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Song of Justice

Because politics at its highest is a call to justice.

Author

Carol Cizauskas

Carol Čizauskas is a writer, teacher/trainer, office administrator, social media expert, and political and social justice advocate. Carol moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in September 2017. She is available to help in person and virtually with your projects in professional or personal writing, organizational training, office and business administration needs, social media, and political organizing for social justice. Put her outstanding communication and administrative skills to use in your nonprofit or business working for societal change through education, social justice, and/or the arts — and watch your organization thrive yet more!

Hell Week

Reposted from https://vistacarolina.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/hell-week-one-womans-reaction-to-the-brett-kavanaugh-sexual-assault-allegation-hearings/

It’s been a difficult week. Hell, it’s been not even a week. Four days. My sleep has been interrupted by night terrors. I look at others as I fight my way through a crowded grocery store, wondering who is an ally and who an enemy – who would like to rip my guts out if they knew what I believe, how I think, what I feel. I am blocking total strangers and unfriending former friends on Facebook because they side with Brett Kavanaugh and the powerful, the privileged, the pugilistic against the oppressed, the truth-tellers, the light-bearers.

I know I’m not the only one, not by more than three thousand miles. I don’t know whether that makes it better or worse.

I believe that 95 percent of women have experienced some form of sexual violence and almost as many occurrences of sexual violence are never uttered.

During the hearings this past Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein read the tally sheet of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. I don’t believe that statistic: 66 percent of sexual violence goes unreported. I believe that 95 percent of women have experienced some form of sexual violence and almost as many occurrences of sexual violence are never uttered.

I’m someone who, like many American women, has been “out there” my entire adult life. For more than thirty years, I’ve worked full-time since graduating college; I’ve dated and been in many relationships, some long-term, some short; I’ve had many friends and joined many groups: writers, readers, political activists, business networkers, blues-lovers, arts-lovers, to name a few. I’ve been an independent, social, gregarious, life-loving woman. I’ve also been a woman who has experienced more acts of sexual violence than I can remember in any one sitting unless I really put my mind to it.

I rarely do that. I really don’t want to do that. But I will tell you that the violence has ranged from “simple” acts of workplace harassment to rape to stalking to abuse from the age of 15 (and maybe younger – my slippery, protective mind turns vague memories into fog like a dry ice machine). The worst part of any of these was not any specific act but the multitude of times I wasn’t believed, of times I was blamed, of times that the so-called justice and mental health systems turned against me, further isolating and terrorizing me – and the many more times I said nothing because I knew the consequences.

Abuse at 15

I remember being groomed and frightened and confused and sexually abused by an older teenager when I was 15 on a school trip to Europe. After I stumbled out of his hotel room, not at all inebriated but dazed by whatever happened there – cue the mind fog machine – I ran to the stairs that led to my floor, my room, safety and solitude. When I entered the stairwell, a group of his friends sat and stood on the first landing. They might have been waiting for me there. They blocked my exit. They derided me with disgusting taunts and cacophonous laughter. Enraged and frightened like a trapped animal, I screamed at them, telling them from a depth I didn’t know existed what animals they were. This Thursday, when Christine Blasey Ford testified that one of the strongest memories she had of the attack by Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge was their laughter, I physically recoiled and felt the room swim around me. I knew exactly what she was experiencing. Like she, I was 15 years old again, feeling trapped by young men who treated me like dirt after their friend had taken what he wanted from this object – not a girl, not a person, just a thing.

Harassment of an Intern

I remember earning the first news internship at an NPR station through the hard work I had done as a print stringer and first-year graduate student in journalism. I was older than most interns because I discovered public radio reporting as my calling in my later 30s. The news director was only a couple of years older than I but obviously had much more journalism experience than I just starting out in public radio. Attracted to each other, we saw each other sexually a couple of months at most, agreeing to keep it hidden for appearance’s sake and agreeing we could separate it from the news room. I was so naïve.

A rabid drug addict, he soon projected his lack of integrity onto me, accusing me of wanting to “out” us, accusing me of speaking badly of him around town – even though this is the first time I am doing so publicly and still not naming him specifically and almost twenty years later. From his absolute power position, he played horrible psychological tricks on me, confusing me until the ground I stood on passed from shaky to earthquaked to finally gone. He “fired” me (even though I was working 10-20 hours a week for free), banning me from the station. Because I knew that whistleblowers – especially women who accuse sexual harassment – are almost always the ones punished and because then I wanted so much to build a career in public radio, I kept silent. Over the years I told only a few close friends and my therapist. (Since then, I abandoned my amazing public radio career because I couldn’t continue subjecting myself to the many toxic people in charge. As many wonderful people who hold power in public radio – and I personally know a few and hold one as a dear, dear friend – there are many who use and abuse underlings. See stories about Michael Oreskes and Juan Williams, for example.) This is the first time I speak publicly about this horrible news director.

