Columns

The State of the Nation: Unhappy and Burned Out

April 15, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

If our morning commutes tell us anything, it’s that there are a lot of miserable, angry people out there. Sometimes on my drive to the gym, I make the mistake of counting the number of people who either cut me off, speed up to not let me change lanes, or dangerously tailgate my car.

Let’s just say the numbers are regularly dismaying.

It’s a Social Darwinist nightmare out there on the road in F-You Nation, and I have long thought that this phenomenon spoke to something larger afoot in the country—a collective darkness seems to be on the rise, and not just on the political front. We are an unhappy bunch.

As the Washington Post recently reported:

Americans are unhappy, according to the report, an annual list ranking the overall happiness levels of 156 countries — and it’s only getting worse.

Read the full article → 8 comments

Imagining Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

April 11, 2019 by Ernie McCray

Imagining Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

(For Ms Gonzalez’s Third Graders)

by Ernie McCray

Hey,
I must say
that the words
of thanks you
sent my way
put a bounce in my step
and a smile on my face
and a warm fuzzy feeling
in my heart
that just wouldn’t go away.

I’ve come to love you guys
and your wonderful school
in a very big way.

You all made me feel so at home
as I sat and talked to you
through a microphone,

Read the full article → 1 comment

Receiving an Award for My Love of Children

April 8, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I recently received an honor of a lifetime, Barrio Station’s “Cesar E. Chavez Humanitarian Award” for my lifelong civil and human rights activism. When I first got the word from Rachel Ortiz, Executive Director of the Barrio Station, a dear hero of mine, that I was to be given such a precious distinction, I didn’t know what to say other than “Wow!”

After hanging up the phone I couldn’t help but think of what a charmed life I’ve had. A life filled with children. Children, hundreds of them, in school settings all over San Diego County, have made me who I am, gifting me with tight hugs and snappy high fives for just being myself with them:

Out at P.E. with them,
my slam dunks
and shifty moves
and softballs
hit beyond the boundaries
of the playground
dazzling them
and bonding me
as a badass dude
with them.

Read the full article → 10 comments

3rd Annual Progressive Labor Summit 2019 in San Diego, Saturday April 13th

April 8, 2019 by Jim Miller

All Day Conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mission Valley at 7450 Hazard Center Drive from 9:00 AM until 5:30 PM.

Want a great crash course in local, statewide, and national progressive issues and politics? Then you won’t want to miss the third annual Progressive Labor Summit this Saturday, April 13th in Mission Valley. This one-day event will feature a wide range of speakers and breakout sessions on labor, the environment, immigration, housing, transit, education, local politics, organizing, and much more.

Some of day’s highlights include: the first San Diego mayoral forum with Todd Gloria, Tasha Williamson, and Barbara Bry; a discussion with leaders from the unions whose recent strikes woke up the country—the United Teachers Los Angeles and the Oakland Education Association

Read the full article → 3 comments

In Defense of ‘Meh’: Enough With this AOC Character Already!

April 1, 2019 by Jim Miller

This post was written for April 1st.

By Jim Miller

Recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took an unwarranted shot at the heart and soul of American Democracy: the moderates. As NBC news reported, AOC opined that:

“Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh,’” she said, shrugging her shoulders for emphasis. “We’ve become so cynical, that we view ‘meh,’ or ‘eh’ — we view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete when … the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of visions.

“The ‘meh’ is worshiped now. For what?” she continued to cheers.

What can one say about this impudent snark other than, how dare she?

Read the full article → 16 comments

Had Myself a Smiley Day

March 26, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Had myself a smiley day
the other day
from the time I woke up
until the time
I called it a day.

Seemed like mostly everything
put a smile on my face:
the rain dropping gently
instead of flooding the place,
the sun peeking through the clouds,
promising a nicer day
later in the day
and my smile widened
as my day got underway,
beginning with a lyft ride
that had me feeling
warm and cozy inside,
glowing with pride

Read the full article → 6 comments

The College Admission Scandal Shows Us Who We Are: A Plutocracy Posing as a Meritocracy

March 25, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This is who we are now: a country where the criminal rich brazenly buy their kids’ ways into elite colleges while the sons and daughters of ordinary Americans scrape and claw to gain admission and then struggle to pay for the skyrocketing costs of higher education. As a recent Public Broadcasting Service story on the college admissions scandal put it:

The multimillion-dollar bribery scheme unveiled by the Justice Department this week has sparked equal parts outrage and incredulity over the astonishing lengths some wealthy parents have gone to get their children into the prestigious universities of their choice.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Hey, American Labor! Listen to the Next Generation on the Green New Deal

March 18, 2019 by Jim Miller

 

Labor Needs to Listen to the Next Generation and Help Craft a Green New Deal with Strong Labor Provisions

By Jim Miller

Young people across the world are making sure their voices are heard. I was proud of my son, his friends, and their classmates last week when they walked out of San Diego High School to participate in the Global Climate Strike during which over a million students worldwide in two thousand locations across one hundred and twenty-five countries stood up to call for urgent climate action .

