Saturday, June 4, 2022

Sailboat Cruising: A Tale of Days Gone By

Do I miss sailboat cruising? Yes. A little.

This is the photo on our bedroom wall: cruising the Adriatic Sea. The photo was taken in the dinghy off the coast of Trogir, Croatia, or thereabouts.

But the temperature is warming here in Washington, DC, and neither Pope nor I has much energy these days, let alone when the thermometer ticks up to 95. Operating--cleaning--fixing--a boat in the heat and humidity of the Caribbean islands, fending off mold, salt, and biting flies, is the farthest thing from my mind.

We are nine years older than we were in this photo on Echo II, our cruiser from 2013-2020. My, how smooth and healthy our skin and hair looked then! 

In fact, Pope fell down playing pickleball this morning; he is feeling the ravages of time and disease. I am taking it easy, one household or garden chore at a time, with rests in between. I am not as old, but suffer some discomforts associated with age and arthritis. This week, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Yesterday, I began editing Pope's memoirs, over which he diligently labored for nearly a year. He tells tales of hell-raising escapades, close calls, good luck and bad. I find it humorous. His memoir-writing group finds it appalling: Could one person really have done so many reckless, death-defying things?

Naturally, sailing mis-adventures feature prominently. Shipwrecking off the Florida coast, plugging a hole in a boat hull with a potato in the middle of the Atlantic, upending a boat by smashing into a railroad bridge.

One day when I was at the helm of Echo II, our cruiser for six years, I steered too close to a riverbank and bent the top of the mast on a tree. I was quickly forgiven; my transgressions paled in comparison to his. Such as, buying a barely functioning boat; blowing out the water pump by neglecting to maintain the impeller; climbing mountains of waves all night crossing the "Tongue of the Ocean" instead of anchoring safely on the Bahama Bank (as all the other boats did; see the 8:15 pm entry in my blog).

Yes, I miss sailboat cruising. A little. But I am just as content to reminisce over photos, recount the tales--and head out to water my garden.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Son of a Slave: a Black Man's Journey in White America

For me, it was another volunteer project: helping someone write and edit a book. Something I've done a few times since retirement, mostly for friends, to keep my skills sharp. For Dan, it was imperative: to get his remarkable story into the hands of readers before he dies.

Dan Smith at 88 in 2020; photo taken by The Washington Post

The significance of Dan's story is in the working title of his book: "Son of a Slave: A Black Man's Journey in White America." Yes, you read that correctly! The Civil War ended 156 years ago. Yet Dan is the son of Abram Smith, who was born into bondage on a Virginia plantation in 1863. Dan may very well be the last surviving offspring of an American slave, following the death of his 96-year-old brother in 2021. A number of other children of slaves have died in recent years at ages in the 90s and 100s, as written up in the news

Dan is 89. His health is tenuous. His life as a Black man (he insists on the capital B) is illustrative of the many indignities that a Black person can endure in this country. Even a well-educated, professional Black man like Dan, who served in the armed forces, met U.S. presidents, and headed a national health program. 

Dan Smith as a young soldier headed for Korea. Photo from Dan Smith.

Dan Smith was both witness to and participant in nearly a century of struggle--as victim of Jim Crow laws, civil rights activist, and government leader battered by discrimination. His autobiography is a first-hand account of events, tactics, and people that prevent the United States from realizing the promise that "all men are created equal."

Dan is determined to share his experiences with the world, to demonstrate that the white supremacy that accompanied our nation's founding is still with us two and a half centuries later. The lifetimes of Dan and his father span more than half of our most deplorable history, from slavery and the Civil War to the suppression of civil rights to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.

It took Dan 10 years to complete the research, writing, and assembly of materials for his book. He had to dig out of the recesses of his memory the words of his mother when white police officers knocked on the door, the terror of marching with Martin Luther King, Jr., the snarl of a white boss at the National Institutes of Health. From boxes in the corners of his attic he retrieved the photo with John Lewis, the letter from John F. Kennedy, the printed testimony from a federal grievance hearing--records carefully stored for just such an eventuality as writing a book.

Dan met and collaborated with such prominent dignitaries as John Lewis and Desmond Tutu. Photo from Dan Smith.

While Dan labored over his memories, we met, discussed, debated, pondered, reviewed, revised. The master copy grew, gradually morphing from pages and pages--and pages--of handwriting to typed, stapled manuscript to thick white notebook, complete with scanned photos.

