Berning Against the Machine (Kuh-wit It Now!!!)

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book,

My Bernie Journey – A Behind the Scenes Look at the 2016 Democratic Primary

The book will be released on August 28.

I have been working on it for over a year and I really believe that it is an accurate portrayal of the disenfranchisement that Sanders and his supporters faced at the hands of the Democratic Party.

It’s a good read, full of the anger, sadness and euphoria that we all experienced as part of Sanders’ historic campaign.

This particular chapter explains the reasons why the Bernie Sanders movement was such a personal revolution for me. It’s intensely personal and I share aspects of myself that not even those closest to me are aware of.

I sincerely hope you find something that you can relate to in my ramblings.

After you finish reading the chapter, scroll down and there will be instructions on how you can obtain a copy of the book at no charge.

There is also an opportunity to be part of the team that gets the book to press.

I sincerely promise to do everything in my power to promote this book to anyone and everyone who may help further the truth about the travesty that occurred against our movement during the 2016 “Democratic” Primary.

Please feel free to share this post with anyone whom you think may be interested in this project.

Without further adieu, here’s the chapter.

rage

Chapter 16 – Raging Against the Machine (Kuh-wit It Now!!!)

I was off and running again.

Damn I was fast!

The fact that I’m alive now is a testament to how fast I was then.

John Southwood’s goons gave chase and I kicked as hard as my ten year old legs could kick. And hell yeah they could kick. As I turned the corner I used my peripheral vision to see that the entire gang had given up chasing me, except for Kyle. Peripheral vision was important. There was always somebody coming after me back then and I needed to be able to see what was coming. And in this case the ability to see without turning my head may have shaved a half second off my sprint and that half second could have been the difference between making it home to relative safety or getting my face bashed in by Kyle Vandebrock.

Kyle was 15 and two feet taller than me. For everyone of Kyle’s strides, I had to take two. I was three blocks from my house. My brain started trying to do math to figure the odds, but I told it to shut up. Doing math could only slow me down. Kyle was closing fast, but not fast enough.

I made it to my front yard.

There’s some sort of kid rule that says that if you make it to your own yard then you are safe and bullies can no longer bother you. So I slowed up and began to walk leisurely towards my front door. If I came in running my mom or her boyfriend would have noticed me. It was never a good idea to be noticed in my house.

Kyle stopped at the edge of the yard and said between gasps

“Why are you running? I just wanted to talk to you?”

His tone was completely disarming. I remember thinking that he looked like a really nice guy standing there and for a moment I wondered why I had been running from him.

I walked to the edge of the yard and said

“What do you want to talk about?”

Kyle swung his lanky right arm towards me. I remember it seemed like it took forever to arrive. Perhaps I have added this part to the memory, but I recall seeing Kyle’s fist eclipsing the sun as it majestically hovered over the treeline behind him. The adult-me wants to tell Kyle to keep his punches compact and to remember to always keep his guard up. A huge sweeping roundhouse punch like this, in a street-fight, will get you punched directly in the face with a jab, followed by a right-cross. Kyle was leading with a hay-maker that traveled through several time zones to reach its destination.

“Now boarding Kyle’s fist to Michael’s stomach! Please present your tickets! All aboard the pain express! Next stop Extreme Abdominal Pain!”

Kyle’s fist landed squarely on my malnourished frame and took the wind completely out of me. As I fell to the ground, Kyle hovered above, blocking out the sun. I remember he looked reluctant, almost compassionate, like a man just doing his job, going through the motions, taking no joy in his role as Southwood’s henchman.

While I lay there writhing in pain, Kyle said

“And this is for making me chase you.” and then he brought his size 13 Converse All-Star crashing down on my ribs.

As Kyle walked away, I saw him meet up with Southwood and his gang. I saw him gesture to them that the job had been completed. High-fives were exchanged and cigarettes lit. Another hard day at the factory. Soon the sun would set, we’d all sleep and then we’d have to report to work again. Me with my job as whipping boy, they as the neighborhood bullies. My bruised ribs would buy me no sanctuary tomorrow. A new school-day meant we all hit the reset button.

You might be wondering what the impetus behind these daily beatings was. I can answer it simply by saying that my family was poor. Looking back, I realized that John Southwood and his gang were also poor. But they weren’t poor like we were poor. They could afford luxuries like cigarettes and beer. And their clothes seemed to fit okay, whereas mine were hand-me-downs from my cousins, who were younger than me.

Once a year my Aunt would drop off several trash bags full of clothes that her kids had outgrown and that would be my wardrobe for the next year.

My mother got angry at me for growing.

I would try to force myself into the trash-bag clothes, which were several sizes too small and my mother would see me and say something like

“If you didn’t grow so goddamned fast then your clothes would fit!!”

To my mother’s credit, she did everything she could to keep me from growing. We rarely had food in the house and when we did, eating it would usually lead to some sort of major screaming match, which more often than not lead to me getting knocked across the room.

I arrived early to school each morning to get the bowl of free corn-flakes that the school gave out to kids on the free lunch program. I didn’t realize at the time that showing up an hour before the first bell was a way to let every kid in the school know that I received free lunch. I didn’t even know what was going on. I just knew that we were poor and that the other kids hated me for that.

At lunch time there were two lines. Kids with money would go through a line where they could point to different foods they wanted. Those foods always looked so much better than the slop they would throw on our trays, which I would later learn was the exact same crap they were feeding the prisoners a few miles down the road.

There was a popular commercial at the time, for Life cereal, in which a small boy named Mikey was presented with a bowl of cereal. One of the kids would say “Mikey won’t eat it. He hates everything!” then Mikey would eat the Life cereal and the kids would scream out “He likes it!!” This somehow resulted in kids coming by and dumping their leftover food on my tray and saying

“Mikey will eat it! He eats everything!”

And everyone would laugh.

And I would eat it too, as long as it looked like they hadn’t put any trash in it. We never had dinner at our house and it was a long time between lunch and the free cereal the next morning, so I would eat as much as I could at lunch each day. The kids all got a huge kick out of watching the scrawny little poor kid eat the food they were going to throw in the trash. I guess there was something about that joke that I didn’t really understand. I never really got the punch-line on that one.

As you might expect, as an adult I developed a pretty strange eating disorder that really just amounted to me always finishing every last scrap that was on my plate, even when I was stuffed, as well as any leftover scraps on my children’s plates. I just couldn’t bear the thought of throwing food in the trash, after not having it for all those years. As you might also expect, this behavior lead me to gain a lot of weight.

But as an adult, I had the means to solve problems that were impossible to solve when I was a child.

I solved my eating disorder by getting dogs.

They get all the leftover food.

I go to the gym everyday.

But man I have some really fat dogs.

When I heard about this poor kid from Brooklyn who had spent his entire life fighting for equality, it struck a chord in me. I saw the pictures of him handcuffed and fighting against the police and I saw myself. I read the stories about him growing up in a tiny Brooklyn apartment and hearing his parents fighting over money and I related. I saw him standing on the Senate floor, still angry, yelling at the rich bastards who had kept him and his family down and something shifted in me.

This guy was just like me, but he was actually doing something about it.

Bernie Sanders woke me the fuck up and all that rage I had put on the shelf came flooding back with a vengeance. For the first time in my adult life I had a constructive outlet for my anger. I listened to every speech that Bernie had ever given and it put me in touch with something I had lost. Some of my friends said that they felt like I had joined a cult. I wondered how the hell they hadn’t joined it.

“There’s a revolution happening in America right now!!” I would tell them.

They thought I was crazy. And to be fair, I was. My well-meaning friends were probably the same kids who watched and did nothing while the rich kids dumped food on my lunch tray and laughed.

They couldn’t understand why I had such a strong reaction to this angry Senator from Vermont. They had never been truly poor a day in their lives.

They weren’t like Bernie.

They weren’t like me.

But I met a lot of people who were.

For every school cafeteria in America, there is a kid who sits alone, who doesn’t fit in, whose clothes don’t fit right. There are millions of us, but we never knew about each other before Sanders stood up. Alone, we are powerless, destined to be stomach-punched by the wealthy elite, destined to have leftover scraps heaped on our plates, while those in power laugh at the fact that we are so hungry that we must eat their waste.

