you’re not allowed


AP photo

Rally at South Carolina State House in Columbia

June 28, 2022

As Yogi Berra once said, it was deja vu all over again. As I stood with my sisters on the lobby floor, I looked straight up to the massive false dome of the Capitol and heard the whispers of power floating in the galleries above me – the same whispers I heard 50 years ago when I stood in this space rallying for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA had passed the SC House of Representatives unanimously in 1972 but was blocked in the Senate. Sound familiar?

I was a member of the Columbia Chapter of the National Organization for Women in the early 1970s when we sold hot dogs at the Okra Strut as one of several fundraisers to raise money to bring two lobbyists to Columbia from the national NOW office for three weeks to help us move the Senate leadership. Unfortunately, I discovered my crock pot did not cook the hot dogs fast enough for the hordes of underage customers. I did, however, successfully volunteer to house one of the women from DC in my home. She was a black lesbian named Cappy. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

Everyone was naively optimistic at the time; the Almighty Most Powerful in charge of the Senate was an old white man who promised us if we would just be quiet and not stir up any trouble, the ERA would go forward in the Senate. The two NOW lobbyists went home to DC with that promise in hand. However, the bill remained blocked in Committee. South Carolina became one of 15 states that never ratified the Equal Rights Amendment for women.

Fast forward 50 years to June 28, 2022. My good friend and fellow activist Francie picked me up at my home, drove us to the State House where we joined 200 other women (and a few men) to march with our pink Planned Parenthood Together We Fight for All signs to the lobby to protest the US Supreme Court ruling last week that overturned a fundamental right for women guaranteed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Women’s bodies in South Carolina were now in the hands of mostly old white men who had offices in this building.

A young white man in a lovely beige summer suit and tie ushered us into the lobby area and asked us to “move back, make room for the next group.” Since I am super short with very white hair, Francie found a place for us near the front and told me we wouldn’t be moving. Young mothers with babies in strollers and toddlers holding Our Bodies, Our Choice signs came through. Older women holding the same Pink Planned Parenthood signs we held streamed in alongside us. A wide spectrum of humanity poured into the lobby while we watched. Soon we were packed together like Uncrustables in a 10-pack box as we held our signs high to face the large media contingent opposite our positions in the small area.

We stood chatting among ourselves when a tall older white man holding a very large black sign with the words Abortion is Murder began walking in the open area between our contingent and the media – strolling slowly back and forth in front of us. I looked for the pleasant young man in the beige suit who had asked us to move back and make room for more people. I didn’t see him, so I turned to Francie and said in my very nicest loud voice, my goodness, what is that guy doing parading back and forth in front of us with the sign? (Not exactly what I said, not exactly my nicest voice.) The young man in the beige suit appeared immediately. With the sweetest smile, he told me we’re not allowed to interact with the other protesters. Please stand back.

Luckily Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (Dem Orangeburg County District 66) arrived and began to speak to us. She thanked the marchers for showing up, for making our voices heard, and promised to continue the fight for women in South Carolina to have control over our bodies. She is a black woman who was joined by two black men, but no white male representative welcomed us to the people’s house.

Unluckily, the older white man with the big black sign resumed strolling in the supposedly off limits area which made my blood pressure rise. I told Francie we needed to leave before I got us arrested. She sensed danger and said let’s go now. Wouldn’t you know the man with the Big Sign happened to walk directly in front of us when we began to break ranks. Hey, I said, in my not so nice loud voice, you can’t just walk back and forth with your sign in our faces in a space where no one else gets to even stand with their sign. He replied in a cold even tone “you’re not allowed to talk to me.” At that moment I heard the voice from 50 years ago telling me to be quiet, to not make trouble. I was so angry I was about to hit him with my pink sign.

Francie sprang into action running interference by sticking her pink Planned Parenthood sign in his face – that’s what tall people can do. They can rescue short ones. She proceeded to tell him he was in a danger zone, but the man with the Big Sign stood his ground. Francie then shuffled me out of the lobby right past the Jesus people who had also appeared out of thin air, who had brought the same tired signs I’d seen all my life at every march I’d made on any social justice issue. I wondered if they were thinking to themselves there’s that old white woman still going to hell, flames licking around her.

A woman was arrested at the State House that day, but thanks to my friend Francie that woman wasn’t me. Good thing – Pretty picked me up outside on Sumter Street at exactly 1 o’clock so that we could give our five month old granddaughter Molly her bottle on time. May the voices she hears throughout her life assure her she’s allowed.

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Congratulations to newly sworn in Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court Ketanji Brown Jackson. Her journey for full equality for women continues today – onward.

