Wisconsin’s Pride Month Needs Focus On Transgender Rights

Last week a press release from Democratic Governor Tony Evers stated that the LGBT Pride flag will again fly over the State Capitol. This decision matters for many citizens in our state. Let us make no mistake about the visual importance of the flag bending with the breeze over this wonderful and symbolic building.

At moments like this, I think of gay teenagers in this state who live in rural areas.  I know they need support and assurance that living authentically is truly an option as they prepare for adulthood. The flag and the message it imparts is meant as much to recognize past achievements, as providing continued assurance and hope for the future.

But this year, in light of the national conversation about transgender rights, along with legislation being debated under our Capitol dome about girls’ and women’s sports, makes the flag being hoisted high even more important.

The reason is due to discriminatory legislation aimed at creating sports participation bans for transgender people. We apparently have not had enough culture wars in the state. Outside of the political arena, I have not noticed a groundswell of examples in female sports that required a partisan resolution. Once again, however, a solution is in search of a problem and it is taking up far too much bandwidth with some legislators.

Therefore, if anyone wonders why the pride flag needs to fly over the statehouse should simply follow the news about bills that would allow students to join teams only that correspond to their biological sex as assigned by a doctor at birth. In time, that type of discourse will be as ancient as defining being gay as a mental illness. Until that time we must stay vigilant and fight on.

From a national perspective, this month should also focus our attention on states that are attempting to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. We all should be most concerned that partisan legislators are working feverishly in some states to get in between a doctor, who is guided by science and ethics, and a teenager who is in search of medical advice and therapy.

We know that forgoing gender-affirming medical procedures can have tragic consequences with mental health problems which can also lead to drug use and increased rates of suicide. We absolutely must do better for the young people who look to us for guidance and a helping hand.

I can not speak about transgender rights from more than a humane perspective. But as a gay man, I know full well the way it felt when politicians were writing and signing laws to deny my rights over the decades. They had no idea how I felt, or the stresses it placed on my life. As such, I can understand how others now facing discriminatory actions must feel.

It is why I press the case that we must not do harm to those who are dealing with being uncomfortable in their bodies. When it comes to these children I feel a deeper sense of responsibility to speak up and stand alongside those who need our support.

For too long gay Americans were the ones who were vilified by Republicans and used as nothing more than partisan tactics and a means to raise money in letters to the base. Now it is transgender people, including children who are so treated to this abuse.

THAT is the reason the Pride flag needs to fly above the Wisconsin State Capitol.

And so it goes.

Letter from Home “Carrying On Traditions” 5/30/21

The message sent to me was short, perfectly constructed, and that it came from a child’s perspective made it totally honest.

My daughter asked the other day if we could move into your folks’ house and make it happy again?

Well, that made for a misty eye moment over the iPad.

That note from a local person in Hancock, the town where I grew up, was unexpected, but truly made a mark on me. That it landed on Memorial Day weekend, a holiday that over the years my dad would have ensured the lawn was perfectly mowed and mom making sure the blooms from Mother Day flowers were showing at their best, with the long line of rocks extending along the drive to the road trimmed and free of grass. The photo below is a view of the type of care given to the home on a continuous basis.

James and I were back home this past week to place flowers on the graves of relatives, though the cold rain and 36 degrees made it seem we not only traveled northwards but backward on the calendar, too. And we made the trek in shorts!

While nothing ever stays the same, as we read about only a couple weeks ago with one of the most famous rock formations in the Galapagos Islands giving way to nature, I subscribe to a way of living that honors the past. Some might call it overly nostalgic, others downright corny. While I get the fact that time moves on and change is a constant condition of life, I hold to a preserving of the past so that memories and those who made them stay ‘alive’.

I am not alone in this regard as a Republican friend of mine only this week was asking if anyone knew who can spray paint a classic old tractor from the days of his childhood. The tractor is from the 1950s.

Part of that shaping with my DNA in this regard comes from my love of history, and deep appreciation for not only the events of the past, but the people who made the events play out over time. With that attitude I have advocated, and succeeded with a local alder, to have an ordinance passed to protect the carriage steps in the historic Madison neighborhood where I live.

Pictured here is the reason I dived into this cause.

