Tag Archives: freedom

Hate Destroys

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The Charlottesville, Virginia bloody attack by neo-Nazis, KKK, and white supremacists has stunned me. This was something I read about in other countries, like Russia. Especially where the so-called leader of the country did NOT, FAILED TO, condemn the attack on counter-protesters who had gathered peacefully. The counter-protesters weren’t carrying AR-15s but some of the neo-Nazis were; some of the KKK were; some of the white supremacists were.

The Civil War was fought, and won, by people who believed “we are all created equal”.  They believed that slavery was an abomination in the sight of their God. They believed that the color of a person’s skin should not dictate that person’s life.

The Civil Rights Wars were fought, and won, by people willing to die to see that the laws of the land upheld the right to freedom and to live without fear of white sheets and burning crosses; to be able to sit at any lunch counter and be served; to go to any restroom and use it without fear. We fought and bled and died and now white supremacists want to keep statutes that memorialize the people who tried to keep slavery alive. People who wanted to enslave another human being because the color of their skin made them “inferior” to God’s white race.

We fought and won. The people of Charlottesville fought that fight again. People once more died for freedom. Once more died as they made it clear that hate has no place in their town; that memorials celebrating the enslavement of another race and celebrating that hate of another because of skin color had no place in their town.

In Twisted Minds I wrote about how hate destroys and how white supremacist rhetoric can be used to inflame others into acts of violence. I wish that that scenario had only been a product of this writer’s imagination; it’s not. Such hate showed its bloody hands in Charlottesville.

We must unite against those who would celebrate the people who tried to keep an entire race subjugated because of the color of their skin. These people used the Bible; they used their God; they used their religion; and they used guns and fire hoses. They murdered and terrorized. We cannot allow them to continue such behavior; feed and stoke such hate any longer.

Tear down the symbols of racism; tear down the symbols that celebrate hate. Let us raise up the symbols of unity; of love; of tolerance; of REAL Christianity; of REAL spirituality. Let us raise up each other; help each other; empower each other as we once again face hate at its bloodiest.

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We are responsible for the country, the laws, and the environment we leave our children and grandchildren. Will you join with me to make sure we leave a legacy of freedom; a legacy of love; a legacy of tolerance; a legacy of diversity; a legacy of clean air and clean water; a legacy of memorials to true heroes; a legacy of national monuments that belong to all of us.

We aren’t just fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for the seven generations that will come after us. How will they remember us?

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1st Amendment: Stand Up or Shut Up!

While most people’s attention is on national politics, the Republicans in our own state of Washington are attempting to slip a few unsavory laws through the legislature. The worst of these laws are what the Republicans are calling anti-riot laws, but are really anti-protest laws.

Six reasons no legislation should be written that dampens the citizen’s right to protest:

1.We already have vandalism/malicious mischief laws in place for any situation, including during protests, both organized and unorganized.

2.We already have trespass laws in place for any situation, including during protests, both organized and unorganized.

3.We already have assault laws in place for any situation, including during protests, both organized and unorganized.

4.A law that makes the organizer of a protest or anyone participating in the protest liable for the actions of another person essentially forces an untrained civilian into the role of law enforcement. It does not matter whether the person breaking the laws is with the protest or is a rogue attempting to disrupt a peaceful protest.

5.Placing a civilian in such a position is a no-win situation for everyone, including innocent bystanders and law enforcement. Civilians are seldom trained to deal with violent offenders, regardless whether the offending is trespassing or assaulting someone. When you force a civilian into this role, you are very possibly forcing that civilian to break the laws against assault which would lead to legal repercussions from jail time to fines to civil lawsuits.
In addition, anytime civilians act as law enforcement they place real law enforcement in danger. Law enforcement officers have a specific protocol in matters of riot containment or offenses by individuals during a peaceful protest both to ensure that the offenders are stopped and the law enforcement officers are kept as safe as possible. When you inject civilians into the situation, that protocol is disrupted.

6.The right to peacefully protest is part of the Bill of Rights, First Amendment. Without the right to protest, a tool for citizens to force government to change is taken away. Without the right to impact our government, our democracy is seriously endangered.

7.When any part of the Bill of Rights, or the First Amendment, is compromised it then weakens that amendment and the Bill of Rights and other parts can then be more easily destroyed. Without the First Amendment not only will you, as a citizen, have no right to protest government actions, you will eventually have no right to speak out against the government. This leads to dictatorships.
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Peaceful protests have always been the match that people lit to change government; sometimes, protests are the only way to change government.