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with sorrow we dissent


“People Vs Supreme Court (The Sonnet)

When the Supreme Court behaves prehistoric,
Every human must become an activist.
When the gatekeepers of law behave barbarian,
Every civilian must come down to the street.
When people are stripped of their basic rights,
By some bigoted and shortsighted gargoyles.
We the people must take back the reins,
And put the politicians in their rightful place.
We need no guns and grenades, we need no ammo,
Unarmed and unbent we stand against savagery.
Till every woman obtains their right to choice,
None of us will sit quiet in compliant apathy.
Every time the cradle of justice becomes criminal,
It falls upon us civilians to be justice incorruptible.”


― Abhijit Naskar, Find A Cause Outside Yourself: Sermon of Sustainability

Supreme Court Injudicious Clarence Thomas said landmark high court rulings that established gay rights and contraception rights should be reconsidered now that the federal right to abortion has been revoked.

Thomas wrote that those rulings “were demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

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I’m not a judge or even an attorney, but I argue the demonstrably erroneous decisions with respect to the highest court in the nation include the appointment of Thomas in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush (that’s 31 years ago if anyone is counting) and the three most recent appointments of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh both vowed in their congressional testimony during confirmation hearings they would not vote to overturn Roe. Very nice – justices whose own word is meaningless.

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Happy Pride! The B-E Collection


I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Dianne Barrett who is a co-founder of the B-E Collection. As a personal historian who identifies as lesbian I am, of course, drawn to projects that celebrate oral histories of lesbians and our lives with a special emphasis on our careers. My video is now one of many – I hope you will go to the B-E website b-ecollection.org to watch – I did tend to go on and on for about 38 minutes, but Dianne does a great job of trying to keep me on task. She used several pictures I sent so they give a lift to my rambling.

This is the Mission Statement of the B-E Collection under “About Us” on their website.

My spouse, Margaret Elfering, and myself, in conjunction with archives such as the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives and the Gerth Archives and Special Collection at California State University Dominguez Hills, will contribute an ongoing series of interviews of lesbians and their careers.  The collection will be known as the B-E Collection: Lesbians and Their Careers.

The “B-E” of the collection is a shorthand for our last names (Barrett – Elfering).  However, there is a second meaning to our collection’s name:   the verb “be” is also defined as “to exist” or “to occur or take place”.  Our collection is a means of bearing witness to the stories of lesbians of different generations, from different walks of life.

The mission of this collection is to dignify the accomplishments, pride, and effort lesbians put forth in their careers on their journey in life.  We make oral histories to document our existence then and now.  Many of us had the “don’t talk – say nothing – you are wrong” experience.  Now we are talking.

We would appreciate a referral of lesbians who might be interested in participating in our project.  We would be more than delighted to speak with anyone who you think would be interested in participating in the B-E Collection.

Your support is always a gift.

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What a wonderful way to celebrate Pride! Thanks to Dianne and Margaret for their vision, to the creative support staff for their expertise and to the Mazer and Gerth Archives at California State University Dominguez Hills who are supporting this collection.

Onward.

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Committed to Home – Happy Pride!


“It’s rare to find a collection of essays so rich and compelling, its contributors sharing the journeys that frequently took them into regions unknown but eventually led them back home – to themselves, their loved ones, and their communities…” Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr., director, Institute for Southern Studies, University of South Carolina.

This quote is from the back cover of Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home, an anthology of the first-person stories of a few (21) organizers of the LGBTQ movement in South Carolina from the HIV-AIDS pandemic in the 1980s through marriage equality in 2014. I had the privilege of collecting, editing, and securing a publisher for their voices, a labor of love for me for four years from 2013 – 2017.

During the month of June we celebrate Pride month, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t had an opportunity to read a fascinating foreword by Harlan Greene nor the chance to meet these trailblazers (Jim Blanton, Candace Chellew, Matt Chisling, Michael Haigler, Harriet Hancock, Deborah Hawkins, Dick Hubbard, Linda Ketner, Ed Madden and Bert Easter, Alvin McEwen, Sheila Morris, Pat Patterson and Patti O’Furniture, Jim and Warren Redman-Gress, Nekki Shutt, Tony Snell-Rodriquez, Carole Stoneking, Tom Summers, Matt Tischler, and Teresa Williams) to go to Amazon or directly to the USC Press for a read that will make you proud.

Happy Pride!

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The fact that five years have passed since Southern Perspectives was published in 2017 is inconceivable to me, yet I can’t ignore the calendar. 2022.

