Category Archives: Politics in Minnesota

Lessons for today from the Woman Suffrage Movement

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.  Winston Churchill

Recently I posted on this blog a spate of brief and preliminary backgrounders about the forthcoming celebration of the centenary of ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.  Celebration of the ratification is simply a point in time; what’s important is that we capitalize on the occasion to learn from and share the lessons that can be gleaned from the long and volatile struggle known as the Woman Suffrage Movement.

The hallmarks of the Woman Suffrage Movement were vision, commitment, resilience, collaboration and persistence – virtues demanded by these troubled times.  Fortunately, the tools to understand and share those stories are both rich and relevant. These are the links to these recent posts:

The earlier posts identify resources that cover the Woman Suffrage Movement from a national perspective. They suggest the broad perspective, what was happening at the national level, the leaders and key supporters of the Suffragettes.

Still it is often more meaningful to tackle complex issues such as ratification of the 19th Amendment from a local perspective, the context of  one’s personal experience.  The Woman Suffrage Movement may be best understood as the struggle evolved and involved individuals “close to home” – with whom we have some connection in terms of  geography or experience

Fortunately, the record of Minnesotans’ involvement in the Woman Suffrage Movement is robust and readily accessible.

For a quick and easy guide to Minnesota’s ratification, start with the Minnesota House Record posted here:   (http://history.house.gov/HouseRecord/Detail/15032436205)  The archives  include a replica of the original ratification document – an inspiring first step on the journey to trace the roots of the movement. (http://history.house.gov/HouseRecord/Detail/15032436205)

For an excellent overview of the history of Minnesota’s steps to ratification there is no better than Eric W. Weber’s excellent piece on the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association  posted in MNOpedia.  (http://www.mnopedia.org/group/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association).  Weber’s essay  was reprinted by MinnPost in 2012 (https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2012/09/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association-fought-womens-right-vote)

The MNOpedia entry leads to treasure troves of excellent resources including these:

These sources provide a firm foundation to appreciate the work of historian Jane Curry who has toured the state with her delightful one-woman show “Samantha Rastles the Woman Question.” It’s a powerful production that tells the story of the Woman’s Movement in a most delightful way!  Learn more here: (http://www.usfamily.net/web/dllund/jac/samantha.htm)

Though these posts may seem premature, consider the prolonged struggle for the Woman Suffrage Movement.  The parallel with today’s challenges offers a powerful model of resistance, collaboration, persistence and resilience, qualities that serve us well both individually and collectively in these difficult times.

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails ― Elizabeth Edwards

Information and media – Not weapons, but tools

Informational Power is where a person possesses needed or wanted information. This is a short-term power that doesn’t necessarily influence or build credibility. Vivian Giang

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. Malcolm X

The fact is, information and media are unique and powerful tools, to be wielded by sentient creatures for good or for evil. When the American Library Association was promoting the “information power” theme years ago I worried at the value-free assumption that the information would be put to good purposes. And when we hyped the potential of the communications media, from cable to the web, I wondered more….

My skepticism is affirmed today as we experience the reality of information and communications expertise brilliantly coupled to disrupt our democracy.

This should not be news. It was either Mark Twain or H.L Mencken who advised his readers to “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.”   The technology, but not the meaning, has been updated here. http://www.adweek.com/fishbowlny/ink-by-the-barrel-on-the-internet/252889

But that’s a diversion from the real fact – that the administration has effectively wed the power of information with the power of the media to shape reality.   Those in power wield information as a sword to silence, to pervert, to foment, to shape, to craft alliances and to conceptualize, then propagate, alternative truth.   We who are but “subjects” are ill-prepared to meet the challenge; we lack, or fail to unsheathe, the information/communications skills and attitudes to withstand the onslaught.

And still it is a real fact that we are not a passive people. The Women’s March and forthcoming March for Science clearly reflect our power to harness the human power to resist.

