A Transgender Veteran Comments on Trump’s Ban

On July 26, President Donald J. Trump announced via Twitter that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. His tweet said, in part, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Although some Pentagon officials found the logistics of such a move problematic and feared that removing transgender soldiers would spur lawsuits, on August 10 Trump reasserted his proposed ban, saying that transgender military service has “been a very difficult situation, and I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it.”

Church member and transgender veteran Naomi Ruben provided this blog post on the President’s statements:

I’m a veteran of both the Air Force Security Police and the Army Signal Corp.  I was asked what I think of Mr. Trump trying to ban all transgender people from the military.

First, he’s so crude that he did this with a tweet. The military didn’t know how to respond to that.  Military life is very organized.  Things are done through official channels, NOT through tweets.

He talks about the cost of transgender care.  Only a few of the transgender people in the military are going through transition, and the money is way less than his Florida vacations so far. If he kicks trans people out, it will cost more to train new people than keep trans people in the military.

Here’s a biggie: transgender people who have been in for almost 20 years and are about to retire, and who then came out, are at risk of losing their pensions.

I can’t believe that this is the United States of America, led by a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and cheered on by David Duke.

Shalom,

Naomi Ruben

Naomi also recommends this August 5 Info Wars video of an interview with pro-transgender protesters in Cleveland.

The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.

 

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Where Do You Get Your News? Part II: The News Yesterday and Today

 

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In any discussion of news sources, it would be hard to avoid the changes taking place under our eyes in the last year and indeed the last month.

Today’s news brings a report that a Russian television network has blended journalism and propaganda while maintaining that it is just another news outlet like the BBC. I would argue that social media has done much to prepare the ground for Trump’s attack on the mainstream media and the current conflict over who presents the news. Social media provides an outlet for a variety of news sources, for discussion of personal issues and personality not normally covered by a paper’s news organization.

 

Before now, advocacy and anecdotal news were separated in different parts of the newspaper. They have usually been covered by journals or in the back pages of newspapers. I see a connection between a looser form of news and new sources, such as Twitter, and the President’s use of a more personal style in news sometimes referred to as alt-right news and talk radio—what some of us would not think of as news. An ideological perspective has come to dominate this form of news. It may represent interests—an anti-globalist perspective, for instance—and be opposed to what is termed the administrative state. Should this concept come to represent the news, it would be a reversal of accepted journalistic practices that report all the news as objectively as possible and interpret the world as it exists.

Consolidation has had a major effect on newspapers and competition. There used to be papers such as the New York Tribune that could give the New York Times competition from a moderate conservative perspective.

The Roosevelt era did much to define editorial views, as it did the identity of political parties. Currently, political parties are losing their former identities and struggling to find a new identity. The Republican Party has been the clearest example of dramatic changes. Party positions have had to adapt to a new environment in which parties and leader have diminished respect and authority. The term “rock-ribbed Republican” seems particularly dated.

In summary, one explanation for changes in how the news is viewed would be new classifications: the same news, just organized differently. A different interpretation would emphasize fundamental changes on how the news is viewed from within and without. That leaves us with a question: If we have a new and different model for the news, what is the role of ethics? Ethics has always been tied to journalistic priorities and to the proper role of a journalist. Is that still relevant?

-Bill Jackson

 Church member Bill Jackson taught political science at Catholic University of America  and Trinity College in Washington, D.C.  He traveled in Pakistan as a student and served in New Delhi, India, in the Foreign Service.  Readers can find Bill’s essays and poetry on his blog, Bill Jackson Reflects.

The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.

 

Common Read: The Third Reconstruction

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This year the Unitarian Universalist Association has chosen The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear, by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, as its Common Read.

Reverend William J. Barber gained national attention last summer as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention. He is the founder of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, and a passionate advocate for what he calls Fusion Politics, or how groups with very different interests can find common goals and learn to work together to achieve them.

The divisions we are sensing among our fellow Americans are very real, and seem to be widening in the wake of the presidential election. It seems very hard to find any common ground. And there is a reason for it.

The divisions have long been deliberately fostered by those with political and economic power. In The Third Reconstruction, Reverend Barber shares the history of efforts in this country to divide and conquer. In order to maintain political and economic power, those who have it have deliberately sought, throughout our history, to create gaps between people who should have shared interests. Since colonial times, landowners and factory owners have understood that if the poor of all races unified, they would be a force hard to control. As a result, the powerful have intentionally driven wedges between poor whites and poor blacks, emphasizing their differences rather than what they have in common.

We are seeing the fruits of this today, as a wealthy businessman has been elected president by assuring working class voters that he has their best interests at heart, while at the same time blaming much of the country’s problems on immigrants and refugees. He is creating divisions between people who have more in common than they realize.