A sampling of my notes while I read the unfinished manuscript. Photo by Amber Jones.

After the coronavirus invaded Washington, Dan and I met on the outdoor patio of Busboys & Poets, papers blowing in the wind and thick manila envelopes spread before us. We debated by telephone. Dan doesn't use computers; he wrote his entire 300-page book in longhand and hired a typist. He does use email to some extent--thank goodness. In a pandemic, face-to-face contact is difficult.

Toward the end of his toil, I wore him down with a hundred tough questions I thought a publisher would ask, and prodded him for decisions on voice, tone, style, spellings, consistency, photographs, format. Dan's wife of 30 years, Loretta--busy with her own, uniquely Washington activities, including politics and historic preservation--carved out time to help edit, revise, and interpret stories. (Dan and Loretta married in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, where he served as a volunteer usher, mingling with presidents--just another of his inspiring tales.) After the final copyedit, I rested, leaving Dan and Loretta to search frantically for an agent and publisher. Time is short, probably.

Meanwhile, Dan's history, including personal anecdotes about discrimination and the Ku Klux Klan, were discovered by the press. In 2020 and 2021 he has been interviewed by The Washington Post, NPR, and the BBC. There is interest in a movie. Most recently, The Economist came calling. I have copied that column below. But just wait until you read all his other chapters!

I am awed by Dan's persistence and proud of his progress. I hope you will read the column below, buy the book when it's published, be awed, learn something. And, most important, consider joining Dan in his higher calling: fighting for equality--not just in law, but in practice--for Blacks and all other citizens of our nation.

My volunteer writing and editing projects always leave me tired, yet proud--that I can contribute to a cause larger than my own narrow interests. In this case, I agree that it's imperative to get the story out.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Column in the Economist, December 3, 2021

A racial-history lesson from the son of a slave

Daniel Smith may be the last direct link to slavery

Most Americans don’t know much about slavery. In a recent survey, only half could name it as the main cause of the civil war. Yet for Daniel Smith, the “whipping and crying post”, the hanging tree and other horrors of the antebellum South are not ill-taught, dusty history, but vivid family stories.

The 89-year-old retired bureaucrat heard them from his father Abram, who was born a slave in Virginia in 1863, two years before the war ended. “On Saturday evenings after dinner he and my elder siblings would gather and he would tell them what his parents had told him about slavery,” recalls Mr Smith, an only slightly stooped octogenarian, at his house in Washington, dc. “I used to sneak out of bed and sit listening on the floor. I remember hearing about two slaves who were chained together at the wrist and tried to run away. They were found by some vicious dogs hiding under a tree, and hanged from it. I also remember a story about an enslaved man who was accused of lying to his owner. He was made to step out into the snow with his family and put his tongue on an icy wagon wheel until it stuck. When he tried to remove it, half his tongue came off. My father cried as he told us these things.”

It is chilling to hear him—a direct link to the history America is in many ways still struggling to escape. Sana Butler, who wrote a book on the children of slaves, identified only around 40 still alive in 1999, all of whom have since died. She did not track down Mr Smith, who was known in Washington as a well-connected civil-rights activist but rarely mentioned his family history. “It was something under the surface that we were not proud of,” he says. As his father’s only surviving child, after the death of his brother Abe earlier this year, he may well be the last living offspring of an American slave.

His memories underline how recent many of the rawest and most formative events of the American story are, especially for those on the receiving end of them. Slavery and the last Native American land-grabs are only two lifetimes away; no wonder the politics surrounding them, on all sides, are so intense. And the effect is particularly powerful in Mr Smith’s case because of how many momentous events in black history he has witnessed. Lexington got in touch to discuss his father, only to learn that Mr Smith had marched with Martin Luther King in Washington and Selma, feuded with the Black Panthers, been chased by Ku Klux Klan-inspired night riders through rural Alabama, been asked by the cia to spy on the anc in South Africa—and was in the crowd, tears pouring down his cheeks, to witness the inauguration of a black president. “A friend of mine calls me the black Forrest Gump,” he deadpans.

In fact his brushes with history chiefly reflect his talents and drive, which are characteristic of his black American generation. His father, a janitor aged 70 at the time of Mr Smith’s birth, was killed by a hit-and-run driver when Daniel was six. Abram’s death left his wife and six children almost destitute. Yet he had bred in them a fierce determination to rise. “We always said in our family, if you want to beat white people you’ve got to outwork them, you’ve got to outsmart them, you’ve got to stay up longer at night.”