Stalking, Like Imprisoning Someone in Slavery

Perhaps one of the worst sexual and violent crimes committed against me happened when I had the audacity to break up a four-year relationship that had grown increasingly more toxic as the boyfriend had continued to trap me in a cycle of emotional and psychological abuse. The day after I called it off, he showed up at my apartment to reclaim some of his items left there and loaned to me over the years – two or three shirts, a couple of dining room chairs. He shoved past me into my apartment that summer Saturday morning and wouldn’t leave despite my yelling at him constantly to do so and screaming for help into the quaint neighborhood with many open windows. No one came. No one helped.

Somehow I struggled free, only then to cower on all fours in the corner of the farthest end of my apartment. I was an animal protecting my physical body. I am still ashamed and frightened as I remember that moment.

When he started physically menacing me, for the first time in my life I realized I needed to call 9-1-1. He ripped the phone out of my hands – but the land line phone had connected long enough to trigger the cops’ drive to my apartment. He held me tight by my shoulders. I think he threw me onto the bed. He may have wrestled me to the ground. He may have just stood there, gripping my shoulders with all his male strength. I was sure he was going to rape me. My mind and body went numb. Yet somehow I struggled free, only then to cower on all fours in the corner of the farthest end of my apartment. I was an animal protecting my physical body. I am still ashamed and frightened as I remember that moment.

When the cops arrived in what seemed an eternity later, they didn’t believe me. The male cops took him outside and joked and laughed with him on the sidewalk. The female cop was harsh and judgmental with me as she forced me to find his shirts jumbled in with my pile of clothes on the floor. They finally left, along with him.

After that, I remembered feeling like a slave as he continued to stalk me for months. I wasn’t free to decide for myself. He continued to threaten me unless I agreed to our getting back together. One day he sabotaged my car by wrenching a garden spade into the engine. That cost thousands of dollars. Another time he broke into my storage to steal audio of my therapy sessions. (I had recorded them so I could listen again between sessions to let my therapist’s wisdom sink in.) Another time he broke into my home to steal my airline tickets to fly home to what I thought would be the safety of my family, me on the west coast, they on the east. Later, until I deplaned from that four-hour flight, I was terrorized that he might have sneaked onto the plane. (I didn’t have the money to buy an entirely new trip.)

Worse than all this, though, were the people who didn’t believe me and the system that turned against me. Our “friends” told me outright that there must be two sides to the story, that after four years of our being together, he couldn’t be that bad, that I must have done something bad, too. A cop told me that he would rather be dead than not fight back and suggested I get a temporary protective order against him. So I did. My psychiatrist yelled at me that I shouldn’t fight him through the legal system, that I was only baiting him by doing so. Even though a trained witness (a security officer who ran his business from across the street) saw the ex breaking into my home through a window and filed a police report, this counted for nothing, no proof against him, as I faced the ex in court alone without any legal representation because I didn’t have enough time and money to get help. When I asked for a continuance, his attorney said I would have to pay his extra legal fees – which I had no idea how I could afford.

It was the loneliest moment of my life. As I write this experience, I am crying again. I can’t describe how extremely alone, terrorized, frightened, and small I felt. This was a Rubicon I must cross, however.

It was the loneliest moment of my life. As I write this experience, I am crying again. I can’t describe how extremely alone, terrorized, frightened, and small I felt. This was a Rubicon I must cross, however, and so I did. I held fast to my demand for a continuance.

I think his attorney must have understood the horrible nature of what had happened, because he never sent me a bill. As for myself, I ended up letting the matter drop because the months of violence had exhausted me and because the ex had found a new target, a new girlfriend, so he left me alone. Not the best ending for anyone involved, but such often is life.

