Endorsement Announcement: Elizabeth Warren, step right up.

As a resident of Southern California, our primaries are looming just around the corner and candidates are all about to get into the thick meat of delegate hunting. Only about 2% of the nation’s delegates necessary to win the Democratic Party nomination have been awarded, so this race is a long way from over. In fact, they have barely even left the gate. While some see Bernie as the front runner right now, we’re nowhere near the final turn. And, I’ll remind you, it hasn’t been long ago everyone felt Biden was a sure thing.

Thankfully, the race is narrowing to our prime candidates who all have the experience, network, organization, and platform to compete in November. Still, it is time to start making the difficult decision about who to support. There are many things to consider, like plans and policies, effective leadership, agendas, and even competency. However, the one thing that keeps getting tossed out there with regularity is electability.

I know, that sound important, and it is, but it’s not a real issue. Here is the fact, almost everyone still in the campaign polls to beat Donald Trump in November. That includes Bernie, Mayor Pete, Warren and Biden. Even Bloomberg, who started late and only has one campaign donor can beat Trump. So, in making my decision, electability was not a real concern.

Now, for full disclosure, I have liked and leaned towards Senator Elizabeth Warren for a long time. In fact, I listened to her speak several years ago and thought even then she would make a fantastic president. I was thrilled when she announced she would seek the Democratic Nomination.

I am not going to say I always agree with her on every issue. We may have some differences of opinion in some things, but I like to keep that in perspective. Who really agrees with someone else 100% of the time? I know I don’t always agree with my husband, but we are still happily married, and that is certainly a much longer commitment than four to eight years. Also, something I have learned from a healthy and happy marriage is that sometimes our differences are what lead us to our best decisions.

When we immediately agree on a course of action, then we may not be looking at all the possible outcomes. Sure we are in it together, but we may not end up where we intended to go. When we do not fully agree, then we are forced to look at both sides, weigh all the possibilities, and consider the ramifications of our actions. That process allows us to take the best of the opposing ideas and create an alternative which is generally better planned and more effective.

Thinking about my choices from this perspective allowed me to really give a second and third look at all the candidates. While I have liked Warren a long time, my goal is choosing the best person for the job who I believe will most accurately represent they key issues I hold most dear. After reflecting on this, reviewing the policies, plans and agendas, as well as the background and experience of each candidate, I came full circle back to Elizabeth Warren.

One of the most essential qualities we need in our next leader is someone who will answer to us. I do not care how much money someone has made, so long as they did it legally. I believe being a billionaire or a millionaire neither qualifies nor disqualifies a candidate. I also do not believe that being a successful business man or woman automatically transcends into political leadership abilities. The truth is that running a nation is nothing like running a business. Take a look at the current bull in the china shop. Granted, successful may be a bit of a stretch in terms of business. It takes a special kind of businessman to bankrupt a nice casino, but that aside. The idea is still the same. When you are the boss, you tell people what to do and they do it. They answer to you. But part of being a truly great leader, a President, is understanding you are not the boss. The country and the world does not answer to you. You interact with other nations with respect and as equals, but you answer to the people.

It is this quality in Elizabeth Warren which keeps bringing me back to her. Senator Warren’s entire platform is built around empowering the people of our nation, giving them megaphones for their voices to be heard and she has been willing to do that where it both hurts and counts the most: in the proverbial pocketbook.

Yes, she has the most realistic plans, most executable, of all the candidates. She has put real plans out to be picked apart while the other candidates just paint pictures with broad strokes. She has not been afraid to stand up and show what it takes to make big dreams into reality. Realizing dreams takes more than imagination and a go-get-’em attitude. It takes time, determination and sacrifice and she does not back down from the truth of that. It opens her up for critics, but it is also one of the best ways to find the flaws of a plan and remedy them. And she is not afraid to listen to anyone who might have a better idea. I like how she considers us, the people out here, her partners in forging the future. And that is what leads to this big difference: she cannot be bought. Not only does she not accept money from special interests, she discourages it in the election process completely. Big money in the hands of a few have bought influence in our politics for far too long. Look where it has led. If we want our nation to survive and come out stronger, then we need someone like Senator Warren who is committed to removing those influences from Washington D.C..

