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Last Friday was the annual anti-abortion March for Life protest in Washington, DC. On the same day there was an unrelated protest that also happened in DC called the Indigenous People’s March. When the two different groups met on the mall, this viral video featuring the jeering students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky made the rounds all over social media. The smirking kid wearing the red “Make America Great Again” from Donald Trump’s campaign now says that he wasn’t disrespecting that Native American drummer. He claims that he was trying to defuse the situation.

Except these kids from the all-male high school weren’t exactly model citizens at that march. Apparently before that standoff with that Native American drummer (who also happens to be a Vietnam War veteran) these same students were caught on video saying “It’s not rape if you enjoy it!

Even before that March for Life incident that school had problems ranging from that school’s star basketball player being accused of rape to having students appear in blackface at games where the opposing team had African American players.

Even if you’re inclined to believe that smirking kid’s claim that he was defusing the situation, just watching the video will make you question that kid’s statement.

I hate to say it but standing in front of someone wearing a red Make America Great Again hat while arrogantly smirking is NOT how you defuse the situation. If I had been a teen who was caught on camera doing something similar to what Nick Sandmann did, the one thing my parents would NOT have done is hire a PR firm trying to make excuses for me. What really would’ve happened instead is that my parents would have yelled at me about how I had not only disgraced and embarrassed myself but I also disgraced and embarrassed my whole family. Then they would have grounded me for at least a week (if not longer).

Besides, if you really want to know the REAL way of defusing a potentially explosive situation, take a look at this video I shot seven years ago back when the Occupy Wall Street movement was still going strong and its local Occupy DC chapter held a day-long event on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building called Occupy Congress. This incident happened during one of the teach-in workshops where the facilitators paused for questions and comments from the participants. This one man gave a very long and rambling comment that I had a hard time following. His speech went on for several minutes. One of the facilitators finally told the man that they needed to move on with the teach-in. The man’s friend suddenly went ballistic and began yelling and screaming. I immediately shot some footage with my cell phone. This man was so belligerent that it was obvious that he was itching for a fight. At one point he even pulled off his shirt even though the event took place in Washington, DC in January. Fortunately no violence broke out so no one was hurt and it was due to the volunteer peacekeepers who did everything to prevent a fight from happening. And they did it without wearing arrogant smirks. Here is the video.

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Today was the third annual Women’s March on Washington. Unlike 2017 and 2018, I decided to skip this march this year. I began to sour on the Women’s March last month when someone from the Anti-Defamation League spoke at my church about the rise in anti-semitism under the Trump Administration. The speaker not only mentioned the shooting of the synagogue in Pittsburgh just a few months ago but also mentioned the fact that the original leadership of the Women’s March had faced accusations of anti-semitism along with one of its co-presidents being tied to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has notoriously made remarks against Jews and LGBTQ people.

This, in turn, has alienated local chapters of the Women’s March. In fact, the Washington state chapter decided to disband in protest of the link with Farrakhan. The Democratic National Committee decided to drop its sponsorship of the Women’s March.

Even on the local level I haven’t heard much talk about people wanting to take the Metro to DC so they could participate in the march. There were also no sign making or art making events in my area prior to this year’s march, unlike last year when there were several such events that were held, such as the one I attended that was a workshop on screenprinting signs and t-shirts.

The week leading up to today’s march was overshadowed by the news that Donald Trump had decided to host the NCAA champion Clemson Tigers at the White House for dinner. The cooks were furloughed due to the government shutdown. Trump claims to be a billionaire and he could’ve ordered food from any of the number of locally-owned DC restaurants that are currently dealing with fewer people dining out due to the shutdown. He could’ve had French food, Italian food, seafood, steak, or something classy. But, instead, he ended up ordering fast food from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Domino’s, which led to a total riot on social media. Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan found what Trump offered to the Clemson players to be so underwhelming that he has invited the same players to come over to his place where he will provide a lobster dinner.

I started to waffle a bit on whether to go to the Women’s March for a third year in a row. I originally participated in the first two marches because I was against Donald Trump and what he stood for. Louis Farrakhan had absolutely nothing to do with my decision. (In fact, I’m definitely no fan of Farrakhan.) I had thought about going despite the controversy because I also wanted to protest the fact that the Federal Government Shutdown is still continuing and I know so many people around me who are literally hurting financially because they have been furloughed from their jobs.

I ultimately decided against it for two reasons. One was the bad weather. Last weekend it snowed for most of the weekend and there is still snow on the ground as of today. In addition it was cloudy outside and there were calls for rain. (It started to mist in the late afternoon. Right now it’s raining heavy outside while I’m typing this.) Another reason why I didn’t go was because I was tired. I spent most of this past week learning the ropes at my new day job. After spending the last few years alternating between being unemployed and underemployed (while the jobs I did get lasted no more than three hours or so per day and there were days when I didn’t work), I have to get used to working six hours per day, four to five days per week. I was tired by today so I slept in and I ended up being lazy.

It was just as well that I didn’t go. Unlike the last two marches, which began at the Mall, this march began at Freedom Plaza, which is a smaller venue. The crowds were also much smaller than in previous years.

In addition that march was overshadowed by a video that was shot at a different march in Washington, DC the day before that literally blew up on social media. The basic gist was this: The annual anti-abortion March for Life was held the day before the Women’s March. On the same day an unrelated march known as the Indigenous People’s March was also held in DC and people from the two marches ultimately faced each other on the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. The video showed a contingent of anti-abortion protesters who were all teenagers who attend the Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky actually jeer and make racist remarks towards one of the Native American protesters while wearing the red “Make America Great Again” hats that indicated their support for Donald Trump.

