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    South Carolina Pride held their 25th festival today in downtown Columbia.  At least twenty thousand rainbow-bedecked people were there.  Latta, SC police chief Crystal Moore spoke about her recent firing and community-demanded reinstatement.  The Goodwin/Bradacs family spoke.  Also Thomas Ravenel, reality star/"politician", and candidate for lt. governor State Rep. Bakari Sellers, who has been a representative since he was 22!  He's still a whippersnapper at 30 and got my vote today with his wise words.  But T-Rav can kiss my ass.  He even looks like a douchebag.

    I've been to a lot of street festivals, but these people were seriously happy and having a great time.  I was impressed with the number of churches and Christian groups who were there and reaching out in obvious love and acceptance.  I love it when Christians act like Christians.  TD Bank handed out a million rainbow flags.  Time-Warner Cable had a float, and lots of employees having fun, as did TJ Maxx.  Food Lion was there too, and when I told the guy at their booth that I cashier for their competitor, he offered me a job.  It's good to have part-time low-wage job options.

    Everyone in the parade and watching were having a great time, chanting and singing and dancing and waving.  I got beads and candy and a bracelet and a button and cards from churches and a fan and a flag.  There were veterans and current military and a motorcycle club and some different businesses.  We marched with the high school gay-straight alliances.  The kids told me they went online to find good slogans for their signs.  They were so excited they were literally bouncing up and down.  For hours.

    At the end of the parade, we passed in front of the State House, where the Confederate flag flies on the grounds.  It's that kind of place.  All along in front of the statehouse were the anti-gay protesters, maybe 40 or 50 of them.  They were lined up, silent, frowning, holding signs that said "March With Shame" and things about sin.  Those people were not having any fun.  I took some pictures of them.  But the crowd had so much positive energy that most of the attendees didn't even notice the protesters.  None of the people I talked to later in the day remembered seeing them.  I knew they would be there and I was looking for them.  But it was not an impressive display.  When you know the game has been lost, I guess playing isn't that fun anymore.

    We saw several amazing performances by very tall ladies with elaborate costumes.  There was a camel!  And goats, including baby goats and a big turtle and llamas.  We had our pictures taken with beautiful drag queens who were very kind and gracious to my excited young friends.  We sampled some delicious traditional gay foods, like pizza and ramen and funnel cakes.  I saw rainbow everything--shoes, socks, tights, sequined dresses, wings, tails, it was like an explosion in a Chinese novelty factory.  There were lots of presumably gay dogs and cops.  I kept saying, "Look, gay cops!" and it kept being funny.  There were very old people and very young people all being wheeled around swathed in rainbows, all kinds of couples and families, all colors and shapes and sizes of people.  It was so beautiful, and I think my young friends felt uplifted by being in such an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance and love.  That's not something they get a lot of, growing up gay in South Carolina.

    I know that everybody likes to make fun of Southerners.  Whenever South Carolina makes the national news, it's always due to something embarrassing.  Like Lindsey Graham, or Mark Sanford's secret Argentinian mistress.  But there are amazing people all through the South.  The South is worth saving.  Today I am proud of my community.

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    I just finished reading Naomi Klein's new book, which was profoundly disturbing.  If you haven't read it, why are you still here?  Go and download it at once.  You see, I thought that things were less terrible, that some progress had been made in the last 20 years.  The truth was inconvenient a long time ago, and the speed of destruction has apparently gotten far worse, with innovative new ways of screwing up the environment in large swathes, while releasing the carbon that will eventually KILL US ALL.

    You'd think that people would be alarmed, but they're not.  Not at all.  The corporate noise machine has been so very, very successful, that these days they basically just get whatever they want.  Most Americans think exactly what they have been told to think for so many years now.  And the corporate overlords are bent on extracting every last ounce of oil.  If it took MORE oil to get that last little bit, why, I think they'd go ahead and get it.

    They don't care if it kills everybody; in fact, I'm beginning to think that maybe it is a welcome side effect to certain elements of the right.  It's a feature. What do they need four billion poor people for?  They are looking forward to it, preparing for it, and intending to survive it if they have to kill every last poor person in the world personally.  They already have the ammo hoarded, I bet.

    In Naomi Klein's book, she writes about groups of Native people all over the world who are treating this like the crisis that it is and literally putting their bodies in the way of the machinery that is destroying our only home.  To me, that is beginning to seem like the best response a human could have.

    Then I go to my grocery store cashier job, where I wear a uniform made in China, and I sell things that are destroying the planet.  Each of these items then goes into a planet-destroying plastic bag.  Sometimes two.  People buy milk, don't get me started on the cows, in a plastic jug which already has a handle, and then they want it double-bagged.  If I don't mind.  Well, I do mind, and someday I will say to a customer, "Don't you know that plastic bags are made from oil?  There's probably five hundred of them under your kitchen sink right now.  Why do you need another plastic bag?" I must convey this emotion to customers non-verbally, because often people will explain to me why they need a bag.

    I don't need green living tips, because as a poor person, my impact is minimal.  American minimal:  I don't have a car.  And I'm not going to live in a tent while the rest of you fuckers enjoy air conditioning and fluffy towels.  Okay, I could be persuaded to live in a tent, but not while working for a corporation.