These steps were placed for the convenience of ladies as they exited the carriages back in the time the old Victorian homes were first constructed and lived in.  I fell in love with these at first glance as they conjured up all the grandeur of days gone by.   Madison is blessed to have these physical reminders of our past.   With some verve and a sense of purpose, I worked with our local alder and city council to make sure that no further damage will ever again be allowed to happen to these steps in our city.   

But that is not where I stopped. Nor James.

That same intensity of purpose has been used to ensure our home will have the care and respect which it deserves.  After all, it will be here long after we am gone.  I want others to feel and know it as we do, but that only happens with our caring for it now.

Over the years I have heard many talk about their home as an investment.  I fully grasp the financial grounding for such views. With owning a three-story Victorian on the Madison isthmus I grasp, on one hand, that view. But I strongly differ substantially with such perspectives, on the other hand.

I grew up with parents who became homeowners after World War II.  The home they bought was not new, in fact, it was old and needed lots of work.  Over the years many projects were completed, including one that allowed for my brother and me to have a new bedroom off on the side of the house.  I have often joked that my parents were even smart enough to time our births (11 years apart) so there was never a question my brother and I would have to share that room.  He moved out on his own just as I was needing, for the first time, to upgrade my living space.

For all the years I grew up in the family home there was never, not once, any word spoken about what that improvement, or that addition, would do for the value of the house.  The value of any improvement was the day-to-day pleasures and conveniences it made for the family.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The family home where I grew up was not so different from all those in the community of my youth. Inside were the favorite places to tuck away to read, the family kitchen where everyone gathered no matter how many folks there were or how small the room might be, and the favorite window to watch the snow pile up or the rain to fall.  The home was a place to live and relax.  It was a place to ‘be’.

My love of history started in that home when I was a child. As a boy, I knew a small portion of the ‘back basement’ in my family home had been constructed prior to the Civil War.  It always had the coolest temperatures downstairs and it was where the root vegetables were stored for months on end.  I was sent there to bring back potatoes or beets or a fall squash for supper.

It was from that start that I grew to link not only events, but people into the larger quilt of history. That 1853 portion of the ‘back’ basement meant something to me.  My dad’s great-grandparents, the Wood Family, built the house.  Some of the extended family fought in the Civil War, with one dying at the most horrific Andersonville prison camp.

Pictured below is that old portion of the basement being connected with for the last time in 2011.

As the cold rain bounced and slid off our Ranger hats this past week I thought back to the days when my parents always wanted whoever passed by to see the pride they had for their home. As I shivered in the cold I thought about how from that upbringing has morphed into the present with our Madison lawn and gardens now getting ‘the treatment’.  Like my growing up years the lawn gets a weekly mowing, trimming, while the sidewalks get twice a year edging. James is an expert at clearing away weeds and creating a ‘trough’ around each flower bed.

The values of the past should live on, and in so doing the voices of those from the days gone by can still resonate.

And so it goes.

Republican Senators Place Raw Politics Over Love Of Country

It is the type of story we wish our children never would need to learn about regarding the process of governing in this nation.

Or, should I say it is the type of story our children need to learn about when it comes to the abuse of power and how placing raw politics ahead of our national needs has a most corrosive outcome.

That is what happened today when Senate Republicans willfully and purposefully blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection of a pro-Donald Trump mob on our nation’s Capitol. Using the much-debated filibuster power the conservatives killed a measure that would have resulted in a full accounting regarding a riot that killed members of the police and injured more than 140 others in their ranks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the lowest of roads, and the most un-American of positions when he whipped his caucus into line by telling them that supporting the measure would be terrible politics for the GOP ahead of the 2022 midterms.

The partisan needs of the Republican party had more sway than the attempt to undermine our national government, damage the Electoral college votes, and prevent them from being counted by Congress. In the most brazen and horrific attack on our own government by the people since Fort Sumter in 1861. Yet the GOP feels no need for a full investigation into the treasonous crimes.

If that fact does not rock you back into your chair nothing will.

The vote outcome was 54 to 35, but fell short of the 60 senators needed to move forward under the rules of the filibuster. Only six members of the Republican caucus had the higher needs of the nation in mind as they joined with all the Democratic members to support the measure. CP knows it is important to acknowledge their vote for the nation. As such thanks to Senators Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, and Ben Sasse. Pat Toomey would have also cast an aye vote had he been present. That still, however, would have left the bill three Republicans votes away from going forward.