The Characters and Their Character, The Same Now as Then

I saw in Christine Blasey Ford the same fear, the same strength, the same shaking and PTSD of reliving such a horrible memory as I have had anytime I remember any of the many sexual violence situations I have faced. I saw in Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Ted Cruz, et al., – the legal, police, and medical system that betrayed me, turned on me in anger, and did the opposite of protect me. I saw in Brett Kavanaugh as he derided and disrespected female senators – the males who raped, abused, harassed, and stalked me. I see in the people who won’t take a stand against an obviously misogynistic and frighteningly and abusively privileged Kavanaugh – the friends who wouldn’t stand with me when I was physically attacked, stalked, and terrorized for months. And I see in those multitudes of people – women and men – who understand by direct experience or by well-conscienced empathy – the friends who have believed me, the allies who have supported me, and the hope I still retain for a system to protect the unpowerful. May God bless and protect us all.

Running for Organizer for DSA-Madison

DSA Logo

To the members of DSA-Madison:

Carol Čizauskas asks you to elect her to the Organizer/Communications Coordinator position because of her passionate belief in democratic socialism, commitment to social justice, willingness to put the time and effort into this elected position, and qualifications to serve in this position.

Carol awoke to political activism when Bernie declared his candidacy for president. She was one of a core group of six grassroots organizers for Bernie in northern Nevada before the campaign came to the state and then hired as the first staffer in northern Nevada. Because of their efforts, northern Nevada won for Bernie over Hillary in the caucuses, despite that region running typically conservative and establishment. Carol then was elected delegate for Bernie to the national convention, where she fought for justice for Bernie and his delegates despite a rigged primary and convention for Hillary, including constant protests on and off the convention floor with threats to her and her fellow delegates’ credentials and even physical safety.

Bernie caught Carol’s soul on fire because of his stances on justice: economic, social, racial, and environmental. She saw in Bernie a statesman who stood for what she believes and was impeccable in his long record of integrity, the first candidate since her young political awareness in 1974, the summer of the Watergate hearings. Because of Bernie, Carol “came out of the closet” and proudly declared her socialist beliefs which align with the standards and values of democratic socialism.

In running for this office, Carol is choosing with her heart, mind, and eyes open to commit time and energy to serve and to help steer DSA-Madison to its next step in active growth to win over hearts and minds in our area to democratic socialism and its goals to fight for justice. She is excited to put her skills and experience to work in this position. The first goal Carol plans to pursue is to create an ongoing radio program on WORT to promote the ideals of democratic socialism, perhaps as a joint venture of DSA-Madison, Our Wisconsin Revolution (for which Carol serves on the communications committee), and possibly other similarly left-leaning Madison political groups.

Carol has years of experience in communications roles, including years as a journalist, both in print and public radio. She knows how to craft an effective press release and get press to cover political events. Through her experience organizing for Bernie in northern Nevada, Carol knows how to organize effectively through social media to get great turnout to events, meetings, and voting. And she has years of experience working as a volunteer in politics and nonprofits.

Carol respectfully and eagerly asks you to vote for her as DSA-Madison Organizer/Communications Coordinator.

This Land Is Your Land

July 26th, 2016, the second day of the Democratic National Convention, was the day democracy died.

The shunning of Bernie supporters continued from within the state and all around. Bernie turning the nomination over by acclimation to the Corrupt One and the vitriolic yelling surrounding me proved too much, and I started sobbing. I had to leave our seats. Providentially, I found Christine Kramar and Leslie Sexton right outside in the hallway. I fell into their arms, and we group-hugged. Also providentially, we then saw the huge crowd yelling “walk-out” as they marched passed us in solidarity. The three of us decided on the spot to join them. It was the right thing to do after the corruption, deceitfulness, and rigging of this election (the “coup”). Since I had the credentials, I ran back inside to let our Bernie Nevada delegation know of the walk-out in case anyone wanted to join us. Of the ones there at the time, Alexis Salt, Tacy Geesaman, and John Geremia walked out with Christine, Leslie, and me.

We then protested with the others outside. We sang “This Land Is Our Land” and gave interviews to multiple press outlets there. We stood in solidarity. Then Shawna Heffernan from National Nurses United joined us, and we decided to march away to the protest in FDR Park. We met Jill Stein in our subway car, and I had a good conversation with her.

Once above ground, we saw the protest ahead was cornered into what looked like a trap for arrests. So we sat that out at a tiny Philly cheese steak diner and talked with non-delegates about what happened at the convention, including the shameful Nevada state convention. Then my husband, Donald Prather, joined us.

We then decided to go home, as it was quite late and everyone was exhausted. (And as far as I know, the arrest trap still existed.) We were dripping sweat from the intense heat and I was feeling faint from many hours without food and little water. Don and I tried to eat at the TGIF in the hotel and were never served or waited on. After 15 minutes of being ignored, we walked out. I went to bed in great exhaustion, pain, and hunger.