    I want out.  I don't want to participate in this, this BULLSHIT that passes for a society.  And I don't think things have to be this way.  I KNOW there are other ways to live.  I want to matter to people, I want to help.  I got a master's in community counseling because I wanted to help kids, and I did, for ten years, until the economy fell apart.  Then SC passed a law prohibiting state agencies, or any agency getting state funding, or whoever since this is a right-to-work state, from hiring people who are in default on student loans, which I am.  So I am a cashier.  Everything that I am about, all my creative energy and love, is just wasted.  I work and sleep and read and write; I could do that anywhere.

    So where is the movement, and how do I join?  Does anyone need me to live in a tree?  Or chain myself to a backhoe, or something?

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    People not voting is a problem.  A young person asked me today why people don't vote, in light of everything that is America today, and I had a million answers but not any one very good one.  I think it just doesn't seem very important to most people.  I can tell you that I have observed all my life that Republicans do everything they can to suppress the vote, and Democrats try to get everyone to vote, and that's one of the reasons I'm a Democrat.

    To me, voting is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do.  And I am annoying about it, but either everyone I know is a registered voter, or ...maybe some of them are lying to me so I'll shut up about it.  The last thing you want to tell me is that you don't vote on purpose.

    We were discussing some of the more colorful Republican politicians, and I mentioned that the midterm elections are coming up, and that most of these crazy dudes will be getting re-elected; in fact, the Republicans will likely take the Senate.  All of this over the backdrop of climate crisis.  And my friend was astonished.  "HOW IN THE WORLD," he asked, "do they get re-elected?"

    Well, there's the right-wing media noise machine extravaganza, there's the Koch brothers, there's generalized amplified indoctrinated FEAR.  There's Big Money behind it all.  It's a lot to deal with.  But I have faith in the people.  I believe that people are generally good.  I think if we could shut off the noise machine and turn off the money spigot, that people could change the way they think.  I think if everybody voted, we'd have a lot more liberal elected officials.

    Voting is important not only for the sake of all the people who died so we could do it, but also for our own state of being.  Keeping up with current affairs is interesting and fun, if frustrating also, and I think more people would do it, but look!  Kardashian baby! (I don't know anything about popular culture so I stole that from someone else. Sorry.)

    I live in a college town, and people are serious about football here.  Their knowledge of the game, its players and strategies and history, is deep and profound.  They have special clothing and jewelry and especially equipment for entertaining.  It's a big party.  But in football, unlike politics, whoever wins the game does not get to determine if I have access to health care; that is, if I live or die.

    Election Day should be a holiday.  We should have oyster roasts and barbecues and get together with friends and family.  Vote first, and then drink your beer or what have you, and watch the returns on Comedy Central with your nearest and dearest.  If there is one day of the year that everyone needs to have off from work, it's Election Day.  There's probably some reason for this that I am just too ignorant to know.

    I'll tell you one thing I do know, and that is explaining politics to young people in a red state is more difficult that it may look.  But it's super fun!

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    In Daniel Quinn's excellent book Ishmael the gorilla asks the narrator to think about what Mother Culture has been whispering to him all his life.  The myths of our culture.  And the narrator says that we don't have any myths.  Then the gorilla explains about the golden cage in which we live, and how the stories we tell ourselves shape our behavior.  This blew my mind.  That's how I became aware of the existence of the Noise Machine.  It's everywhere, it's the cultural water we swim in.  It can't be ignored if you want to participate in modern life.  But a big part of it has been hijacked by the Republican party, or as I affectionately call them, our Evil Corporate Overlords Who Are Literally Trying to Kill Us.

    After I read Ishmael I started reading all the books Mr. Quinn listed in the bibliography.  Some of them were about/by Native Americans, and there were some about wilderness survival.  I was really into that at the time.  And I think Ecotopia was on there, which is a FANTASTIC book I recommend to all the young idealistic ecowarriors.  I was thinking a lot about sustainable communities with nurturing social structures.  I was online at the time and did a Daniel Quinn discussion group thing, which was awesome, kinda like Kos.  Some of those folks might be here; hey, y'all.  It seemed possible that the world was really going to change.

    Then Gore lost and the Bush years began and I had a kid and a career and I did go away for a while.  I have not been paying attention like I should, especially since Obama was elected, because I thought we had the White House.  But that hasn't worked out in terms of progress, because of the wingnuts.  The fucking wingnuts!  At this point I think some of the older Republicans are embarrassed, as well they should be.

    It's been twenty years since I was reading Daniel Quinn for the first time, and things have gotten SO MUCH worse.  I am appalled.  I think Bryan Lambert is right and we should go ahead and erect a big stone monument that says "We Listened To Idiots" so future intelligent beings will know why we self-destructed and devastated the planet.  And to those of you who live in liberal places, never underestimate the stupidity of the hordes who believe the wingnut lies.  There are lots of them, and they are armed.

    I think a lot about why people vote against their own best self-interest, and it's the noise machine.  The Machine is corporately owned and mostly spews out advertising.  It's important that we understand how deficient we are in order to keep us consuming as much as possible.  We stink in several discrete areas, and we are either too fat or too skinny.  We are unhealthy and probably have diseases we don't even know about; at any rate, medication is necessary, and lots of it.  Our wardrobes must be updated constantly and must contain special items for every conceivable circumstance.  If we cared about our loved ones, we'd buy them plusher toilet paper, and if we really loved our children, they'd be eating astonishingly waste-producing meals consisting of tiny amounts of processed food surrounded by truly offensive amounts of plastic.