Mr Smith graduated from high school in the mainly white town of Winsted, Connecticut, while working long mornings and evenings in a veterinary surgery to earn money. After a stint with the army in Korea, he went to college under the gi Bill, became a social worker, then enrolled in veterinary school in Alabama. Three of his five siblings also went to college. “The success of the generation raised by former slaves changed my whole perspective on this country’s history,” says Ms Butler. “Considering what they faced, and what they achieved, they are America’s greatest generation.”

In New England Mr Smith’s race was an everyday hurdle, but ultimately not a deal-breaker. He knew he could never make the first move on a white girl: “I don’t want to have to cut you down from that tree,” his mother would tell him. Yet he could rise: “America has always given me the right to work.” Alabama, where he arrived at the tail end of Jim Crow, was a different story. Southern blacks marvelled at his car and confidence among whites, including white women. It irritates him still; “Women are women, black, white, Indian or Chinese,” he says.

He was drawn into the civil-rights struggle, then roiling the state, and run-ins with Stokely Carmichael, a charismatic Panther who wanted to put money Mr Smith collected for anti-poverty programmes to more radical use. He preferred King’s moderation. But he has more time for Malcolm X’s radicalism now: “We needed both, King and the Panthers, the pull and the push,” he says.

Where slavery was, liberty can be

That reconsideration seems to reflect his downbeat view of race relations since the 1960s. Socially, he acknowledges, there has been huge progress. Many of his nieces and nephews are married to whites; his second wife is white (though it was a while before he would dare hold her hand in public, she notes). But institutionally he looks back on a history of failed promises.

He believes racist policing puts black children in greater peril today than he ever faced. He also notes that the “shining light” of Barack Obama’s election provoked a militant white reaction, in the form of Donald Trump, which is not weakening. The insurrection that the former president provoked and his party has refused to investigate, during which a Confederate flag was paraded through the Capitol, “was so revolting for our constitution”, he says. “There’s a big question about where we go from now.” And then Mr Smith, though visibly troubled, pulls himself up.

“Incidentally, we could never talk negatively about America in front of my father,” he says, speaking of a poor man, born a slave, who wore a well-brushed suit and fob watch to church on Sunday and drove his children to succeed. “He did not have much but he really, really loved America. Isn’t that funny?” 


James Astill

Washington bureau chief & Lexington columnist

The Economist

Friday, August 14, 2020

Gloom, despair, and disappearing mailboxes

Spoiler alert: I am going to reveal some of my vulnerabilities and shortcomings below, thereby potentially burnishing my golden reputation for strength and stability. So if you don’t want to be disabused of your glowing perception of my perfectionism, cease and desist!

“Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.” It’s an old song, recognizable to my generation. It cycles through my mind.

It’s easy to get depressed during a pandemic. I try to keep up with friends who live alone, to make sure they know they are cherished by at least one person despite the distance. I understand how lonely and discouraging it can get.

I am not invulnerable, despite having a dinner companion and someone to watch my back. For example, today I got bad news: a possible plumbing leak at my rental condo (in the converted church). I know that Pope will try to support me through the ordeal, and stay nearby if tears flow. But the responsibility is mine.

Tears have been flowing easily. Not from loneliness per se, though it feels like I am alone in my troubles. Sound familiar?

Mostly, it’s despair at the shanghaied election process, the vile behavior of anti-maskers, the endless stream of problems that cannot be solved easily because of pandemic closures, reduced services, and reluctance to allow service personnel into my safe space. Equally depressing: we do not receive mail for long blocks of time, then a stack arrives all at once. The longest period was 7 days. We are getting other people's mail. The dismantling of postal service is real -- even 8 blocks from the US Capitol.

I know that not all readers of my blog share my political views. I forgive you, and hope that we can remain civil and respectful. I have handwritten, addressed, and stamped 800 election reminders to voters, hoping they will choose my favored candidates. Now, I have no confidence they will reach their intended recipients, because of corruption and malicious intent by the opposition. You may disagree with my politics, but my feelings are real. Tears of anger.


I have a friend who moved to Virginia last week and wants to vote. But DMV appointments to change an address and get a Real ID are not available until late October, and the deadline for voter registration changes is mid-October. I tried to help solve this problem. Tears of frustration.

Returning to the previous address to vote is not feasible. Voting by mail is ridiculous: the slim chance of a ballot application using the old address arriving at a short-staffed office, a ballot being forwarded from the old address to the new address by an unreliable USPS, and a completed ballot getting returned to election officials in time, by the same handcuffed USPS -- all around the same time frame that the DMV official address change is taking effect -- well, let’s just leave it at “ridiculous.”

