From Snow to “No to LB289”

Things I learned when my blog went locally “viral:”

1. ) On television, when exhausted, I appear as a chubby gollum.

2.) People on Reddit don’t have much concern for “nuance.” Also, they like bad words. Like, a lot.

3.) If a point can be twisted and misconstrued, it will be the first comment you receive. Also, when you run your own blog, you get to be a dick to those commenters and not feel bad about it in any way.

I wanna thank all of you who are reading the site now and tie up the “snow story” before moving into something much, much more important.

The big take-home of the snow removal fiasco is Mayor Stothert’s blatant disregard for you. Yes, you. I heard from no less than a dozen people who were banned from her various social media outlets for voicing polite concern about the snow. Her official statement was that snow removal went according to plan. She then attacked a police officer trying to keep people safe as some sort of scapegoat. That is a trifecta of shit leadership.

Dear Mayor, let me show you how to appropriately respond: “The snow removal was beneath the standards we should have for a city the size and quality of Omaha. We’re looking into what can be done in the future to make sure our citizens are safe and commute isn’t interrupted as it was this week.” Instead, she said that y’all are rude racists on social media (which doesn’t make sense, as I’m fairly certain no one called Mean Jean the N-word), the roads were fine “you’re just big babies,” and the police are bad at their jobs. Well done, Fearless Leader!

Now, on to a matter of far more consequence. Tomorrow or Monday, the Unicameral is going to have a chance to vote on LB289. Technically, it’s a “firearm super preemption law.” But that sounds too stiff and rigid, so let’s call it what it is: Rabid gun lobby bait designed to continue the unprecedented influence the NRA has over our safety. 

Introduced by Senator Laura “Bang, Pew Pew, Kaboom!” Ebke, the bill would basically prevent local communities from deciding what firearm safety should look like in their area. You read that right, this is legislation designed to PREVENT legislation created by local communities. It would make it so that (A) communities couldn’t pass firearm restrictions; (B) it would be easier for people to carry guns without proper training, without oversight, and without a check of clean criminal records; (C) would remove current gun ordinances and prevent cities and counties from enacting new ones; and (D), my personal favorite, would allow any person or organization to SUE a county or city that passes a gun ordinance. And we all know, the NRA leadership is made up of human suers.

You like guns? Cool. I mean, not cool, but let’s set that aside for now. Because this isn’t about your right to bear arms. Let me say that again clearly: THIS IS NOT ABOUT LEGISLATION THAT WILL IN ANY WAY BENEFIT OR HELP RESPONSIBLE GUN OWNERS. Unless you’ve been itching to do some SUPREMELY STUPID AND IRRESPONSIBLE SHIT WITH YOUR MURDER TOOL, it’s only going to make life more dangerous for no good reason. It would allow people without training or permits to open carry. It would invalidate the Omaha city ordinance that says YOUR RIFLE CAN’T BE LOADED WHEN YOU TRANSPORT IT. Personally, I’m a big fan of knowing for a fact that the guy on the bus is at least transporting an unloaded death machine. Oh, and it would allow guns in parks. Like, where kids are. And it would eliminate Omaha’s ban on giving guns to kids in your family. “Congratulations on preschool graduation, Timmy, here’s your glock.”

It’s bad. It’s a bad, bad, bad law. And it’s supremely evil at its core. To deny the ability of local communities to determine what gun safety looks like to them is a fundamental denial of regional democracy.  To put it another way, when it comes to how local ordinances and laws are passed:

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My friend, Amanda, has led a HELL of a charge against this bill. She really doesn’t like it when kids get killed by guns, she’s a kook like that. Her group, Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, has helped turn the tide against this bill, at least a bit. That story again: One educator and mother started a movement to fight against the power of the NRA, the single most powerful lobby in America, and the group responsible for the deaths of more Americans than every terrorist act in history combined. 

Here’s what I need you to do, new readers: Call somebody or email somebody. Go here and find your Senator. Or, hell, feel free to contact ALL the following people:

  • Campbell, Kathy Lincoln kcampbell@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2731
  • Crawford, Sue scrawford@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2615
  • Davis, Al Northwest NE adavis@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2628
  • Kolowski, Rick rkolowski@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2327
  • Murante, John jmurante@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2725
  • Schumacher, Paul pschumacher@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2715
  • Hilkemann, Robert Omaha rhilkemann@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2621
  • Speaker Hadley, Galen ghadley@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2726
  • Baker, Roy Lincoln rbaker@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2620
  • Friesen, Curt Henderson cfriesen@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2630
  • Groene, Mike mgroene@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2729
  • Kolterman, Mark mkolterman@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2756
  • Krist, Bob Omaha bkrist@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2718
  • Kuehn, John jkuehn@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2732
  • Larson, Tyson tlarson@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2801
  • McCoy, Beau Omaha bmccoy@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2885
  • Mello, Heath Omaha hmello@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2710
  • Riepe, Merv Omaha mriepe@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2623
  • Scheer, Jim Norfolk, Madison and part of Stanton Counties jscheer@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2929
  • Seiler, Les lseiler@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2712
  • Stinner, John Scottsbluff area jstinner@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2802
  • Watermeier, Dan Otoe, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardson, Nebraska City dwatermeier@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2733
  • Williams, Matt mwilliams@leg.ne.gov (402) 471-2642

Tell them Ryan sent ya!!! *Wink! Wink! Finger pistols in the air!!!* Actually, don’t do that. I’m quite certain many do not like me very much…

Whether or not you believe in expanded gun ownership, I’d like to believe that most rational Nebraskans draw the line at a lobby-fueled bill telling local governments what they can and can’t legislate.