We are the outcast misfits who started in the back of the line when the race began. We are brilliant and resourceful, because we’ve had to be. And when the rich kids call us “basement dwellers” we wear this title with pride. And when our friends think us crazy, we get new and better friends, because we are past the point of apologizing for our insanity and now accept fully that all truly amazing things have been accomplished by those that others dismissed as crazy.

Bernie Sanders stood up in the backyards of America and spoke to the poor and disenfranchised and every castaway, gypsy and vagabond stood up as one and raised their fists in solidarity. Soon there were so many of us that arenas could not hold us. While the rich kids grew weak and stringy from never having to fight, we grew stronger and more resourceful because fighting was all we ever did.

When someone says to me

“It’s too bad Bernie lost.”

I often say something like

“Bernie has already won. Millions of people are awake now. Bernie cannot lose, because what he stands for are a set of ideals. It is now our job to go forth and make sure those ideals come to fruition. This movement supersedes Sanders. It is the eternal battle of good versus evil, poor versus rich, The People vs The Oligarchy. This Revolution is just getting started.”

Then they look at me like I’m crazy. Because, in fact, that’s exactly what I am. But I am not alone. I have several million crazy friends.

And we are organized.

The rich kids are shaking in their $200 shoes.

THAT’S THE CHAPTER – I REALLY HOPE YOU ENJOYED IT!! THERE ARE MANY MORE EXCITING CHAPTERS IN THE FULL VERSION OF THE BOOK. 

berniebook

HERE ARE ALL THE DETAILS YOU NEED IN ONE EASY TO UNDERSTAND VIDEO (<—-CLICK HERE)

The video is kind of long.

 There was a lot I wanted to fit in.

Here are the bullet points.

If you want an electronic copy of the book, I’ll send you one out absolutely free

Just send an email to

 GoBernieGoBernieGo@gmail.com

 And I’ll get an electronic copy sent out to you as soon as it goes to press on August 28.

 If anyone wants to contribute to the publishing costs, they can do so by clicking the link below.

 DONATIONS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO RECEIVE THE BOOK!!

 There is also an exciting bonus program for founding members.

 Anyone who donates $27 or more will be part of The 27 Buck Club.

 Those people receive a physical copy of the book, shipped to their home, along with a second book, The Independent Thinker Chronicles.

 The Independent Thinker Chronicles is a compilation of articles I wrote while on the road with the campaign.

 In addition, anyone in The 27 Buck Club gets their name credited inside the book for being an integral part of getting the book to press.

 If joining The 27 Buck Club, please be sure to include the address of where your books are to be shipped.

 If no one donates I’ll foot the entire bill for the publishing and I’LL STILL SEND OUT THE FREE COPIES!!

If the crowdfunding is successful and there is any money left over after paying the publishing costs, these proceeds go to pay Ari’s schooling (see video for details).

 I wanted to structure this where everyone could get the book without paying for it.

But I also wanted to structure it where there was freedom to participate for those who wanted to and I wanted to reward those people with something exciting.

 This is my first time doing crowdfunding and also my first time self-publishing so I hope I did a good job with the structure.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this chapter and I really look forward to getting the book to you.

I’ve spent so much time trying to make it amazing.

I sincerely believe that it is a book that needed to be written and I’m honored to be able to be part of such an incredible movement.

Your friend in Revolution,

Michael E Sparks

bullhorn

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Jane Sanders DID NOT SAY To Not Write-In Bernie Sanders

JANE SANDERS NEVER SAID NOT TO WRITE IN BERNIE SANDERS.

WE WERE FED MISINFORMATION FROM SOMEONE WHO HAD INFILTRATED OUR RANKS AND GAINED OUR TRUST.

THE STORY OF HOW THAT HAPPENED CAN BE FOUND HERE.

THE VERMONT BERNIE SANDERS WRITE-IN IS STILL ON AND WE ENCOURAGE ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE UNHAPPY WITH THEIR BALLOT CHOICES TO WRITE-IN BERNIE SANDERS NAME AS A MEANS OF PROTESTING THIS RIGGED ELECTION.