While our LGBTQ+ community has made impressive achievements toward equality during the past five years, I realize those steps forward are under assault again…still. May the passion of the trailblazers in this collection continue to inspire our vision for the future.

Onward.

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Coeur d’Alene slogan: too great to hate


CNN

“After an alarmed 911 caller reported a group dressed like a ‘little army’ getting into a moving truck, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 men believed to be linked to a White nationalist group, who had plans to riot at a weekend Pride event, authorities said.

The large group – which police believe was affiliated with Patriot Front – was seen at a hotel piling into a U-Haul with riot gear, the caller told a 911 dispatcher. They were later pulled over and arrested, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said.

The group was headed to a Pride in the Park event at Coeur d’Alene City Park, police said. The event included a Pride walk and performances by local musicians, dancers and drag artists.” – Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN (June 13, 2022)

Happy Pride Month of June, queer people, straight allies, family and friends. But let’s go easy on the celebrations, ok? No fun for you! Pride in the Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for example, is definitely not okay. Right?

Jim Urquhart – NPR

LGBTQ community march in Coeur d’Alene

Pride in the Park event June 11, 2022

“In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, police detained 31 men near a Pride in the Park event on Saturday, all of them members of a white nationalist group called Patriot Front. Most had traveled to Idaho from other states, authorities said, and the group was outfitted with riot shields, shin guards and at least one smoke grenade.

‘They came to riot downtown,’ said the city’s police chief, Lee White, at a Saturday press conference. Each man has been charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor.” – Becky Sullivan, NPR (June 15, 2022)

The Coeur d’Alene business slogan is Too Great to Hate which I find hopeful for every city – may this be the time for that brand of greatness.

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Remember Pulse. Remember Ukraine.

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Frances, Lee and Margaritas – love triangle for the ages


Hey gal, have a seat, was the standard greeting Lee offered when I reached the table in Los Pericos where he and my cousin Frances would be sitting down sipping margaritas. Los Pericos was their favorite Mexican restaurant in the little town of Willis, Texas – a fifteen minute drive from their condo at Lake Conroe or maybe shorter depending on how fast Frances was driving.

Frances always drove. I never remember seeing Lee get out of the car on any side except the passenger seat in the front, but then I never saw Frances get out of the car without Lee. Frances and Lee. Lee and Frances. Their names were linked as indelibly as their margaritas were to table prepared guacamole at Los Pericos where the staff knew their names and what they wanted. As soon as they came in, the whirring of the margarita blender could be heard, and two large frozen tequila drinks appeared almost as soon as they sat down. Cheers.

Frances is the daughter of my paternal grandmother’s sister Thelma and has been a fixture in my life since I was born. We weren’t close when we were growing up in neighboring Grimes County, Texas towns because she was too many years older than me (all of five years) plus she had a younger brother who was my age, a boy who entertained me, and a boy who could manipulate me into activities that annoyed his older sister.

Frances married Lee when she was 20 years old and for all practical purposes disappeared from my teenage consciousness while her brother and I remained close. Whenever I saw her and her husband at family gatherings, she was sweet, smiling with the same look her mother had – like they knew a secret the rest of us would never know. Lee looked at Frances with the adoring gaze of someone who knew the secret and loved her either in spite of it or because of it.

The vicissitudes of life, as my daddy often called inexplicable coincidences, brought Frances and Lee into my conscious life again when I became bi-stateual and moved home to Texas to care for my mother. Our home on Worsham Street in Montgomery from 2010 – 2014 was twenty minutes from their condo on Lake Conroe. I shared their love of margaritas and Tex-Mex which led me to meeting them at Los Pericos in Willis many nights for dinner. They occasionally acquiesced to my favorite place, the Big Sombrero in Montgomery, but they rarely gave two thumbs up to its margaritas.

Playing canasta with one of my favorite neighbors, Carol, at the kitchen table on Worsham Street with Lee and Frances was always rewarded with bottles of wine they brought. Lee was an excellent card player with no loss of focus on the game regardless of how much wine I poured for him. We had several afternoons of card games, a variety of wines, but always loads of laughter while my country music station played our background music.

In February of this year, Pretty and I made a quick trip to Texas and had a good visit with Frances and Lee in their new place not far in distance from the condo on Lake Conroe but a world away from the life they had there. Lee was obviously very ill which distressed us; Frances was obviously very worried about him. Health problems for Lee had multiplied after a serious stroke which forced them to change locations of their homes, but not their hearts.