It is stunning to witness the cult personality of Trump that has taken over the Republican Party. That so many of his followers nationwide do not even understand what they have allowed happening to their party, and to themselves, is what the rest of us watch play out in real-time. The Senate vote to reject a full accounting of the attack on our national government, and the acceptance of that move by Republicans all over this nation, clearly demonstrates how far adrift from reason, logic. morals, and common sense they have traveled.

We can, and should differ over tax policy, infrastructure, college loan programs, and a long list of policy items. But when someone can not, and WILL NOT stand up for the nation when under attack ON LIVE TELEVISION then we place that person, or political party, in the yellow-belly un-American pile.

Historians will never forget this ugly moment when conservatives placed raw partisan politics over love of country.

And so it goes.

My Plan To Deal With Gun Violence In America

A reader asked me where I would start with legislation to deal with gun violence. After all, I press for gun control on this blog continuously. It is the type of dialogue I wish more of us could engage in when it comes to the mass shootings and senseless killings with these weapons. Here, then, is a list of where I think such laws should be focused.

This would not solve all the gun crimes, but given the high volume of these weapons in the nation, these would start to deal with the most pressing issues.

I want to see an end to the high-capacity ammunition clips that are meant solely to be used for the killing of people. My readers know, that the only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. As such these high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market.

Limit the types of guns that can be manufactured, and do the same with ammo. No one is talking about ending hunting, but the so-called dum-dum bullets and hollow-point bullets, and types of weapons that are designed to slaughter people are not the ones folks are taking out to the woods in Wisconsin to kill a deer, therefore drastically limit their manufacture.

I support coded ammo to track who purchased it, and also have laws on the books that would place a penalty for those who do not lock their guns up, thereby creating ‘an attractive nuisance’. For example, we must put an end to the gun owner who leaves a weapon in a glove compartment, and then also leaves the car unlocked.

I want legislation that would close the loopholes on background checks for sales of firearms, and requiring waiting periods before purchases of these weapons.

I want to see the assault weapons ban again the law of the land.

Finally, I want funding to be restored, the funding that the NRA chokes off, for federal research on gun violence.

These are the themes I want to see enacted for meaningful gun control.

“What The Hell Is Wrong With Us?”

Another typical day in America. Another mass shooting.

This time the gun violence that grabs the headlines concerns a worker at the Silicon Valley Transportation Authority rail yard in San Jose, California. He was upset about something, that seems obvious, and it goes without saying that he had easy access to a gun. He took his outrage out on those he somehow felt were the root cause for his anger. He killed eight people, injured others, and then killed himself.

If you are keeping track of the mass shootings (one in which four or more people are killed or injured (not including the shooter) in our country you will know that this is the 232nd mass shooting this year, and let me add this is just the 146th day of the year. All the data can be located at Gun Violence Archive.

Today the most honest and pertinent statement about this violence came from California Governor Gavin Newsom who rightly responded with frustration and anger.

“What the hell is going on in the United States of America? What the hell is wrong with us?”

It is the type of question that many have asked repeatedly over the years as the mass shootings, and the daily death toll from gun violence mounts.

“When are we going to come to grips with this? When are going to put down our arms, literally and figuratively, our politics, the stale rhetoric, finger-pointing, all the hand-wringing, consternation that produces nothing except more fury and frustration, more scenes like this repeated over and over and over again.”

I have an answer.

When the ones bought and owned by the NRA are sent packing and the sensible people in this nation stand up and absolutely demand gun control legation be passed.

Senator Ron Johnson Wants Honest Answers, And So Do We!

While we all should applaud the desire to have honest answers to questions asked it does make for snickers when that sentiment is expressed by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.

In a desire to learn of the origins of the COVID outbreak, a scientific undertaking that has been ongoing so to allow for medical experts to better learn about the pandemic, Johnson is hoping for honest answers. The degree to which China was aware, or not, of the virus outbreak prior to their original announcement of cases is important to those tracking where this outbreak first started.