To tie this all together: Without revealing any personal information, Amanda shared a story with some folks about a young boy who was the victim of gun violence. It hit her hard. That, in turn, hit me hard. See, because she’s been on the frontline fighting this so much, that if something rattles her, it has to be simply heartbreaking. I don’t know the boy she’s talking about. But I know that irresponsible legislation like this will ensure that there are more little kids just like him.

So pick up the phone, send an email, or, hell, skywrite “Fuck LB289” if you want to, I don’t care. Just let our elected officials know that Nebraskans won’t be the puppets of a special interest group who could care less about our actual best interest.

Sorry this post had very little to do with snow removal. If you promise to make some noise about this bill, you’re allowed to enjoy the clip below.

 

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The Day They Shut Down Dodge

They shut down Dodge Street today over $20. Sorta. Let me explain…

A while ago, the mayor of Omaha, rightfully called an “ideologue” by a friend of mine and appropriately called “Mean Jean” by those who have suffered through civic interactions with her, wanted to cut property taxes. Not in a meaningful or important way. Not in response to some inappropriately levied assessments or because the populace was eyeing locally brewed craft beer like Bostonian tea during British rule. She wanted to do so because she wanted to say she did it. If your home is valued at $200,000, you saved $20. Huzzah! She did it! Whee! “Awesome! Wow!”

But, see, a funny thing happens when you are a draconian penny pincher who is more concerned with appearances than the actual services your local government provides. You cut corners. You worry more about bottom lines than about your citizens. For the third time this winter, snowplows were not out in advance of a storm we knew was coming. Every local weatherperson promised heaven’s cocaine would be powdering our streets in the morning, to the tune of inches. Not a dusting, but measurable snowfall. As of the afternoon, Dodge hadn’t been cleared. Nor had it been treated ahead of time. The result? A parking lot formed on the city’s main traffic vein, and the police shut it down.

Some people found this to be an irritation. Commutes that should take 15 minutes on a good day were stretching over an hour. That’s not great. But, you see, when you play with motor vehicles (which, until recently, killed more Americans than anything), people get hurt. The Mayor decided to gamble with your lives today. That’s not an overstatement. Not too long ago, a caravan I was traveling with was involved in an accident caused by less snow than we got today. A man died in that accident. This isn’t hyperbole here. Traffic accidents caused by bad weather can be deadly. So when Jean Stothert decides to hope that the snow isn’t that bad and that the totals stay on the small side of estimates, she is gambling that the weather won’t kill anyone. That is inarguable.

This isn’t funny. This isn’t about inconvenience, although let’s talk about that for a minute. For those less fortunate in Omaha, those living paycheck to paycheck with jobs on hourly wages, missing work matters. Being late matters. Getting into a minor car accident that costs you money in repairs matters. One of the essential functions of the Omaha government is to ensure the safety of its citizens and to facilitate commerce and employment through its infrastructure. Today, for the third time this winter, Jean Stothert said “Let’s roll the dice.”

And she’s on quite the roll too, isn’t she? This embarrassment is hot on the heels of a year in which this city had 50 homicides. That’s staggering. I mean, I only know this because the Omaha World Herald reported it. Because, and this is rather unusual and quite a coincidence, the Omaha Police Department website sorta kinda just stopped putting stats up

I mean, how uncharacteristic of a person whose first act as Mayor was to institute a gag order. Why would her administration possibly oversee the police department’s sudden and inexplicable failure to make crime data readily available to the public as it was before. Every other year is broken down month by month, but for some reason, last summer (right when the homicide rate was spiking in August), it just stopped. It’s January. I’d love to hear why the last 5 months of crime stats aren’t there. Oops, I guess?

I ask you this: What is this person going to run for reelection on? The pensions are still a mess. She’s spending $10 million to tear down a historic building but won’t spring for snowplows when the city needs it. She presided over a horrific homicide rate. What in God’s name is she going to point to when it comes time for her to make her case for reelection?!

Oh. Right. She “cut property taxes.” Enjoy your $20 West Omaha residents.

State of Embarrassment

Today, repugnant half-formed tadpole and execution-obsessed nitwit Governor Pete Ricketts announced he wouldn’t be attending a speech in Omaha given by the President of these United States. Largely met with sighs from liberals and “huzzahs” from conservatives, the news fit inside a narrative we have grown all too comfortable with: The GOP treating the office of the President as irrelevant so long as a black man is sitting inside the oval office. Now, you can pretend that this is just regular old “partisan politics.” But the only way to show that behavior towards President Obama by Republicans is radically different than past behaviors would be to, I don’t know, show that the last time a white Democratic sitting president was in Nebraska during a Republican Governor’s term they met cordially.

Johanns Clinton

Huh, well shit…

This week, I have watched as so-called patriots from the conservative side stormed the Facebook page of the University of Nebraska Omaha, littering comments on the announcement of the President’s arrival with hateful, ignorant rhetoric. As if college students meeting the President of the United States isn’t a singular, amazing opportunity. That’s vile and irritating. But (hopefully) those chuckleheads don’t hold elected office. For the same reason that I get to call Pete Ricketts a potato-headed simpleton who owes everything in life to his sperm of origin, Joe and Jane Average Citizen have the green light to barf moronic crap on the Internet. But when the highest ranking official in this state spurns the President, essentially saying he would love to come but he’s got “tons of homework,” it is a black mark on our state.

Years ago, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks went on stage and said she was embarrassed that she was from Texas, home of then President George W Bush. This was after he started a war that killed untold thousands for what it turns out was no good reason whatsoever. She got death threats. The band, whose most popular single at that point was in praise of troops, saw a backlash so significant, it filled a whole (fascinating) documentary. Today, the Governor of Nebraska spurned the President of the United States, and everyone is acting like we should have just expected it.