I finally had breakfast food the next morning and met up with other staunch Bernie supporters in our delegation. They had attended our morning meeting when we get credentials and updated us on the continuing dismissiveness from the state party of not understanding (or pretending to not understand) why their treatment of Bernie delegates and supporters has been continually non-uniting and corrupt – that dismissiveness despite the voices of protest from our staunch Bernie delegates attempting to explain.

I am completely exhausted and need a day to sleep, eat, relax and try to regain my strength for returning to the Hillaryfest the last day of the convention. I did cast my vote for Bernie and have done what my conscience has called me to do as an elected Bernie delegate. The conscience was always there, and Bernie gave me the strength and courage finally to stand up for what I believe and to speak out about injustice to others and to those of us who steadfastly believe in Bernie’s revolution of social justice. That strength and courage to follow my conscience is why I have worked hard for Bernie for so long now, why I ran for Bernie delegate, why I will not vote for Hillary (but will vote for Jill Stein if she makes it onto the Nevada ballot or else “none of the above”), why I voted for Bernie in the second morning’s paper ballot of convention delegates, why I walked out and protested, why I gave interviews to the press, and why the third day I knew I must rest to go on to fight another day.

I thank all of you who truly follow your conscience and do not act out of ego but out of love, whether you agree with my views or not. I thank all of you who sent love and support across so many, many miles. I thank all of you who believed in me to vote for me for Bernie delegate from Nevada’s second congressional district. I thank all of you who believed in me to contribute to my fundraiser to get to Philly. I thank all of you who are praying and sending love and good vibes. Bernaste. The revolution has only just begun.

 

THIS is What the Democrats Have Become

Today we protested the corruption of and abuse by the Democratic Party nationally and especially in our state. As I was walking to my car with Jerry Hirsch, who drove all the way from Winnemucca to join with us, another Democrat walked up to us. Mind you, my car was parked in the far end of the parking lot. He had to walk past three other rows of cars to seek us out.

He asked us, “Are you coming from the left or the right?” We told him from the left, and he muttered something to the effect of, “Oh, so you’re Bernie supporters.” We said yes.

Then he asked, “Is it good to let Trump win?” Jerry told him that of course we don’t support Trump.

“If you don’t vote for Hillary,” the man said, “you’re letting Trump win.”

I told him, “The Democrats – YOU Democrats – are hypocrites. If you truly wanted Trump defeated –”

“SHUT UP!” he screamed at me.

For a moment I was speechless. Never has an adult yelled at me to shut up. It was like someone hitting me. It felt like all the abuse of the Democratic Party hitting me in that one moment.

I yelled back at him to stop “mansplaining” to me. I searched my exploding brain to find the right curse words to hurl at this misogynistic excuse for a human.

I am still shaking from the abuse.

Disunited States

A Bernie Sanders supporter describes her frustrating experiences at the Democratic National Convention.

Carol’s experience of the Democratic National Convention as a Bernie Sanders delegate elected from Nevada’s second congressional district. Reprinted from the Reno News & Review.
2016-07-25-2300 - Bernie's Convention Speech
The view from the Nevada delegates’ seats during Bernie Sanders’s speech the first night of the convention.

Last summer, I shot out of my computer chair, ran into the living room and shouted with joy to my husband, “Bernie is running for president!” I didn’t believe then that Bernie Sanders had a shot at winning, but supporting underdogs was my specialty. I had assumed until this time I would vote for the Democratic favorite, even though I had problems with Hillary Clinton because of what I saw as her hawkishness, her conservatism in social and economic justice, her lack of credibility, and her lack of good character.

A month later, I began volunteering full-time for Bernie’s election. When he spoke of health care for all as a basic human right, free public college education, and moving the economy to a level playing field, my heart sang. And I began to believe he had a real chance of winning. In October, I was hired as the first Bernie staff in Northern Nevada and worked in the campaign until shortly after the February caucuses.

I then ran for and was elected to the position of delegate to the national convention to continue fighting on the right side of history. I campaigned on my experience working for Bernie and on a change in me: I had become “Bernie or bust.” I could no longer consider voting for Hillary because I had seen unfairness in the national, state and local Democratic parties mirrored in the way she was campaigning.