The first line of resistance to alternative facts is well-meant but knee-jerk –- placing blame and responsibility on the communications channels, or even the sources, of misinformation and disinformation is short-term and futile.

We are challenged to fully accept that information and communications technology have been “weaponized” – and that it is incumbent upon us to “arm” ourselves. We need to assume the responsibility to become critical thinkers – and to shape a learning environment that enhances the critical thinking of future voters, including both youth and future voters.

We can’t fall for the press-bashing and post-truthiness cleverly designed to divert our focus and our energy. Instead, we need to embrace the challenge to seek the truth and to stand firm when it is information is thwarted, perverted, suppressed, hidden from public view – or is not collected in the first place!

Thomas Jefferson, a man who dealt in truth, had this to say on the subject

Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government.” –  Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789

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Related posts – Selected:

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/marchers-will-support-research-science-real-facts/#respond

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/discovering-truth-starts-with-independent-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/creating-a-culture-of-encounter-some-info-tools/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/relax-learn-then-resolve-to-resist-post-truth-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/information-literacy-curriculum/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/national-information-literacy-awareness-month-2016/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/facing-the-facts-about-facts/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/scrubbing-history-scrapping-the-facts/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voting matters – Early, curbside and with a smile!

This morning I braved the chill, boarded the #32 bus, and headed for the WaterBar on Northeast Central Avenue to cast my vote. (I had long since affirmed that the WaterBar, a community hangout, was simply leased for the duration of the voting season). Possibly because the pop-up voting site was at the WaterBar, my after-voting sense was one of “cleansing.”

The process was beyond efficient; it was inspiring. I walked into the site a lone senior, a bit apprehensive that all of the paperwork was okay and that I could pass for an eligible, even informed, voter. What I found was a welcome, a sense that I was among fellow citizens, all engaged in a powerful process that, despite the ugliness of the campaign, rises above the tawdriness of the day.   My instinctive response to the warm environment was, Yes, when they go low, we do go high.

Basic fact, the process was assembly line efficient. It took me less than 10 minutes to go through the proof of registration and to cast my vote. If there were a gap it was only in my pause over down ballot choices where I had not been as diligent as I should have been about the research….

With pride I thanked the cordial staffer who offered the “I voted” sticker with a smile and an appreciative citizen-to-citizen nod.   I left the WaterBar with the clear understanding that the voter reigns in the voting process.

As I headed back to the bus I cast a sidelong glance at the sign that read “curbside voting.” I might have left it with that quick glance had I not encountered a proud staffer en route to the bus stop. At about 20 paces she spotted my “I voted” sticker – and took time to thank and congratulate me. Wow!   Ignoring the fact that the good woman was freezing, I succumbed to her warm smile and decided to ask the question that was on my mind: What’s “curbside voting?”

What I learned is that curbside voting means that anyone with physical challenges to poll access has a host of friends at hand. Staffers will reach out to verify registration, provide ballots, witness the secret vote, submit the secret ballot, and otherwise assure in every way that the voter enjoys equal access to the voting process. Curbside voting works! The challenge is to spread the word and the ways!

En route home I stopped to reflect over a cup of Aki’s famous coffee – My experience indicated that the mechanics of the voting process were in perfect order. Yes, I had fulfilled my duty. Far more important, my appreciation of a fair and open process was affirmed. And so I sipped my coffee with a powerful sense of good will, patriotism, and affirmed commitment to the common good. I had experienced the support of committed staff who clearly cared that the system works for all.

I also thought about the ways in which the WaterBar, a Northeast treasure, is yet another example of that sense of good will and affirmed commitment to the common good – a perfect polling site. Learn more about the WaterBar here:

 

 

Lively mix of issues and media at ESFL this month!