    You know, I am only dimly aware of what the noise machine is saying, because I Turned. It. Off.  I read Jerry Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television and I stopped watching tv.  For twenty years people treated me like I was insane.  People kept giving me televisions, which I would pass on to someone else, or use to watch DVDs.  People asked me if I was American.  The idea that anyone would voluntarily not watch television was incomprehensible.  Other people were totally down with it.  "Oh, me too," they'd say smugly.  "I only watch the History Channel, and the Learning Channel, and Discovery, and the news networks..." 

    The point of it was to not see commercials, to dull the Machine's noise.  And while the growth of the Internet has given me lots of company in No TV Land, it has exposed me to commercials.  I don't mind movie trailers, because I like movies, and I often see Ron Reagan saying he isn't afraid of burning in hell, which is fine.  But if I see that Bud Light commercial one more time I will track down the mayor of Whatever, USA and strangle him.

    On the Internet the Machine is a lot easier to avoid, but I think it's still very prevalent for a lot of people.  The information that they are getting is so processed.  Either we shut it off or we get people to stop listening to it. do we work towards shutting it down, and how do we get people to stop listening to it?

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  • 04/17/15--23:47: Hey Y'all! I'm back!
  • A lot has changed since my last diary SO long ago. When we last spoke back in October I bitched about being a cashier for The Man. I said I wanted out.  I'm still a cashier at a grocery store, but now it's a small natural-foods store, it's locally owned, I can wear what I want, with no name tag, and if I ask the customers if they want a plastic bag they frequently recoil in horror like I've offered them a fresh dog turd.

    IT'S SO AWESOME!!!!!

    Same job. Same duties. Same fucking produce codes. Even the same customers, since my new job is just across the street from the old one. But the contrast could not be stronger.

    In Corporate World, everyone hates their job. Even the managers who are making real money hate their jobs. People are differently cheerful about this, but it never goes away, like a slightly noxious miasma. Owned Small Business World, everyone loves their job and has been with our boss for years and years. People have left for extended periods to pursue other goals and then returned to employment.  Sometimes people are grumpy here too, as humans are everywhere, but in general the vibe is much more positive.

    At my corporate job, I got no discount. None. And every day I had to watch enough food to feed a literal army, and yes I have fed an army, or at least a platoon, go into the compactor and be wasted. Now I enjoy substantial discounts on everything in the store, and the food and other items that can't be sold are given to the staff. I get a lot of food, mostly rice but choicer items too, and plenty of magazines, bodycare things, and even vitamins.

    Back in Hell, my friend and I fought to implement recycling in the breakroom but were constantly thwarted. In Ecotopia we reuse or recycle EVERYTHING. My boss never gets rid of anything that might be reused or repurposed. Our compost goes to the local urban farm, City Roots. We have the smallest trash dumpster available, but still it rarely needs emptied.

    I no longer have concerns about the mental health of the cows and chickens who create my favorite foods, because now I know the farmers who care for them and I have heard them argue about whose livestock is happiest.

    Yes, it's Bizarro World! And after only three months, strange things are happening to me.  I'm much, much happier. I quit smoking cigarettes.  I went from two liters of Coke a day to four ounces. I'm eating healthier and taking care of myself, and I've even lost twenty pounds. I've gotten interested in Buddhism and started practicing meditation.  I've made new friends who are optimistic, knowledgeable, interesting people.

    Most importantly, I am now a better friend to my loved ones, because my mental health is so much better. I no longer dread going to work, and while I'm there, I'm content. I don't watch the clock. I'm always surprised when it's time to go.  It isn't an ordeal to be gotten through, but a pleasant way to spend the day.  I'm looking forward to seeing more changes in my life as I tread this new path.

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  • 04/21/15--17:40: Anger Towards the Rich
  • A couple of ladies were chatting near my cash register the other day after their lunch, as one admired the other's wallet. "Oh, it was only five hundred dollars," she said to her friend. "I wish I'd got two, they had some pretty colors.""You should have!" trilled her friend as they went out the door. I watched them go with an uncomfortable sense of rising rage.

    I don't want to be angry at rich people. But they make it very difficult. I know those ladies mean well--they're at a local business, after all--but clearly they don't understand what my life is like. To me, and to most of my friends, $500 is a lot of money. Life-changing money, to a poor person. For example, that would buy a moped which would take me to the free clinic for my medical care, whereas now we have to crowdsource that sort of transportation among the friends. We could almost buy a car. I could get new glasses and new shoes for work would certainly go a long way at Goodwill for all of us.

    I make eight dollars an hour and I work thirty hours a week. I have nothing. Anything I need--such as a three-dollar stick of deodorant--is a big deal. I don't have real access to medical care, or transportation to a better job or just to see my daughter. I can't afford healthy food or supplements or yoga classes or any of that stuff that regular people think nothing of buying. If anything really bad happens to me, there's no safety net. Unemployment and homelessness are just the beginnings of the possible horrors.  It doesn't bear thinking about. So I don't, usually.

    I am happy, usually. I just roll with the poverty thing and I think most people think of me as plucky and strong and wry, which is how I'm getting through this. I do not need to be rescued. I am not alone. But I get tired.

    I'm tired of the million slights that go along with poverty and how hard it is to meet my basic needs, the degradations and the humiliations that happen every day. And it's not just me, there are millions of us and we are suffering. I watch my friends suffer and struggle and yet find beauty and meaning and hope in their lives. I know that as the American poor, we are the lucky ones. I have not forgotten those who suffer worse in other places.

