Saturday, January 28, 2017

On Rex Tillerson and Scott Pruitt: A Letter and Video to the House and Senate

Dear Honorable Members of the House and Senate,

First video ever.  I hate it. But desperate times...

My name is Laura, and I am a professor at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. You may remember North Carolina for, in the past, having one of the most stellar public university systems in the nation, and, more recently, as that state that was purchased by the Koch Brothers and then managed by Art Pope and his puppet governor, Pat McCrory, who signed into law some of the most racist, sexist, homophobic legislature in the state’s history. And most recently, even though he lost the election, McCrory and our republican legislature enacted policies to limit the power of our incoming governor Roy Cooper.

Anyway, I thought about simply writing you a letter, but I thought that maybe you’d like to see me, to recognize (possibly) that despite the fact that it’s become clear that in many of your eyes I’m just a woman whose body you fear without cause and whose rights you are actively working to abolish, I’m also a citizen of your country, a constituent to whom you owe your time, your concern, and your service. You are, after all, public servants. 

I am a registered democrat, and I voted for Hillary Clinton. Until you repeal the 19th amendment (and at this point, I feel that as long as you are rolling over for the Nazi who is advising our president, my right to vote might just go poof along with my right to have an abortion, to obtain health care, to be protected if I’m abused by a man), I will remain a democrat. That said, if you are a republican, my life, my rights, and my livelihood are nonetheless in your care. You have a responsibility to represent all Americans, not just the ones in your party.

And I mean this with the most sincerity imaginable: at this point in history – and particular at this point in our nation’s history – it’s imperative that we stop thinking in terms of the binary oppositions that do nothing more than place us at odds with one another: we are not just republicans or democrats, conservatives or liberals, men or women, native born citizens or immigrants. We are all human beings. We have a lot more in common than not. We owe an ethical obligation to one another, and the divisiveness of party affiliations works only to undermine that fact.  Focusing only on our differences gets in the way of our ability to recognize our commonalities.

Ok, so now that I’ve got us all holding hands and singing kumbaya, let me get to why I’m writing.  I’ll try to be brief, but I have a lot to say, and I hope that you will hear me out.

I am an educator, an English professor.  Despite these things, I’m not really contacting you about Betsy DeVos’s nomination to serve as Secretary of Education or about the fact that there’s talk of eliminating both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, something I hear excites Paul Ryan to no end.  All of these things are horrific; DeVos is wildly unqualified – but that doesn’t really distinguish her from any of the rest of our president’s cabinet picks, and the attention being placed upon her possible appointment is simply a well-orchestrated distraction to take the focus off of something much, much more terrifying.

I’ll get to that in a minute.  A bit more about me, since you don’t know me and I know lots about many of you: I’m a 46-year-old long distance runner.  I don’t eat meat; I don’t smoke.  I’m one of the healthiest people you’re likely to meet.  In 2013, however, I had a massive heart attack and nearly died; I had to be airlifted from the rural campus where I teach to the cardiac hospital 50 miles away.  I had the heart attack they call the widow maker, and dollars to donuts it would have felled every single man still listening to me. I was definitively diagnosed with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) a year later by Dr. Sharonne Hayes at the Mayo Clinic.  SCAD is genetic and has nothing to do with lifestyle.  It primarily affects otherwise healthy women who have no risk factors and no history of heart disease.  It’s likely to happen again, by the way, and the next time it happens (if it happens), I probably won’t survive it.

Thank gods that I had health insurance, by the way.  Thank gods that there was funding for medical research.  But as is the case with DeVos et al, I’m not really here to beg for you not to repeal the ACA because it’s clear that you really want to show that black guy who implemented it who’s boss now.  How dare he want to provide the citizens – your constituents – with health care?  He’s a black man!  How uppity of him!  And Steve Bannon, the aforementioned Nazi, says you gotta put that black man in his place, so because you seem to be rolling over and doing whatever he says anyway, you’ll do what you’re going to do.

And I’m not really here to beg you not to cut funding for Planned Parenthood or beg that instead that you tell your constituents that abortion is not subsidized by government funds in the first place, because, just like the uppity black man (I know what you call him, so go ahead and insert the N word in place of “black man” if you want), you gotta put us terrifying women in our place.  Cut the funding for PP, and you will show us for real how much you don’t care about whether we live or die.