There probably are workarounds. But why should someone have to work so hard to vote? Because some people want to prevent other people from voting. The first set of people are more powerful than the second set of people. It’s a recipe for anxiety, anger, despair. Tears on behalf of the friend, myself, and all citizens affected by comparable dilemmas due to the sorry mess our country is in.

Finally, a source of tears and fears that I bet is not at all unusual: I wake up coughing every few days. I get hot flashes, chills, nausea, and lightheadedness. My head aches.

These might be attributable to allergies, hormone imbalances, hot weather, fluctuations in blood pressure, dehydration, stress. Who knows. In a time of pandemic, however, my mind flashes like lightning to the perfect storm: coronavirus.

 Gloom, despair, and at least a little depression. Can anyone relate?







Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Kamala: a mixed-race enigma

There is no place for ANY negativity right now in the Joe-and-Kamala campaign. I am campaigning for them and want them to succeed. 

Immediately after the announcement, however, I started seeing Facebook posts about Kamal’s African-American ancestry claims that caused me concern. PR-wise, I hope Kamala hasn’t claimed African ancestry unless she can clearly back it up, to avoid repercussions similar to those of Elizabeth Warren. Remember “Pocohantas”? The enemy is cruel and very effective, PR-wise.

Her mother is from India and her father from Jamaica. A claim of African-Jamaican ancestry would depend on whether the Caribbean ancestors were slaves, slave owners, or other immigrants. In Kamala’s bios, she cites Afro-Jamaican roots, which indicates she thinks slaves or freed slaves were in her family tree. 

Her father, in an article he wrote, says that his original Jamaican ancestor on the paternal side was an Irish slave owner, Harold Brown. Harold’s wife’s ancestry is unknown. This claim will be used negatively by the opposition, no doubt! Its presence on the Web has grown exponentially in the 24 hours since the announcement.

There is no information I could easily find online about whether the Brown descendants mixed with slaves or other Afro-Jamaicans. There were multiple generations between Kamala and the end of slavery in Jamaica in 1838 (earlier than in the US) in which mixing might have occurred.  

Snopes, on the other hand, could find no definitive evidence that the Harrises are descendants of Harold Brown.

That’s the paternal side. Kamala’s father briefly addresses his maternal ancestors in his writings, citing a grandmother as influential in his life. In photos of Kamala with that Jamaican great-grandmother, Iris (see photo, from Kamala’s campaign), Iris clearly looks Afro-Jamaican. So one can safely presume Kamala didn’t descend purely from Irish-Jamaicans. Such photos might be enough to squelch concerns like mine...time will tell.

I wonder if the Finding Your Roots host on PBS, Henry Louis Gates, will take up this search? That would make a popular book, if she and Joe get elected.

The most interesting item I found was an article about the complicated legal world people of mixed race live in, here in the US. What a quagmire! Recommended reading. Here is the article.

At this moment I am helping a man of 88 complete a book he has written about his life. He is the son of a US slave. This is only possible through a quirk of his father being born near the end of the Civil War and, at a very old age, having a baby with a young wife. (We don’t know for sure whether there are other children of slaves still alive who are older.)

”US slave” is a rather disconcerting thought, do you agree? We don’t often see those two words together. As the author points out in a radio interview, however, slavery in the US was not “a long time ago.” Fewer than a handful of generations. (In fact, some claim it still exists...) 

In the book exercise, I learned about African-American roles in building the railroads, the Alaska Highway, and settlements for freed blacks. What has been most interesting for me is that, in following up on questions the author had about the treatment of freed blacks and their descendants in specific instances, I was able to confirm some of the alleged mistreatment, yet in a few cases I had to inform him that his preconceptions were not entirely accurate. 

It’s a murky world out there, and stories and claims are passed down on all sides. If our history books were accurate and complete, the stories would undoubtedly be more shocking than we could imagine — and unacceptable to a lot of the US population.

Kamala’s ancestry will undoubtedly be only one of her attributes that gets reviewed, debated, used, appropriated, misappropriated, corrupted, shredded. The only sure thing is that the opposition will do its best to take her down. She is a feisty campaigner, and I believe that she just might be up to the challenge.