    This has to change, this obscene inequality. As a society we surely can't take much more. It's hurting everyone so much. It's hard to make me angry. If I'm mad there are three millions people even more pissed off than I am. I don't know how to fix it all; I'm kind of busy just surviving. And I don't want your pity. I just want my voice to be heard, so thanks for reading.

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    I am very poor, and I live in a red state. I make eight bucks an hour and work thirty hours a week. Half my income goes to rent; I'm barely eating. I have very limited access to health care and at my age, need it desperately. Besides my physical health problems, I suffer from several mental illnesses. I can't get professional help for those either. I have no car and have great difficulty with transportation. Recently my glasses were destroyed, but I can't replace them.

    You might be surprised to learn that I grew up in a wealthy family. I went to prestigious universities for college and graduate school, where I excelled. I was valedictorian of my grad school class and later wrote a chapter for a textbook on giftedness. I've worked with children of all ages and especially enjoyed my work with teens. I also enjoyed doing group work with women. I've worked with gifted kids and drug-addicted teens; young sex offenders and inner-city gang kids. I think I'm a pretty good counselor.

    I'm not alone in my poverty. I am one of 45 million Americans who live below the poverty line, and we are suffering every day. I believe that most Americans don't really understand what it's like to be poor in America today, particularly under Republican policies. Even if you were poor in your past, the experience of poverty today is very different. I know because I'm living it. I can see the particular shape of it because I know how the other half truly lives. I'm able to describe it because my excellent education prepared me to do so. I can research poverty easily because of the glorious internet. And you can read my words because of Daily Kos.

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  • 06/09/15--16:27: Bad News Bernies
  • Last night I went to my first meeting of Columbia SC People for Bernie. There were six of us. I was the youngest, and I'm...not young. Every time someone mentioned young people, everyone looked over at me. Which is great, because I know young people. I can even provide a wrangler. We planned a picnic next Sunday, so if you're going to be in the Southeast, y'all come! Info in comments.

    I looked around the room and I thought about the Koch brothers vowing to drop nearly a billion on this race, and all the other billionaires who will spend nearly as much. We're just three aging lady hippies, a middle-aged Black guy, an elderly feminist, and an underemployed dreamer. Over at A$$hole Central they're having catered lunches and secretaries bringing them coffee. They've got high tech equipment like copy machines. They aren't discussing which copy place is half a cent cheaper. What can we ordinary people do against such money and power?

    I believe the answer is, EVERYTHING. I think we can change the world. I'm laughing as I write this, because this is a very discredited idea, but I do believe it to the core of my being. As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of slightly messed up people can change the world." (I don't have time for Google right now.) That lady said it was the ONLY thing that can change the world, and she didn't even know about the Internet! THIS IS GONNA BE EASY! We've got plenty of small groups of pissed-off people! People who have been damaged by Republican policies are extremely thick on the ground these days.

    Many people have lost hope, even within progressive communities.  I hear it regularly, and I always tell the person that I know we are going to prevail, because we are on the side of truth. I point out that there's more of us, and that more of us are young. Conservatives are dying off, but they've created a huge underclass of young, diverse people, and all of those people are liberals, even if they don't know it. The conservatives are flailing about in disarray. We could probably elect Miss Piggy at this point, as long as she wasn't a Republican, given how their candidates are polling.

    Let's take this opportunity to push for real change in our society. Let's give the people what they want and what they need. Let's reach out to our coworkers and neighbors and acquaintances with love and information and voter registration cards. Join me in working to elect Bernie Sanders for President!

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  • 06/15/15--12:10: Bernie: The Power of Potluck
  • It was easy to #feelthebern at Sunday's picnic because it was a hundred degrees here in Columbia! The picnic was well-attended with people from all over the state. We left early but there were about forty people there, enjoying freshly made barbecue, baked beans, mac and cheese, and salads, plus plenty of desserts and fruit. People of varying ages and colors signed up to volunteer, shared stories, and exchanged contact information. I missed the speeches as my ride had to get back early.

    I went with two young friends. This will be their first election, and they are excited. They seem pretty confident the next President will be a Democrat. When you say "free college" to young people, they start paying attention. I got a t-shirt but my friends did not as there were no smalls. A couple of people mentioned the new rainbow Bernie shirts online. We also got stickers and buttons; everything union made in the USA!

    I talked to some people who are going to the town meeting next Sunday in Charleston and got myself a ride. I'm really excited about this! Maybe I'll get to meet Bernie!

    After my last post many people were downers in the comments. I understand the way the real world works. But I also have faith in people, and I know that small changes make big results. This is what we do: help one person register to vote, talk with our coworker about current events, choose to buy local, ride a bike instead of drive. Little people, little things, little changes. I don't necessarily believe that I'll be attending the inauguration of President Sanders, though it is possible. Millions of tiny changes. That's how we save the world. And the angry youth, of course!

    The Republicans think Americans are stupid, and their tricks work infuriatingly well. The only way to fight lies is the truth; we can only fight hate with love. Luckily we have an inexhaustible supply of those things. We make more truth and love every time we gather together over sweet tea and barbeque or beer and deviled eggs and we listen to each other and care for one another. There is more truth and love every time someone films police brutality and makes sure the world knows about it. Every time someone stands up and says, "Do not speak in that hateful way to my brothers and sisters," we see the loving truth in that. When chefs risk arrest to feed the homeless, when thousands of people call the racist teacher's boss to object, that's love and truth. So speak out! Let the voices of love and truth be heard.