On Friday, June 10th. Lee and Frances were to celebrate their 61st. anniversary. The only people I know who had more than 60 years together were my paternal grandparents, so I am not only impressed by the longevity of Frances and Lee’s marriage but also the abiding love that inspired it. Lee died Monday, June 6th., at his home with his wife and only daughter Kelly by his side.

I loved this man who married my cousin and will miss his hey gal, have a seat greeting. I will remember him and would like to think that somewhere somebody has poured the best tequila in a blender for a margarita that’s already whirring by the time St. Peter opens the gate. No salt please (thanks, Kelly – I had forgotten that)

Pretty and I send our love to Frances, Kelly and the rest of Lee’s family. We are with you in spirit. Rest in peace, Lee.

Lee, Frances and first cousin Eloise sharing a laugh with me in 2019

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a walk on the wild side with the OG a/k/a Bully Cat


The saga of Carport Kitty continues almost without interruption – she has left the warmth of her winter heating pad, forsaken the luxury cat condo we keep ready for her, sleeps under one of our cars every night instead (how weird is that?), greets me every morning at daybreak as I set off for my walk, says goodnight to me every night as she waits for her Temptations. Her friends the Black Cat with the White Chest and the Yellow Cat now known as the Orange Tabby drop in to share her yummy pate on a regular basis until my loud rants shoo them away.

turkey and giblets pate is lip smacking good

But the one constant presence that intrudes on CK’s happiness is the Original Gangster I call the Bully Cat who stalks Her Highness in search of free food to supplement his own obvious care. On any given day I may have the opportunity to share my walk with this made for TV cat.

hey, you with the cell phone – get outta my ‘hood

whatever, I got nothing for you

mind your own business – I’m on my payola patrol

moving on – get outta my way

I said get outta my way

time to take a break from my rounds

get lost, loser lesbian – this neighborhood is mine

I know you’re not still here?

ok, let’s make it official –

I’m otw home so you need to get lost!

some peeps can’t take a hint

my crib – don’t dare follow me

Of course I wouldn’t follow Bully Cat in his home turf, but I have to admit a certain fascination with the family who provides him with food, shelter and a random flea collar. Wouldn’t you be?

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Thank you for your interest in the Carport Kitty story. Unfortunately, CK remains a true urban feral calico who allows me to pet her briefly at her meals but shows signs of slowing which may be a factor of heat or of her ongoing mobility issues. She has spunk, though, so don’t count her out yet.

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The In-Between Years


This post was originally made on December 31, 2012 – many of you might have missed it, and others will be reminded perhaps of what you were feeling on that New Year’s Eve almost ten years ago when you read it for the first time.

Through the good or lean years and for all the in-between years is a line from a Frank Sinatra classic All The Way. As I lay 2012 to rest for a final countdown before the ball drops in Times Square in New York City tonight, I ask myself to rate the year as good, lean or in-between. Understand this is a subjective, biased, prejudiced and totally personal evaluation. It meets none of the standards for any Academy of Anything and as such, is not subject to review by a replay official. I’m not sure if the year passed as quickly for you as it did for me, but I confess mine seemed to pass faster than a falling star so I hope you have a notated calendar to refresh your memories as mine does for me.

The first day of 2012 I was in Texas and spent New Year’s Day with my mother who lived in a personal care residence with two other older women and the two wonderful sisters who cared for all of them. She was in the severe stage of her dementia and, although I had no way of knowing it on that day, she wouldn’t survive the year;  neither would the other two women who shared the home and enjoyed my New Year’s visit. I’ve always loved women of any age, and these were some of the most entertaining ever.  It was a good start to the new year.

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Mom

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Miss Ann

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Miss Virginia

Whenever I’m in Texas I always have great visits with my favorite Aunt Lucille who lives in Beaumont, one of my least favorite Texas towns. My aunt will be ninety-three years old in 2013 and is an avid reader and crossword puzzle aficionado. She lives now in an independent living apartment in a retirement community in Beaumont. The nearness of neighbors and a standing dinner group of six women from her building in the late afternoon for dinner suit her social nature, her need to be out and about. Movies? Politics? TV shows? Books? Ask my aunt about any of these and she’s in her element with an attitude toward life that says hey take your best shot at me, but I’m hanging in for as long as I can. In 2012 I saw her more than a dozen times which was more than I’d visited her in one year…ever.  Each visit lifted my spirits and was just plain fun.