While we all agree with Johnson about the need for honest answers it does sound rather hollow given his lack of candor along with his continuous obfuscation about a raft of issues. When it comes to COVID Johnson has undermined science and medical advice so as to further conspiracy-driven ideas. He has promoted vaccine skeptics and those who are critical of masking and social distancing.

So when it comes to the Senator’s stated desire now for honest answers pardon the rest of us for snickering.

The reason for our response to Johnson is his lack of self-awareness about not wishing to find out or reveal what the citizenry, and his constituents, have a right to know.

First up, an issue that strikes to the heart of our national government, and our American ideals. Plainly put, the nation must have honest and complete answers about the deadly insurrection and riot on January 6th. We need a bipartisan commission and a commitment from Johnson that honest and complete answers will be provided.

While Johnson is in the mood for honesty, he might provide some information about his stock sales made after an intelligence meeting in the Senate. It was too cozy that senators sold significant amounts of stock before the coronavirus decimated the financial markets. The rest of the nation just rode out the calamity in the markets without inside knowledge.

It is troubling that there needs to be such a point made about the desire for honesty and the complicated relationship an elected official from our state has with this virtuous trait. For too long Johnson has deceived and manipulated the truth, and purposely misled and distorted facts for his odd and strange designs. So no one can believe that his desire for truth now is based on, well, truth.

National Child Care System Needs To Pass Congress

Time seems to have stood still over the past 50 years, with the same type of advocates beseeching common sense, and the same conservative complaints being registered about the size and scope of government. Perhaps no issue best underscores that tug and pull in policy creation than the one regarding subsidized child care. The social cost of letting this policy languish for decades is obvious to see, especially after this pandemic.

President Biden is pushing forward with his idea for subsidized child care for low-and-middle-income families and if one were not aware of the years President Nixon was in office, you might think what is unfolding is new. As a Nixon history buff, I can assure you what Republicans are now doing is straight out of the 1971 playbook. That is a sad statement.

Pat Buchanan, a speechwriter, and advisor to Nixon, requested from the White House that he be given the green light to write not only the veto message to the then-named Child Development Act, (pushed by Senator Walter Mondale) but be given latitude to lacerate the entire bipartisan idea.

The goal of the legislation would have created a national network of subsidized child-care centers. Buchanan wanted to have room so to bolster and unite the right-wing who were nervous that Nixon was not conservative enough. Buchanan was given his license and the result was devastating. Partisan politics vs. sound public policy.

I use two examples from Buchanan’s book Nixon’s White House Wars (on my bookshelves) to make this point.

The same battle lines have been drawn again as Biden pushes for needed changes, as reflected in many surveys and polls around the nation. While some will argue about the role of government, I instead, as with many of these issues when it deals with children, view the positive impact upon their lives.

We are aware that many homes with children lack the types of intellectual stimulation that readies a child to be prepared for school and future learning. That is not a knock on any socio-economic group, but rather a general and true statement about many parents today.

Developing such programming would be money well spent so to have children getting the educational care they need now, as we well-know the cost of lost years when it comes to education. In addition, the programming allows for parents to work, and thereby create homes where a child can grow and be comforted in.

Over the past year, we all have witnessed how the pandemic underscored the role and importance of child care for working parents, particularly mothers. The other story that has bounded about in newspaper stories nationwide concerns the real lack of child care options in the private marketplace. Since the marketplace can not meet that social need, the government must be allowed to operate with that programming.

I have always felt blessed with the family life from which I came, which included being read to a lot, always having books about, and the stimulations of radio and newspapers in the home. I wish everyone could have such a start in life. But that can not be. It is, therefore, one reason I strongly support such policy goals for other children as pushed by Biden. Every child deserves to thrive with new ideas.

21st Anniversary With James

Twenty-One years ago this evening James and I had our first date in Madison. We had dinner on State Street and I was really nervous which might account for my concluding the evening with a kiss on his cheek. Two years to the day we moved in together.

I think only once in life does someone find another who can completely turn the world around. James did that for me and there is not a day that goes by I do not feel the full awareness of what love means and how much it is to be treasured once found.

Each day I get to live with the love of my life; my best friend with a sharp wit, and a curious mind. Walking the shared road of life remains the reason to smile each day. From Yosemite to the first holiday I brought James home to meet the family, the memories abound. As does the love.