Clinton’s debate behavior of ignoring time constraints, her continuing protests that the money she was receiving from mega-corporations would somehow not buy her as president (even though she had already been supporting them through her neoliberal policies) and her ongoing conservative militarism—all these turned me from being able to vote for her.

In the national party, denial of requests for additional debates and disenfranchisement of voters caused concern for Bernie supporters like me. The state party’s dismal behavior at the Nevada convention toward Sanders delegates created many Bernie or Busters. And in several county Democratic Party chapters, I repeatedly saw unethical favoritism toward Hillary.

Despite the majority of mainstream media coverage of the Democratic National Convention as a love fest for Hillary with delegates thrilled about the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party, the convention was marked by dissension, protests and a staunch unwillingness of many Bernie delegates to fall in line with the party’s relentless calls for unified support of Hillary.

I had also been changed by Senator Sanders. At 54, I began to believe for the first time in the sacredness of my power as an American citizen and voter. I began to learn that standing for social justice was not only morally right, but was to be fought for. I began to understand that I would never again chip away at my soul by voting for a lesser evil. I knew from here forward, I would vote only for moral candidates who would fight for justice. In all that, I could never vote for Hillary Clinton.

Day 1: religious corruption

Despite the majority of mainstream media coverage of the Democratic National Convention as a love fest for Hillary with delegates thrilled about the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party, the convention was marked by dissension, protests and a staunch unwillingness of many Bernie delegates to fall in line with the party’s relentless calls for unified support of Hillary.

On that first day, when we delegates sat in our section a dozen or so rows up from the floor, I thrilled as I saw the vertical Nevada sign marking our area. My soul still hoped for fairness and a way for Bernie to be nominated. And no matter the outcome, I believed the convention would proceed fairly as a platform for both candidates until the nomination Tuesday night would promote only one winner.

Those hopes were drowned by the tone set in, of all things, the opening prayer. “We have an opportunity, oh God,” Rev. Cynthia Hale said, “to give undeniable evidence of our commitment to justice and equality by nominating Hillary Rodham Clinton as our candidate.” As the Hillary delegates began cheering, we Bernie delegates began booing. Shocked, I couldn’t believe the blatancy of this corruption of religion into politics.

2016-07-26-1719 - Tacy Geesaman, Yvette Williams - Convention
Nevada Sanders delegates Tacy Geesaman and Yvette Williams hold handmade signs they smuggled in to the convention reading “Our revolution,” the movement coming out of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Geesaman is also holding a Bernie mask (note the glasses and wild hair).

“The prayer at the beginning soured the entire experience,” Bernie delegate Alexis Salt from Las Vegas said. “We were trying to have an open mind against everything our inner voices were telling us. We were trying to be optimistic. The message [with the prayer] was: ‘This is our house. These are our rules. We’re going to elect Hillary, and there’s not a damn thing any of you can do about it.’ … It was shoved down our throats: ’We’re not even going to pretend we weren’t going to cheat. We’re not going to apologize.’ We knew we were screwed then.”

Day 2: walk out

Despite the stark reality of the slick commercial for Hillary on Day One, Day Two woke me early with excitement and hope. This day would be the roll call vote, the iconic standing of delegates around their state signs, proudly announcing their decisions for their candidates. I had watched this roll call vote for years and never imagined I would participate in such an active way in our nation’s democracy, especially in voting for the best candidate I had known in my lifetime.

We Nevada delegates gathered for our daily morning meeting when we would hear speakers, and the state party would give us logistical information about the day and give us our daily credentials for attending the convention. At the end of this meeting we cast our votes on paper for our candidates.

“The prayer at the beginning soured the entire experience, Bernie delegate Alexis Salt from Las Vegas said. “We were trying to have an open mind against everything our inner voices were telling us. We were trying to be optimistic. The message [with the prayer] was: ‘This is our house. These are our rules. We’re going to elect Hillary, and there’s not a damn thing any of you can do about it.’ … It was shoved down our throats: ‘We’re not even going to pretend we weren’t going to cheat. We’re not going to apologize.’ We knew we were screwed then.”

At the convention, Bernie’s state of Vermont voted last. We Nevada Bernie delegates waited for the senator to play a card we kept hoping he had held until this moment that would somehow reverse the rigging of this nomination for his opponent. Although realism told us he would cede the nomination to her, when it happened, we were stunned. It was as though we were punched in the gut.