jane
Here is the original story, with the false quote removed.
Sanders
It’s a chilly overcast day here in Indiana and I just received some news that was kind of devastating.
And just to be clear, it was politically devastating, not REAL LIFE devastating.
Everyone in our home is happy and healthy, as we all grope along slowly, trying to deal with the craziness that life throws at us from day-to-day.
My family is giving me a lot of space.
Occasionally Carrie comes up to me and squeezes my shoulder and then drifts away.
They know how I am.
They know how personally I take all of this.
I drove to the coffee shop with my laptop and sat down to break the news, tears resting just behind my eyes.
My lap-top is covered in “Ask me about Bernie Sanders” stickers.
As I opened it up, a little black boy came up to me, maybe 10 years old and said..
“I’m mad about Bernie!!”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I’m mad that he’s not in the election anymore. I love Bernie Sanders. I’m mad about it!!”
As I fought back tears, I was able to choke out an ironic smile, swallow hard and find the words..
“I’m mad too.” I said.
writein3
I was hesitant to tell you about the little kid, because it sounds made up, but that really happened to me, just now, sitting here in Indiana and I know it’s politically incorrect to point out that the kid was black, but that’s relevant to me for a million tiny reasons.
Because wasn’t that one of the lies they told about Bernie?
They said that black people didn’t like him.
They said it was just a bunch of young white kids and that our movement wasn’t real.
So when a little black boy in Indiana comes up to me and says that he is “Mad about Bernie.” it means something to me.
It’s why I scrapped the entire opening to this article and just wrote down what happened instead.
Because “I’m mad about Bernie.” too.
I’m really incredibly angry about it.
And it sucks to see our voices taken from us.
And it sucks to see our movement divided and watered down.
And it sucks to be told a million times a day that I should vote for Hillary Clinton because that’s what Bernie asked me to do or that I should “grow a spine” and vote for Jill Stein because she has a “similar platform”, never mind that one candidate cheated millions of people who I care about out of a fair election and the other is running a campaign that is simply not very organized and not nearly as effective as it could have been.
But all of that will shake out on November 8 and I still have not even begun to explain why my heart is spinning at 33 1/3 rpm today…
writein4
Today we were headed to Vermont to canvass for Bernie Sanders.
A few weeks ago I wrote a quirky little article about how Bernie Sanders could win Vermont and theoretically throw the election into the House of Representatives, force a second round of voting and then have the new House vote him in to become the President of the United States.
I didn’t discover the idea, Dawn Papple did.
My article just called people to action and the idea spread more rapidly than I ever thought possible.
I did a lot of research before I wrote the article and if you understand the intricacies of how the House would have most-likely voted, you would have seen that Sanders had a way better chance of winning this way, than I initially stated.
I’m incredibly honored that so many people read the article.
My goal is to be an activist writer.
I want to develop a large enough group that we can direct our legions correcting the injustices we see in our country.
I want the establishment to fear our collective voice.
I want to carry on Sanders’ movement through collective activism and apparently it’s working, because in between the thousands of people telling us we could never do it, other people started to actually volunteer.
getoverit
We worked hard behind the scenes in hidden Internet groups, screening out potential saboteurs and checking people’s past volunteering to see if they were legitimate.
We were actually concerned about the Clinton campaign finding out about our movement and trying to block it. In fact there were a few people who contacted us asking questions, pretending to be volunteers, that actually worked for the Democratic Party.
It was pretty exciting, being in a secret underground movement, but also it produced a lot of anxiety.
On top of dealing with fears of Clinton sabotaging our efforts, we were getting tons of anger from Jill Stein supporters, which was really frustrating seems how we ARE(!!) Jill Stein supporters and our movement’s official position was to encourage people to vote Stein in every state but Vermont, a state with only a few hundred thousand voters, specifically targeted as to NOT interfere with our goal to get Jill to 5% nationally, so the Green Party would get federal funding in the next election cycle!!!
We were getting attacked from all sides, which of course meant that we were actually onto something, but it was also very stressful.
But we ventured forth, thanks to our incredible team of volunteers.
We actually developed a cool little system where we would coordinate traveling canvassers with Vermont residents for shelter, someone wrote a phone-banking program that was just as good as the one we used on Bernie’s site and imported every phone-number in Vermont into it…
And PEOPLE WERE ACTUALLY PHONE-BANKING!!!
We had an amazing canvassing coordinator on the ground in Burlington and others en route from around the country to help knock on doors.
We even had The Washington Post flying into Burlington to write a story about our initiative.
We had well-written, simple to understand, literature to pass out to people and most importantly we had an incredibly high success rate of voter conversion.
40% of the people we spoke to in Vermont preferred writing-in Bernie Sanders over voting for any other candidate!!
Our movement was peaking at just the right time.
Our goal was to get the population converted in the last week before the election, so that the Clinton campaign wouldn’t have time to react.
Everything was perfect!!
Except for one thing..
Bernie didn’t want it.
He told us so.
And although I am rebelling against Bernie in my refusal to vote for Hillary Clinton, I really don’t feel comfortable showing up in his back yard and pissing him off.
If Bernie Sanders yelled at me, I’m pretty sure I would burst into tears.
writein5
To be honest, Bernie didn’t tell us.
It was Jane who told us that Bernie doesn’t want this.
Our canvassing trainer has been close friends with Bernie and Jane for her entire life.
So even though she was out canvassing with her team and getting positive responses, in her heart, a feeling of dread was growing.
“What if Bernie didn’t appreciate what we were doing? What if her lifetime friend became upset with her over our ‘gift’?”
Last week, she shared these fears with me and said that she wanted to talk to Bernie about this before we went any further.
I told her that Bernie would be forced to stand against our movement, due to his position with the DNC and I asked her if she would be willing to speak with Jane Sanders instead.
She agreed and headed over to visit Jane on Sunday afternoon, as I sat here in Indianapolis, with my traveling canvassing crew (my poor kids and my incredibly patient girlfriend) waiting to hear if we were hitting the road or not.
Here is what she said…
(THIS SECTION HAS BEEN REMOVED. PREVIOUSLY THIS WAS A SUMMATION OF A MESSAGE THAT OUR CANVASSING COORDINATOR, NICOLE GUERIN IN VERMONT HAD SENT ME THAT BASICALLY SAID THAT JANE SANDERS WAS ASKING US TO STOP OUR WRITE-IN CAMPAIGN FOR BERNIE SANDERS.
JANE SANDERS HAS SINCE TWEETED AND DENIED THAT THIS CONVERSATION EVER HAPPENED!!
I APOLOGIZE TO JANE FOR OUR SOURCE BEING INCORRECT.
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON AT THIS TIME.
AS EVENT COME TO LIGHT OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS AND WE FIND OUT MORE, ALL WILL BE REVEALED.
AT THIS TIME IT SEEMS THAT OUR ORGANIZATION WAS INFILTRATED BY THE MEMBER OF A RIVAL CANDIDATE IN AN ATTEMPT TO SABOTAGE OUR WRITE-IN CAMPAIGN.
WE WILL KNOW MORE IN THE COMING DAYS.)
So that’s that.
We offered a gift that is not wanted.
We are trying to force something that is not there.
We are misguided in our efforts.
I’ve had so much anxiety about traveling to Vermont.
All these canvassing trips we made in the past year scared the hell out of me and I thought we were done with it.
I was hoping to move into the acceptance phase of my grief and here I was heading out to canvass for Bernie one last time, reopening the wound.
But he doesn’t want it.
At a certain point I have to accept that I am just a crazy person when the very person I’m fighting for tells me that my methods are not a good idea.
Activism without proper guidance is destructive.
The road to hell being paved with good intentions and all..
Congressional Democrats Hold News Conference Opposing Fast-Tracking The Trans-Pacific Partnership
So we unloaded the car.
We aren’t going to Vermont.
Everyone is relieved and sad.
Because this is more than just the end of our crazy little movement.
This is the end of the denial phase of my grief.
Bernie Sanders isn’t going to be President and “I’m mad about it.”
But I’m also incredibly sad about it and I know that you are too.
Or maybe you are of the mindset that Jill Stein will save us.
I’m envious of you if you believe that.
I once believed it too.
But those feelings will have to be addressed in another article.
For now, I will just say that I really think you should vote for Jill Stein if you believe in her platform.
And if you really want to write Bernie in, then it’s your vote.
But he would prefer that you didn’t.
And whomever you vote for, I beg you to stop fighting with others who see things differently from you.
I know you are “mad about Bernie.”
We all are.
Let’s all take our collective rage out on the down-ballot Republicans and vote them out of office on November 8, so Bernie Sanders can be head of the House Budget Committee.
There is still a way that we can win.
But it won’t be from writing him in.
1426
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A Close Friend of Mine is Voting for Hillary Clinton

The woman who picks up my kids for school every morning is voting for Hillary Clinton.

We have a system.

She drops them off in the morning.

I pick them up in the afternoon.

It saves both of us money and it lessens our carbon footprint.

Because, you know, we care about those things, being as we are both liberals and all.

Did I mention that this woman is voting for Hillary Clinton?

Crazy, right?

And I don’t trust just anyone with my kids.

My friend is incredibly trustworthy.

She’s an awesome human being and I care very deeply about her.

We’ve been close for a long time.

We watched each other’s kids grow up.

She’s like a member of my family and I’m like a member of hers.

I love my friend.

Did I mention that she is voting for Hillary Clinton?

Yeah. I know, right? What’s up with that?

I mean, how can you be a decent human being and support someone who is pure evil?

I was wondering that as well.

So I asked her.

Hillary Clinton Holds Online Global Town Hall With Youths From Around The World

You might imagine that my friend was once a Bernie supporter and now she is following Sanders’ request to vote for Hillary to defeat the evil Donald Trump.

You might imagine that she is “holding her nose and voting for Hillary”.

You might imagine that, being as she is such a close friend of mine, that she actually hates Hillary Clinton, but is just falling on the grenade to keep the Supreme Court from being all up in her uterus for the next 40 years.

You’d be wrong.

She’s freaking crazy about Hillary Clinton!!

My friend works for the government and has been following Clinton for years.

When she lived in D.C. she actually met Hillary and shook her hand.

She has a Hillary sign in her front yard!!

She used to hide it when I came over, but then I told her…

“I don’t hide my Bernie sign. You don’t need to hide your Hillary sign.”

Before our state’s primary (which Bernie won) I made several efforts to speak with my friend about Bernie Sanders, but she became upset each time and for a while she stopped speaking to me altogether.

That was probably for the best.

It probably saved our friendship.

I’m kind of radical about Bernie Sanders.

After Bernie dropped out and endorsed Hillary (GRRRRR!!!), I asked her if she was ready to have The Talk, the talk that ALL Sanders supporters must have with their Hillary friend(s) if there is any hope of the friendship returning to its previous form.

mybestfriend5

There are YUGE fundamental differences between Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters.

I can be friends with anyone, but if you vote for Hillary Clinton, then there is always going to be an elephant (or a donkey) in the room of our friendship and we are going to have to talk about it.

Because on the surface it would seem that I am in support of universal healthcare and you oppose it and the idea that poor people don’t deserve the same rights as the wealthy is deeply offensive to me.

Without sitting down with you, I would probably never be able to understand how you support fracking, when I am so radically opposed to it.

I’m going to need to hear your thoughts on this.

As a Clinton supporter, I would gather that you support big corporations running our government and I am violently in opposition to this above all, so I’d like to hear your reasoning on that subject as well.

Also, I’d love to hear your thinking on why you believe that it’s okay to lie to the American people repeatedly and hide your Wall Street transcripts, because I know that you are a super-smart person and I’ve always thought of you as extremely ethical.

And I know that you don’t want to see our children murdered in some billionaire’s war, so why is it that you support a candidate who wants to install a no-fly zone over Syria, a move that will likely lead to war with Russia.

I mean, you knew about all these things, right?

You have the Internet and know how to use a search engine, right?

And you actually want to know the policies of the person you are voting for, right?