The East Side Freedom Library (www.eastsidefreeodmlibrary.org) continues to explode with creative ideas, provocative programs, and an open door to all who wish to share the energy that fuels this amazing community resource. Here’s what’s up in the weeks to come:

  • Wednesday, October 5, 7:00 p.m. Free and open — Deregulating Desire: Flight attendant activism, family politics, and workplace . Author and former flight attendant and union activist Ryan Murphy will discuss his book by this title. Held at the ESFL 1105 Greenbrier Street in St. Paul.
  • Friday, October 7, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Screening and Discussion of What Happened Miss Simone? (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4284010/mediaviewer/rm346220288) The evening, is co-hosted with A Greener Read Used Bookstore. (http://www.agreenerread.com.  Festivities  begin at 5:00 p.m. at the bookstore (506 Kenny Road) with viewing and discussion of the documentary. This will be followed by discussion of Come Back Africa (https://comebackafrica.com) at 7:00 at the ESFL, 1105 Greenbrier Street.
  • Friday & Saturday, October 15-16, it’s a “political graphics workshop” featuring Design and Screenprint from the Living Proof Print Collective. (https://wehavelivingproof.com) Presenters are Aaron Johnson-Ortiz and Aaron Rosenblum. Attend one day or both – it’s free but take time to register at http://goo.gl/forms/NXeFeJVBV7tqewlf2
  • If you actually survive Election Day 2016 you‘ll need to pause and reflect on it all by taking in a series of post-election talks on “Turbulent Times in the Race for the Presidency: An Historical Overview.” The series will explore the issues that have “driven political energies in the past two years – and in the more distant past. Presentations are set for Tuesdays in November (the 15th, 22nd, and 29th) 12:30 p.m. at the Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Avenue North. The series features presentations by Peter Rachleff, History Professor Emeritus at Macalester and founding Co-ED of the East Side Freedom Library.   The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is co-sponsor of the series.

Questions? info@eastsidefreedomlibrary.org or 651 230 3294.

 

Direct Support Professionals – Clarification + Resources

Earlier this week this blog carried a piece about Direct Support Professionals Week which ends tomorrow. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/to-honor-and-thank-direct-support-professionals/) The intent was to honor and thank those good people who daily meet the needs of individuals with physical and mental challenges.

Unfortunately, that post contained a muddled sentence that implied the opposite of what was intended. With apologies, I want to correct any confusion and to share what was intended, i.e. that I totally support the opinions and data stated by individuals who are far more knowledgeable about what is a political football.

The fact is, those who care for our family members, friends and neighbors who are physically or mentally challenged are grossly and unfairly underpaid. In order to make that fact abundantly clear, I would cite a series of critical articles posted in recent months by Tim Benjamin, Editor of Access Press.

Though Tim has covered the issue of pay for Personal Care Attendants (Minnesota’s term for Direct Support Professionals) in numerous AP editorials, he has doubled-down in recent months, in particular since July 2016. Tim makes a compelling case that Minnesotans – all of us — need to pay heed to the fact that those who care for vulnerable Minnesotans are under–recognized, under-valued and woefully underpaid – and that this is the reason there is a woeful shortage of workers who are able, but disinclined, to meet what is not only a personal but a societal need. Click on Tim’s powerful and timely editorials starting here:

http://www.accesspress.org/blog/2016/07/08/editors-column-july-2016/

The Legislature has failed to come to grips, much less take action, on what is a public disgrace that diminishes the work of these professionals – with tragic results on the welfare of deserving residents of our state, a state that boasts of its compassion and commitment to the common good.

If you’re into data, read Dick VanWagner’s metrics-laden piece in last week’s Access Press: http://www.accesspress.org/blog/2016/09/09/by-the-numbers-is-there-really-a-shortage-of-pcas-heres-an-analysis/

Though there are other references to the issue, these are good places for each of us to learn about and frame the issue – then think about what we can do to face and remedy the crisis in care.

One priority is to follow monthly up-dates in Access Press –free and readily accessible at countless public newsstands that we pass by every day.  Click here to learn more about AP (http://www.accesspress.org) or subscribe to the online edition here: http://www.accesspress.org/subscribe/.

