip Arizona.

My favorite sight of the day — regardless of party — occurred when a child accompanied a parent into the voting booth.

Our grandmotherly Republican election inspector stuck an “I voted” sticker on each “helper.”

I can only hope that each of those kids will be better informed voters when it’s their turn to step up.

 

 

 

 

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Walking Weather in Tucson

If it’s under 80 degrees by 8 a.m., I’m out the door. Friday is Sabino Canyon day. All the recent rain popped circles of orange blossoms atop barrel cacti. Ocotillo branches are leafing out again. The verdant Catalinas harbor happy creatures, I’m guessing; bighorn sheep, black bears, wild turkeys, and other vegans munch on tall grasses high above hikers.

It’s a gray, cool as fall day.

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“Hi Mr. Sabino Canyon,” I call out, as the African-American man runs up the canyon.

“Hi kiddo,” he responds, connecting briefly for a fist pump.

“How often do you come up here?” He’s there whenever I am, imagining pre-Tucsonan native people navigating their horses in the 9,000-plus feet Catalina Mountains.

“Oh, four to six times a week,” he smiles.  “Nice to see you!”

He greets every passerby. I don’t know his name. Next time perhaps I’ll ask.

“It must be fall,” I repeat to Dan. Walking weather will improve as 100-plus days subside.

I require destinations for my ambling. Saturday mornings take me to the Douglas Spring Trail at Speedway’s end. A post-walking visit to Farmer Joe’s Tanque Verde Farm sparks my weekend with tender purple eggplants, pungent arugula (a weed aka rocket plant), stunning pink beets, and a tiny snack bag of tiny tomatoes to explode in my mouth on my drive home.

Later in the day if it’s cool enough I’ll walk to a movie at the Loft or El Con.IMG_1810

Yesterday I saw “The Cakemaker” (really good but I’d like to discuss). “Three Identical Strangers” mysteriously unraveled as last week’s date night stroll.

Spike Lee’s “Black Klansman” is playing at El Con. Good reason for an early afternoon walk. I watched many young people streaming into the nearly full theatre. Perhaps they’ll learn some essential history about the Civil Rights Movement?

Walking governs my life like a benevolent dictator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There are places I remember…

Our July road trip started out right with us collaborating to become the Alpine, Arizona, trivia champions. For one night. I knew that Thomas Jefferson was an architect. Dan’s  logic brought the win home. A free dinner was ours.

Following two days in the cool Alpine mountain air, staying at the wonderful Alpine Inn, we headed out. (I loved that co-owner Burke and I agreed that this country’s problems probably stem from Americans chowing down too much junk food. His breakfasts were scrumptious!)

Driving from Arizona into northwest New Mexico, the landscape of another planet looms in the desert. Hailing from New England, the views still dazzle, even after living here for sixteen years.

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Driving out west lands travelers on Mars. Take Moab, Utah, with its red rock extravagance. Driving out west anchors travelers in a deep ocean of history.

Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly wowed us thirty years ago with an Indian in the Cupboard moment, glimpsing tiny human beings and trucks from its rim. It still wows.

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This was to be my Colorado trip: Pagosa Springs, Salida, Fort Collins, and Steamboat Springs, where hot springs beckoned. The most gorgeous drive I’ve ever experienced — along with the highest mountains at 12,000 feet — transported us to the Continental Divide on the way to Breckinridge, a too chic resort town we’ll avoid next time (there will be a next time for Ouray and other stops along Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway).

My least favorite day was driving across South Dakota, although some more little-known sights than Mount Rushmore or the Black Hills may be worth seeing.

Who doesn’t want a generous, kind heart like the Tin Man at the Land of OZ park in Aberdeen?

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A Lakota woman’s call to Dignity touched my heart at a rest stop in Chamberlain.

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The weirdest stop of all was in Alliance, Nebraska: Carhenge is a replica of England’s Stonehenge, uh, built with cars!

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But the best stop? Seeing my darling grandson, 18-month-old Foss, and my dear son and daughter-in-law at their home in Minneapolis.