The overwhelming majority of Americans think the country’s politicians are out of control. Maybe it’s time we got mad, not just about the big things, but about the little ones that signal an unwillingness to serve with the dignity we used to demand of our elected officials. And maybe it’s time we don’t just keep that anger to Tweets and Facebook posts. Here’s a page with the Governor’s contact information. Let him know what you think of this choice. I expressed my displeasure but also volunteered to copyedit his State of the State speech he’s allegedly working on to free up time for him to go. I said he could send it to me via email, but I’m pretty sure it’s written in crayon. So…

 

Deja Voodoo

This wasn’t supposed to be my return to this blog. I was going to warm it up a bit as the election got closer, but the events in Paris and the reaction of the GOP means I can’t wait. Not another minute.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys, girls, and everyone in between or other, I want to tell you a story. It’s a true story. It’s a sad story. It’s a horror story, and we’re the monster.

You see, back in aught-one, after a few monster-people killed Americans (note, that would be Americans of EVERY religious preference), our then President couldn’t rub his two remaining brain cells together with enough force to generate a spark big enough to shed light on the dark lies of a bad man whose heart no longer worked. So we went to war. We went to war with a country who had, and this is vital to remember, never done a single thing to us in the history of ever. We didn’t care. Dick Cheney doffed his cowboy hat and rained hellfire trademarked Halliburton on Iraq. Just because. Because war. Because money. Because fuck you.

We killed bad guys. And we also killed children. We killed shop owners trying to make ends meet, babies, and teenagers in love. And then, when we found there were no weapons of mass destruction, we shrugged our shoulders and left. Now, if another country starts a war for no reason, kills thousands of people, and tells the world to slag off, we call them war criminals. Here in America, we just call them Republicans.

The problem is we made a lot of people in Iraq very mad. So mad, that even some previously not-so-bad people decided to become bad people. I mean, what’s the point, right? If I’m herding goats, minding my own business, and can still get bombed because a bald fuck in America wants a higher return on his investment in murder equipment, why not become a bad guy? Right? So some guys who were bad for a long time and some new bad guys ran from the watchful eye of America in Iraq. They ran into Syria. So now Syrian shopkeepers, new mothers, and teenagers in love are dying at the hands of bad men we sent their way.

So the Syrians run. They flee their home. It doesn’t matter that place is all they’ve ever known, that their families are all grounded there. This is life or death. To stay is to know at any minute everyone you love could just be bomb-blinked out of existence. They beg for help. They say “please.” They say “if we stay here we will die.” And Germany says “we will find you a home.” And Iceland says “Our government isn’t doing enough, stay in with us in our houses.” And America says “Fuck you, you may be a dirty terrorist.”

These people are running from the evil that we created and pointed at them. ISIS may as well carry a “Created by the 43rd President of the United States” label. We are Victor Frankenstein, and the monstrous conglomeration we built is slaughtering innocent people. And we not only look away, half our political system wants to pass laws that will ensure we NEVER help the people suffering solely because of us. And these shallow, sad, ignorant bigots who want to pass these laws have the audacity to call themselves Christians. As though they don’t worship a religion that has at its core the story of a family from the Middle East looking for shelter who were turned away by those they sought help from. No one who would deny safety to innocent men, women, and children can call themselves a Christian and mean it.

We know this story. We know this song by heart. We sing it every election cycle, as the GOP whips its base into as hateful a place as possible. “Fear,” they chant. “Fear everyone who doesn’t look like you,” they say. It is as tired, ugly, and awful as it is depressingly effective. At a time when we of all nations should be offering compassion, we are once again showing hate. At a time when victims of the attacks in Paris could see mirror images in Syrian faces, we have presidential candidates talking about shutting down mosques.

Don’t you tell me “both parties” are to blame. Don’t you tell me “I can’t tell the difference” between Democrats and Republicans. I won’t pretend for a second that we have a perfect record. Hell, we may not even be batting .300, but if I am given only two choices, I will choose the side that seeks compassion before the side that seeks war. I will choose the side that treats all human life with dignity and not just those who fall in their same demographic. I will pick the side that acts like Christians and not the side that calls themselves by that name louder but does the opposite.

Stubbornness

This is my dad’s first post. He wanted to reach others after he began his recovery. Lots of men who are aging into the retirement age were raised under societal suggestions that seeking medical care made one “weak.” As dad says, they were trained to “play through pain.” I urge you to share this with someone who needs to hear it. Men of dad’s age often distrust doctors and general advice but will listen to their peers. Here’s hoping someone who needs to hear this advice hears it in time!

Roy in Recovery

We don’t ask for directions. We don’t read instructions. We rarely ask for advice. If something breaks, we immediately feel we can fix it by just taking it apart. We yell at the TV during sports events, knowing that no one can hear it. And we feel playing through pain is admirable. We are stubborn because we are guys. You can count me amongst this list.

Since the age of 7 years I had not been in a hospital for any reason, and for the 60+ years that followed, the feeling was that nothing serious would happen and I would die of old age of natural causes. Since nothing had happened, there was no reason to think it would. That was until July 25, 2015.

The shortness of breath, the fatigue, were merely signs of getting old. Since there was no history, there was no concern. I could not be…

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If Pete Ricketts Wants to Be a National Joke, Let’s Help Him!

Hi Friends!

It’s been awhile, but I’m going to try to do these more frequently leading up to next year’s major elections.