Read it and learn!

 

Equal Means Equal – Time to get serious about the ERA!

Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged

or denied on account of gender.

In recent weeks I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz around the theme Equal Means Equal.   Though the theme is of longer standing, I believe the local buzz was fanned by the t celebration of Women’s Equality Day on August 26. I must have been distracted by the start of the Great Minnesota Get-Together because, sad to say, I missed the occasion and the opportunity to learn more about this important movement. (http://www.nwhp.org/resources/commemorations/womens-equality-day)

Specifically, I missed the local screening and discussion  of Equal Means Equal sponsored by ERA Minnesota at the St. Anthony Main theater. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. I’ve learned from attendees at the screening that ERA Minnesota not only showed the documentary, but lit the local ERA movement fire by hosting a panel that included powerful state and federal elected officials and leaders of the burgeoning Equal Means Equal movement.

No wonder there’s a buzz….

Just in case others, like me, are not up to speed on the full implication of Equal Means Equal here are some of the basics.

Equal Means Equal is a national campaign to tackle the challenge to (finally) pass the Equal Rights Amendment. The premise is that the need for a Constitutional Amendment must remain a priority.

The term Equal Means Equal is propelled and informed by leaders who have produced both a book and an award-winning documentary film that tell the compelling story:

Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment Now is the book, written by Jessica Neuwirth, published in January 2015. The book “tells the story of the legal cases that inform the need for an ERA, along with contemporary cases in which women’s rights are compromised without the protection of an ERA.”  Topics covered in the book range from pay equity to violence against women to pregnancy discrimination and other stories that underscore needs that are not yet recognized or remedied..

The companion piece to the book is the documentary by the same name. Directed by Kamala Lopez the film has received numerous awards. The documentary, which features an all-star cast including Patricia Arquette, Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Smeal and others, presents real life stories and legal cases that depict the ways in which “outdated and discriminatory attitudes inform and influence seemingly disparate issues, from workplace harassment to domestic violence, rape and sexual assault to the foster care system, and the healthcare conglomerate to the judicial system.” Again, the thesis of the documentary is that present inadequate laws prove the compelling argument for passage of the ERA.

Needless to say, ERA Minnesota (http://www.eramn.org) can provide much more information on the book, the documentary and the Equal Means Equal campaign.

Though I’ve been slow to tune in to the buzz, I get it now and am eager to share the message!

Unlearning the narrative of Minnesota’s rural heritage

In the past 40 years, the United States lost more than a million farmers and ranchers. Many of our farmers are aging. Today, only nine percent of family farm income comes from farming, and more and more of our farmers are looking elsewhere for their primary source of income. ~~ Tom Vilsack 

Though I didn’t grow up on a family farm my life was enriched by weeklong stays and Sunday dinners with relatives who tilled the legacy acres. As a kid, I marveled at how the family worked as a collaborative – if occasionally reluctant – team. Rising before dawn the members of the team managed to cope with the weather, rotating crops, fluctuating markets, neighbors’ disasters, Koolaid deliveries to field workers, egg picking and the insatiable appetites of the threshing crew – not to mention the fragile finances of the operation.

In spite of the fact that I knew or cared nothing about agricultural or political forces – much less global economics – I did realize that it was not an easy lifestyle – early mornings, a non-negotiable milking routine, pumping water, de-tasseling in the summer heat, all with one ear cocked to Maynard Speece. Still, from my limited perspective as a city kid it seemed that my cousins enjoyed significant benefits – corn on the cob, real fried chicken, vast space for running free, tractor rides and a haymow with endless possibilities.

Somewhere in the back of my aging head the utopian dream lived on. Though I regretted country school and rural library closings and lamented the death of main streets, nostalgia blinded me to deep reality. I didn’t see that foreclosures, auctions, collapsed barns and outhouses were but symptoms of a fundamental – and intentional – reordering of society.