    What you do matters. Thanks for reading, y'all!

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  • 06/18/15--14:03: Somebody Taught Him to Hate
  • This was posted on Charleston shooter Roof's Facebook page by Christian musician Marcus Stanley:

    I don't know you, but when I searched for your name from the news outlets it led me here. You're not captured yet, so there is a chance that you may see this message. I don't look at you with the eyes of hatred, or judge you by your appearance or race, but I look at you as a human being that made a horrible decision to take the lives of 9 living & breathing people. Children do not grow up with hatred in their hearts. In this world we are born color blind. Somewhere along the line, you were taught to hate people that are not like you, and that is truly tragic. You have accomplished nothing from this killing, but planting seeds of pain that will forever remain in the hearts of the families that lost their lives and countless hearts around our country. If you're still out there and you have your phone with you... Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness. He is the only one that can save your soul and forgive you for the terrible act that you have done. I love you Dylann... even in the midst of the darkness and pain you've caused, but more importantly HE loves you....
    Somebody did teach him to hate. They taught him to hate and they put a gun in his hand. It was Fox News, which ought to be a hate group, and the Republican Party and the NRA who put the gun in his hand, all of the racists and corporate greed.

    Please look at an old DKos post on stochastic terrorism. I can't link right now. I don't want the right wing to get away with saying that Dylann Roof was a crazy person, a lone wolf. We must hold them accountable.

    So many people are suffering, among them me, and my pain is NOTHING compared to what these families and the congregation must be going through. I don't want to minimize that, but simply point out that the ripples spread far. It was a church that was very important even outside the Charleston community and people who were valued statewide. There are thousands of people grieving here and I'm sure across the nation. He killed nine people but he injured hundreds of thousands if not millions of us.  And he didn't act alone.

    I'm not a Christian but I agree with much of what Marcus Stanley wrote above. If you are a person of faith, I ask you to pray for the people of South Carolina and all the red states. But more importantly, ACT. We need your help. Thanks for reading.

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    Young South Carolinians play under the hate flag this May
    The people of South Carolina, most of whom are good, decent, compassionate people, are changing their minds about the Confederate flag. Many white Southerners have something with the hate flag on it; my mother went to Ole Miss and there is a hate flag charm on the charm bracelet handed down to me. It has been destroyed. People are taking down their yard flags, or maybe they are being stolen; either way, the flags are coming down. Bumper stickers are being scraped off and patches are being ripped off clothing.

    Most of us have Black friends, and always have. I read the study saying only a quarter of white adults have a Black friend. I don't think that's true in the South. There's a larger proportion of Black people here. In 2015 we all go to school together, we work together, we date and marry and adopt each other, we go to church together, we play sports together, and do political activism, share houses, have real friendships. Yes, there are a lot of racists here, but it just isn't the norm. Most of them are, frankly, getting pretty old now, and younger people just aren't as racist. People like Dylann Storm Roof are rare. Most South Carolinians are pretty tolerant.

    What makes us look bad, besides our whackos obviously, are our politicians, who also seem insane. There the flag flies.  Nobody likes it. We all have to apologize for it. It affects our economy. It offends our brothers and sisters. It hurts the self-esteem of our children. It dismisses the terrible suffering of our forbears. It encourages and inspires dangerous and violent impulses in people. It destroys lives, and it's time to bring it down.

    I know everyone over at the Statehouse are grieving right now. They are attending funerals and comforting friends. But when they return to work, I suggest their first order of business should be to bring the flag down. We, the people of South Carolina, are removing the symbols of hate which litter our private spaces. It is time for the legislature to finally remove the one in our most important public space. Bring the flag down so that we can wash the blood from our hands, the hatred from our souls, and begin the healing process.

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    Local residents at the #takeitdown rally in Columbia

    More than 1,500 people gathered Saturday evening at a hastily organized rally to demand the Confederate flag be taken down from South Carolina’s State House grounds.

    Speaker after speaker linked the Confederate flag, which flies in front of the State House, to the church massacre Wednesday in Charleston, where a white supremacist gunned down nine African Americans in a prayer group. The rally on the state house grounds stemmed from the recent shootings of 9 black parishioners in Charleston.

    Speaker Tom Hall said elected officials who keep the flag flying in front of the State House are embarrassed to fly it on their own property. Under S.C. law, two-thirds of lawmakers have to vote to take the flag down.

    “Not one elected official has got that flag at their business or in their yard,” Hall told the cheering crowd. “(But) it is in your face.”

    Former state Rep. Boyd Brown, a Democrat from Fairfield County, told the crowd, “We have to take Southern pride out of the hands of the racists and the haters.”

    Several of the dozen-plus speakers called on Republican Gov. Nikki Haley to take the initiative and begin the work of taking the flag down.

    Most of the crowd was white, but numerous African Americans attended, too.

    Tiffany James, 34, an African-American government worker, said the rally was organized too quickly for word to spread in her community. But she was heartened so many whites attended.

    “We are in this together as Americans. It was a message that we will no longer stand for hate,” James said. “This is the first step, and it’s a large step. If we have another rally, more people will come.”

    The rally had its origins in a Facebook page – Take the flag down SC – created Thursday morning by Columbia resident Mari Borghani. The 34-year-old social worker said she woke up to news that a white gunman had massacred nine African Americans in a Charleston church. Within hours, her social media page had hundreds of likes. It now has 4,755.