Why is this my tipping point issue? Well, because it is the fundamental element in achieving anything else. The vast majority of U.S. citizens support Medicare for All or a similar single payor system. But big businesses like insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and others which profit heavily off the current system keep pouring money into Washington to protect their own profits, with complete indifference to the plight of the vast majority of people. The overwhelming majority of people believe in a fair and equal voting system, but large corporations spend hundreds of millions in campaign and finance contributions to influence the drawing of districts in such ways which undermines democracy and diminishes the voices they want silenced. This is how they help put their bought and paid for politicians in office, the ones who control environmental regulations, approve trade negotiations, and introduce tax laws and incentives. You know, the ones who approve government contracts and spending, make it cheaper and easier to dump chemicals in rivers, pollute the air, and poison children without facing consequences. If we want common sense gun laws which both protect our second amendment rights and the safety and welfare of our citizens, then we have to crush the gun lobby powerhouse which wields its money for more influence than the parents of angels taken too soon in gun violence.

Every single element of both the progressive and more moderate agendas floating through the Democratic candidacies hinge on removing the big money influence from elected officials. Until we eliminate that power from the financially elite and place it back in the hands of voters, we are just throwing rocks in a gun fight. This should be a bipartisan effort. It benefits any and all parties because it makes all politicians answer solely to their constituents.

Senator Elizabeth Warren brings this to the table with complete sincerity. It has been the fundamental premise of her campaign from day one. When I couple this with her ability to devise realistic plans to accomplish real and permanent change for the betterment of our society, I find my first instinct was correct.

I am thankful Elizabeth Warren stood up to fight for us and I am hereby, officially, endorsing her candidacy. I thought President’s Day was a fitting time to do so, as we look to the past for great deeds in leadership and inspiration. With Sen. Warren, I believe we can also look to the future.

We are One Woman, One World.

Ann Lavendar Truong

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Democracy’s Terminal Diagnosis: Is There Hope for Remission?

First, let me say thank you to all my readers and followers for the kind words of encouragement and condolences for the loss of my father this past year and understanding that I needed to take personal time away, despite the hardships and entanglements of the nation, to grieve that loss and handle his affairs. I have not forgotten any of you nor our purpose in this ongoing fight for equality. I am happy to say I am now back at work for you and for every woman, man and child whose voice cannot be heard over the howling winds of injustice. Again, thank you for allowing me to take the time I needed. Now it is time to take this fight forward. Together, we can do what needs to be done.

Yesterday was an historic day in the United States of America. After refusing to hear testimony or review relevant evidence, after many refused to be impartial despite their oath as jurors, after the evidence presented and unrefuted clearly proved guilt of the charges brought forth, all of but a single GOP Senator [Sen. Mitt Romney, R. Utah] voted to acquit Donald J. Trump of all charges. They chose power and party over their constitutional duty and over their sworn service to the American people. While it was expected, why is it so egregious? Why does this trial and ruling have such a greater impact on our nation than, say, the Clinton impeachment trial and acquittal? Well, let me explain some of those reasons and why yesterday was such a dark mark for this nation.

First, we can begin with the fact that the Clinton trial was wholly different. The administration did not withhold evidence nor obstruct testimony. It complied with subpoenas for both information and witnesses. Second, the alleged conduct was wholly different. President Clinton did violate the law by lying under oath in a deposition about a consensual, extra-marital affair in a civil case. That said, the question was under objection, may not have been admissible, and had no factual bearing on the case as it did not substantiate the plaintiff’s claims of harassment. So, there is the possibility that even the truth would not have been admissible, but only used as cannon fodder or, potentially blackmail. This, and the fact that the House did not concentrate on the actual crime of perjury in proving its case, but on the morality of the President having an affair, meant they did not actually work to prove the legitimate case they had. Thus, acquittal was a reasonable outcome.

Note- I am not in any way defending President Bill Clinton for his actions. I supported his impeachment because, while I did not feel it rose enough to remove him from office in a legal sense, I did believe he earned the stain of impeachment on his presidency. Perhaps many people would lie in a similar situation, but that does not excuse dismissing our laws. Our leaders should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one, and he deserved to be made an example of this. Also, I do believe he used his position to attract such behavior and encourage it. He used his authority to manipulate young women and he deserves the lecherous legacy he built.

Clinton’s acquittal served to uphold the constitution. The actions of his affair were unfortunate and below the idea of the office he held and the trust placed in him as a moral leader. But it was also, and more importantly, actions which were personal in nature. Make no mistake. They did not put him on trial for the lie, but for the affair. I’m old enough I was around and watched it all, the whole C-SPAN coverage, taped daily on the old, trusty VCR. I was a Republican back then and recall the annoyance at the House’s failure to stick to the real issue. I did not care about his affair in any sense but that he lied about it under oath. I seriously doubted he was the first president with a wandering eye or loose zipper, nor that he would be the last. So long as it was consensual, the only relevance was the lie. The House failed to conduct its prosecution in a way which concentrated on why the lie deserved a conviction. Also, he could have been convicted and still not removed from office. Once convicted, the Senate would need to vote again on the punishment and determine if the crime was of such significance as to warrant expulsion from his position. Conviction without removal would have been the best outcome, as he was definitely guilty of perjury, but I did not believe that crime warranted removal from office based on the facts surrounding it.