Reality insinuated its ugly head into my dream world when I inherited the “food and ag beat” at OpenTheGovernment.org, the DC-based advocacy group where I recently did a stint as outreach coordinator. That was when I learned that the USDA doesn’t even collect rural statistics at a level that would reflect a small family-owned farm. While working inside the Beltway I saw the power wielded by the well-heeled agribusiness lobbyists who strut and sip on K Street.

At the same time, I observed the indefatigable work of those who speak for small, minority, women and immigrant farmers and for land stewardship and the imperative of sustainability.

In this open government advocacy role I had the good fortune to meet the visionary folks at the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy, the Minnesota-based think-tank that monitors national and global policy. IATP opened my eyes to the interconnectedness of the forces of trade and agriculture, ongoing now as global trade deals are negotiated behind a veil of secrecy.

And yet, reality struck like a bolt of lightening just last week when I realized that there was just one farmer representing the Democratic Farmer Labor Party at the recent Democratic National Convention. (http://www.startribune.com/meet-the-onemer-in-the-dfl-delegation-to-the-democratic-nationalconvention/388273921/)

My knee-jerk thought was that the metro politicos – more likely to be “labor” than “farmer” representatives, had simply outnumbered rural delegates – to which there may be some truth. The fact that Debra Hogenson, family farmer from Nobles County was standing alone to represent the interests of rural Minnesotans within the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party blew any fallacies still stagnating in my mind.

Who does have a voice in the political arena? Who is calling the political shots? Why? Who is reaping the financial rewards of land ownership and food production?

The deep reality of rural Minnesota circa 2016 dawned — the mega-farms that don’t just “dot the landscape” but control and benefit from the land. I began to perceive what lies behind the mansions, the driverless tractors, the ubiquitous GPS systems, the PETA proofed hatcheries that light up the night.

A cryptic quote from rural sociologist Linda Loboa came to mind: “Land makes power. And power often doesn’t want change.” T

As I considered the Big Picture, the implications surfaced. I read the Rural Blog with new understanding:

The farms that once generated wealth for entire communities are now creating a new class of super-farmers who rely on machinery and don’t hire many new farmhands…the big farmers’ wealth is usually not highly visible, except to those who know who owns the land, the oldest class divide in rural America….Much money probably goes into intangible investments, no tangible goods that testify to wealth. But money continues to buy power….”

Correspondent Patrik Jonsson, writing in The Christian Science Monitor Jonsson underscores that “as this wealth accumulates, it is being spread to fewer and fewer people. The midsize to very large operations represent less than 8 percent of the 2.1 million farm households in the U.S., most of which rely on income outside agriculture for their livelihood.”

Jonsson goes on to quote Jonathan Bryant, a history Professor at Georgia Southern University: “A typical (large) farmer is not going to admit that they’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, in part because nowadays…those who have traditionally performed jobs on the farm are left out of any sort of share in the wealth that’s being produced.”

Quoting Iowa State rural sociologist David Peter, Jonsson adds: “It’s not just concentration of wealth, but it’s also what happens at the bottom. The upshot (of this concentration of wealth at the top) is that the trend of the withering middle class has occurred in rural areas much further and quicker than in urban and metro communities in general.”

Clearly it falls to those of us who depend on a robust supply of nutritious food – not to mention a healthy economy –to care mightily about the fragile chain that links urban consumers with the sources of food,

As consumers we boast of our wise decisions about what’s immediate — food safety, GMO’s, pesticides, additives, what’s on the school lunch menu.

And yet we are not as quick to open our minds to the Big Picture – the economic and agricultural policies and administrative forces that determine reality. As individuals and as a society we face the awesome challenge to wake up – to take time to learn even a bit about the complexities of the rural economy, land ownership, the influence of agribusiness, humane treatment of animals, sustainability, the role of federal government, the welfare of farm workers upon whom the entire system depends.

We must make the effort to be more aware that the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the political arena. DNC delegate Debra Hogenson can’t do it alone.