I don’t want to overwhelm you.

I’ve got literally hundreds of concerns about your candidate and I need to know how you can feel good about voting for a woman who takes millions from the fossil-fuel industry and has no real plan to deal with climate change.

So can we talk?

Because right now, I’m feeling like I don’t even know you.

And I’d hate to let something as trivial as the fate of the entire world come between us.

christina-aguilera-hillary-clinton

Like I said, my friend is awesome.

She invited me over..

She was very cordial…

She poured the wine..

 

And we talked.

My friend agreed that healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

“So why didn’t you vote for Bernie?” I asked.

“Because Hillary is fighting for universal healthcare too.”

“No, she isn’t! In fact she said that it would NEVER happen!”

“She NEVER said that!”

I obnoxiously pulled out my phone and showed her the video.

“Well it must be out of context. Hillary would NEVER say that. Look, my main reason for supporting Hillary is that she supports equality for women. Women do not get equal pay and Hillary will address that, as well as other important women’s issues.”

I thought about bringing up Berta Caceres and other women who died as a result of Hillary’s foreign policy.

I considered bringing up the fact that Hillary Clinton basically starved over a million single mothers and their children when she gutted funding to the Children’s Defense Fund.

I thought about Jill Stein’s brilliant argument that when you make things harder on poor people, that you disproportionately hurt women.

I thought about Camille Paglia‘s points about how Hillary is anti-feminist and Bernie Sanders is a true feminist.

Finally I said…

“Then why did she pay her female employees .72 on the dollar compared to her male employees when she was Secretary of State?”

“No she DID NOT!!” my friend exclaimed.

“Would you like to see the evidence?”

“No, because it never happened.”

“It will take me five seconds.”

“I’ll research it on my own.”

“Will you?” I asked.

“No. Because it never happened.” she said.

We moved on to discussing TPP.

“Oh yeah! Hillary’s against that!” my friend said.

“She co-wrote it and toured the world selling it to other countries!!”

“But then she realized that it was a bad trade agreement and she came out against it.”

“Publicly, she did, but there are emails showing her pressuring Democratic Congressional members to pass it and then Obama sealed the emails, but I have the articles. Would you like to see them?”

“I don’t believe that, Michael.” she said exasperated.

“Well I have proof. Would you like to see it?”

“I’ll look it up on my own sometime.”

“Well you won’t find it on corporate media. Obama sealed the emails.”

“I just don’t believe that, Michael.”

“Okay fine. A year from now, when she is trying to push it through, I’m coming over.”

“Fine. You do that.”

“I will.”

“Good for you.”

“Bad for America. I won’t be happy when I’m right.”

mybestfriend3

The conversation went on like this for a while.

I talked policy and my friend agreed that Bernie’s policy was perfect, but then told me that Hillary supported the same policy.

When I tried to show her evidence that this was not true, she had no interest in looking at it.

She repeatedly regaled me with stories of how Hillary had overcome tough obstacles in her life.

There was the time when Bill had ran for some office and lost and became depressed and wasn’t bringing home any income, so Hillary had to take a job she didn’t like to support Chelsea.

It was as if she thought Hillary was waiting tables during the day and pole-dancing at night.

She truly believed that Hillary Clinton was some kind of rags to riches story.

To her, Hillary was the American dream wrapped in a pantsuit.

“Where did you get these stories?” I asked.

“Oh, I read her book.” she said.

“Oh, okay.” I said.

mybestfriend4

And there we sat, wasting time, speaking different languages.

I get my news from The Intercept and  The Guardian.

She gets hers from CNN.

There was no Lexis…no common ground.

She thinks I’m a Bernie-bro and I think she is uninformed.

What it really comes down to is that my friend sees herself in Hillary Clinton and that’s why she voted for her and will do so again and no amount of inconvenient facts will deter her.

It’s more about identity politics, than policy and there is some kind of sorting device that rest just inside the ear of the Hillary Clinton supporter that takes all criticisms against her and files them into one of two categories.

Either they are right-wing conspiracies designed to take down this model of feminism or Hillary actually did it, but “sometimes women just have to do things that they don’t want to for the greater good.”

With this line of thinking, Clinton is always the hero or the victim.

She has fostered some kind of faux feminism that pulls in angry women of a certain age, who feel like they have lived similar lives.

Never mind that Clinton wouldn’t throw her Fiji water on my friend if she were on fire.

My friend is convinced that Hillary’s fake victory is somehow HER victory.

Just as your ignorant, racist uncle has been duped into believing that billionaire, Donald Trump truly understands his problems, millions of mildly annoyed suburban women will proudly march into the voting booth and fill in that little oval unknowingly supporting genocide abroad and feel like they are true feminists.

And while I love my friend and would do anything for her, I probably won’t ever completely get over this.

Every time I see Hillary ship more young people off to die and murder the innocent for financial gain, I will think of my friend.

When I see trade agreements pass that will continue to destroy the middle-class and ship American jobs overseas, I will think of my friend.

And each time I see Hillary lie, I will think about how my friend is eating up that lie and enjoying it, because it makes her feel good about the choice she made to support women everywhere.

Alas, despite differences in politics, I am grateful for my friend.

I am grateful for the insight she gives me into the mind of the Hillary Clinton supporter.

She’s a really good person.

It’s just that she has chosen to stay ignorant on this one subject that is very important to me.

And considering how miserable this entire election has been..

I almost wish that I had chosen that path as well.

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Someone Stole My Bernie Sanders Yard Sign

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Some asshole stole my Bernie Sanders yard sign last night. That’s number eight. I’ve got one more around somewhere. I used to have a trunk full of them. I would knock on your door, some crazy forty-year old guy, with shaggy hair. You’d tell me that you were planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, we’d talk for 15 or 20 minutes and at the end of our conversation, I’d get one of those signs out of my trunk and we’d plant it in your yard and you’d be excited about it.

I take no credit for this. It wasn’t like I was some great salesman. I just memorized the facts and had a conversation and my new friend just came to the logical conclusion that Bernie Sanders was a much better candidate than Hillary Clinton on every level. Once you had heard the gospel according to Bernie Sanders, you were kind of embarrassed that you had ever even considered voting for Sillary.

If I was at all effective in converting souls to Sanders, it was because of the religious-type fervor I felt for the absolute righteousness of Sanders unflappable ethics, which filled my body with energy that radiated from my eyes, like that of a newly baptized person born in the deep South.

And yet I was an atheist.

I gave so many of those signs away. And now I have but one left. Tucked away in a closet somewhere. I will find it and plant it in the yard as a monument to my stubbornness and my absolute refusal to give up. And when they steal this one, there will be no more.

We will have to go back to making them, like we did before the campaign centers opened and the website took weeks to ship them. Carrie would take old political campaign signs, turn them inside out, and spray-paint over a Bernie stencil she made. She would hand them out at debate parties.

Our house was full of amazing new people for a solid year. What an odd turn of events for me, the paranoid, who didn’t really like people, to fall in love with so many strangers. What a beautiful thing for people to open their homes to my children and I, to feed us, to provide us a place to rest, all because we had one incredible thing in common.

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Perhaps the sign-thief was trying to help me move on. Perhaps it was a misguided gesture of compassion. Or maybe it was some ignorant Trump supporter who thinks that Democratic Socialism means that you can take whatever you want from whoever you want, so he thought he was being witty by teaching me a lesson, when I already knew that the world was full of overconfident morons with boundary issues, so no lesson was learned.

Or possibly, it was a Hillary Clinton supporter who was eaten up with guilt each day, as they drove past my sign and were reminded of how their choice to be WITH HER was condoning lying and cheating and murder and everything else that is bullshit in this awful/awesome world and my sign reminded them that supporting this cheater of Democracy meant they didn’t have the moral authority on any issue, ever again, for the rest of their FUCKING LIFE!!!

Or perhaps the wind blew it away…I don’t know.

But I’ve got another one.

Number nine!