As an aside, access to abortion has been a cause of mine for a very long time.  Full disclosure: I’ve never had an abortion, never been placed in the position of having to make such a decision, and for that I’m thankful.  For many women who haven’t had to make that decision, PP has likely played a role, providing affordable contraception, education, and resources.  But you know that already, and many of you don’t care. So whatever, cut funding.  Let our incompetent president and his Nazi advisor give us a supreme court justice that will give Pence, Ryan, and the rest of you so-called “pro-life” men the chance you’ve been waiting for to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Go ahead.

Because right now, I can’t be distracted by this noise either.

But to be clear: around 5 million people marched for women’s rights the day after the election. About 1 in 100 Americans marched.  The women who marched and the men who marched with them are your constituents.  Ignore them if you want, but I wouldn’t if I were you.  And here’s why.

As I said already, I almost died in 2013.  I actually almost died twice, once from the heart attack and then again after surgery when I nearly bled out through the incision in my femoral artery.  And I’m not afraid to die. I’m really not. And I imagine that that’s probably a good thing because if anyone actually watches this video, in addition to being trolled by any number of people who will tell me how ugly I am, I’ll also told that I should get raped and murdered, that I should have died from that heart attack, that, well, any number of other horrors that can be hurled at me because I’m a woman and daring to say something.  The threats to women who say things are getting worse and worse, enabled, certainly, by the rhetoric of our president.

I’m not afraid, and neither are a lot of other people. What you are doing by enabling policies that disenfranchise your citizens is creating an ever growing populace that will feel more and more that it has nothing to lose.  And people with nothing to lose are dangerous. I am not saying this as a threat; I am as concerned for what happens when you’ve enabled the creation of a rogue populace as I am of anything that your policies will do to that populace.

I’m not afraid.  Can you imagine what that would feel like, Paul Ryan?  Do you know that someone edited the Wikipedia entry on invertebrates to include a picture of you?  Do you know what it would be like, Marco Rubio, not to be afraid?  I hear that Greenpeace showed up and presented you with an actual spine.  And, I’m sorry to say this, but John McCain and Lindsey Graham, even though I respect you both immensely, where are your backbones with regard to the appointment of Rex Tillerson? He and Scott Pruitt are the reason for this message.

I would not be afraid to place my body in harm’s way if I thought for one single second that doing so might stop you from allowing the appointment of Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State and Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. 

My fear for a long time has been that all of you are owned by the oil industry.  And thanks to that Koch Industries shill from Utah, It’s clear that there’s a move afoot to eliminate the Bureau of Land Management and the forest service and sell off PUBLIC LANDS so that some of the richest men in the country can get even richer.  Do Charles and David really need more money?  If so, can someone please tell me why?  What are they giving you guys in return? 

The White House has scrubbed climate change information, has put a gags on government agencies, and has given the all clear to complete the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines.  Native peoples be damned!  Tillerson and Pruitt are deniers of human made climate change, which effectively means that despite the fact that they know that human beings are causing the planet to warm by continuing to depend on fossil fuels, they don’t care about whether the citizens of the US and the rest of the world die as a result of that warming, as long as a few already rich white men can be made richer.

If you do not resist these appointments, if you allow our president to move forward with the implementation of policies that turn public lands over to private ownership, you are complicit in the destruction of our planet. And, if that doesn’t matter to you, maybe this might: you will be complicit in the largest, most all-encompassing act of genocide in the history of our species. It will happen slowly enough at first that you’ll be able to deny that it’s happening, at least for a while. 

But it’s already taking lives; look at the recent tornados that killed people in the south. You can pretend all you want that those had nothing to do with a warming planet, but you would be wrong – and you know it.  The genocide that you will enable by doing nothing to stop it will first harm the poor. Never mind that you are also responsible for the poor, but it will eventually harm everyone else. 

Appoint DeVos, defund Planned Parenthood.  Hell, build that stupid wall at the expense of tax payers (and at the expense of the 100s of endangered species that will die when they can no longer migrate).  Do anyway with funding for the arts and the humanities. Bring it on.

But do not appoint these men to these posts. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that the entire world and our entire species are counting you not being afraid to stand up and do what’s right.  Do not be afraid.  I’ll be right here with you.

Thank you,

Laura Wright

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