Reverend Barber takes us through the past 150 years of post-Civil War history, pointing out the patterns of when growth in civil rights is followed by a period of conservative backlash. He comments: “…we must be clear: every stride toward freedom in U. S. history has been met with this same backlash.”

This spring I will be inviting members of the congregation to read The Third Reconstruction and meet to discuss it. We welcome you to join us: dates and times will be posted on the church website at http://www.gloucesteruu.org.

-Rev. Janet Parsons

The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.

Where Do You Get Your News? Part I: Where Does the News Come From, and Why Does It Matter?

Those were the days, when we knew the news through our radio, and later TV, news commentators such as Ed Murrow and Walter Cronkite: men who brought dignity and poise to the presentation of the news. The ticker tape in the newsroom gave a feeling of the news happening in front of us. People didn’t question where the news came from; it was a moving record of events, often with background and comment mixed in.

Newspapers presented the headlines and did their best with the details. There was plenty of competition among large, small, and medium-sized papers. The news barons emerged, with names like William Randolph Hearst and with him “yellow” journalism and nationalistic fervor. Hearst was not shy about creating his own news or leading the country into war with TR and the Rough Riders.

But that was then, and we must consider, What has happened to the news as we viewed it then?

A depression and two world wars brought the world closer, and economic and political upheavals into public and journalistic awareness. The news is all around us, and people can choose their own flavor or none at all. Technology has given us handheld news on demand; social media has developed a new form of quickly digestible news while keeping some ties to what used to be called news. Speed and punch replace details and analysis.

Donald Trump’s use of Twitter, an offshoot of social media, exemplifies the use of social media to shade traditional news or even to develop a different or counter news story. It plays to a largely different audience and appeals to different interests, including rumor and personality-based reporting. It has given a politician such as Trump wide scope to use hearsay and innuendo to make his points without addressing the news media directly, to avoid questions, or to relegate them to an anecdotal format. A politician now can tell his story without immediate critical reaction from those who follow the news in detail and to some extent cover the author’s footprint with a babble of voices.

Convenient, I would say.

This is a rough attempt to view changes in the news business and in the consumption of news. A subsequent post will analyze the costs of news, including foreign news, and how that has changed the marketplace for news. Questions are always welcome and will be taken up as time and space permit.

-Bill Jackson

Church member Bill Jackson taught political science at Catholic University of America  and Trinity College in Washington, D.C.  He travelled in Pakistan as a student and served in New Delhi, India, in the Foreign Service.  Bill’s essays and poetry also appear on his blog, Bill Jackson Reflects. 

The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.

Gloucester As a Green Community

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For over two years now, a group of volunteers have been working on implementing a vision of helping  Gloucester and Cape Ann take the lead in developing a clean energy-based economy.

Climate change, caused by a growing level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, is an existential threat to our many species of life on our planet, including our own.  The threats to our Cape Ann fisheries by ocean acidification, to our lower lying areas by sea-level rise, and to our flora and fauna everywhere are well documented.

The name of our initiative, Towngreen2025, is a program of the newly launched independent non-profit the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation (GMF), which is affiliated with the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church.

We have developed a web site  that will have our new strategic plan up by the end of January.  Check it out at towngreen2025.org.

A critical question is making sure our plan serves ALL residents with equal access.  How can we make sure that we do not end up providing more benefits to the more affluent members and businesses of Cape Ann?

We are definitely planning on addressing the needs of the full range of income levels and neighborhoods on Cape Ann.  We will be collaborating with the Action Inc. community action agency to publicize the generous existing subsidies for insulation and efficiencies in making both homes and apartments as energy-efficient as possible.  And, we hope to have a lower electricity rate for lower income populations, available when we go to a local “microgrid” in the future.

Your ideas, questions, and energy are very welcome.  Please comment below with any questions, ideas, or links to environmental justice web sites that you think might be helpful as we go forward to a greener future for all!

-Dick Prouty

Dick Prouty is co-chair of TownGreen2025. The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.

How Can We Stand on the Side of Love?

Standing on the Side of Love is a public advocacy campaign sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association that seeks to harness the power of love to stop oppression. But separate from the campaign, what does the phrase “Standing on the Side of Love” mean and how do we bring it to action? How do we stand on the side of love when anger fueled by fear, hatred, and violence threatens us and our neighbors? How do we stand on the side of love when bigotry, ignorance, and anti-truth strategists begin to take control of the White House?

Standing on the side of love is not a passive stance. We must communicate and act with an abiding love for justice, but communicate and act we must. So perhaps standing is a misnomer – we need to be moving. We can’t just stand still, love, and hope for the best. The dichotomies of our country have risen to perhaps unprecedented levels, at least in my lifetime. Right now it is difficult to understand the venom and hatred that is becoming commonplace, even legitimized, in the United States.