If you believe that our “blue” state would never stand for such a law being passed, you are asleep while driving your citizenship. Such proposals have already been introduced into our state legislature. If such a bill can be proposed, it will be passed without sufficient protest from the people. Such protest might be physical actions like marching or the protests might take the form of calling, emailing, and writing to not only the representatives for your district, but also the representatives for other districts to let them know they answer to our state, to all of our citizens.

Many people thought Trump would never be elected. They were asleep while driving their citizenship. If you want your rights protected, you need to stand up. Democracy is a choice: stand up or shut up!

The state of Washington is not the only state where laws are currently being proposed that would dampen or violate First Amendment rights to peaceful protest. As of February 24, 2017, seventeen states have bills being proposed that would deny citizens the right to protest. To see if your state is one, go to the link below. It has a map of the states of concern. These laws would, according to the Washington Post do such things as: “…indemnify drivers who strike protesters with their cars and, in at least one case, seize the assets of people involved in protests that later turn violent.”

According to Cornell University Law School:
“…The Supreme Court has expressly recognized that a right to freedom of association and belief is implicit in the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. This implicit right is limited to the right to associate for First Amendment purposes. It does not include a right of social association. The government may prohibit people from knowingly associating in groups that engage and promote illegal activities….”
Cornell University Law School:
“Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Three important changes in the United States that were brought about by protesters:
1. The right to form unions
2. Voting rights for black Americans and women
3. December 16, 1773 The Boston Tea Party signaled the colonists’ determination to live in a country where their needs were clearly represented.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/24/republican-lawmakers-introduce-bills-to-curb-protesting-in-at-least-17-states/
https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/first_amendment

To read about protests that changed history, go to https://www.facebook.com/TogetherWomenCan

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Research Meet Reality

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In Attack on Freedom, which began to take shape in 2013, I explored the possibility of the United States experiencing a military coup. Looking at the Presidential Succession Act which governs who becomes president if the current office holder resigns, dies, or is removed from office—impeached, it became clear that the United States under the current system was indeed at risk for a military coup. It could occur by assassination of key people and/or by a declaration of a “State of Emergency” by the president thus thrusting the United States under military control. It was on this premise that I wrote the thriller, Attack on Freedom.

One of the lesser-known facts about the United States government is that the president can declare a “State of Emergency” (#MartialLaw) nationally in the event of war or large scale terrorist attacks or locally as in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. President George W. Bush Expanded Martial Law Authority on September 29, 2006, when he signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).The law expanded the president’s authority to declare Martial Law under revisions of the Insurrection Act and gave the president the power to take charge of National Guard troops without state governor authorization.

In 2017, the NDAA remains in force with a provision that allows the military to detain United States citizens without cause and without due process for an indefinite period of time. This type of power was exercised against Japanese-Americans in 1943 when the Supreme Court upheld a race specific curfew. In 1944 the Court justified the random internment—imprisonment—of more than 110,000 Japanese-American citizens with the subsequent forced loss of their homes and businesses for which they were never monetarily compensated.

During Trump’s first couple of weeks in office, he threatened the city of Chicago with Martial Law for nothing more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago calling him out. “You didn’t get elected to debate crowd size at your inaugural. You got elected to make sure people have a job, that the economy continues to grow, people have security as it relates to their children’s education. It wasn’t about your crowd size. It was about their lives and their jobs.” (NOTE: Trump claimed that Chicago was experiencing violent “carnage”. Looking up FBI Statistics as well as several independent city violence ratings, Chicago did not make the list of Top 25 most violent cities.)

However, with such whimsy by the president, a city, a state, or the entire country could be declared in a “State of Emergency” (under Martial Law) which would replace civilian authority with military authority.

What would occur is this:
–The suspension of the #Constitution, probably starting with the First Amendment. The #FirstAmendment guarantees the citizens of the United States the right to worship as they choose, the right to peacefully protest, the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
–Confiscation of #firearms
–Suspension of Habeas corpus: imprisonment without due process and without a trial
–Travel restrictions, including road closures and perhaps even quarantine zones
–Mandatory curfews and Mandatory identification
–Automatic search and seizures without a warrant

Martial law has been used in the United States during political protests, labor strikes, and any other unrest deemed a “State of Emergency” by either state or national government. Currently, we have seen some of these indicators with Trump’s Muslim Ban and detainment of lawful citizens of the United States on the soil of the United States (ie: travel restrictions for a specific segment of society), suspension of Habeas Corpus during protests when protesters were detained without access to attorneys.