On the surface it might seem strange for a group of teenage boys who marched in an anti-abortion march and claimed to be pro-life while, at the same time, they were actively denigrating a Native American man for not being white. I learned a long time ago that there is a certain contingent of pro-lifers who want to outlaw abortion not because they think life begins at conception but because they simply want more white babies to be born. I first began to realize this when right wing evangelical activist Ralph Reed was actively fighting for the U.S. to reflect the values of evangelical Christians including a ban on abortion. But then he was involved with this incident where he lobbied on behalf of this factory in the Marianas against reforms that would outlaw certain practices that this factory engaged in—including forcing its predominantly female Chinese workers to undergo abortions. Basically Ralph Reed seemed to be more concerned about white women freely choosing to abort what would’ve been white babies while not giving a damn about Chinese women being forced to have abortions against their own will because those babies would’ve been non-white.

More recently someone from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State spoke at a lay service at my Unitarian Universalist church a few months ago where she said there are pro-life groups are also white supremacists. These groups want to outlaw abortion—especially for white women—because, with a rise in the population of non-whites, the Census Bureau has predicted that white people will become a minority by 2045. If abortion is made illegal, then there’s a chance of an increase in white babies being born. It’s also the same reason why many of these same groups want to severely restrict birth control.

While I’m not saying that everyone who opposes abortion is racist, there are a number of abortion opponents who are only concerned with increasing the birth rate of white babies. With white supremacist attitudes like that, it’s no wonder that these white teens were caught on video attacking and jeering at that Native American because they don’t think he is human at all.

So far my new day job is working out. However the place that I’m working at is a federal contractor and the woman who owns the business is doing everything possible—including maxing out on credit cards—to keep afloat since it’s currently not making any money. The company is currently setting up classes on how to make documents accessible for people with disabilities for the general public in an effort to raise some money. This week I helped with setting up MailChimp in an effort to spread the word about these upcoming classes along with working on some documents from the National Park Service that the company received shortly before the shutdown.

So I’m in this position where I have work but it could soon dry up for me the longer this shutdown lasts (unless the classes are a huge success and raise a lot of money). Today Donald Trump has offered a compromise to end the shutdown that doesn’t sound like much of a compromise and the Democrats have already rejected it. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still refusing any vote on the floor to reopen the government.

Meanwhile I’m seeing local businesses giving away freebies and discounts for furloughed federal government employees and contractors ranging from free food and drinks to a plastic surgeon offering discounted facial fillers.

Sometimes I’m wondering if Trump is trying to crash the U.S. economy on purpose. There are the frequent rumors that Trump has gotten money from the Russian mafia and maybe even Vladimir Putin himself. The U.S. and Russia have long been rivals ever since the end of World War II. Putin would probably be happy if the U.S. somehow became weakened and neutered so Russia would be free to pursue its own interests without those pesky Americans around to possibly interfere and ruin everything. It would make sense for Putin to give Trump so much money that Trump would be obligated to do whatever Putin asks him to do. As Wired magazine puts it:

THE PATTERN OF his pro-Putin, pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-intelligence community actions are so one-sided, and the lies and obfuscation surrounding every single Russian meeting and conversation are so consistent, that if this president isn’t actually hiding a massive conspiracy, it means the alternative is worse: America elected a chief executive so oblivious to geopolitics, so self-centered and personally insecure, so naturally predisposed to undermine democratic institutions and coddle authoritarians, and so terrible a manager and leader, that he cluelessly surrounded himself with crooks, grifters, and agents of foreign powers, compromising the national security of the US government and undermining 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.

In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous “useful idiot,” as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.

At least the former scenario—that the president of the United States is actively working to advance the interests of our country’s foremost, long-standing, traditional foreign adversary—would make him seem smarter and wilier. The latter scenario is simply a tragic farce for everyone involved.

If Trump is deliberately keeping the government shut in the hopes of tanking the U.S. economy and making Putin happy, then this country is in more trouble than before. I’m dreading what could happen the longer people are forced to go without their paychecks. Right now there are some federal employees, such as TSA and Secret Service agents, who are currently working without pay. There are calls for all federal employees to go on a total strike until the government is reopened. I don’t know if this will happen or not but I fear that something drastic is going to happen soon the longer the government remains shut down.

In the meantime I have to keep on doing what I’ve been doing and get myself back on my feet. In fact, this Monday I have to go to work on Martin Luther King Day. I’m okay with working on the holiday since I’ve been out of work for so long. So I won’t be able to do any service projects on the holiday (like I did in 2015 when I did some work at a local park) but that’s no big deal since my current job deals with making various government documents accessible to people with disabilities so, in a way, it’s like doing a service project every single day. The only thing I’ll miss is taking advantage of the annual MLK free admission day at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore (like I did in 2017 and 2018). But if this job really works out for me, then maybe I’ll be able to go to the museum at any other time and I’ll be able to afford to pay the $15 admission fee.

But right now I have to hope that this government shutdown somehow ends soon and this new day job works out for me in the long-run or else I’ll be back to square one regarding my ability to financially support myself.

UPDATE (January 20, 2019): The day after that video of the Covington Catholic High School boys jeering and confronting that Native American man went viral, the mother of one of the boys publicly blamed “black Muslims” for her son and his fellow students harassing that Native American man (who’s a Vietnam War veteran) and seemed to have absolved her boy of all responsibility for that incident on his part.

It’s like I wrote earlier, while not all people who are against legalized abortion are also white supremacists, most white supremacists are against abortion simply because they want to see more white babies born. It’s obvious that the teens who harassed that Native American man are in the white supremacist category and are only concerned about banning abortion because they want to see more white babies being born so they can outnumber the non-whites whom they show contempt for.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend that you read this essay written by a Native American titled The Smile is What Stays With You.

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