You may be wondering “what stirred you from your blogging slumber?” Glad you asked, Imaginary Reader! The actions of our Governor, who appears to read at a 3rd grade level and looks like a freshly opened, unmolested egg of Silly Putty! Now, I knew Pete Ricketts would be a terrible, terrible Governor. I didn’t have any idea he would be this bad, this fast. Seemingly determined to destroy any possibility that Nebraska may be taken seriously on a national level, Ricketts has had a cartoonishly bad first year. I could point to his rather suspect choice to add an Economic Developer to his cabinet who just so happens to be embroiled in a terrible scandal. Better still, I could talk about his veto against allowing driver’s licenses to immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children (Nebraska was THE LAST state to make this legal, by the by). I could talk about how that veto of a bipartisan-passed bill was overridden by a bipartisan majority, delivering one hell of a black eye to a man whose face seems to beg for such injuries.

Instead, I want to talk about Pete Rickett’s unyielding desire to kill.

He wants to kill people so bad, he’s bought illegal foreign drugs.

He wants to kill people so bad, he vetoed the state’s ban on the death penalty.

He wants to kill people so bad, he says he’ll carry out the death penalty even after his veto was overridden, meaning the death penalty is illegal.

Those links I included above aren’t to the Omaha World Herald or local news. That’s Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, and Salon. And here’s John Oliver’s take:

The Chief Executive of our state is making an ass of himself and he’s taking us with him. As recently as yesterday, he showed he is unwilling to give an inch, continuing to assert he is going to buy illegal drugs he cannot use to carry out executions that cannot take place. I tried very hard to figure out his motivation. That thinking turned into this sketch I wrote that was filmed by my friend Cameron Logsdon, whose YouTube page is a hilarious way to spend an afternoon, and stars another friend, Aaron Fullman.

Seriously, that has to be what he’s thinking right?

Setting aside the snark and jokes, here are two quick points:

1 – Ricketts is displaying the most dangerous behavior an elected official can display. He is ignoring bipartisan legislation, legislation that is so rare in America these days it’s practically a unicorn…actually a talking unicorn because it’s more rare than an average unicorn. More than that, he’s demonstrating to the people of Nebraska that he is unwilling to listen to their will, both by choosing to ignore our elected officials and by ignoring overwhelming public sentiment on several issues.

2 – The death penalty is disgusting and wrong. Always. No exception. It is not justice. It is vengeance. It is the taking of a life to demonstrate how wrong it is to take a life. It is giving in to the lowest desires a human can have: To kill for revenge. It’s not about protecting potential innocents on death row (though that should be a concern, especially given what we now know about DNA). It is not about how ineffective this punishment is as a deterrent (though it is 100% proven to not have any impact on future homicides or crimes). It is about refusing to participate in ending another human’s life for any reason. I listened to the impassioned debate as Nebraska’s legislators banned the death penalty. Christian after Christian quoted the bible, barfing up Old Testament language that seems to advocate murder. While it’s stunning to me that our GOVERNMENT made arguments for a GOVERNMENT POLICY almost exclusively from a religious text, it was more stunning that nobody addressed how to reconcile the death penalty with the commandment “thou shalt not kill” (which does not feature an asterisk, I checked). I understand the killing rage. I do. I think of what Dylann Roof did in that Charleston church, and my blood grows as hot as anyone’s. But we do not kill. It’s the thing that makes us different than Roof and others like him. Our state government now agrees that doing so is wrong. If only our governor did…

So here’s what I ask of you: Share this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9byIGxmsf-Y). Shame this man. If he won’t stop humiliating us as Nebraskans, it is up to us to humiliate him. Let’s push this thing viral and show him that we are more than willing to let him be a joke, but we’re not going to let him take us with him.

#LetMatthewTeach

UPDATE: I have included a bit at the bottom in the wake of a new interview Matt did with Buzzfeed.

I don’t have kids. I know that seems like a weird place to start this, but it’s important you know that.

For the last 9 years, my wife and I have coached the University of Nebraska at Omaha speech team. Actually, we just got back from the national tournament, where we broke back into the top 5 and won another individual national championship despite being smaller than literally every other team around us. We should be celebrating right now. We should be so happy about our kids who worked impossibly hard for a full year and achieved success beyond their wildest dreams. But we can’t. Because one of our family is hurting.

Like I said, I don’t have kids. Also, I have about 2 dozen kids.

Every member who has passed through our speech team, no matter how long they were there, is family to me. I would protect them, defend them, fight for them against any challenge without a moment’s hesitation. All of them. Even ones I haven’t spoken to in years. Hell, just think of Dom from The Fast and the Furious series: “I don’t have friends. I have family.” I feel you, Toretto. I wish you were here to jump-punch some fools for me.

I’ve known Matt Eledge since he looked like this:

Matt

From the first day I met him, I knew Matt to be one of the most loving people on this earth. I watched him grow from an awkward 19 year old into a man I deeply admire. On our team, he frequently spoke about injustice to the LGBTQ community. His senior year, he got second in the nation with a dramatic interpretation about the systemic intolerance of gay men in Jamaica. He was an eloquent advocate and a passionate performer. He made me proud. Not because of his competitive success, but because he chose to use his voice on behalf of others.

When he graduated, Matt became a speech coach. I don’t really know how to explain what that feels like for us. I guess it’s something like when a child goes into the family business because they truly want to or an athlete’s child displays a talent for the same position? All I know is that he was our first graduate to accept a full-time position coaching speech.

And he was good. Oh man was he good. Almost immediately, Skutt began climbing in the rankings. ln no time at all, he was racking up State Championships like it was nothing. The count stands at 4 consecutive now. Again, I’m kind of stuck with how to explain what this feels like, to watch someone you helped learn a skill use that skill to such unbelievable success. But that’s not what moved me most. We’ve been lucky enough to have some of Matt’s high school graduates come on to our team. If I was able to come up with an analogy for those other feelings, I’m totally at a loss here for what that feels like. He basically taught them for years and sent them to us so we could teach them. We’ve, I don’t know, kind of quasi-co-parented kids together? Not accurate as a metaphor, but I hope you get it in general.