When the potential leader of the United States is captured on tape saying he can touch a woman inappropriately because of his fame – and still gets elected to the highest office, how in the name of anything decent do you respond with love? Love is not synonymous with condoning a behavior, belief, or action. I think to myself, “That in no way deserves a loving response.” But I’m wrong. I’ve got the wrong idea about love. Love is not this innocent, pure, idealistic way of being. It is a thoughtful, strong, well-thought position. Do I love Donald Trump? No, I cannot say I love him. I have no patience for the man. Is that Standing on the Side of Love?

Jesus says to love your enemies. Martin Luther King offered thought-provoking sermons on the topic. I’m sad that there are human beings who think and act like Donald Trump. If pressed, I can feel badly for them. People like that must experience tremendous emotional and spiritual pain. Or at least if I am to feel anything remotely similar to love for them, I have to believe that. To stand on the side of love in response to hate, prejudice, sexual assault, and other insidious behavior, if you can’t love the person, you can respond in a loving way. Not love toward the perpetrator or his/her behavior, but love toward the moral rightness. I can’t conjure a loving feeling toward hateful, arrogant people. I can respond with love by saying that what he has said, the choices he is making, the unbridled tweets he shares, are harmful to all people.

Standing on the side of love is equal to standing on the side of truth. For me it is a journey, a moral ideal, something to strive for, and a spiritual and emotional principle to pray for. Do I always stand on the side of love? No, I do not. But I do try, and often succeed.

Standing on the side of love is not always easy, but the times call for it. Perhaps the times have always called for it.

-Kelly Knox

Kelly Knox is the chair of the church’s Social Justice Committee. The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.

The Two Faces of Airbnb

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Lower Washington Street in Gloucester’s downtown.

“Airbnb has been blamed for rising rents in big cities like New York and San Francisco, but the company claims that home-sharing helps thousands of middle class people get by.” — Joe Mullin, Ars Technica

Airbnb, the Internet-based business that helps people make money by sharing their homes with out-of-town visitors, is thriving in Gloucester. According to an analytics company that processes Airbnb data, our city contains 129 active properties, mostly in East Gloucester, Lanesville, Annisquam, and along the Annisquam River.

Many of the listings are the classic coastal whole-house summer rentals that would have been leased by the week, the month, or the season even before the rise of Airbnb. But one of the strengths of Airbnb, from an economic justice perspective, is that its landlords are not just the wealthy. The company facilitates individual room rentals in smaller homes, allowing the average homeowner with a spare room to put up lodgers for the night. Thus the company’s name, an abbreviation for “air mattress bed and breakfast.” Even a studio apartment dweller can host, by setting up an extra futon in a corner and listing the space as a “shared room rental.”

Similarly, Airbnb makes travel more affordable for students and other budget-conscious visitors. The lowest-price listing I saw today was $60 for a private room in Annisquam with a full bath.

Yet Airbnb can also be financially damaging to communities, making life harder for local residents who wish to find housing.  Some hosts buy multiple properties to rent out short term.  These owners hire a third party to manage the listings and meet the guests. Such investment buyers drive up the selling price of houses and condos that may otherwise have been within reach of the average family.

One church member said of Gloucester’s rental market, “It’s like we’re living in a beautiful prison.” He and his wife pay $2500 per month to rent a small house on the ocean, yet “the houses that aren’t on the ocean are still $2200.” He estimates that he and his wife have spent $100,000 in rent the past several years, and because they can’t put aside enough for a down payment, “We’re always paying someone else’s mortgage. And for what? For the privilege of staying to the end of this month.”

In addition to high rents, Gloucester’s year-round tenant population has long struggled with a seasonal migration of its own. Landlords can make more money in the summer; thus many leases run only from September to May, and renters find themselves moving twice in one year, desperately competing for the shrinking pool of affordable places available in summer.

As a downtown resident, I often visualize how Airbnb will affect my neighborhood. Downtown is one of the city’s most affordable areas, with one of its most diverse populations. The new Beauport Hotel, on the formerly gritty Pavilion Beach, has become the flagship of the gentrification of downtown’s West End. The hotel draws attention to downtown as a tourist destination, but because the rooms are pricey (lowest available rate for tonight is $304) I can foresee many visitors wanting to stay near, but not in, the hotel. Only a dozen Airbnb properties currently exist downtown; more are sure to come in the next five years.  I foresee a ripple of new Airbnbs creeping up Washington Street. As a homeowner I stand to benefit financially from the trend, but many of my neighbors who are renters will not.

New York City, Berlin, and Barcelona have set new restrictions on short-term rentals because of the effects of Airbnb. What policy is the right choice for Gloucester?

–Jan Young

The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.