And I’m going to put it out tomorrow morning. Because I’m completely in denial and I plan to stay that way for the rest of my life. I refuse to accept that the world is a shit-hole. I refuse to accept that evil wins. I’m going to be 80 years old and still have some form of Bernie Sanders sign in my yard and the kids in the neighborhood will call me Old Man Sanders and tell legends about me. And I will do things to encourage the legends, even though I’ll still be like a super-nice guy and all..

But I won’t want to disappoint the neighborhood children, so I’ll play screaming sounds out of speakers in my basement and let spider-webs grow all over my house…maybe even wear an eye-patch…I don’t know, but whatever kind of stuff creepy old guys that live in haunted houses in the year 2053 do, that’s the kind of stuff I’ll do.

The kids will dare each other to steal my Bernie Sanders yard sign and each time they do, I will make an even scarier looking Bernie sign and one of the kids will double-down on the dare and say that “if you sleep with the stolen sign under your mattress then Old Man Sanders will appear at the foot of your bed…”

Then another kid will say..

“You guys are stupid. The man who lives in that house isn’t named Bernie Sanders. He just likes Bernie Sanders. Don’t you guys ever read cyber-books on your ocular implant?! You know the way our world is today? With the flying cars and no war and everybody being fed and loved and living to be 500 years old and terraforming other planets and bending space/time and with statues of Neil Degrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and Carl Sagan everywhere? Bernie Sanders was the guy who started all that. Before Bernie Sanders human beings were tore up from the floor up.”

And yeah, in the future, kids are going to say “tore up from the floor up.”

I know that no one has said that in like ten years, but it’s going to come back in a YUGE way in like forty-years, so remember that I predicted that.

So anyway, I’m putting a new sign up.

Number nine!

To remind me and everyone else who sees it..

That this isn’t over.

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I Have a Transgender Child and I Don’t Care

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Chloe has always been a force.

She came into the world ahead of schedule and tried to exit immediately.

The first three days of her life she spent in the Intensive Care Unit with a myriad of health issues.

Dozing off next to the incubator, I felt a tap on my shoulder…

“Hey. I want you to go home and get some sleep.”

White light flooded my eyes.

There was a white figure eclipsing the light.

Perhaps an angel…

Perhaps a doctor..

Those with sick children know that there is no difference.

“And then when I wake up, we can take her home?” I asked.

“I don’t want to get your hopes up.” Doctor Angel said.

I took a cab home that I couldn’t afford.

It was my birthday.

As I fell asleep I said aloud

“All I want for my birthday is for Chloe to be well.”

I awoke late that night to my grandmother banging on my door.

“The hospital keeps calling. They need you there as soon as possible.”

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I arrived at the hospital, not to what I had feared, but instead to Dr. Angel telling me that Chloe was doing great.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” he said.

Or at least I remember him saying that.

I have played that movie in my head so many times that I think I might have worn it out.

Perhaps the original memory got used up and my brain wrote a more cinematic one in its place.

Maybe I just saw a doctor say that in a movie on one of those sleepless nights all parents experience when they bring their baby home.

I don’t know.

But I like my Dr. Angel memory and we got to bring Chloe home the next day.

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Chloe was outstanding at everything.

When she was three, I tried to show her how to play Jacks (you know the game where you bounce the little ball and then try to pick up as many of the little thingies as you can in one swipe of your hand and then catch the ball in the same hand?) and she grabbed all six Jacks on her first try and then caught the ball and said…

“Is that it? Did I do it right?”

“I’ve never seen anyone get all six of them!!” I yelled.

“It’s easy.” she said and did it again.

“I think you might be a mutant.” I told her.

Even her fails were spectacular (in fairness this was actually MY fail).

Like when she was eighteen months old and got into her grandmother’s purse and swallowed an entire bottle of pills in the time it took me to use the restroom.

I had taken an infant CPR class a few weeks earlier and had really paid attention, because I feared I might have to use it someday.

I grabbed Chloe by the back of her neck, inserted my finger into the back of her throat, made a hook-shape with it and dragged forward across the tongue.

About 30 pills came out.

“How many pills were in that bottle?!!” I screamed as if it mattered.

Even a single pill might make a baby very ill or worse.

I ran to the driveway, put Chloe in the car-seat and drove carefully, but quickly to the hospital with the bottle in my hoodie pocket.

I kept trying to keep her conscious as she had a tendency to fall asleep in the car.

I kept smiling and singing songs with her.

I didn’t want her to be afraid.

I kept pulling up to red lights, looking both ways and going through them.

A cop flashed his lights behind me.

I accelerated.

We were almost there.

He gave chase to the hospital.

I jumped out and he met me by the back of my car, his hand on his belt.

“I’m sorry, officer!! My child swallowed pills and is dying. I need your help!!”

“Come on!!” he replied and lead us inside screaming the words “We have an OD’d child!!”

I had Chloe in one arm and the empty pill bottle in my hand.

“She swallowed these!!” I said.

They grabbed her and everything became a blur.

They treated her.

They pulled me aside and told me that they don’t know how much of my grandmother’s heart medicine got into her bloodstream, but if it was enough, it could cause Chloe to go into cardiac arrest.

They kept her for observation overnight.

I sat there stroking her hair, making up stories about Elmo and Scooby Doo.

She kept breathing.

Self-recrimination consumed me.

She had fought so hard just to live and my negligence had nearly killed her.

I was going to lose custody and I deserved to.

There were a lot of interviews.

They were way too nice to me.

“It happens all the time.” they said.

“It could happen to anyone.” they said.

I took her home and waited for them to come and take her from me for the next several years.

They never came.

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(Writer’s Note: You can skip this section, as it is another section in which I brag about how awesome Chloe is. Skip to the next section for the wrap-up.)

Then there was the year that I forced Chloe to play baseball.

Actually it was her idea to start, but after striking out the first 30 or so times up to bat, she decided that baseball was boring and wanted to quit.

Having some strange idea that parenting had something to do with teaching kids to overcome obstacles, instead of letting her quit, I forced her to take batting practice with me pitching to her every day.

She couldn’t even hit my pitches from six feet away.

No matter how slow I pitched, she would swing wildly, missing it by several inches.

One of the parents kept stats for all the kids and going into the last inning of the last game, Chloe had batted something like 92 times and had struck out literally every single time.

And then of course, as fate would have it, with two outs in the last inning of the final game, with the bases loaded, Chloe was up to bat with her team down by three runs.

The entire game rested on her tiny shoulders.

I pulled the coach aside and told him that I would not be at all offended if he let someone else bat for her.

Our teams best player, an eight year old who looked like a twelve-year-old, came up to join the conversation.

“Let Chloe hit.” he said selflessly and begin clapping his hands and saying “GO CHLOE!!!” in an attempt to get the other kids to cheer for her.

The parents joined in with their own cheers.

The kids on the other team, moved up really close, to where the outfielders were pretty much on the infield and the infielders were only about 10 feet away from where Chloe stood with her tiny bat.

They started chanting “HEY BATTER-BATTER-BATTER!!”, a chant I had always hated.

Chloe’s coach tossed the ball softly towards the plate (in pee-wee leagues the coach is usually the pitcher) and she swung and missed.

She missed badly on the second pitch as well.

“HEY BATTER-BATTER-BATTER!!”

“Keep your eyes open, Chloe!!” I reminded her.

She always closed her eyes when she swung and she always swung so hard.

The chants of “EASY OUT!! EASY OUT!!” rang in my ears and I wondered what kind of long-term damage I had done to my kid by forcing them to play this ridiculous game that they had no chance of succeeding at.

I envisioned a thousand negative images of Chloe’s doomed adulthood and at the end of each mental movie I imagined her saying..

“IT’S BECAUSE I STRUCK OUT 93 TIMES WHEN I WAS FIVE!!!”

Just as I was imagining rescuing a 20-something Chloe from a crack-house, I heard a “CLINK”, the unmistakable sound of a baseball hitting a metal bat, followed quickly by the image of a ball rolling past the pitcher’s mound and past the second baseman, who was so arrogant that he had been standing right next to the pitcher, mocking Chloe’s inability to make contact.

The ball rolled past the center-fielder, who was standing right next to second base with his glove off, figuring that Chloe wouldn’t be able to hit it very far should she be able to hit it at all.