A year of fighting for social justice in the Sanders revolution, Bernie turning the nomination over to Hillary, and delegates yelling all around me proved too much. I started sobbing and left the Nevada section. Outside in the convention hallway, I found other Nevada Bernie supporters. We saw a large crowd holding Bernie signs and yelling “Walk out.” As they marched past us, we decided to join them. It was the right thing to do after the corruption, deceitfulness and rigging of this election—after the WikiLeaks documents confirmed our suspicions that this nomination was stolen, not earned.

We protested with others outside the media tent not 200 feet from the convention center. We chanted “The whole world is watching” and “This is what democracy looks like.” We sang “This Land Is Our Land” and gave interviews to reporters from multiple press outlets.

I have likely protested dozens of times in my life for social justice and nonviolence. I have never been frightened before. I was frightened this time, surrounded closely by police, hearing rumors of snipers on the roof, and not knowing what came next. I had worked so hard to get to this convention in volunteering and staff work for Bernie, in campaigning to be elected to attend, in raising money for and paying the balance of nearly four thousand dollars in airfare and hotel charges, and in struggling every moment to support the Sanders revolution and the ideals it stands for against the onslaught of the Hillary infomercial of the Democratic National Convention—and I marched out. I didn’t know if I would be arrested but for the first time in my life stood against my fear of arrest. I didn’t know if I would be barred from the rest of the convention for walking out. I didn’t know whether our fellow protestors and I would return to fight from the inside or protest from the outside.

The next day found me exhausted and needing sleep and food to regain my strength to fight another day. But I had cast my vote for Bernie on that fateful second day. I had done what my conscience called me to do as an elected Bernie delegate.

Day 4: fear and loathing

After my day of rest, I was equal parts ready and filled with dread for the last day of the convention. This would be the day Hillary would speak. I didn’t know how we could find ways to protest her acceptance of the rigged nomination and all the glorifying speeches leading up to that.

No one could miss the message of the Democratic party at the convention—vote for our candidate or the racist, misogynist, unstable, dangerous Republican candidate wins. From Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders and many of each candidates’ supporters, we understand the perilous menace of a Donald Trump presidency. But the party propaganda fails with this hypocrisy: If Democrats believe that defeating Trump is paramount, the party would have promoted Sanders over Clinton. Not only did his rallies draw astoundingly large crowds time and again compared to much smaller and less enthusiastic gatherings for Hillary, but polls have shown for some time that Bernie has a much greater chance of defeating the Republican candidate, and by a wide margin.

At the convention, the party distributed campaign signs supporting Hillary. The previous signs of “Stronger Together” were replaced by “USA” signs. I felt uneasy at this display of patriotism that seemed like fans rooting for their hometown football team. I believe that the good of the whole world outweighs that of any one nation and that what people describe as patriotism is a dangerous slide to an “us versus them” mentality. We should be inclusive, not exclusive. We should not believe in the right and power of our country above all others. It’s too close to xenophobia.

2016-07-25-1728 - Nevada Bernie Delegation - Convention
Nevada’s Sanders delegates posed for a group photo on the first day of the convention. Far left: Adam Stuart Littman. Back row standing: John Geremia. L-R from Geremia: Joe Sacco, Angie Morelli, Sarah Mahler. L-R front row: Alexis Salt, Carol Cizauskas, Tacy Geesaman, Yvette Williams (with Bernie mask).

About a half dozen speakers before Hillary came Gen. John Allen, who voiced an imperialism that scared us and that has been decried as warmongering: “From the battlefield to the capitals of our allies and friends and partners, the free peoples of the world look to America as the last best hope for peace and for liberty for all humankind, for we are the greatest country on this planet. … To those acting against peace, civilization and the world order: We will oppose you. And to our enemies … we will pursue you as only America can. You will fear us.”

We heard other Bernie delegates chanting “No more war” and then the “opposing team” of Hillary delegates thundering over those chants with “USA.” It was darkly eerie. We discussed how it felt Orwellian, like the two minutes of hate in 1984. “Having chants of ’No More War’ attempted to be drowned out by chants of ’USA’ was baffling,” Alan Doucette, Bernie delegate from Las Vegas, said. “To me, USA is a symbol of justice and equality and not warmongering and looking for excuses to go to war. That’s what I want it to be and what it should be.”

We Nevada Bernie delegates joined in the “No More War” chants. Once I began, I couldn’t stop. I felt everything in my being rise up against the nationalistic militarism, which I believed was leading to a frightening path. I needed to do everything in my power in that moment to combat it. Everything I had fought for throughout years of working for social justice and the last year as part of the Bernie revolution for peace poured out of my being. Others tried to quiet me, and I was told I could be evicted, but until my body stopped allowing me to shout for peace with all my might, I would not stop. I could not stop.