    Read more here:

    Right after the rally, I went to the movies at SC's only independent arthouse theater, the Nickelodeon. (Saw the Beach Boys movie and it was excellent.) As we were waiting in line, a gentleman gave the theater people a #Take the flag down sign and asked them to post it. During the movie I took a break and spoke with the young men working in the office. I pointed at the sign and said, "I agree! I hope you will post the sign." They chuckled uncomfortably. "That would push a lot of buttons." I explained that things have changed, that people in South Carolina now must stand up and speak out. I pointed out that people all over the world are now watching our response. I asked them to let their boss know what I said. They agreed with me but seemed unsure of the response they'd get. I hope the next time I go there, the sign is up.

    We are also having a big old flag barbeque on June 27th! Roasted hate flag for everyone! Y'all come!

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    Gov. Haley and some CEO
    Thank you to everyone who called or emailed or blogged or commented or talked to their friends. What we do matters! I will be having a drink to celebrate Governor Haley's announcement. However, the hate flag is right now flapping over my Statehouse. And as always, people in Red States are suffering. So keep up the fight! Let's talk about South Carolina and why this shit is going down the way it is.

    As we know, Gov. Haley works for CEOs, not us. Someone wondered how many CEOs she heard from this weekend, and I'm thinking the answer is, she had a very bad weekend. Many of you called businesses and cancelled travel plans and the like. Those business owners called Nikki Haley, but they couldn't get through because she was talking to people like the CEO of Volvo, who probably does not care one bit about what some angry white Southerners think. Maybe someone from Boeing or Amazon or Google. That sort of thing.

    We have gotten some new factories in South Carolina and that's a good thing. It's good for things to be made in the USA by Americans, and it's great for South Carolinians to have jobs, because that is definitely a problem if you want to make more than eight bucks an hour with no benefits. However, the reason companies want to build factories in South Carolina is because Nikki Haley makes it worth their while, and one of the ways she does that is to sell out her people.

    South Carolina is a right-to-work state with no unions and limited worker rights. That's very attractive to corporations because it saves a lot of money. We are desperate and will work for much less with fewer benefits than in other states. You don't even have to give us breaks if you don't want to! It's labor paradise from the corporate viewpoint and labor hell from the worker viewpoint. However, if your old job was at a fast-food grill, just being clean at work is a step up. The people here don't know that labor is not like this everywhere. Nobody wants her to piss off CEOs.

    Much has been made about the flag not flying at half staff, and yes, it is disrespectful, and yes, it is against the Flag Code. If the flag had stayed on the dome where it was from the sixties until 2000, it would have been at half staff because it was on the same rope as the US and SC flags. I think when it was moved, no provision was made for it to fly at half staff. It was overlooked. As we know it isn't on a rope and is simply locked to the top of the flagpole, because most people have wanted it down for years. So there was no option for lowering it. Surely, though, the flags have flown at half staff before. After 9/11, it must have been flown full staff, did anyone one notice that at the time?

    In hopeful news, one of the hate flags I see every day has been taken down. Another still flies, but temptingly near the road. I'm sure it will be gone soon. I wore a homemade "Take the flag down" pin today and got mixed reactions. An older white lady bent over and whispered to me, "I agree with you. Take it down." Thanks, but you can say it out loud. It's okay. We don't have to hate anymore. You can come out of the closet and let everyone know that you're tolerant.

    The hate flag still flies at the Statehouse tonight and it will be flying in the morning. Thousands of people will see it on their way to work. Perhaps the legislature will take it up when they return tomorrow. It seems so soon for them to have to go back to work. I know some hate them, but many of them are Democrats and even the Republicans are my neighbors. One of their own has been assassinated. That must impact the stoniest heart. Let's assume that flag comes down tomorrow. Hooray! Now, we still need your help. The flag coming down is just a baby step. There are many more opportunities for change!

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    Hey y'all!
    I do not have parents or family to speak of, and I find myself in a situation now that is very, very bad. If I had a home to go to, I would go there now, but I don't. What I need is a council of elders, wise people who will listen to my situation and help me decide what I should do. I don't have family, but I do have you, a community known for intelligence and compassion. Maybe I can get some insights or even a consensus on what path I should take at this time. I'm in Mortal Peril, but I'm not without resources. I think I have one more comeback left in me, but I don't know what direction to take. If you don't think you have insight yourself, please feel free to share this with the wise elder in your life.

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  • 07/10/15--05:00: The Kossacks Who Fixed Me
  • When I posted a diary asking for advice, I was in a bad place. I'd been trapped in a whirlpool for so long, my brain wasn't working. Now I have clarity; I am able to plan and gather information and think productively. I have the hope and optimism necessary to get up and do what needs to be done. My situation hasn't changed one bit, but now I have the power to change it. Power and direction: escape velocity! And it didn't cost a dime.

    Only a few people read and commented on my diary Advice From My Elders, but the wisdom, experience and advice that they shared literally fixed me. They shared practical tips and links, things they had done that worked and didn't, and their own stories. Especially this last--"I've been in your situation and I understand"--has given me amazing fortitude. Several people advised getting a notebook and making lists. It's a simple idea but once I started, one of the locks on my chains came free. I started googling: states that expanded medicaid, best place to live if you're poor, best places for biking, blue states. It all comes down to the blue states! I'll live longer in a blue state. My muddled thinking clarified. My pessimism was forgotten. I am free, free to leave this hellish place.