The ball was hit well.

The ball rolled past everyone on the other team.

The ball was tired of its diamond life.

It was escaping.

It was running through grass, being pursued by giants.

It was Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

It was Thelma and Louise.

It was Forrest Fucking Gump!!!

The entire crowd shared an audible gasp, then suddenly, like birds in flight, they all shifted together to tell Chloe to “RUN!!!!!”

She had never hit the ball before.

She didn’t know what to do next.

She took a doubtful step towards the pitcher’s mound, where the coach ran towards her, pointed at first base and said “THAT WAY!!”

She took off like a tiny rocket.

Chloe reached first base and stood there proudly, hand on her hips, smiling.

The ball hit the fence and stopped rolling as the parents raced from the bleachers and pointed in unison for Chloe to “RUN THAT WAY!!!” towards second base.

By the time she arrived at second, all three runners had crossed the plate, tying the game and the rest of her team had ran out of the dugout and were standing behind third base screaming for Chloe to “COME THIS WAY!!!”

As the center-fielder slipped and fell, trying to pick up the ball, Chloe was rounding third and by the time he had overthrown the cut-off man, Chloe was standing at home plate being mobbed by teammates and parents.

I’d be doubting that memory too, if so many people hadn’t been there to witness it.

Even now, ten years later, I will see one of those parents and they will say

“Remember that time Chloe got the game winning hit?”

I’ll smile and nod, but what I really remember is Chloe asking on the way home..

“Does this mean that I don’t have to play baseball anymore?”

066

We all think our kids are special, because in fact, all kids are special.

I could go on for days with stories about what it was like to be a single-dad, raising a daughter in a conservative state, without any child support or extended family.

 

Perhaps some day, I’ll write a novel about our adventures, but for the purposes of this article, I just wanted to share a few stories about how miraculous my child is, so that you might grasp in the tiniest way, why I did not give one actual fuck when Chloe pulled me aside a month ago and nervously told me that she wanted to be called Aaron and wanted to be referred to as “he” and not “she” from now on.

I hope you can understand how this news had ZERO effect on my feelings about my son and how I immediately made the transition and it wasn’t even the tiniest bit difficult for me.

I want to convey completely that if my parenting were an animal, that it would be a honey badger, because not one fuck was given on my part.

My only response was to hug Aaron and remind him for the ten millionth time that I loved him unconditionally.

If I raised my arms out as wide as I could, that would not begin to emphasize how fucking proud I am of my child, regardless of what gender(s) they identify as or what gender(s) they are attracted to.

If I pushed my thumb and middle-finger very tightly together, I could not begin to show you how little my ego is tied up into my child’s gender identity.

When Aaron told me that he wanted a binder and informed me that a binder was an article of clothing that pushes breasts down, so that the wearer can pass as a boy, I asked only if binders were safe and read a few articles on them.

Once I was convinced that they were safe, I completely supported Aaron’s wearing of binders.

I cannot stress how little it bothers me that Chloe is now Aaron.

If shits given were rain, this parent would be in the desert.

If my concern for this were an algebra problem and how much I cared were an unknown integer, then you could multiply any number by that integer and get zero.

It would look something like this…

9736 x MC = 0

or

8,403,976 x MC =0

Okay, these comparisons are starting to become pretty abstract, but I REALLY want to stress to you that my child’s gender identity does not affect my love and support for my child in the least.

And I apologize if you are offended by profanity.

I am incredibly offended by bigotry and I really felt that these words could accentuate that point for me.

Some might suggest that teenagers are capricious and that this may be “just a phase”.

Doesn’t matter AT ALL!!

My support is 100% behind my child.

To me this seems like the only possible way to receive the news.

But I have heard nightmarish stories of parents not taking this kind of thing well.

I have heard stories of parents telling their children that they refuse to respect their wishes and boundaries.

I have heard stories of parents who throw their children out on the street.

I have heard stories of parents shaming their child for trying to be their true self.

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(Writer’s Note: Unless you are the parent of a transgender child, then you can stop reading now. The story is over for you. The remainder of the article is me speaking directly to parents.)

I wrote this because I know how upside down the world can become when you are a parent.

I wrote this because I know that it is impossible to not let our egos get wrapped up in our children.

I wrote this because I have made many mistakes and I thought maybe, if just one person read this and gained something from it, then it would be worth sharing.

(And by the way, Aaron has read this and given me permission to publish it.)

I know it might be hard to let go of some of those visions you had for your child, that were wrapped up in their gender identity.

Maybe you imagined giving your little girl away on her wedding day.

Maybe you were still holding out hope that your son was going to be the football star that you wanted him to be.

Both of the above examples can still happen, because neither is gender specific, but it’s probably a good idea to let your child decide what they want to do and be.

Life is hard enough without having to live up to someone else’s vision for your life.

We can become overly attached to our child’s gender identity, without even realizing that this is even happening.

For some, a child changing their gender identity can feel like a death.

It’s not.

Things will be different, but probably not in the ways that you think they will be.

You may find yourself having confused feelings sometimes.

That’s natural.

Tell your child, with compassion, some of your struggles.

You don’t have to pretend that everything is okay all the time.

It’s okay to talk about your challenges with your child.

It’s not okay to blame them for those challenges.

Start your statements with “I feel..” or “I fear..”

“I sometimes feel like you snap at me when I call you by your old name. I’m trying to adjust here. I need you to be more patient with me.”

“I fear my father’s judgment of your gender identity. I know you are my child and it is my job to protect you, but this change has exposed how afraid of my father I still am. I’m an adult, but I still feel like a five-year old when he says something judgmental. I know I need to do a better job of standing up to him and defending you.”

Your child may feel safer when they realize that you share some of their struggles.

You may worry about your child’s safety, knowing that there are so many hate-filled people in the world.

You’re a parent.

You will always worry.

The same safety rules apply for trans-children as for all children.

If there’s something you don’t understand, just ask your child.

They may not know either.

Maybe you can learn together.

You will probably be surprised by how much they can teach you.

If you let it, you might find that this change can allow you to know your child in different ways and bring your relationship closer than ever.

Read books that will help you to understand what your child is going through.

 

If it’s in your budget, find a therapist that specializes in transgender children and go see them together and also encourage your child to see them one on one.

You will learn a lot about yourself and how you relate to different genders.

For example, I always used to call Aaron “beautiful” when I related to him as female and now I find myself pausing a little bit before I use that word.

I guess I must have had a feminine association to it.

I push past that.

I look at him and proclaim the truth..

“You are beautiful and I love you!!”

But I have to work at it.

I have to remind myself.

If you are a member of a church, you may have to switch to a more evolved church, if your current one doesn’t accept you and your child completely.

Even if you are not religious, you may find that some friends are not as evolved as you had hoped.

That’s okay.

You’ll make better friends.

You will have to stand up to some family members.

You will be scared.

You will face discrimination.

This is good.

This will give you more empathy for your child.

Your life may be more difficult for a while, during your own personal transition, as the parent of a transgender child.

You’ll be okay.

Parenting is a constant state of transition.

You can do it.

And always remember..

If being the parent of transgender child is hard…

Being a transgender child is much harder and they will always need you in their corner.

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How Bernie Sanders Saved My Life

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I apologize to those who follow me on social media.

I’ve been pretty angry lately.

My grief stages seem to have no particular order and every time I think I have worked out one, it comes back again, stronger than before.

I’m still trying to make sense of this journey.

I remember May of 2015, sprinting excitedly towards my girlfriend’s house.

I felt like a little kid, I was so excited.

She answered the door and I exclaimed..

“There’s this guy. He’s a Senator from Vermont. He’s amazing. I signed this petition last year, asking him to run for President and today he announced that he was going to run.”

We drank our coffee and I told Carrie what little bit I knew about him at the time.

I told her about his career fighting for social justice and some of the platforms he was running on.

I remember saying…

“We have one year to tell everyone in the country about him. Everyone who hears about him will vote for him.”

Although I was a political activist at the time, I never really paid attention to candidates.

I voted a straight Democratic ticket and invested most of my time on issues.