Because of the conduct of the prosecution, no real precedent was set, other than dislodging the idea that politicians can be removed for immoral, victimless, personal actions such as consensual sexual conduct. By victimless, I am referring to victims of a crime. There are always innocent people hurt when personal trusts are betrayed, especially in such a public manner, but those private affairs are best handled as such and not in a political or public arena.

What we witnessed in Trump’s trial cannot be compared to any of this. His actions were not personal and private. They were in the direct use of his office, the leverage of his position, and in the actions and conduct of State policies and agendas, to be used for his personal benefit, and to extort foreign governments to undermine our democratic process. He then refused to cooperate in any way with the constitutional governing body charged with overseeing his conduct. He flagrantly denied and obstructed the authority of congress.

Further, the facts of the case were never in question nor refuted. The defense instead argued that believing his re-election was in the best interest of the nation superseded any governing laws or policies which he may have broken. In essence, the defense portrayed that so long as a president believes his or her actions are best for the country, no matter how self-serving, he or she is allowed to break any laws or rules they desire. They are not required to provide any evidence of actions to anyone else, nor incur any consequences for such conduct aside from election results. They contend a president can really do anything without accountability except at the ballot box. In short: if the president does it, then it isn’t illegal.

While the ballot is how we replace unsavory or ineffective politicians, it was obviously not intended to be the sole method. Further, by the defense’s own iterations, Trump is allowed to seek interference in the election, even from foreign governments, so long as he BELIEVES his actions are best for the country. This, aside from anything else, is the most dangerous precedent coming from the Senate yesterday. This is the one which will haunt us.

This precedent says that the president is allowed to cheat, to undermine our election process, our very democracy itself, under nothing more than the guise that they believe they are right. This precedent goes further to empower the executive branch as superior to that of the Judicial and Legislative branches, by being exempt from accountability for its actions. It has, in effect, created a four year dictatorship, whereby they can only be removed by an election, but is, existentially, also allowed to cheat to win that election.

That may sound a bit harsh or reaching, but it is not. This is exactly how the ruling can be applied going forward. As a result, it has made our elections less reliable by basically legalizing interference by a single party (a sitting president). Opposition candidates do not carry the same protections as the Office of the Presidency against prosecution for Campaign Finance Violations, or really prosecution of any crime like bribery, extortion, or fraud. They do not have the authority or power to circumvent subpoenas for evidence or testimony. They must follow the law, and that is a good thing. But their incumbent opponent does not have that same obligation. Sure we can hope to elect scrupulous people going forward and overcome the taint of illegitimacy already hovering over this November, but it does not change the fact that someone in the future can seize on what happened yesterday to change our nation forever.

It really is not a matter of if, any longer, but a matter of when. Will it happen in the coming months? Or will it happen in a couple of decades when the taint of this presidency has drifted into fades of history, less poignant? And is there any way to circumvent it? Can we save ourselves?

Well, maybe. Sorry, that’s the best I’ve got for you. Maybe. First, and this is the most crucial thing I can share, is that we all must become active. We need to be poll volunteers. We need to shout out when we see anything that undermines voting. Now, more than ever, we have to protect the value of our voice to make certain it is heard, loud and clear, at the polls.

Second, promote candidates who will not abuse their position or our nation. Maybe the nominees aren’t your favorite, but learn the art of compromise. No one will believe everything exactly as you do, but there will always be a best option. No candidate is a one horse pony show. Just like you, they have a spectrum of beliefs, ideas, morals, and plans for the future. But here is a real hint that might help, at least this November: any candidate who would silence or deprive anyone their vote, is a no. Any candidate who would deprive any citizen of their basic rights to love, live, work, or receive healthcare or an education based on discrimination against their race, gender, sexuality, country of origin, personal and healthcare decisions, or religion is working in direct conflict to our constitution and the people of this nation. These are the exact kinds of politicians who would use the precedent set yesterday to inflict harm on the people of this country against whom they hold a great prejudice. Be active and work against such candidates, even if you do not fully support all the positions of their opponent. Why? Because it is about the best decision between the choices we have, not just about getting everything we want.