Moments like these serve as lights in the greater darkness.

Read the full article → 2 comments

‘Standing With Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters’

March 18, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray – Posted on March 15, 2019 on Facebook

I had no idea
when I opened my eyes
on this beautiful day
that I would,
a bit later,
at midday,
be standing with a number
of loving peace seeking folks,
shaking our heads,
pledging, in our sadness,
to stay the course
against the madness
that brought us together
on this ill fated day:
our Muslim brothers and sisters
in New Zealand

Read the full article → 4 comments

Might Reparations Lead to Us Living in Harmony?

March 14, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Tried to wax eloquently recently
about reparations,
speaking of it as
a “The checks in the mail”
kind of operation
but now I’m thinking
Reparations?

In this nation?
as I take into consideration|
that Americans
have shown neither the skills
or the will,
by any stretch of the imagination,
to have anything near a genuine
social or political
conversation
focused on bettering human relations,
especially one
regarding compensation
or a people’s history
of pain and suffering
and humiliation.

Read the full article → 0 comments

From Super Bloom to Super Bust: The Water Crisis that Could Kill Borrego Springs

March 11, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

The formal beginning of spring is just around the corner, but an unusually wet winter already has visitors flooding into Borrego Springs in search of desert sunflowers, verbena, lupine, poppies, and primrose.

Thanks to a chain of storms, the desert is green and bursting with the promise of a rare “super bloom” that will likely carpet its floor with wildflowers in and around Anza-Borrego State Park. For local Borrego Springs businesses and hotels, this event is an economic boom that floods the town with a wave of commerce and full hotel rooms.

Read the full article → 2 comments

Taking on Superbugs

March 5, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I turned to page 57 in People Magazine and looking back at me were the smiling faces of friends of mine, Tom Patterson and Steffanie Strathdee. They’re a husband and wife team of AIDs epidemiologists at UCSD who have traveled the world studying and researching and seeking ways to control diseases.

On occasion they have suffered from weird viruses and bugs and the like and weathered the storm and moved on to the next mission.

But the reason they were a story in a national publication is because of what happened to them on a trip to Egypt where they were enjoying themselves, just living the life, visiting the pyramids, sailing down the Nile.

Then Tom suddenly started heaving violently.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The System Is Rigged Because We Allow the Rich to Rig the Discourse

March 4, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

In my last column on the rocket-speed escalation of economic inequality in the United States, I noted how one of the central problems we face is that “the current neoliberal ideological hegemony finds basic economic justice unimaginable.”

Of course, America is a capitalist country where the interests of the powerful shape the ideological landscape, but there have been moments in our history when counterhegemonic forces and ideas have opened space for more egalitarian thinking and politics. For instance, the rise of both the labor and civil rights movements pushed back against and altered the status quo as have other, more short-lived but still significant eruptions of dissent. Indeed, just last week, public school teachers in Oakland

Read the full article → 1 comment

Got to See My Color, Man!

February 26, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

“When I see a person
I don’t see color”
I heard a man say.
And I thought
what I usually think
as I listened to him that day:
I wondered, then,
how could he not see
the color of my skin,
my dark brown pigmentation
like a chocolate milk shake
or a cocoa colored
birthday cake
or a blend
of some kind of fine coffee
that a master barista might make…

Read the full article → 3 comments

When Will We Finally Find the Courage to Challenge the Status Quo?

February 25, 2019 by Jim Miller

The Wages of Inequality Continue to Grow, Year after Year

Over the last few weeks, the national political discourse has been chock-full of ridiculous handwringing in what stands in for progressive circles over whether Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and “the left” will push the Democrats beyond what whoever the pundit of the moment is deems the “acceptable” political boundaries.

Apparently, Trump can flirt with authoritarianism, push the world toward ecocide, and lie through his teeth every day but Democrats cross the line when they fail to properly genuflect before our plutocratic masters.

Meanwhile, America’s moneyed elite are laughing all the way to the bank. The rich are getting richer so fast that it’s hard to keep up with them.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Reparations Are Way Overdue

February 21, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Every now and again
in this nation,
talks of reparations
enter into our conversations
and some folks
are saying
that such
could cost trillions
by some calculations,
implying it would be
too costly.