    I have chosen the perfect place to move, and the winning community is Eugene, Oregon. My bicycle will join the hundreds of bikes parked at festivals, I'll visit my homeless brothers and sisters at Opportunity Village, and buy fresh veggies at the Saturday Market. I'll go hiking in the mountains and have liberal friends and health care. I can't even imagine what it will be like. I'm going to LIVE!

    Yes, it's going to be hard. Moving across the country is supposed to be impossible for poor people; we're supposed to stay where we are. The economy depends on it. But I refuse; I will not work at a low-wage job until I die from lack of health care at an early age. I'll do a GoFundMe, and if that fails, a plane ticket is $200. I can do this.

    I'd like to call out a couple of Kossacks who said things that really resonated with me. Jodem gave me a step-by-step plan that really got me moving. Gwenned really did just sell everything and get on a bus! Best decision she ever made. In my case it's cheaper to fly. Besame linked to intentional communities, which could be a great idea for me for housing. Besame also saw the big picture in a way that helped me to trust myself:

    The problem isn't in your vision, it's a systemic social problem that is getting worse. The system seems rigged to let someone drop until they don't just hit bottom, they go into the sub-basement before any social services net catches them.
    Blaqntelligence made me ROFL with "If you value your life leave the south immediately!" Blaq also said this about fleeing red for blue:
    After putting in the work and time today, literally, I am celebrating one year employed at a very lucrative job, I've bought a car, have a very nice apartment....and would not go south for all the money anyone could give me. I hate to politicize your dilemma but find a Democrat-controlled environment. Your quality of life and health will thank you.
    I want to thank those Kossacks and all the others who read and commented, but most especially Kos, for making this a place that is not only informative and fun, but also a real community in the highest sense of the word. I will keep y'all posted on my journey!

    If someone could tell me how to make links, I think we'd all be happier.

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  • 07/12/15--12:09: Why I'm Leaving the South
  • I've come to the painful decision that in order to preserve my life, I must leave the land that I love. I was born in Mississippi, grew up in Virginia, and lived most of my adult life in South Carolina; all beautiful places with amazing people, all governed by the forces of banal evil. I don't want to live in a place where the state's attitude toward the poor is "Let them die." I am a poor person; I fell through the cracks. I don't want to work at a low-wage job while struggling to survive until my early death from some easily preventable ailment. I love the South, but I give up. I'm leaving. The red states are death states for so many people. I won't be the last refugee. Nearly half the American poor live in the South. But I won't live to work towards solving these problems unless I can get health care. So I'm setting out with a suitcase towards the hope of a better future in a blue state.

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    I don't know what you guys were up to while I was at work! But whatever it was, it worked. You have given me freedom, serenity, peace, strength, and $9400. I don't even know what to think, I glanced at my email, I have 200 emails and I think a few are from people who'd like a look at my resume. Many seem to be from Eugene residents! I can't wait to go through them and respond to everyone and thank everyone individually. You'll probably need to be patient with me because my head is spinning, anything is possible.

    I'll post again in a few days but I can tell from a quick scan that we did this in small increments. We can do anything if we all work together. We can beat the right wing and we WILL beat the right wing and I know that for a fact.

    I have a lot to think about now! One thing I am thinking about is a donation to charity, and I am thinking of a charity here in South Carolina, since those in need in Oregon will have me right there helping out, whereas the people here will not. Giving here is something I can do for those left behind.

    I don't think my brain is working anymore. This is shocking and wonderful and I just need to process it for a little while. If someone could fill me in on how this happened...

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    Health care is awesome!
    I decided that it would be a good idea to go ahead and see a doctor and at least get back on my regular meds. I went to a doc-in-the-box and the doctor and nurses there were very kind, listened to me and drew some blood, and the doctor wrote me my prescriptions without making me prove that I knew what I was talking about, which is what you often get in free health care. So now I have my meds, and pretty soon I'll be feeling healthier and physically stronger, just in time to land in Eugene. Also, the blood work will tell us if there is anything that needs to be addressed immediately, and that will be good to know. It's been...well, I do have Asperger's, and as much as I prefer to think of that as a superpower rather than a disability, I do have to be careful about my stress level, eating right (or at all), exercising outdoors, and getting enough sleep. It's better if I stick to a routine and that sort of thing. This last week has been so transformational! But as the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, I imagine there might be some stress involved. The opposite of distress is eustress. Happy stress.

    The outpouring of love and support has been just as amazing as my new financial security. I'm trying to respond to everyone who donated or emailed me . This is over 500 people, because we totally crowdsourced this, just like we're going to crowdsource all of the other things we plan to change in the future. I heard from people all over the United States and even overseas. I heard from elderly folks and teenagers and homeless mothers with small children, gay people, trans people, people of color, recent immigrants, military people, at least one judge, and many Canadians. The Canadians seem very welcoming. A lot of people recommended their city or state and I thought that was really cool. If you don't feel that way about where you live, then seriously consider moving. Some people have been thinking about doing what I'm doing now, starting a new life in a new place. They wrote to me that my post confirmed what they had been thinking, and now maybe they will look into it. Make lists, I said.