After that, I felt defeated and exhausted. We waited quietly, then, for the speakers preceding Hillary’s nomination acceptance. A Bernie delegate from another state surreptitiously gave us Jill Stein signs to hold up during Hillary’s speech. Since Bernie had ceded the nomination, several of us supported the Green Party presidential candidate because of her and the party’s similarity to Bernie’s values. Holding these signs became our final and silent protest.

Busted

No one could miss the message of the Democratic party at the convention—vote for our candidate or the racist, misogynist, unstable, dangerous Republican candidate wins. From Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders and many of each candidates’ supporters, we understand the perilous menace of a Donald Trump presidency. But the party propaganda fails with this hypocrisy: If Democrats believe that defeating Trump is paramount, the party would have promoted Sanders over Clinton. Not only did his rallies draw astoundingly large crowds time and again compared to much smaller and less enthusiastic gatherings for Hillary, but polls have shown for some time that Bernie has a much greater chance of defeating the Republican candidate, and by a wide margin. Couple that with the corruption of the Democratic party revealed most recently in the WikiLeak-ed papers that point to at best a rigged nomination and at worst stolen votes for the Democratic nominee, and many Sanders supporters cannot in good conscience vote for Clinton even to defeat Trump. I am one of those. Other Bernie delegates from Nevada follow their conscience to plead the opposite, while still decrying the bad behavior of the party at the national convention.

I had also been changed by Senator Sanders. At 54, I began to believe for the first time in the sacredness of my power as an American citizen and voter. I began to learn that standing for social justice was not only morally right, but was to be fought for. I began to understand that I would never again chip away at my soul by voting for a lesser evil. I knew from here forward, I would vote only for moral candidates who would fight for justice. In all that, I could never vote for Hillary Clinton.

“It was clear right from the opening ’prayer,’ which expressed political support for Hillary Clinton, that the entire convention was to be a coronation,” wrote staunch Bernie delegate Leroy Pelton, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor emeritus, in a letter to fellow Nevada delegates for Bernie dated Aug. 5. Pelton’s letter eventually grew into a plea for us to consider the consequences of not supporting Clinton as the nominee in order to defeat Trump. He continued, “Sanders delegates, although a very substantial proportion of all delegates, were merely to be used as pawns in the extravaganza. Unity was to be imposed rather than be given space to emerge. … This foolish strategy by the party establishment for organizing the convention’s unfolding predictably prompted a rebellion by Sanders delegates. No one likes to be used. … And why have a faux convention at all, if every last item has already been decided?”

For most Bernie delegates from Nevada, both the national party and the state party are at fault for the disunity coming out of the convention. And it is not just the relative youth and inexperience of many millennial Sanders supporters that leads many Nevada Bernie delegates to that conclusion; seasoned politicians and delegates with years of political experience from Nevada feel similarly.

“It was definitely a very intense experience,” 46-year-old Erin Bilbray, a Bernie delegate and DNC official from Las Vegas, said. “This was my eighth convention. I described previous conventions as Spring Break for Democrats, but this was definitely not that case at all. … It was hard watching so many Sanders delegates who thought the convention was going to be more than an infomercial and watching their realization that’s what it was. I was more disappointed in that I’ve never seen the [Nevada] delegation so separated. I also never saw the state party doing anything to heal the wounds after the bitter state convention. State party chair Roberta Lange certainly was not reaching her hand out to the Sanders delegates.”

With such deep wounds coming out of the state and national conventions for many Bernie supporters, is there a path forward? There is one place I did discover unity at the convention—among the Nevada delegates for Bernie from southern Nevada. I met them all in person for the first time at the national convention, and I couldn’t have felt more welcomed. The collegiality among them and toward me stands in contrast to the divisiveness created by the party. Others among us felt the same.

“Sanders delegates, although a very substantial proportion of all delegates, were merely to be used as pawns in the extravaganza. Unity was to be imposed rather than be given space to emerge. … This foolish strategy by the party establishment for organizing the convention’s unfolding predictably prompted a rebellion by Sanders delegates. No one likes to be used. … And why have a faux convention at all, if every last item has already been decided?”