Skutt is going to fire Matt because he’s gay.

Now, they are going to argue (and have argued) that they’re not actually firing him but “not renewing his contract.” Whatever. A teacher who is beloved by his students and their parents who has won 4 consecutive state titles as a coach won’t be back teaching there next year. That’s being fired, even if you want to massage the language into oblivion. You can call a duck a squirrel, but if that thing quacks, we know what it is.

Honestly, my first thought wasn’t sadness for Matt. It was for his kids. Good Lord, the trauma that those students must be feeling. To have a mentor, leader, and champion taken from them during such a formative time? It’s downright evil. They are in so much pain right now, I can’t possibly explain it. The Archdiocese of Omaha and Skutt Catholic have chosen to break from Matt because he was honest with them. Let that sink in. When he decided to tell the administration that he was planning to marry his long-term partner, they turned against him, citing the Catholic dogma.

As they explained, had Matt stayed silent (don’t ask, don’t tell if you will), it would have been okay. Lying and denying who you are would be acceptable to the church, but not admitting that you were born different. The Church swears this isn’t because Matt is GAY, but that ANY breech of Catholic dogma would be grounds for termination. The Chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese then said one of the most disgusting combinations of words I’ve ever heard any human say.

There have been single, pregnant teachers and those who’ve divorced and remarried outside the Catholic church who have lost their jobs.

Their defense…their BEST defense…is “no really, we fire single moms too.”

I’d have taken Matt’s side and helped him no matter what. But this? This goes beyond Matt. This speaks to a fundamental, powerful problem systemic in all of organized religion right now. Their outdated, archaic, and downright evil way of thinking must change. And if they won’t do so because they see what is right, they must be forced to do so by those who see this intolerance for what it is.

Matt tells me that his peers at Skutt are largely supportive. I’ve seen the news stories with parents and admired his kids. As a speech coach, the single greatest accomplishment you can have is knowing that you’ve taught students to find and use their voice for the greater good. Matt’s students organized a petition that has become a movement. 50,000 signatures on one post for a teacher in the middle of the country at a small Catholic school. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic: Matt is such a good educator and coach that his students were able to mount a national campaign against an injustice. That’s as good as it gets as a speech coach, y’all. And Matt did it by the age of 28.

Okay, so here’s the point where you come in. I am aware that Skutt has the “legal right” to not renew Matt’s contract. That’s not the debate here. Even if the current legislation in front of the unicameral of Nebraska passes, Skutt would be exempt on religious basis. There’s a huge discussion we need to have on why those groups get huge tax breaks from the state and then get to ignore state laws, but let’s table that for now. Skutt can, and likely will, fail to bring back Matt, their most successful speech coach ever. We just don’t have to let them off easy for it.

There is a difference between a legal right and a moral one. You can legally call a newborn baby the N-word. You are the worst human ever if you do. Whether or not Skutt CAN let Matt go is wholly irrelevant to whether they SHOULD. And they shouldn’t. So now is where we go to work.

Skutt and the Archdiocese of Omaha are trying to wait this controversy out. We can’t let them. We must continue to put pressure on them. We must continue to cripple their fundraising efforts, give them the worst PR imaginable, and try to show them the error of their ways. This isn’t just for Matt, who I love. This isn’t just for his students, who are hurting. This is for every LGBTQ kid at that school walking the halls thinking “if they can come for a person like Matt, what chance do I have.”

The Church’s position is that they are “not renewing Matt’s contract” because he is openly violating Catholic doctrine. Using that line of thinking, they would have to fire EVERYONE who violates ANY Catholic dogma. Remember, they are not saying that they consider being gay “worse” than other infractions, but that ANY infraction merits the termination of a contract based on that violation. I don’t want to smear good people’s names, as Matt works with wonderful teachers and educators. That said, I do want you to document as peacefully and sensitively as possible, the scores of infractions that the administrators of Skutt and faculty there commit daily with no repercussions.

I’ll go first.

This is Skutt President John McMahon.

11150510_10152847075485945_8789487108688835460_n

He said the following:

If a staff member cannot commit to Catholic church teachings and doctrines, he or she cannot continue to be on staff at Skutt Catholic.

Remember, he didn’t say “it’s okay to ignore some teachings and doctrines, not others.” He said if you can’t commit to them, you’re gone.

I would like to officially call for the resignation of John McMahon, president of Skutt Catholic.

  • Deuteronomy 22:11 states that he cannot wear linen and wool at the same time, as he is in the above photograph.
  • Leviticus 19:27 reads “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.” His goatee is in clear violation.
  • He has instructed employees to work on the Sabbath, violating one of the 10 Commandments.

That is just the beginning. I am willing to continue to show ways in which President McMahon has violated Catholic doctrine as long as it takes. If Matt ISN’T being fired specifically because he is gay, but because he violated his contract by not upholding the teachings of the church, McMahon must resign.

Matt is an amazing educator, a loving person, and one of the bravest people I know for going through this like he is with as much decency and dignity as he is displaying. I know if it were me, I’d have unleashed a torrent of obscenities against all parties trying to ruin my life. Instead, Matt has done what he’s always done: Put his students first.

I beg you to join me in fighting for Matt. Sign the petition if you haven’t. Write letters to the editors of the Omaha World Herald. Call Skutt. Call the Archdiocese. Call parents. Take to social media and use the hashtag #LetMatthewTeach. Spread knowledge of the church’s hypocrisy by allowing McMahon and others to defy Catholic dogma while holding Matt to a different standard.