Which brings me to the third call of action: vote. Vote in every election. Encourage your friends and family to vote. Every voice, whether you agree with them or not, deserves to be heard and counted. Every election from your school board, up. Voting is not just a flippant right, it is a responsibility. It should neither be taken for granted nor tossed easily aside. Those are the actions of spoiled people without any sense of value, who dismiss too easily the sweat, blood and sacrifice which paid for that ballot. Now we have to defend it and the only way we can is by using that very same power. So, VOTE. It matters.

The last thing I will mention comes after we successfully accomplish the first three and it is not a charge to voters, but to those elected. The only way to protect our future from this injustice, from this degradation of our democracy, is to face it head on with legislation and possibly, an amendment to our constitution. Such an amendment should better define the perimeters of impeachment and create an exact process which will apply without regard to party power. In doing this, both the House and the Senate can be held to an accountable standard and will no longer be allowed to make up the rules as they go nor be subject to undue political influence in how the process is conducted. The Judiciary Branch has been all but excluded from the process, only allowed a token appearance without any real authority to conduct the trial as a judge should. We must set it up to more closely mimic a federal trial regarding evidence, testimony, subpoena, and discovery. The House should sit as the prosecution, the Senate as the jury, and the Judiciary to oversee due process and court conduct and hold in contempt those who refuse to comply.

This is the only way I believe we could excise the cancer on our democracy and truly achieve a lasting remission. Make no mistake, history has a way of repeating itself, especially when people stop believing it can or will. This will not be the last threat facing our nation from within, but if we can learn from it, then we could come out stronger on the other side. It is really up to us to demand it.

My suggestions moving forward are not a party line thing. I’m certain that when a Democrat is in office, the Republicans would be more than happy to jump at the chance of limiting the power grab they so greedily wanted for themselves. We will want to take advantage of the fear they will have. Yes, they will be quite afraid that Democrats will use the GOP’s own actions and precedents against them. But I urge the DNC to not be what they expect. Be better. Help the people take our nation back. Help us ensure a future of responsibility and accountability. Help remove the corruption of big money donations in the hands of politicians and their campaigns. Make accountability to the people a priority and close the loopholes which allow presidents to hide their actions from their employer. Hint: We are the employers.

Unless we can do these things, we are accomplishing nothing more than treating a stage four cancer with a placebo. We are just smiling, pretending to do something and getting along okay, while the cancer continues to eat away beneath the surface, until finally our organs fail and we will have a final, disbelieving gasp as the life so many sacrificed to make a reality, dies from this world.

Freedom and equality is never really a battle won. It can be attained, but there will always be elements looking for ways to chip away at it for their own purposes. We can never stop the efforts to improve our democracy, find inclusion for the under-served, or to hear the whispers of those who have been silenced. We can never cease in our demand for justice. We can never forget that when anyone is less than equal, no one is equal.

We are one woman. We are one world.

Ann Lavendar Truong
Author & Activist

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Are you equal enough?

While working on another article the last few days, I have been distracted by a bombardment of people, both men and women (though mostly men) filling the social media universe with condescending diatribe and snippets against the peaceful marches protesting Trump over the weekend. But out of all the hateful things said, the “alternate facts” given, and the disparaging comments, there is one, central theme I found the most disturbing. Repeatedly I saw women’s rights in the United States being compared to oppressed women in other places of the world, in an effort to point out how good women have it here as opposed to places where they are nothing more than property to men. This, above most other arguments, reveals the embedded misogyny in our culture. Why does it reveal so much?

This argument says you have it better here than somewhere else, so you should be thankful. The implication is that these are not your rights, so much as privileges which could be revoked. It is the same method used by abusers to rationalize and normalize mistreatment. Abusers tell their victim that smacking them here and there isn’t really abusive, because they don’t have black eyes, a bloody nose, or broken bones. They tell their victim how much worse someone else has it, how those are the people who are really abused, and remind the victim what all the abuser does for them, so they should be thankful. Abusers use this language to undermine the value of those they overpower, by making them believe they should be thankful their life is not worse, to make them feel guilty for wanting more; make them ashamed and feel greedy at the thought of a better life. It is a psychological abuse to keep them in line and under the abuser’s control.

Now the deep, abusive misogyny is revealed. Equality is not based on someone’s misfortune. We do not measure our freedom against those who are oppressed in other places in the world. The measurement of our equality, the measurement of our value and our rights are against our fellow citizens. And we are not equal.