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And, driving back to Tucson after two and a half weeks of incredible in-car collaboration, bumping along Indian Route 15, road signs remind us: “Drive in Beauty.”

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Are Congressional Republicans akin to potted plants? How about Wyoming Republicans?

Here we are in Casper, Wyoming, the state most supportive of Trump. Sipping on a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, eating dill salmon salad sitting in a half avocado, I survey the scene at J’s Pub and Grille.

Nice people all. “I was in the church near Glasgow this week [in eastern Montana],” one man says. I’ve been there — not the church — but campaigning for my favorite presidential candidate, George McGovern in 1972. Perhaps the young men at his table were theology students, hoping to do good in the world.

How could they be, I wonder, if they support current Republican extremism, its faith in liberty above all else? That is, liberty only for themselves to make as much money as possible. Empathy for others? Nah.

Republicans, Don’t Just Tweet About It. Do Something, by Charles J. Sykes, author of “How the Right Lost Its Mind.”

Here’s a link to the piece in the NYTimes, July 22, 2018:

“Republicans in Congress need to realize that they’re not merely constitutional potted plants.”

Ordinary people are most often sunflowers, smiling and sturdy.

How I would love to play journalist in these tiny Great Plains/Mountain towns we’ve been driving through!

“Why, please tell me why, you’re a Republican?” I’d ask. “You’re polite. You smile at me with my weird purple hair.”

Casper citizens have a sense of humor. They love their dogs and their kids. IMG_1741

Casper’s seven strange “wonders of  the world” :

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What was this tall white tower? If you stand underneath it and look up and spin around, you supposedly feel like you’re in an egg beater, which wasn’t to our liking (that’s Dan walking away).

I look forward to reading Our Towns by Jim and Deborah Fallows. 

Their experiences, and mine on this July’s road trip is that friendliness and decency prevail if you don’t discuss politics.

I’m itching to do so. But I remain quiet (who me?).

This morning we ate breakfast at Patty’s Place in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. The owner wore a tie dye t-shirt, played Sixties rock ‘n’ roll. He collected bottles of hot sauce, with labels from Jamaica to California. He also made his own. Perhaps it was like growing his own weed.

An old hippie, I thought. I didn’t ask.

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I believe there is good in the world. But why are there Republicans?

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Registering people to vote

Yesterday was a long, tiring day at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.  Watching lines of young swimmers smiling by our table, severely disabled kids in wheelchairs, and exercisers of all ages, my book club pals and I registered only three voters.

Reporting from the JCC microcosm of prospective voters was eye-opening.

Results of our little study:

— At least seven or eight people said they couldn’t speak English or weren’t able to vote.

One young women gleefully told us, “I’m a resident. I’ll be voting as soon as I’m a citizen!”

An older Anglo woman simply said, “I can’t” (perhaps she’s a convicted felon, but I make up stories).

— Another young woman asked, “For what?” I responded, “For everything.”

— The great majority of people said, “I’m registered.” There were two or three men who ignored us. Many passers-by stopped to share a desire to vote as soon as possible, or their unhappiness with the ongoing demise of the United States as we know it [my take].

“I wish I could register more,” lamented one fellow baby boomer with wild gray hair , wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt.

Ahh…the Sixties. “They say you want a revolution…” I believed it was happening.

Never in my scariest post-sixties nightmares did I imagine such federal degradation. Nixon’s fear-mongering racism (he was bad enough), Carter’s unpopular truth-telling, Wild Bill’s striving toward the law and order center.

Reagan spiraled the country into a divisive veneration of the rich, while instituting “benign neglect” of everyone else. Unequal protection of the laws, a travesty of the 14th Amendment.

For the full background of the mess we’re now in: Read Democracy in Chains . The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean, a Duke history professor. Perhaps I’ve mentioned it before. It’s worth a reminder.

I feel so bad for my kids, my grandson, whose U.S. is being forever, detrimentally, changed. I feel bad for Ruth Bader Ginsberg, looking at her sullen face when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor read her appropriately angry dissent regarding the outrageous Muslim travel ban.

I can only do what I can do. So…we registered three voters yesterday. What’s next?

Like RBG, I refuse to give up.

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