One of my beta readers told me that this book disturbed her because the scenario “could so easily occur”. Attack on Freedom is eerily echoing many events happening in our country at the present time. As the Americans in my novel discover, freedom isn’t free and everyone has to be united and must take action to secure freedom for all of us. If one person is not free, then no one is free.

Get your copy of Attack on Freedom NOW! https://www.amazon.com/Attack-Freedom-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B01N5WU1LE

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July 4th

There are many things I love about #America, but the one that brings me the most hope is being celebrated on this day–July 4th celebrates change; great change.
That is what the United States is truly about: the ability to change; to learn and to grow.
Change

Sometimes, our growth has been bitter with spilled blood as seen during the Civil War and during the 1960s when civil rights for black Americans was hotly contested.Yet, as #MayaAngelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This has been America’s saving grace; America’s greatest strength—the willingness to do the best we can, and when we know better, we try hard to do better. As an American who is both a woman and a lesbian, this has been the knowledge that has kept my faith in America strong. I believe that women and men, citizens of our great nation, will always strive to grow and to learn; and, ultimately, to do better.

This past year has brought great changes to the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, it has also brought about terrible backlash. LGBTQ people, especially of the transgender orientation, have faced tremendous violence in every city and state in the nation. In Orlando, Florida the worst attack ever launched against us was when a deranged man with an assault rifle murdered 49 people and injured 53 others in the Pulse nightclub—a place that had been founded to create a safe space for LGBTQ people.

We have people trying to discover ways to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling; and we have others discovering new ways to write laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people—laws that allow LGBTQ people to be fired from our jobs, evicted from our homes, refused service in an eating establishment; laws which negatively impact our ability to foster or adopt children and in the long run, may once again impact our right to even maintain custody and/or contact with our own blood children. (Beyond the Silence was written specifically to highlight not only the physical violence suffered by some lesbians, but the emotional violence of having their blood children ripped away because their mother is a lesbian! Though my novel is fiction, it was written with the blood and tears of real people. With North Carolina’s law in effect, such things can once again occur.)

History has demonstrated that change is difficult. People fear anything different. They desperately try to maintain the status quo. But, in the end, America has never backed away from true and lasting change that resulted in guaranteeing freedom to all of her citizens. When we allow laws to be put into place that disregard the freedom of a particular group of people—whether that group is black Americans, LGBTQ people, or Japanese-Americans—we are setting the foundation for everyone’s freedom to be violated.

In the 1960s, it was determined that if you owned a business establishment that was open to the general public then you had to serve black Americans the same as you served white Americans, regardless of your personal beliefs against it—beliefs that told you that black and white Americans should not drink from the same fountain, eat at the same establishment, or attend the same schools. Today that same argument—the argument that says someone’s personal beliefs should allow them to discriminate against a particular segment of the public—has been used by several states against LGBTQ people, most notably in North Carolina.

I believe that the citizens of this nation will not allow such a law to go unchallenged; will not allow such a law to continue to exist. Just like in the 1960s, I believe that the people of the United States will destroy such discriminatory practices, once and for all. I believe that someday, soon I pray, LGBTQ people will celebrate July 4th with the same guaranteed freedoms that their heterosexual counterparts now enjoy.
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It’s Really Up To Each of Us

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Like many authors, I tackle everyday issues in my work–everything from dog fighting, hate crimes, serial killers, human trafficking of children to LGBT rights. All of these issues are close to my heart. I love dogs; I believe we all have a responsibility to stop human trafficking; I have worked with street kids; and I have spent a lifetime fighting for human rights in one way or another–the first time at the age of fourteen.

Like many lesbians, I had hoped that marriage equality would pave the way for acceptance of LGBT rights–not special privileges as some seem to believe–just human rights enjoyed by any heterosexual person. Unfortunately, the fight for LGBT rights is not over.

Why should this concern my readers?

The words of Martin Niemoller, (1892-1984) a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken foe of Hitler, and consequently spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camp, say it more eloquently than I can:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

For those living in the beautiful state of Washington where #HumanRights is more widely accepted than some states this may seem like a dead issue. I truly wish it were, but the advent of I-1515 places grave doubt that the fight for human rights for LGBT people, even in Washington state, is over.