    Many of the emails recount the sender's personal poverty story. These are fascinating and heart-wrenching to me, hearing the voices of poverty. The right wing doesn't understand. Our voices need to be heard, and I want to make that happen. I'd like to someday write a book about poverty, and include some of these and other stories. Right now I'm educating myself about the history of poverty policy and research, but it's good to have a better focus for my ideas.

    I also have new glasses today, though I ordered those pre-miracle. I decided to give away my few meager belongings to those in need, these being a bike, sewing machine, and furnishings that I got free anyway. As I continue to sort through things, more of my neighbors and friends will get stuff, because I don't want to ship much. People in need are not hard to find around here.

    There was some hate mail, not very much. Nobody called me stupid, though. It was hurtful, and seems unnecessary. The word "shame" was used and that is a loaded word and has stayed with me. But I am not ashamed. I tried to contribute in meaningful and valuable ways to my community through my work with kids, but the leadership here purposely kept me from doing it. The didn't want my contributions, and I started to feel worthless.

    However, I know that I am a valuable person. I'm warm and approachable and I have counseling gifts that help teenagers at a time when they are making their first important life choices and learning to control their emotions. I'm there for kids for whom I am the single caring adult in their lives. Small children work through traumas with me in a playroom. Even if some of the young people I have worked with over the years may have not gone on to successful corporate careers or whatever (I heard one's a stripper, but if she's happy, paid well, and has benefits, I'm cool), I hope that I was a positive influence. Even if they are street junkies, if they remember that once a counselor lifted them up and told them they were a person of worth, who looked at them with dignity and respect and listened to them, that is enough reason for me to pursue this path. Because it goes on and on. I help one young man who pulls himself out of his drug-fueled criminal behavior and joins Job Corps. He becomes a skilled electrician and eventually opens his own shop and hires some employees. He finds a partner and has or adopts some kids, who go one to become educated and skilled and secure and productive. That's good for everyone, and it's cheap compared to jail.

    I'm telling you this because many people told me I was a good writer and that I should try to write professionally. I will always write because I can't not, but this is the first time I've had readers and it's intimidating. I may have a facility with words but I don't really know what I'm doing. I need to learn and become a better writer, but I want to mostly counsel and write a little, like a weekly thing perhaps. Maybe when I am older I will want to write full-time, but right now I very much want to vigorously pursue a counseling job while continuing to write about my experiences or whatever godawful thing happens next in the world.

    So when I land in Eugene, I will not be looking for a handout, as one writer proclaimed. I will be looking for ways in which I can contribute to the community there and be an active part of it, to participate and give back. Someone said that South Carolina's loss is Oregon's gain, and now I think that is true, because I don't feel worthless anymore, and much of that is because of the love and support and sincere compliments and advice and tips and contact information and offers of airport rides and so forth.

    Stay tuned for more updates! I am so grateful to everyone for how they have radically transformed my life, and by extension, the lives of others.

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  • 07/20/15--06:24: Move to a Red State!
  • What if we flooded the South with progressives? A point that is being drowned out in my excitement over escaping my red state is that there are very good reasons for liberals to live in red states. It looks to me like we all need to get very involved in local and state politics. The national campaigns are important and fun, but a lot of damage is being done to people's lives on the local level. We try to eat local and buy local; as citizens we should politic local as well.

    There are already many liberals in the red states doing what they can, down to buying houses based on districting and local politics. If you have the means, why not join them? As President Obama pointed out, there are millions of good people in the red states. If you're nearing retirement, the South is chock full of gorgeous communities with all the amenities you could imagine, and you will never be cold again if you travel somewhere warmer during January. Just imagine: no snow. Ever. You'll forget what a windshield scraper even looks like.

    If you telecommute or work from home, why not do it from paradise? The cost of living is relatively low in places like Asheville and the Charleston area, and probably many other places I don't know about, but arts and music abound. If I had all my needs met and worked from home, I'd live in Folly Beach, SC, seen above in its entirety. It's a quirky little beach town with tons of character and a great music scene due to its proximity to Charleston, and the beach is nearly deserted half the year. Many people would hate it, but it would be perfect for me. Find your quirky little town.

    If you're thinking of starting a small business, many Southern towns are very welcoming of new industry. Pay a living wage and provide basic benefits and you'll have the most hard-working and devoted workforce you could hope to find, while setting the bar higher for other employers in your area.

    Many people can't move for various entirely valid reasons, but I've heard from a lot of people who are contemplating a big move. The population seems to be becoming more mobile. It's getting easier and easier, thanks to the Internet, to simply migrate. If you're contemplating a move, please check out the South. It's a great place to live, filled with excellent people. Most importantly, progressives getting involved in local politics in the South would save people's lives and help heal the nation.

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  • 07/31/15--11:33: Social Isolation
  • As a person with Asperger's, social isolation has always been a problem for me. It's a lot easier to just be alone, and I need alone time to be healthy. But I've had to learn that I do need other people; we are social animals. However, just realizing that doesn't solve the problem. In order to be less isolated, I have to make an effort, sometimes a great effort, to get out and be around other people. In times of stress, I tend to isolate. Moving across the country in less than two weeks to a place where I won't know anyone, I need to be mindful of my risk of social isolation.

    Social isolation is a growing problem nationwide. Since Robert Putnam wrote Bowling Alone in 2000, social isolation has increased dramatically. It's a huge problem for the growing elderly population and a risk factor for serious mental illness. The health risk is comparable to smoking. Loneliness is killing us with the potential for community all around us, like starving to death in a grocery store.

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