Read the full article → 3 comments

It’s Not Those Pushing the Green New Deal Who are Naïve About Our Current Crisis

February 18, 2019 by Jim Miller

The Moderate Threat to Climate Action

By Jim Miller

As heartening as the emergence of the Green New Deal as a political rallying cry and litmus test of sorts for the early field of Democratic presidential candidates is, the predictably negative response in other quarters is equally dismaying.

Of course, the most obvious naysaying comes from the Republicans and the rightwing media following the lead of a president who suggests that snowstorms and cold weather are evidence that climate change isn’t happening.

But that’s not the real problem.

Read the full article → 4 comments

The Windoms of the Dusty Cotton Fields of Mississippi

February 15, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I look at a picture of my cousin, Pearlie Mae, and me, thinking how proud she would be of her grandchild, Renee Purdie, who’s written a collection of poetry she’s calling “Pieces of Me: Love, Lust and Lentils.”

She’d literally glow seeing how this young woman is blossoming as a human being, writing poems that touch the heart.

Like Pearlie Mae and me, she is a descendant of the Windoms of the dusty cotton fields of Mississippi. She’s one of our family tree’s many beautiful flowers who’ve risen above what society expected of us, and managed to do well in life, learning and giving, far and wide, some of us landing in Tucson.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Fear of a Socialist Planet: From Davos to D.C. to the Democratic Party, a New “Red Scare” Emerges

February 11, 2019 by Jim Miller

Last week in the State of the Union, Trump unveiled one of the pillars of his re-election campaign in the midst of his speech:

“America will never be a socialist country.”

While this line of attack is clearly a predictable jab at the rising popularity of policy ideas promoted by Democratic Socialists Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez like free college, Medicare for all, and raising taxes on the rich, it also reveals a rising fear on the part of the global elite that a populist left might be far more dangerous to their interests than the current brand of extreme rightwing populism in the United States and elsewhere across the globe.

Read the full article → 2 comments

A Friend Makes Me Feel Like I’ve Lived in a Dream

February 6, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just finished “Platitudes and Attitudes,” a little book that was written by a dear lifelong friend, Shirley Robinson Sprinkles, “Shirlgirl.”

Shirley and I grew up in Tucson, Arizona in the 40’s and 50’s and as I read the “random thoughts and memories” that she had collected over the years, I was transported back in time, like in a dream.

She’d mention a street and I could see myself riding my bicycle down that street, popping a wheelie, with my levi’s ripped at the knees (light years before that was cool).

She’d describe an event, and I was there (trying to be cool).

Read the full article → 9 comments

Hawaii Still on My Mind With the Obamas in the Picture This Time

February 4, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been home for a while but I’ve still been reflecting on my recent trip to Hawaii, on, in part, how although I had a wonderful time I also had other things on my mind.

Like, I thought about my daughter, Debbie, who would have turned 61 on January 4th, one afternoon in the darkness of a Big Island porch with my mind going back and forth about a number of things, then, because it was such a beautiful day,

I went on a little hike with Maria and Glen, our host and friend, and soon my mind, caught up in the beauty of the people with me and the beauty around me, was back to the nice place it had been before my moments of grief set in. But my spiritual nature was very much alive on that trip, and it was intensified when I picked up the paper one day and read that Barack Obama was in town, Honolulu, his town, home,

Read the full article → 3 comments

Labor Council in San Diego On Board With the Green New Deal

February 4, 2019 by Jim Miller

The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Passes Resolution in Support of a Green New Deal

Sometimes the unexpected happens. Last year, during one of her first visits to the Capitol as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines by joining a group of young activists from the Sunrise Movement protesting outside Nancy Pelosi’s office and calling for a Green New Deal. Since that time, Pelosi has formed a committee to address the idea, but, even more importantly, a Green New Deal has emerged as one of the key progressive talking points in the early days of the Democratic presidential race, forcing even some reluctant candidates to at least give it a nod.

Not surprisingly, probable candidate Bernie Sanders is at the front of the line, but he has been joined by Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and even some less likely suspects who despite their “centrism” seemed to feel it necessary to voice qualified if grudging support to some form of a Green New Deal.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Hawaii on My Mind

January 29, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Maria and I just got back from Hawaii, spending time with friends on the Big Island and Oahu.