As the parent of a daughter who is very active in the LBGT+ community, in a state where Mike Pence is the governor, I spent a lot of my activist time working on equality issues.

I had never been excited about a candidate before, but Bernie Sanders lit a fire under me.

I agreed completely with every one of his platforms and I had already seen the videos of him speaking to empty rooms and defending gays on the Senate floor.

I told Carrie that I was going to dedicate the next year of my life to getting this great man elected.

“Bernie Sanders is on the right side of every single issue that I’ve spent my life fighting for” I said.

I went to the website and signed up to volunteer.

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I went to a meeting.

There was someone there selling shirts and handouts that had Bernie’s platforms on them.

I bought a shirt.

It said “Ask Me About Bernie” on both sides.

I went to a street festival that weekend and wore the shirt.

Nobody knew who Bernie was.

People kept asking me about the shirt and I would hand them a flyer.

I was incredibly afraid that people would ask me questions, because I knew that I was not knowledgeable enough to answer most of them.

There were two separate Republicans who cornered me that evening.

They asked me a lot of questions in a very hostile way.

I had to admit to both of them that I did not know these answers.

I wrote down their questions and took their phone numbers.

I went home and looked up the answers.

I called both of them the next day.

One said “Fuck off, Commie!!” and hung up the phone.

The other sat down with me and we talked.

He ended up voting for Bernie.

I’m still friends with him to this day.

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I was abused as a child and as a result, I have struggled with some pretty severe social anxiety issues as an adult.

There were several years, where I only left the house to go to my job and I kept myself completely isolated otherwise.

I saw a series of therapists.

All of them helped me immensely.

Thanks to my children being born and complications with the mother, that resulted in me raising them alone, I had gotten used to living outside my comfort zone.

I would get them signed up for school and take them to their friend’s birthday parties and all the things you have to do in order to appear to be a fully functioning adult, but I would do these things while having severe panic attacks.

I kept the attacks hidden.

I didn’t want my children to grow up anxious.

But part of keeping them a secret was to stay away from people as much as I possibly could, so when Bernie Sanders started his presidential run, I knew right away that this was going to be a YUGE challenge for me.

What I didn’t know is that 15 months later, much of my anxiety would be alleviated by the experiences I had while volunteering for this great man.

I had no way of anticipating that I was about to embark upon a journey that would introduce me to thousands of Americans who loved their country and wanted to make it a better place to live.

As I was standing in the middle of FDR park in Philadelphia, just a month ago, after Bernie had been cheated out of the Democratic nomination…

As I was standing there watching hundreds of people crying..

While tears streamed down my own cheeks, I actually had the thought..

“I never thought I could feel so comfortable in a crowd this large.”

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At the campaign office in Columbus, Ohio

 

Carrie is an artist and she is always heading out to some festival or another.

Definitely not my scene, but I started tagging along and wearing my Bernie shirt.

Each week, I was more and more prepared for the questions people would ask me.

Living in Indiana, I would get a lot of angry Trump voters coming at me.

Many of them were incredibly hostile.

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but I would sit in the parking lot before I would go into these festivals and smoke pot, which seems insane, because marijuana really aggravates my anxiety and causes me tremendous paranoia.

But it also accentuates my empathy and I found that it helped me listen to people and get past their hostility and really feel what they were saying.

So these Trump voters would come at me with all this hostility and I would be feeling completely paranoid.

But I was able to work through that and feel their fear and have empathy for them.

I gave up on any idea of converting them and just started listening.

As a result, many of them would vent for a minute and once they realized that I actually cared about them, they would start to ask me questions.

I was able to have really deep connections with the voters in my city and made friends with people who I would have stereotyped and ignored previously.

Walls started coming down around my heart.

I started to feel more confident.

Then the guy from the national campaign came in.

canvassing

It was a Wednesday night and I was already exhausted.

There was a Bernie meeting with a guy from the national headquarters.

I kept falling asleep during the meeting.

The movement had grown and there were about 100 people there, when just a few months before there had only been 10-15.

The meeting was in regards to getting Bernie Sanders on the ballot in Indiana.

He told us that we had to collect 500 signatures in each Congressional district, but that he preferred that we collect 1000, because Indiana was not excited about having a Socialist on the ballot and that they would do anything they could to disqualify the signatures.

He started asking if there were any volunteers and gradually people agreed to take on certain districts.

I kept dozing off.

Between snoozes, I noticed that he kept talking about district 5.

“So no one wants to take district 5?” the guy asked.

Some important looking guy in a suit said..

“There are some challenges with that district. It’s all Republican and it’s rural. There are vast distances between the houses and they don’t take kindly to Socialism.”

I raised my hand..

“So what happens if we are unable to collect the 1000 signatures from that district?”

The guy said

“Then Bernie is not on the ballot in Indiana and he will automatically forfeit this state and have reduced chances of becoming president.”

I raised my hand again.

“You have another question?” the guy asked.

“No.” I said “I am raising my hand to volunteer to get the signatures for district 5.”

Everyone in the place turned to look at me.

ballots

I assembled a team and we headed out to district 5.

It was not easy.

The mere mention of Bernie Sanders caused these wealthy Republicans to become hostile.

We were called lots of names and threatened in various ways.

One guy, who informed me that he was a county chair said..

“I hate Socialism and I LOVE The Constitution. I particularly love The Second Amendment. Do you know what I mean when I say that?”

When he walked away I turned to my daughter and said

“Those people would own slaves if it were still legal.”

They were seriously scary people and refused to sign our ballot initiative.

They were openly hostile to us.

Finally I came up with an idea.

I started saying

“Excuse me. Do you have 30 seconds to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?”

People would stop and laugh.

I would then make the point that “Bernie may be a Socialist, but he’s still better than Hillary.” and then I would add that “The one thing I respect about Republicans is that they believe in real democracy and that ALL people deserve the right to run for office.”

This locked them in and they started reluctantly signing.

Then Cherish (far left in the picture) started going in public places and collecting signatures until they kicked her out.

She did this over and over again.

She was a machine.

She wouldn’t stop.

She got kicked out of every place in the district.

But we got the signatures and Bernie won Indiana!!

voteforbernie

“We need to go to Iowa.” I said, walking into the bedroom where Carrie was folding clothes.

“Okay.” she said.

Carrie knows me and she knows how I fear new places.

She also knows that I hate driving long distances.

For me to say that we needed to go to Iowa, was similar to me saying that we should build a rocket and head to Europa.

“It’s a very tight race there. I need to get there and help however I can. If you can’t get off work, I understand, but I need to go. If we win Iowa and New Hampshire we can build momentum. Iowa is the key to the entire race.”

The next morning we loaded up the kids and headed out.

When we arrived at the campaign center they told us that Bernie was across the street about to speak.

We went into a small room.

About 600 people were packed in.

I didn’t even know Bernie was in Iowa and suddenly, unexpectedly, here he was speaking to me in a small room.

Afterwards Bernie headed for the exit while people pushed through to try to shake his hand.

I was just a few feet away from him, but I didn’t want to cut in front of anyone.

Instead I had my daughter walk up to the podium and I snapped this picture.

chloe

When I started writing this, I thought that I was going to write a short synopsis of the highlights of the past 15 months.

I decided to write it because I wanted to stop talking about politics in theoretical terms and share a personal story, because I feel like our movement has really lost direction over the last couple of months and I was hoping maybe that humanizing it some might help somehow.

But I can’t do it.

I look at my word count and it says I am already at 2000.

I was about to start into the story of how my son got very sick on our way home from Iowa and how our journey there, in effect, saved his life.

I wanted to talk about how I got to be in charge of helping the handicapped to their seats in Columbus, Ohio at a Bernie rally with 18,500 people and how their stories touched me so much.

I wanted to talk about how my daughter and I became so good as a canvassing team, that we were able to flip people to Bernie using methods that we invented from trial and error.

But, I know you are busy.

I know you don’t have time to read an entire book on your phone or laptop screen right now, so I will just obliterate the fourth wall and wrap this up.

I wanted to share some measure of myself today, in hopes that maybe it would help me to get grounded in gratitude for the incredible journey that we have all been on and also so that maybe we could facilitate some healing.