The white patriarchy of this country enjoyed designing for itself a system of great rewards. That constitution we hold so dear did not apply to lesser humans, like women and minorities. We have been forced to fight for every single right, every tiny step towards equality was a monumental struggle: in women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, and actual religious freedoms.

It is time we see the patriarchy for what it is, and those who support it for who they are. It is an abusive spouse continually trying to shame us for wanting more, telling us to be thankful for what we are given because it could be so much worse. They seek to distract us with our own shame, so we will fall in the line of complacent obedience. They tell us we should be grateful. They tell us we are equal enough.

But women are still fighting for the right to govern their own bodies. The wage gap between men and women is between 53% to 75% depending on your minority status. Girls are taught in school that they must dress certain ways or they will distract boys, meaning a boy’s education is more important than a girl’s and that girls are responsible for the behavior of boys. The judicial system continually dismisses or hands down ridiculously light sentences to men who commit violent crimes against women. Sexual consent is defined as not saying no, rather than saying yes. Victims of rape are shamed for what they wear or drink instead of rapists being held accountable for their actions. Black communities are targeted by law enforcement to fill private prison quotas. Prisons have become the new slave drivers. Healthcare is a for-profit commodity extorting money from the most vulnerable of people. Child poverty, hunger and homelessness is actually still a problem. People are being attacked for what bathroom they use. The disabled are being ridiculed and education funds are being ripped away from schools to care for and enable  our special needs children. A woman seeking an abortion is condemned, but an unwed mother is shamed. Men with money buy political power and influence while paying less in taxes, while people working just to survive foot the government’s bill. Corporations are given more authority and rights than citizens, allowed to destroy properties and undermine the natural resources necessary for life for communities, all in the name of profit. The EPA, FDA and even the Parks and Wildlife Administration are no longer allowed to answer to the people. Citizens can no longer call the Whitehouse, the People’s House, with complaints or concerns. Doctors no longer are required to treat patients regardless of their sexual orientation or social choices. People can be denied medical attention based on the religious ideologies of the doctor or facility. This also means that employers will be able to discriminate against employees, or the hiring of employees, based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or any bigoted idea they can claim as part of their religion. Minimum wage has failed to increase with cost of living and the tax cuts given to corporations in the Trickle Down Economics Theory did not consider that the benefits would trickle no further than the top, making the corporate executives far wealthier while maintaining the lowest possible wages for employees. The minimum wage was not created for part-time students. It was created to ensure that hard working people earned a reasonable wage to live. Congress and the the Senate give themselves cost of living raises, but don’t seem to think the citizens of the United States require a livable wage to survive.

But you are supposed to feel equal enough. You are supposed to be thankful it isn’t worse. You are supposed to take what you are given like it is some great gift you didn’t earn, rather than your right as a human being. You have a right to your body and should not have to ask anyone for permission or their approval to exercise that right. You do not have to accept public shame for crimes committed against you. You do not have to accept less pay for the same work. You do not have to accept pollution in your community because it benefits corporate profits. You should not have to suffer or die, or watch those you love be consumed by illness because you can’t afford designer healthcare. People should not be living in abject poverty while working full time jobs. You never should be forced to hide who you are or who you love. You should never have to fear the police.

Being thankful for what you have does not make you equal. United, we must stand against this abusive ideology. When you see this thrown at you, call it out for what it is. Ask them if what they really mean is that we are equal enough so we should stop complaining.

I refuse to accept their abuse with complacency. I refuse to be their subjected victim. I am going to continue to fight, to fight back, because NO. We are not equal enough.

We are One Woman, One World.

Women’s Global March

photo credit: http://designedthinking.com/

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Probably not what you thought!

If you thought this would be a blog about flowers, artwork, writing, pretty pictures or happy rainbows, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  Well, not really.  If you’re familiar with my works, then you will know there is an underlying theme of feminine empowerment, recognizing not only the struggles women face today, but how those struggles have both changed and remained the same throughout history. Recognizing where we are and where we came from gives us each power over where we will go and how to get there.

In the coming posts you will find a convergence of history, cultures, politics, world events, interviews, heroic women accomplishing amazing and inspiring feats, and even fiery condemnation for those who attempt to demean half the world’s population by suggesting or demanding subservience.

The blog isn’t exactly about feminism, but rather focuses on demanding equality and shedding light on the path, both behind and ahead, which leads to it. I hope you will take this journey with me.

I will happily review any suggestions for stories.  Send them to AnnLavendar@annlavendar.com