Later this week, we’ll be organizing some physical protests. On Monday, Matt’s former students are taking printed copies of the signatures on the petition to the Archdiocese. Those signatures when printed weigh more than 20 pounds. Spread the word. Hold them accountable. Support the protesters. Protest yourself.

And if nothing else, tell Matt you’re proud of him. It does matter when he hears it. The last few times I’ve spoken to him, he’s stressed that the support from others is what is helping him get through this.

I don’t have kids. And yet, I have a lot of kids. Matt is one of them. Help me. Help me fight for him. Help me tell the people who won’t let him continue to inspire and lead young people that we won’t stand for this.

UPDATE: In a Buzzfeed article that just went live, Matt publicly spoke about an element of this he had previously kept private. Out of respect, I hadn’t included it here or elsewhere. Here’s the relevant passage:

Eledge said in practice he operated on a so-called “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He never spoke openly spoke about his sexuality at work, even after he began dating his partner, Elliot, a few years ago.

But in 2014, Elliot’s mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Eledge said that although he and Elliot had talked about marriage before, they decided to go ahead with it so that she could be at the ceremony.

Over the last week, I have heard countless folks ask why he, more or less, didn’t keep his mouth shut. I have watched on this very post as comments have been made about Matt’s choice to go public. Matt and Eliot have been together for years. They love each other very much. And Eliot’s mom is dying. For a minute, if you can, I need you to set aside legal arguments and concerns. I need you to just be a human being for a second. Matt was forced to choose between doing right by someone he loves and risking the loss of a career he’s worked so hard on. He chose love.

I don’t consider myself a biblical scholar. But I know a little bit. And I know that there is a phrase often uttered by Christians: “God is love.” Should this man lose his job because of this? Is this right? Not legal, but right? If I didn’t know Matt, I’d be merely upset at the injustice. But I love Matt, and I’ve seen the love his kids have for him. So I’m not upset, I’m heartbroken.

The fight isn’t over. That Buzzfeed article hit today. Raise your voice. Spread the word. Protests will be happening soon. The Archdiocese and Skutt are waiting us out. We’re not stopping.

Context Matters or “Calm Your Racist Asses Down”: In Defense of Ernie Chambers

Last year, Omaha was called “The most dangerous place in America to be black.

North Omaha has the highest child poverty level of any US black metropolitan area.

312 people have been killed so far by the police in 2015, most of them people of color. Only 9 police officers have been killed in the line of duty.

And y’all motherfuckers wanna talk about Ernie Chambers comparing the police to ISIS. A thing he actually, kinda sorta didn’t actually do.

Conservatives are like superheroes of fake outrage. From “The War on Christmas” to “reverse racism,” if pearl clutching and faux insult was a professional sport, Republicans would be its Michael Jordan. Conservatives in Omaha HATE Ernie Chambers. They hate that he gives absolutely zero fucks about playing the game. They hate that he doesn’t cave to their pressure and dares to dress, act, and talk however he authentically feels. He’s their worst nightmare: A politician who cares more about actually doing the work of governing to help his constituents than power or fame. He is everything a representative should be, so he’s their nemesis. Of course they will use any possible thing they can to rid themselves of a legislator who dares speak the truth.

Guess what: Ernie’s statement about the cops is absolutely, 100% spot on. That’s mostly because he didn’t say what people are saying he said. Let’s not even look at the whole transcript quite yet. Let’s look at the pullquote everyone is running with:

“My ISIS is the police.” 

Oh, so he didn’t compare ISIS to the police. What’s the big deal? Again, let me repeat: HE DID NOT COMPARE THE POLICE TO ISIS. Not in any way shape and or form. What he said was “MY ISIS is the police.” Not “the police is like ISIS,” which would have been a direct comparison. “My ISIS” is not the same as saying “ISIS.” Last I checked, Ernie actually doesn’t have his own army of soldiers united under his banner, which is the only other way of reading his statement about “My ISIS.”

I wonder what he meant then. If it’s not a literal comparison, then what was he saying? If only there were some way of understanding it. Like, I don’t know, if he went on to explain exactly what he meant in no uncertain or confusing terms. Oh, right, that’s exactly what he fucking did.

My ISIS is the police. And you know what the county attorney said, Don Kleine: If the officer makes a mistake, if he’s wrong but he had reason to think that he was right, then he’s clear. I cannot get away with that and shoot you and say, well, I thought he was going to do something. They say, uh-uh, buddy, that doesn’t work. Well, now we presume that these officers are trained. To show how little their training means and how they hide behind it, some guy out east was fired because he was dealing with a guy who had a mental problem and wound up…he was on duty, shot the guy 14 times, and he was fired. Now he’s trying to get his job back. And you know what the lawyer is arguing? And he’s justified in view of the not finding any fault in what these cops are doing. He said, yes, he shot the man 14 times, but it was within his training. So now, if the police are trained to shoot somebody in the back, then the cop who shoots in the back says, it was pursuant to my training, and he’s home free. That’s what’s happening. I would tell young people: If you tell somebody to go across the world to fight for ISIS, they can put you in jail if you just talk about it. If you want to fight injustice, don’t…you don’t have to go around the world to find the ISIS mentality. Your ISIS is in America and you’re likely to die over there, one way or the other. So if you’re going to die, die making your home safe. My home is not threatened by ISIS. Mine is threatened by the police. The police are licensed to kill us, children, old people. They showed a guy on a highway. The highway trooper, he had this elderly black woman down on the ground, just beating the stew out of her, and nothing was done to him. That’s what I see. Now suppose somebody told me somebody from ISIS did that. Then everybody is up in arms: See what cowards they are? They beat women in broad daylight. But when a cop does it, it’s all right. I don’t feel that way.