According to The Atlantic in January, 2016:
“Twenty-eight. That’s the number of states where it’s not against the law to discriminate against a gay person who’s looking for an apartment, applying for a job, or buying something from a store. Five more states have protections, but with exceptions: New York, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin don’t forbid discrimination against transgender people, for example, and Massachusetts and Utah don’t protect all LGBT people in all situations in which discrimination might arise. The federal government does not protect against this kind of discrimination, either, except in limited cases. Although Democrats have proposed legislation that would change that, the chances of it successfully sliding through a Republican Congress in an election year seem slim.
The irony of gay marriage becoming legal in the United States is that it has made discrimination against LBGT people easier. For example: Many newlywed couples may be asking their employers for spousal benefits for the first time. Depending on where they live, it may or may not be illegal for that employer to respond by firing them—something that happened in a number of states in 2015.”

(see full article http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/lgbt-discrimination-protection-states-religion/422730/)

Conservatives are using the #FirstAmendment to attack LGBT rights. The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;….
While this Amendment originally pertained to establishing places of worship and worshipping without fear of violence, conservatives are using these words to bring back Jim Crow segregation laws that will at first be used against LGBT people.” (emphasis is mine)

Essentially what it boils down to is that I may have the right to marry the one I love, but I may not have the right to take her out to dinner (anyone remember a time when black Americans could not sit in certain restaurants?), or have our photographs taken, or to order a cake to celebrate our anniversary.

Several states have bills to allegedly “protect religious freedom”, but which in reality allows commercial businesses and organizations, including taxpayer funded organizations and governmental workers, to refuse services to LGBT people by simply saying it is against their “sincerely held religious beliefs” to serve certain individuals.
These same people frequently do not adhere to the rest of the tenets of whichever faith they are hiding behind, such as Christianity. If one decides that their “sincerely held religious beliefs”–almost always based on Christianity and the Bible–says they should not serve homosexuals because the Bible condemns homosexuals, then why are these people still divorcing, having sex outside of marriage, wearing cloth made of two different kinds of threads, not closing their businesses on the Sabbath, and so on? Why should they be allowed to cherry-pick which so-called sincere beliefs they have so that they can justify discrimination against a particular group of individuals?

According to Huffington Post, these bills—AKA Religious Freedom Restoration Acts—are popping up all over the place.

“Conservatives are putting forward state-level RFRAs to let people claim religious liberty as a justification for denying services to LGBT people. So you’ve got the evangelical Christian bakery that refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, for example, or the photographer who refuses to provide services to a gay couple. In some cases, these bills are written so broadly that they also allow discrimination against single mothers, interfaith couples and interracial couples.
Seven states have active RFRA bills: Colorado (HB 1180), Hawaii (HB 1160), Iowa (HF 2032, HF 2200, SF 2171), Michigan (SB 4), Mississippi (SB 2093, SB 2822), North Carolina (HB 348, SB 550) and Oklahoma (HB 1371, SB 440, SB 723, SB 898)

As if that is not enough to worry about there are other classes of bills aimed at limiting the freedom of LGBT people.

Marriage-Related Religious Exemption Laws: these bills provide a religiously based exemption regarding same-sex marriage. Some only apply to religious organizations; others apply to commercial and government officials.(our tax dollars hard at work to discriminate against a group of people)

First Amendment Defense Acts — These bills, in essence, allow any person, business or taxpayer-funded organization to ignore any law that conflicts with their religious beliefs about marriage. Yes, it’s as sweeping as it sounds. It not only discriminates against LGBT people, but can extend to single mothers and anybody with a sexual relationship outside of marriage. A state-contracted counselor, for example, could deny services to a single mom. Taxpayer-funded adoption agencies could refuse to place children in the homes of same-sex married couples. Government employees could decline to file official forms for gay couples (remember Kim Davis?). Three states have active FADA bills: Hawaii (SB 2164), Illinois (SB 2164) and Oklahoma (SB 440).

Pastor Protection Acts — These let churches refuse to perform marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. The First Amendment already covers this right, but sometimes lawmakers like to pass bills just to send a message. So, we have Pastor Protection Acts. Fourteen states have active PPA bills: Arkansas (HB 236, SB 120), Colorado (HB 1123), Kentucky (HB 17, HB 28), Louisiana (HB 597), Maryland (HB 16), Michigan (HB 4732, HB 4855, HB 4858), Minnesota (SF 2158), Missouri (HJR 97, SJR 39, HB 2000, HB 2040, HB 2730), Mississippi (HB 587, HB 737), New Jersey (AB 1706), Ohio (HB 286), Oklahoma (HB 1371, SB 811), South Carolina (H 4446, H 4508) and Tennessee (HB 2375, SB 2329).