“I was just so proud of … the Bernie supporters,” Alan Doucette said. “We all have our unique messages but under the umbrella of love and peace. Some endorsed Jill Stein, and some did not. Some supported Hillary, and some will not support Hillary. Within the Bernie community, I did not feel judged or pressured into any political opinion.”

Let My Country Awake

Let My Country Awake

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

~Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

The Day Democracy Died

July 26th, 2016, the second day of the Democratic National Convention, was the day democracy died.

The shunning of Bernie supporters continued from within the state and all around. Bernie turning the nomination over by acclimation to the Corrupt One and the vitriolic yelling surrounding me proved too much, and I started sobbing. I had to leave our seats. Providentially, I found Christine Kramar and Leslie Sexton right outside in the hallway. I fell into their arms, and we group-hugged. Also providentially, we then saw the huge crowd yelling “walk-out” as they marched passed us in solidarity. The three of us decided on the spot to join them. It was the right thing to do after the corruption, deceitfulness, and rigging of this election (the “coup”). Since I had the credentials, I ran back inside to let our Bernie Nevada delegation know of the walk-out in case anyone wanted to join us. Of the ones there at the time, Alexis Salt, Tacy Geesaman, and John Geremia walked out with Christine, Leslie, and me.

We then protested with the others outside. We sang “This Land Is Our Land” and gave interviews to multiple press outlets there. We stood in solidarity. Then Shawna Heffernan from National Nurses United joined us, and we decided to march away to the protest in FDR Park. We met Jill Stein in our subway car, and I had a good conversation with her.

Once above ground, we saw the protest ahead was cornered into what looked like a trap for arrests. So we sat that out at a tiny Philly cheese steak diner and talked with non-delegates about what happened at the convention, including the shameful Nevada state convention. Then my husband, Donald Prather, joined us.

We then decided to go home, as it was quite late and everyone was exhausted. (And as far as I know, the arrest trap still existed.) We were dripping sweat from the intense heat and I was feeling faint from many hours without food and little water. Don and I tried to eat at the TGIF in the hotel and were never served or waited on. After 15 minutes of being ignored, we walked out. I went to bed in great exhaustion, pain, and hunger.

I finally had breakfast food this morning and met up with other staunch Bernie supporters in our delegation. They had attended our morning meeting when we get credentials and updated us on the continuing dismissiveness from the state party of not understanding (or pretending to not understand) why their treatment of Bernie delegates and supporters has been continually non-uniting and corrupt – that dismissiveness despite the voices of protest from our staunch Bernie delegates attempting to explain.

I am completely exhausted and need a day to sleep, eat, relax and try to regain my strength for returning to the Hillaryfest tomorrow. I did cast my vote for Bernie and have done what my conscience has called me to do as an elected Bernie delegate. The conscience was always there, and Bernie gave me the strength and courage finally to stand up for what I believe and to speak out about injustice to others and to those of us who steadfastly believe in Bernie’s revolution of social justice. That strength and courage to follow my conscience is why I have worked hard for Bernie for so long now, why I ran for Bernie delegate, why I will not vote for Hillary (but will vote for Jill Stein if she makes it onto the Nevada ballot or else “none of the above”), why I voted for Bernie in yesterday morning’s paper ballot of convention delegates, why I walked out and protested yesterday, why I gave interviews to the press, and why today I know I must rest to go on to fight another day.

I thank all of you who truly follow your conscience and do not act out of ego but out of love, whether you agree with my views or not. I thank all of you who are sending love and support across so many, many miles. I thank all of you who believed in me to vote for me for Bernie delegate from Nevada’s second congressional district. I thank all of you who believed in me to contribute to my fundraiser to get to Philly. I thank all of you who are praying and sending love and good vibes. Bernaste. The revolution has only just begun.

See this Politico video of the walk-out and protest on Tuesday from the convention: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpolitico%2Fvideos%2F10153699972661680%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>Via Politico: Hundreds of Bernie Sanders protesters stage a walkout at the Democratic convention after Hillary Clinton is selected as the party’s nominee for president.

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Bernie delegates singing “This Land Is Your Land” while locked out of the media tent at the convention during the walk-out protest. Bernie delegates who walked out ahead of us marched into the media tent and were locked in at first. Front row L-R: Bernie supporter Leslie Sexton from Nevada, Bernie delegate Carol Cizauskas from Nevada. Second row between Sexton and Cizauskas L-R: Bernie delegates Alexis Salt and Tacy Geesaman from Nevada. Tuesday, 26 July 2016. Democratic National Convention. Wells Fargo Convention Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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