Oh, so what he was saying was that the fear conservatives try to drum up about ISIS, a threat which will NEVER truly manifest itself on our soil, is how he ACTUALLY feels about the police, who have murdered and beaten tons of people who look just like him and get away with it. Well, that seems pretty fucking reasonable.

But I know what you’re thinking. Still, Ernie you nut, why would you even introduce the concept of ISIS into a discussion of concealed weapons permits? I mean, why even bring that up?! Oh, right, because he wasn’t the one who fucking did.

SENATOR CHAMBERS: Senator, I have to ask you this question. What are they afraid of? Before they could carry these concealed weapons, obviously, nobody killed them, nobody shot them, and now that they can carry these guns, they’re afraid of every…you tell me, since you’re one of the advocates, what are they afraid of?

SENATOR GARRETT: Well, I think you were making a very good point earlier about ISIS and ISIL and the Taliban and the way the world situation is now and so many Americans becoming radicalized. And as much violence as is going on, everybody has a personal feeling of insecurity or security and

You see, elected official and certified nongenius Senator Tommy “Pew Pew” Garrett was trying to make the point that we need more concealed weapons in case ISIS shows up. Right? Because we’re scared of ISIS…we need more hidden weapons in Nebraska.

Look, you don’t have to like Ernie’s metaphor, fine. But it’s nothing white people get to be pissed about, let alone take to The Omaha World Herald to tell an elected person of color the way he SHOULD be fighting for change.

Two keys to bringing about positive change are constructive criticism and civil dialogue.

This was presented as the Omaha World Herald’s stance, with no specific author cited. So I guess I have to address the whole OWH?

Um, hi Omaha World Herald! Listen, I really want you to hear me when I say this.

Go fuck yourself.

How dare you do that goddamn thing white people do where they suggest that the appropriate response to police KILLING PEOPLE is “constructive criticism and civil dialogue.” That’s like saying “I’m sorry we killed your family, could you please fill out this comment card and we’ll consider changes.”

By the way, Ernie WAS engaging in civil dialogue. He didn’t throw a brick through a window or “loot” anything. He spoke words. With his face and mouth. That’s what you wanted him to do. Don’t even tell me that in addition to not reacting in any “uncivilized fashion,” people of color now have to respond to murder-by-cop with polite language.

Oh, and get your facts right. He didn’t say the police act like ISIS! He didn’t suggest they behead people, like you claim in your opening. He said the truth: They kill people. A lot. And get away with it. And that scares him. Just like people claim to be scared of ISIS, an organization that also kills people and gets away with it. He was talking about the fear, not the methods. And if you can’t make that distinction…then I really am not that surprised because I’ve read your paper before and your grasp of the truth is, shall we say, “slippery.”

In conclusion, Ernie will weather this storm because he is a bad ass and cares about his people. His people will keep electing him because he truly represents them. Does he speak in inflated rhetoric to get attention? You bet your ass he does. He has to. People in Millard have their fingers jammed so far into their ears when hearing about North Omaha that the only way he can get them to listen is by saying something they have to do a double take at.

Keep lighting those verbal fires, Ernie. Keep making so much noise that they panic every time you speak. We’ve got your back.

If you want Ernie gone because he “compared the police to ISIS,” you have two choices: You’re an idiot or a racist. Pick one.

What President Barack Obama Didn’t (or couldn’t) Say

As I listened to yet another speech in which it felt like the President didn’t or couldn’t say what he wanted to say, I found my mind wandering to what he may have wished he could. In my head, it sounded something like this:

My fellow Americans,

It is with a heavy heart that I speak here tonight. To the parents, family, and friends of Michael Brown, my deepest sympathies continue to go out to you. Tonight, an unusual series of legal events came to conclusion in Ferguson, Missouri. Late this evening, the prosecutor announced that the Grand Jury did not return an indictment on Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown. It is highly unusual for a prosecutor to present an entire case to a Grand Jury, as was the case here. Attorney General Eric Holder has monitored the situation, and the case remains open on a Federal Level. As updates become available, we will be sure to bring them to you in a timely fashion.

This is not the first time I have addressed the nation like this. Just last year, in the wake of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, I spoke to you of the sadness and frustration I and others felt. America has made much progress towards racial equality. But too often, the assumption is made that no further progress is needed. On nights like tonight, it is difficult to remember that much progress has been made at all.

I know many of you are angry. I am angry too. The untimely death of a young American should always be met with righteous anger. As you take to the streets tonight, be mindful. No one should dare tell those of you with broken hearts and clenched fists the appropriate amount of anger you are allowed to have. That is for you to decide. I caution against the release of that anger against your neighborhood where your community lives and against the businesses where your neighbors work. Most of all, I hope that you stay safe, and that as you work to find an appropriate release for this grief and outrage, your frustration turns to progress.

In the face of unspeakable tragedy, the Brown family has time and again pointed forward, ever mindful of wanting justice for what has happened. They have spoken here and abroad about the need for police to be held accountable for incidents like this and to prevent such incidents in the future. In the coming weeks, my administration will begin evaluating how to assist with implementing these changes, including the use of body cameras worn by on-duty officers so that conflicting witness statements are a thing of the past. It is unacceptable that a black man is killed by police every 28 hours in this country. The origins of this problem have deep and complicated roots that date back to the founding of a nation built by slave labor. They are difficult to address and provoke strong emotional reactions. But that does not mean they should be avoided. It is a straight line from the birth of this nation to the street where Mike Brown’s body lay for hours. While that line is inching upwards towards progress, it must rise faster, and we must ensure that it does.

Today is not a day America should take pride in. But as has been the case time and again, we must turn adversity into opportunity and tragedy into transformation. I urge the police in Ferguson tonight to remember their sworn duty to serve and protect above all else. I urge protesters taking to the streets to be safe. And I urge all of you to pause and reflect on where we are as a nation and where we must be so that no other teenage boy suffers the fate Michael Brown did.