In my mind I can still see the rich colors of the rain forests and feel the warm breeze that comforted me on a walk on the beach one day and I’ll always remember sitting high above a view that literally took my breath away…

I still shiver from the experience of riding in a car, looking to see what the Kilauea volcano had left in its wake, cruising by a couple of really nice homes, and suddenly a dead end appears and before me there stands a massive mound of lava a couple of stories high that had swallowed the rest of the neighborhood we were driving through…

And minutes later we’re walking on a new black sand beach the volcano had created, as if by design, complete with a nice little wading pool just right for little children.

Out of Mother Nature’s devastating acts, there’s such beauty.

Read the full article → 3 comments

Lessons from the LA Teachers Strike

January 28, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

After a little more than a week of striking, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) captured the public’s imagination, helped transform the national narrative about education, won a solid new contract, and positioned themselves well for the battles to come.

For those of us in education this was an inspiring moment that showed the potential for smart organizing and activism to change the game in important ways.

As I wrote last week, UTLA was taking a lead from both the social movements of the sixties and other, more recent examples of militant protests and strikes by fellow educators elsewhere in the United States from Chicago to West Virginia.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The United Teachers of Los Angeles: Walking the Picket Line in the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 21, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This year the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday falls in the midst of one of the biggest teachers strikes in recent American history. And Dr. King, who gave his life while supporting a public sector sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee because he saw it as a model for his Poor People’s Campaign, would recognize the spirit of this strike.

By the end of his life, King, who had long supported labor, came to question not just racial injustice, but also the economic and political struggles he identified as the edifices which produce beggars in the marketplace. His call for questioning the evils of racial, economic and other forms of institutionalized exploitation led him to challenge the American power structure and the unjust business as usual of our society.

That is precisely what the teachers in Los Angeles are doing.

Read the full article → 0 comments

I Can’t Help But Resist

January 18, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I heard a man say
we shouldn’t
resist the president
because leftwing presidents
before him committed political wrongs
in their day.

And to him I say,
hey, what somebody
did or didn’t do back in the day
has no say
in why I resist
this man
who occupies the White House today.

Read the full article → 4 comments

Michelle Obama is Right: ‘They Aren’t That Smart’ —They’re Just Greedy

January 14, 2019 by Jim Miller

Michelle Obama caused a small stir last fall during the London leg of her book tour when she observed that her time in the highest circles of the global power elite had revealed a startling truth about our faceless masters:

“Here’s the secret: they’re not that smart. There are a lot of things that folks are doing to keep their seats because they don’t want to give up power.”

More specifically, the former First Lady observed that, “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

We’re Still Calling People ‘Illegal’ After All These Years

January 8, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Note: I found an old piece I wrote for the San Diego Tribune in November of 1994, twenty-four years ago. The piece was about Proposition 187, a ballot measure that required me, a school principal, to rat on families who were in the country illegally. And, as I read it, I felt as though we, as a society, had been frozen in time, because what I wrote, with all the talk nowadays about caravans and building walls and such, would speak to these times:

Despite the passage of Proposition 187, my disposition remains the same. I will not, in any way, play a role in willfully hurting another person.

I have sat at the back of the bus. I’ve had someone tell me to get my “black ass” out of a hotel where there were plenty of rooms available. I’ve skaked at the rink on special “Negro” days.

Read the full article → 3 comments

Lessons for San Diego Labor in the Wake of Mickey Kasparian’s Fall

January 7, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

One of the last bits of big local political news towards the end of 2018 was the resounding defeat of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 135 President Mickey Kasparian along with his entire slate in their union election on the heels of two years of internal and external conflict.

After refusing to step down from his position as President of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council in the wake of multiple workplace and sexual harassment allegations in 2016, Kasparian split the labor movement, sought to divide local progressives, and fought a scorched earth campaign against his perceived enemies.

All of it ended badly with lots of damage being done along the way.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Kindness Can Turn This Troubled World Around

December 21, 2018 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Not too long ago I had an encounter with an act of random kindness.

It went like this: I was enjoying an interesting tale in San Diego born Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ wonderful collection of short stories, “Heads of the Colored People” and a meal of scrambled eggs and ham with a buttered biscuit and jam and a Bloody Mary when I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up and into the beautiful face of a black woman, close to my age, a woman whom I had acknowledged with a slight nod of my head as she left the café.

We black people of a certain age do that when we catch each other’s eye, say, walking down the street or exiting a restaurant, sometimes adding a word or two: “How you doing?” or a “Hey, now” – essentially saying: “I don’t know you, but I can guess what you might have been through.”

With the way the woman was looking at me, as she stood over me, I thought maybe she was about to say something like “Don’t you remember me?” and then I was sure she was going to say “Did you drop this?” because she was handing me something.

Read the full article → 4 comments