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My favorite Aunt Lucille

The year confirmed my status as a bi-stateual with extended periods of time in Texas and South Carolina plus keeping the roads hot from here to there and back. My partner Pretty traveled with me whenever she could get away from her job – I managed to coerce other friends to make the trip when she couldn’t go with me and refused to let me drive by myself any more. Even with my “new” eyes from a second cataract surgery in July, my truck bears the dents and dings of my parking misadventures and alas, let’s face it. I have a GPS but occasionally disagree with it, and then I find I am not there when I need me. I am somewhere else.

Pretty and I did some fun trips during 2012. At the end of February, which is our anniversary month, we drove to Valle Crucis, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains for a couple of days of work and play. She worked.  I played.

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Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone, North Carolina

Six months later in August we had a family vacation with our son Drew and his girlfriend Caroline. We drove to the northeast to sightsee and spend time together, to try to re-group from the losses earlier in the year. Abraham Lincoln blessed us in Gettysburg and we traveled safely to the shores of Maine, along the coast in Rhode Island, saw beautiful scenery in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Boston was a hit for many reasons not the least of which was its good food. We counted on Caroline to make sure we ate at the best restaurants according to her online guides.  Iphones were in; Pretty and Drew had dueling GPSs that didn’t always want to go in the same direction. So many gadgets…so much confusion. So much merriment.

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On my birthday in April I was at the funeral of the woman I knew as a second mother for over forty-five years. She and my mom were as close as sisters. They were both heartbroken when I had to separate them four years ago because they could no longer take care of each other. Willie Flora was eighty-two in March of this past year and my mom was eighty-five that same month. Willie died on April 14th in Richmond, Texas and my mom died eleven days later in Willis. It was sorrow upon sorrow.

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Willie

In September my neighbor Heather and I had a shower for another neighbor, Becky, who created additional excitement by announcing that her water broke a couple of hours before the shower was to start. High drama, but we moved the time up, she came and opened her gifts, had a piece of cake and was then whisked away by her husband Gary to the hospital where she gave birth to her third baby boy four hours later. George is growing by leaps and bounds and should be a fine nuisance for his older brothers Oscar and Dwight.

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Dwight plus Oscar plus cookie jar = Good Times

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George in his New Baby phase

In November my third book was published and I was thrilled with how it looked when it came from the printer. I loved the cover and had a sense of accomplishment as I placed it in my office next to my first two books. I hope my cyberspace friends will want to read the final version since you’ve shared a number of the stories with me in the past year right here on this blog. There is freedom in growing older and a sense of entitlement to Call It Like You See It — and even sweeter to see what you’re calling in print

Good year? Lean year? In-between year? The votes have been tallied by an unreliable CPA (me) and I have to report the in-between has it. Births and deaths mark our beginnings and our endings, but the middle is what keeps our attention. I’ll lay 2012 down tonight and pick up 2013 in the morning. I can’t predict what will happen in the New Year, but I can predict I will struggle to stay awake to ring it in.

Pretty and I wish all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year!  Thanks for stopping by…

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P.S. I would lose my favorite Aunt Lucille in 2013. I think of her often and am grateful for that Texas time with her.

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just another war? don’t get used to it, please


Olena Zelenska is the wife of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and during an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America this week revealed what she wanted most from the United States:

“Don’t get used to this war.”

Point taken. A quick review of US involvement in the Cold War with the Soviet Union following World War II shows conflicts of various degrees in names familiar to me over the past 70 years – Korea, Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and certainly Afghanistan where our recent withdrawal of support after 20 years was far more than unsatisfactory – names I recognize but can’t remember details of some. Old age? Possibly. Got used to? Most likely.

The war in Ukraine turned 100 days old yesterday as Russia’s missile strikes continued to rain down on Eastern Ukraine while President Zelenskyy acknowledged the loss of 20% of his country to Russian occupation. The ongoing stream of people leaving their homeland as refugees to escape obliteration numbers in the millions with families divided, fathers saying goodbye to their wives and children to stay and fight to protect their democracy. Please don’t get used to this, they say to us from across the Atlantic Ocean. We still need your help.

Meanwhile back in this country, the daily images of men, women and children being killed by mass gun violence rock our sensibilities when we hear them cry out from their coffins “don’t get used to this.” And yet, we have. Whenever we continue to cast our votes for our representatives at every level who vote against more effective gun control measures, we are saying oh well, that’s just how it goes, right? We’re used to it. All politicians are the same. They’re all corrupt. What does my vote matter anyway?

Stop that excuse, think about the people you love, ask the right questions of candidates on the ballot, then vote as if your life and the life of your loved ones depends on it.

Slava Ukraini! Remember Uvalde.

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anytime, anywhere


just another pain to manage, just another tear to cry

just another pain to manage, just another empty lie

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