Government-officials-using-your-taxpayer-funds-against-you bills — Some bills let judges and clerks refuse to perform same-sex marriages or issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Four states have active bills like this: Kentucky (HB 17, HB 14), Minnesota (SF 2158), Mississippi (HB 586, HB 1342) and South Carolina (SB 116).

No-wedding-cake-for-non-straight-non-white-heathens bills — These allow businesses to refuse to provide goods or services related to marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. That could mean a frame shop refusing to sell pictures frames that are going to be used for a same-sex wedding, an interracial marriage or an interfaith marriage. Four states have active bills like this: Kentucky (SB 180), Minnesota (SF 2158), Missouri (HJR 97, SJR 39) and Ohio (HB 296).(It isn’t just LGBT people these bills can be used against!)

Other marriage exemption bills — These bills provide yet other kinds of religious exemptions relating to same-sex marriage. Five states have active bills in this category: Kentucky (HB 31), Michigan (HB 4733), Missouri (HB 2754), Oklahoma (HB 1125, HB 1599, SB 478, HJR 1059, SB 973) and South Carolina (H 3022, H 3150, H 4513).

God-Doesn’t-Want-Gay-People-To-Raise-Kids Bills
These let adoption and foster care agencies refuse to provide any services that conflict with their religious beliefs about marriage, such as same-sex couples. This is regardless of what is in the best interests of a child. Three states have pending bills like this: Alabama (HB 158, SB 204), Nebraska (LB 975) and Oklahoma (HJR 1059, HB 2428).

Other Generally Terrible Anti-LGBT Bills
It turns out there are too many categories for all the bills out there, but there’s a few more of note: Two states have bills (AB 1212 in California; SB 210 in South Carolina) that require public universities to provide funds for student organizations, regardless of whether the organization discriminates against LGBT people based on religious beliefs. Three states have bills (HB 325 in Arkansas; HJR 1059 in Oklahoma; and Tennessee’s HB 566, SB 397, HB 1840 and SB 1556) that let health professionals deny services to LGBT people by citing religious objections. And there’s one bill in Oklahoma (SB 1289) that prevents local governments from passing nondiscrimination protections, including LGBT protections, that go further than protections at the state level, such as the law proposed by North Carolina.”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lgbt-state-bills-discrimination_us_570ff4f2e4b0060ccda2a7a9

Here is something to remember:

In 1933 Hitler began his reign of terror by first targeting the Jewish people. He proclaimed them inferior (and therefore undeserving of the rights of other German citizens) and began a systematic stripping of their rights, beginning with firing them from their jobs and not allowing them access to services enjoyed by the general German public.

July 14, 1933, Hitler began targeting other groups, namely Gypsies and African-Germans. He stripped them of their rights by using some of the same arguments for taking Jewish rights.

October, 1934, Hitler began targeting LGBT people. Again, he stripped this group of people of the German-citizen rights by using the same arguments as he used against Jews, Gypsies and African-Germans.

When a tyrant, whether they clothe themselves in political or religious rhetoric, begins to strip away the rights of any group of citizens then all citizens need to fear for their freedoms.

As a pagan, I am very much in favor of protection of my religious/spiritual practices; however, that does not mean that I should be allowed to engage in discriminating against other citizens. If I am engaged in public commerce–such as running a restaurant, bakery, photography studio, selling books, or any other business—then I need to serve ALL of the public. If I do not want to serve all of the public then I should not be in business.

Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, black Americans could not sit at the counter of just any diner. Now, there are certain groups of people who want to bring back those laws of segregation by cloaking them as religious freedom restorations and protections. Segregation is segregation regardless of how you clothe it and regardless of which group of people you target.

If left unchecked, these laws could easily be applied to any group of citizens—
–You are Muslim and it is against my religious beliefs to serve you
–You are black and God said you are inferior and therefore I should not serve you
–You are a single mother or an unmarried couple. God does not permit sex outside of marriage and so I will not serve you.
–You are interfaith or inter-racially married and God does not want us to mix the faiths/races, so I will not serve you.
–You are Native American and therefore a heathen and since you don’t believe in my God, I will not serve you.

Here in the beautiful state of Washington, you can do your part by working against I-1515. Discrimination protects no one’s rights! Discrimination has no place in a free country.
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