Friday, August 7, 2020

It’s A(nother) Lost Cause

Are you familiar with the Lost Cause? If not, you may be ignorant of, or possibly denying, a large part of US history. This shameful period is rarely described in history books, because it isn’t over.

Lost Cause began with glorification of the southern cause in the Civil War and a call for restoring white supremacy, including denying Blacks their gains after the war in getting paid jobs, public office, and the right to vote. It continued with Jim Crow laws and continued denial of the civil rights enshrined in Constitutional amendments. It has taken a century and the deaths of many public leaders to repeal these laws and reduce these sinful practices. Agonizingly slowly. Like pulling teeth. 

In fact, lynchings and hangings were never outlawed because Senator Rand Paul prevented passage of an anti-lynching bill in Congress this spring and summer. 155 years after the Civil War.

That’s right, folks. In August 2020, lynching is still not a federal crime because of entrenched anti-Black sentiment in the United States. 

So why is anyone confused about the frustration that led to Black Lives Matter? How can anyone deny this nation’s deplorable, dishonorable, and decidedly un-Christian present, let alone its heinous past?

Are you part of the solution, or entrenched in a sordid and shameful history? 

Could the current era of corruption, racism, and denial of civil and civic rights become another Lost Cause, despite the protests and calls for change — by only half of our nation? If so, which side will you be on?

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Importance of Education. Are You Sure?

What’s the big deal with getting everybody back to textbooks and exams?  What’s the harm in allowing a little delay in learning?

It hasn’t been many generations since going to school was not a sure thing in the US. For instance, my mother only went to school until 4th grade and my father started in a one-room schoolhouse with six students — both in white, rural Michigan.

Impoverished minority communities lacked proper schools and supplies, and some had none, until very recently. The gaps continue and are well documented.

Outside the US, there are many countries and regions where school is not a given, especially for girls, minorities, lower classes, and lower castes. Children are put to work at a young age instead of going to school. 

What are these dire consequences that would occur if education worldwide gets postponed for a while? It seems that the bigger problem, at least in the US, is parents needing relief from child care. If that’s the real reason, why not address the problem differently? Such as staggered work schedules for parents, partnering with neighbors for child care (i.e., expanding quarantine units for this purpose). Some private schools are already reconfiguring — very small numbers, staggered schedules (by weeks, not hours), plexiglass barriers, distance, ventilation.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in early August that the world is facing a “generational catastrophe” due to school closures. See the UN statement, linked here.

In interviews, he also called the coronavirus pandemic “the largest disruption of education ever.” I challenge that statement. What about wars, the plague, the 1918 pandemic? What about the centuries before pre-industrialization, before mass migration to cities, when most of the population lived on farms, and work vs. learning was subject to need, demand, ability, seasons, and weather? 

Maybe what he really meant was “in industrialized countries in recent decades.”

Guterres urged all countries to suppress the virus enough to allow schools to open. Well, duh. Of course that’s the ideal. But in reality, isn’t it likely (leaving aside political will for the moment) that some countries will be far more capable than others of accomplishing this, by throwing economic and digital resources at the problem, and thereby widening, rather than narrowing, educational disparities worldwide?

The US is technically capable but lacks the political will. So, is Guterres’ education “catastrophe” worse than the one that’s emerging in the US this week: massive superspreading events triggered by students crowding school classrooms and hallways?

How about this idea: throw economic and digital resources at the child care problem, and urge capable nations to let the school vacation continue until all nations are in a more solid position to resume education on a global scale. Let some nations catch up by slowing others down. Why not?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Voter Suppression Makes Me Very, Very Mad

My latest rant is not about old boats or the pandemic. If you only want to read about tragic sailing escapades and tropical lanes decked with bougainvillea, or even life in quarantine, please stop reading and come back another time. Today, my bugaboo is politics.

I rarely cared about politics until the last five or six years. That's one of the reasons my first husband gave up on me: I yawned through his tirades and was bored with All Things Considered, the NPR radio show he listened to every afternoon. He campaigned for Eugene McCarthy. My M.O. was to turn on some rock 'n' roll, go dancing, have fun. Politics? Nah. 

A few years ago, however, my current life partner, Pope, educated me about the Koch brothers and their systematic efforts--backed by millions of dollars--to suppress votes, legislate in favor of billionaires, pack the courts, and otherwise dismantle democracy. Then I read a New York Times Magazine profile of Kris Kobach, an extreme anti-voting-rights, anti-immigration politician. I felt chills. I was incensed!