Goodnight. May God bless the grieving in Ferguson, Missouri. And May God bless all of America.

Rage against the dying of the light

This is hard, this whole “democracy” business. That is, if you even believe we still have one, which scholars now kinda don’t. Sigh.

If you want to really do your part as a good citizen of the U.S. of A., all you have to do is this:

  • Stay educated despite a media that has shifted from informing the populace to entertaining them or engaging in blatant partisan propaganda
  • Actually vote which the GOP is actively trying to make it harder to do, like, everywhere
  • Overcome apathy derived from both a system that never truly changes and from politicians who care only for their pocketbooks and profiles

There’s more stuff too, but I don’t need to get too depressed too fast this week; I need to pace myself!

I have a handful of super political, heavily invested friends who live and die by these elections (some literally making their living that way). But by and large, everyone from my Dad to my high-school buddies kind of shrug at me and say “It’s not worth getting that worked up about.” I respect that. I do. It’s honestly, probably the most realistic view, understanding that we have likely left the era of the game-changing singular politician or movement.

But I’m still here fighting, still caring, still planning on refreshing the voter results tomorrow night until the wee hours of the morn. Because I believe it IS worth getting worked up about. I believe it’s one of the ONLY things worth getting worked up about. And if you give me just a few minutes, I think I can tell you why.

Your life depends on this…literally

Are you a living human being? GOP congresspeople who have superb, sterling health insurance are going to go try to take yours away.

Are you a woman? The GOP could give two shits about your medical need for birth control or your access to safe abortion procedures.

Are you black? Look at what the elected officials in Missouri are doing, hemming and hawing and protecting the murderer of a teenage boy.

Are you Hispanic? From immigration to education, the GOP treats you like criminals, reducing people to an action (“illegals”).

And then there are the gun issues, the stem cell research issues, and on and on and on. This is life and death shit here. This isn’t a fancy title for some would-be politico. This is how the wealthy and powerful sit in rooms and decide which of us live and live well and which of us die poorly.

They want you to give up

That’s how power works. Those who have the money, who have the prestige, who sit atop the social food chain want you to surrender so bad. It’s all they want.

So they’ll lie. They’ll smear a good person’s name.

So they’ll cheat. They’ll redraw districts in an attempt to make your vote matter less.

So they’ll make deals with devils. Like a gubernatorial candidate who is riding a racist’s money in these final days.

They want to break you down and convince you it’s best to just let them have what they want. And it’s so much easier to convince someone NOT to do something, isn’t it? The burden is so much higher on those asking you to do something to fix this.

They are not doing their job

The GOP-led House has made this the least productive congress EVER.

The GOP minority in the Senate have filibustered that institution into uselessness.

Then, for good measure, the GOP shut the whole f**king thing down.

And we will reward them for doing this.

We will reward them for this. We will give them the majority in the Senate. We will do this because we are programmed to fight our own best interests, to believe that the devils we know represent a better choice than new voices.

I don’t know how to say these things, how to type them here, and not be furious at our inability to stand up for ourselves.

Your lives will be different after Tuesday

That pothole that just effed your shocks? A politician decided when and how that road would or wouldn’t be repaired. The library that just closed? Somebody elected made that call. The new partnership that the city is contemplating with that local business you want to apply for? You’d better hope the right person won so that the deal gets done.

There are a thousand countless decisions that are made every day that change so many aspects of your life you can’t possibly imagine. It’s an invisible spiderweb of interconnected choices that you are caught in. You can tell me “it’s not worth getting worked up about,” and we can just have a difference of opinion. But you cannot tell me this election, every election, doesn’t matter.

Straight ticket

Many smart people I know like to brag that they aren’t straight ticket voters like that’s something to be proud of. It MAY be. Or it just may be a sign you’re not paying attention.

If you vote GOP, you vote with a lot of racists. A lot of them. Now, again, as I clarified in my Pete Ricketts post, this is not the same thing as saying ALL Republicans are racist. They aren’t. But by God MOST racists ARE Republican. And if you vote red, you’re definitely voting with way more people who hate minorities, women, and LGBTQ folks than anyone voting blue.

If you vote GOP, you’re voting for a party that would rather give a billion dollar tax break to a company than give $50 to a single mother.

If you vote GOP, you’re voting for the party of war, the party of no, the party that fought against gay marriage as recently as the last election, the party that made damn sure there would be no increased background checks despite 90% of the public being in support, the party that is 90% white and overwhelmingly male.

In conclusion…

Vote for Chuck Hassebrook.

Vote for Brad Ashford.

Please, please, please vote for Amanda McGill.

I am not one of those people who say “the important thing is just that you vote.” No. Bullshit. The important thing is that you vote for the right person.

And now, here’s the best news, the optimism that will carry me through the very likely scenario of the Democrats losing the Senate: The GOP is running out of time. If not this cycle, very soon, the demographics of this country will have changed so much that they can no longer ignore minority voices, spit on women’s issues, and pocket fat wads of corporate cash. Bradbury once said that “Time is the fire in which we all burn.” Time has almost run out for a way of thinking that is as restrictive and disrespectful as what that party has come to stand for.

So today and tomorrow is about raging against the dying of the light for both parties. For me, here in Nebraska, it means hoping some of the right people get through. It means encouraging all of you to hit those booths and make smart decisions (I’m seriously here if you need me to get you there or answer any questions). For the GOP, it means trying to squeeze out one more round, one more grasp to that top rung of the ladder.

It’s life or death. I am worked up. I will vote. I will vote blue.

Join me.