I don’t want to tell people that they should get over their anger.

Everyone has their own grief timeline.

I’m not even close to getting over mine and I knew that this was over since we were cheated in New York.

I just hope that when the anger goes away, people don’t just give up and walk away bitter, having learned all the wrong lessons.

I am extremely sad about the events that lead us to this moment.

But I am also gradually rediscovering the hope and gratitude I had a year ago.

I know so many of you personally and many who I only know virtually I still count among my best friends.

You sacrificed so much and I feel your pain.

I really want to thank you for everything you have done for this movement of revolution and compassion.

I want to thank you for what you have done for me personally.

Those of you who extended your homes to me and my family so that we could go out and canvass in your area…

I cannot tell you what that means to me.

We honestly were so broke that we didn’t even have the money for a hotel half the time, so we literally could not have had this journey without you.

For those of you who have taken the time to send me your personal stories, please know that I have read every single one of them and have discussed them with my family, often breaking down into tears while doing so.

I can’t tell you the healing that your passion and kindness has given me.

I am ten times the man I was a year ago, thanks to you.

I know how hard it was to donate to the campaign, when you were trying to figure out how you were going to pay your electric bill.

Thank you for doing that.

I know hard it was to get over your fear and phone-bank.

Thank you so much for doing that, as well.

I know it is a scary thing to knock on a stranger’s door, having no idea what their reaction will be.

You are absolutely my hero for doing this.

I know these are dark times.

I know that it is extremely hard to make sense of how millions of people could try so hard, only to get so close and be cheated.

It’s completely natural to want to just give up after this, but don’t.

In time, you will see that we achieved far more than we realized.

Thank you from my whole heart.

I love you all.

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Hey Bernie Sanders, You Should Vote For Jill Stein

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in New York

Hey Bernie, how the hell are you, brother?

I heard about you and Jane buying a new home on the beach and I couldn’t stop smiling, thinking about you out there chillin, grandkids running around, toes in the sand, drinking a Heady Topper or two, or three, or four, reflecting over the past year and a half.

Even though I dedicated my entire life to getting you elected, there was always this small part of me that wanted you to just go home and relax.

I worried about you.

You were working so hard that I feared that you would burn yourself out.

So the thought of you relaxing makes me extremely happy.

A few months ago, you asked me to vote for Hillary Clinton and because I hold you in such high esteem, I actually considered it.

I read the articles you wrote about it and I agree with you on many points.

It’s true, that if Donald Trump were to become president, America would be in for some hard times.

I read your book and I remember the sleepless nights you had agonizing over endorsing Bill Clinton, while the raccoon stirred in your attic.

I remember that you ultimately endorsed him, because you knew that Bob Dole would cut Social Security, but then you seemed to have some regret over it once NAFTA was enacted.

I know a lot of fair-weather people turned on you after the Hillary endorsement, but not me.

I totally get it.

You were in a really tough position and I admire you for doing what you felt was best.

But I can’t bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton.

The time for lesser-evilism is over.

Times are desperate.

“Enough is enough.” right?

“Millions of people standing together.” right?

“Political revolution.” right?

omgcrowd

I have imaginary conversations with you all the time.

We are sitting on the beach, waves calmly crashing into the shore.

Killer Mike is on his way over with a blunt behind his ear.

Mike and I are going to walk on down the beach and build up an appetite, before we start grilling out.

We will invite you to walk with us, but you will stay back and get the fire started.

In our conversations, you tell me why it is important to vote for Hillary and I tell you why I struggle with this idea.

You talk to me about the importance of Supreme Court judges and I agree with you completely, but I have to counter with Hillary Clinton’s support for TPP.

You and I both know that Clinton is the Trojan horse for this horrible trade agreement.

You and I both know that she is lying about opposing it.

You and I both saw the secret emails where she urged Congress to pass it.

And we both know that TPP is so powerful that it would take away much of the Supreme Court’s power anyway.

You tell me that a Trump presidency would mean losing all the progress we have made over the last decade and I mostly agree with you, but then I remind you that the Democrats will always run on the lesser of two evils ideology and that we have to take a stand against it at some point and that we are running out of time.

 

I remind you that you have been saying for decades that we need a third-party in America and that there will never be a better time than now.

I remind you that you called the Democrats “ideologically bankrupt” and that you made a point to stay out of their party for nearly your entire career.

In our conversation, you are not actually arguing with me.

You are arguing against your own words.

I keep quoting you back to you.

You keep giving me a pained smile.

You’re getting tired of my Bernie knowledge.

You’d probably rather argue with Alan Greenspan for another eight and a half hours.

In our imaginary conversations, we both admit that the choice between Trump and Clinton is not a good one.

We both end up temporarily discouraged and exasperated.

We both end up saying that we have to take massive action to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Then your grandkids all come running out in little Jill Stein T-Shirts.

I gave them to Jane, while you were in the restroom and asked her to send the kids out when I gave the signal.

Jane agrees with me on this one, Bernie.

And she promised the grandkids ice-cream if they would chant “Jill not Hill!!”

And Killer Mike just pulled up.

We have you outnumbered.

This is an intervention.

berniekdis

Back in reality, I agree with you wholeheartedly that a Trump presidency would be a disaster.

Having this maniac with the nuclear codes and the ability to nominate conservative judges scares the hell out of me.

But Jill is right, when she says..

“What we fear from Donald Trump, we have already seen from Hillary Clinton.”

Trump threatens to kill terrorist’s families and Hillary has already killed over a million innocent civilians in Honduras, Iraq and Libya.

Trump is a climate change denier.

Hillary Clinton takes millions from the fossil-fuel lobby and has no real climate plan.

Trump makes disgusting sexist comments.

Hillary silences her husband’s sexual assault victims.

We could compare and contrast all day, but all it would do is remind us that the choice between Trump and Clinton is no choice at all.

If this election has taught us anything, it’s that America is locked into a corporate duopoly, where the people are not being represented by their government and that this has to change.

Had we made our stand in 2012, the Green Party would have been a prominent party now.

You wouldn’t have had to run on the Democratic ticket and they would not have been allowed to abuse you the way that they did.

We cannot continue down this path any longer, my friend.

When you see what NAFTA did to cities like Flint and Detroit, do you still feel that endorsing Bill Clinton was right for America?

When you see how his crime bill decimated hundreds of thousands of black families, do you still feel that endorsing him ended up being the best move?

When you see how his repeal of Glass-Steagall lead to millions of Americans losing their homes and ultimately lead to a Wall Street bailout that the American people will be paying for, for the rest of their lives, do you still feel like lesser-evilism actually helped our country?

Would Bob Dole have been any worse?

Or would he have been equally bad for America, but just in different ways?

I know you see this, my brilliant friend.

The Republicans move to the right and the Democrats move in lockstep with them.

They always scream from the rooftops

“We aren’t as evil as the Republicans”

And Americans line up to buy the same lies every four years..

Because the alternative, on the surface at least, is so much worse.

As a result of this never-ending compromise, Americans are left feeling betrayed by the repeated broken promises of hope and this ultimately leads to a voter apathy so great, that the people barely have a voice at this point.

Is that really what you want to endorse?

The Bernie Sanders that I fell in love with was a man who stared into the face of evil and refused to blink.

The Bernie Sanders who inspired me was a man who said that people who suppress voting are “political cowards”.

The Bernie Sanders who got me off my ass and out knocking on doors was a man who stood opposite of Hillary Clinton and the multinational corporations she represents.

You said “Enough is enough”, Bernie..

And we listened.

Don’t ask us to vote out of fear, when you told us to stand together to fight against the 1%.

Don’t ask us to vote for everything you have rebelled against for the past fifty years.

Don’t ask us to get blood on our hands supporting Hillary’s next huge, genocidal business opportunity.

You’re too good for that.

There has never been a better time than now to tell the establishment to fuck right off.

Based on everything that you have said…

Based on everything you have stood for..

Based on the fact that Jill Stein embodies the same revolutionary spirit that you have spent your entire life representing..

The choice is clear.

Bernie Sanders, I really think you should vote for Jill Stein.

 

 

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