Since then, one of the Koch brothers died. Otherwise, the roster of right-wing radicals working hard to take away our rights to equality and "liberty and justice for all" has only grown.

For several years I had been observing other things I don't like: 
-Vicious Facebook comments, especially from acquaintances in Michigan, about "liberal" policies I liked (now expanded to mask policies).
-Confirmation that the violence during "protests" is often fueled by white supremacists. This started long before BLM, with the first inauguration protests-- remember?
-Public officials advocating violence instead of negotiation, reaching across the aisle, and the Golden Rule. 

At the 2016 and 2018 elections, I overcame my shyness enough to do phone banking and door-to-door canvassing for Democratic candidates, hoping for a firm stomp on the growing lawlessness. I wrote postcards to voters.

Since #45 got elected, my fears increased to the point of overload. I worry about the entire future of democracy. I started going to weekly protests in downtown DC--then stopped because I was afraid of a mass shooting. (My fears have been realized with the "crackdowns" in Washington, DC, Portland and Seattle--not crazies with machine guns, but equivalent.)

One of the things that upset me the most was learning about the widespread efforts to deny people the vote. This feels to me like a vicious attack on American principles -- not to mention Christian values -- and a return to 19th-century-levels of discrimination. (Susan B. Anthony, we need you now.)

Long after the controversial 2018 election was over, with thousands of absentee ballots uncounted, the battle to restore ethics and democracy in elections continued, thanks partly to the efforts of defeated Secretary of State candidate Stacey Abrams of Georgia. In fact, this battle had already been raging for many years. It's just that many of us first became aware of it after 2018. Techniques to influence outcomes have become a fine art. First came gerrymandering, then voter IDs, requiring fixed addresses, and closing polling places.

Now, the situation is more dire than ever: we regularly see headlines about voter suppression. We know that safely voting in person is not feasible, and right-wing radicals may succeed in essentially shutting down mail service. Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Texas and Missouri governors, and, yes, Kris Kobach have publicly opposed mail-in voting for months, despite the pandemic. Their opposition is shrouded in the false guise of avoiding "voter fraud." The president is uncharacteristically forthright, acknowledging that the real reason is that it could hurt Republicans' chances to get elected. McConnell is playing his usual "Follow the Leader" game, mimicking the president.

If, like me, you are concerned about voter suppression, regardless of the specific measures that might be employed, I invite you to join me in supporting the various movements to make America democratic again. That's democratic with a small "d," not the name of the political party. Every citizen should care about democracy. At a minimum, they should stay informed, research the candidates, and be allowed to vote without undue obstacles or harassment.

Here are a few suggestions for getting up to speed quickly on the subject of voter suppression.

Start with these articles that came out of Georgia just after the 2018 midterm election: What We Must Do Now and Stacey Abrams Says She Was Almost Blocked From Voting.

If you can spare 5 more minutes, search Google for other articles by Greg Palast, an investigative journalist who has been documenting voter suppression for several years. No need to read all the articles--just browse the terrible headlines! 

Third, if you haven't lost your job and can spare a few bucks, donate to one of the groups fighting back against the continuing, aggressive anti-voter measures by prominent politicians. Those groups didn't give up when the midterm recounts ended despite thousands of uncounted mail-in votes. Their lawsuits against public officials and institutions will drag on for years. In the time of a pandemic, their battles are exponentially more difficult.

The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center seem to be the most prominent advocates for voting rights. Common Cause continues to litigate the election process in Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida, as does the League of Women Voters.

I have donated to Four Directions in North Dakota, which battled to provide new voter IDs to Native Americans when the law was changed to require street addresses instead of post office boxes--just before the 2018 midterms. It's also possible to donate to Greg Palast's operating fund as he continues to investigate underhanded tactics by the likes of Brian Kemp, Kris Kobach, and the surviving Koch Brother

Keep an eye on Stacey Abrams, who may provide clues about the steps needed in the coming months to counteract voter oppression, despite where she ends up politically.

I would rather spend my time on music, yoga, fitness, genealogy, maybe watching travel documentaries--anything at all except politics. Ugh. Unfortunately, though, my blinders have been removed, and my motivations have changed: now I think engaging in the election process is the most important activity in which every US citizen can engage. I see clearly that voter suppression is just one prong of a pitchfork being leveled at democracy. Any of us could get stabbed.

So I reluctantly admit that my worldview has changed and my focus must change with it. Having fun and enjoying life, even surviving a deadly virus, needs to move out of the way and make room for educating myself and engaging in politics.