Day 25: The Children of Fatima

Jacinta, Lucia and Francisco.

Recently two of the children of Fatima were canonized by Pope Francis, and since I’d never known their story I dug in a bit. I found it unexpectedly generative, a word I once heard used in a writing workshop, and which has remained so useful to me. Finding a pocket of generativity (a word? it is now) is a gift.

Very briefly: in 1917, three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, aged 11, nine and seven, experienced multiple apparitions of Mary. During one, they were given “three secrets” about world events yet to come. Two of the children died shortly thereafter in the influenza epidemic; the third lived to the age of 97, and is expected to be canonized herself soon.

I’m not Catholic, nor a venerator of saints or of Mary. I don’t know how to explain the children’s (and the bystanders’) visions, or to vouch for their veracity or lack thereof. What’s generative to me here are the layers of hope and bravery and poverty and powerlessness, of personality and doggedness and culture and openness; and the similarities and differences between, and intersections of, faith and truth.

What does that have to do with politics? Nothing and everything.


The Children of Fatima

When you returned from the brown fields
with dust in your hair and your child hands grimy
from sheep and from play
and told your story, they laughed.

You told it again and they sighed.
You told it again and they screamed.
You told it again — out came the rod.

When you told it again, they called the priest;
then you told it again and they called the mayor;
then you told it again and they kidnapped you
and said they would boil you in oil
and carried you off one by one.

You told it again and they bombed you
you told it again and they gassed you
you told it again and they disappeared you
you told it again and the assassin raised his rifle

you told it again and you died alone

and as you told it again
the people crept close
mutely raising their sick, their dying
the sun was dancing
and
you told it again


I’m writing 100 days of resistance. Posts begin here.

Day One: A Habit of Resistance

This past Saturday was Trump’s 100th day in office. Today is May Day, 2017 (or it was when I began writing). For the next hundred days, I’ll be writing about resistance, mine and others’. More properly, I will be writing resistance.

In the past, I haven’t been good at daily. But I’m making a public commitment.

And I’m making another one: if Trump is still in office in one year, on May Day, 2018, there will be a massive protest, and I will help organize it.

I thought there should be one this year — and there was, the Day without Immigrants. Also, the Democratic Socialists organized traditional May Day workers’ rallies. But, in a year — if it’s necessary, which I think it will be, since solutions to this emergency move slowly — I envision something much different: I envision all of America pouring into the streets, and life coming to a standstill, and the entire country saying with one voice that must be obeyed, NO.

But before then, much work.

Continue reading

Divided Dems

I was *at* this speech of Bernie’s–the “identity politics” one.  The minute he uttered his now-infamous answer during the Q&A, I thought, right on!–and then, uh oh. Not because he’d misspoken, but because I knew those words would get twisted.

The Democrats won’t get anywhere if we don’t get over this Bernie-Hillary divide. The vitriol is extreme on BOTH sides.  Continue reading

Impressions from Philadelphia

I am just back from Philadelphia and the DNC, and I have many thoughts about what I saw, and the arc of this election, and the Democrats.

I wasn’t a delegate, because I have never been enrolled in a party (Massachusetts is an open primary state). I’m not much of a joiner, but am thinking now about affiliating myself so I can start affecting things from the inside. However, I also want to see what happens with Bernie’s movement and with Robert Reich‘s idea of a new third party to form after the election.

(That said, I am now even more suspicious of political parties in general, just like John Adams: Continue reading

NYC Primary Certification: how many affidavit ballots were counted?

(originally appeared on Medium)

Overall, only 25%

I’ve compiled the figures here for public use and reference.

The results of the 2016 New York City Presidential Primary were certified on Friday, May 6, despite an enormous public outcry about the number of people unable to vote or forced to vote via provisional ballot, or, in New York parlance, affidavit ballot. Some of the disenfranchisement was due to “ordinary” problems like broken machines, missing ballots, missing poll workers and late-opening polling places, but the majority was due to people being incorrectly and illegally removed from the voter rolls. Voters in this predicament who went to the polls anyway, or who did not discover their changed status until Election Day, could vote using affidavit ballots, although many were unaware of this right and simply left, and others requested affidavit ballots but were refused them by poll workers.

In spite of all these obstacles, over 120,000 affidavit ballots were cast. The next step in these votes being counted was verification for eligibility. The public was not allowed to witness this sorting process. The ballots that made it through this round of culling were then included in the final vote tally.

These figures are from the New York City Board of Elections Summary, available here. To see the final tallies, go to the “Democratic President Citywide” results for each borough, click on the recap, and scroll to the last page of the document.

In that document, you can also see the results for individual districts — helpful if you happened to be a poll worker on primary day and witnessed the voting firsthand.

Below are the final figures for affidavit ballots cast, and affidavit ballots allowed in final certified tally. Disclaimer: I got my figures for affidavit ballots cast from this NYDY piece, not from my own reporting (those should also be available online somewhere, but they are not included, as far as I can tell, in the Election Results Summary).


Total affidavit ballots cast in 4/19 primary: 121,056

“Eligible” affidavit ballots included in certified final count: 30,058

Percentage of cast affidavit ballots certified: 25% (rounded)


Brooklyn (Kings Co.)

  • Total: 37,214
  • “eligible”: 8,364
  • percentage: 22%

Manhattan (New York Co.)

  • Total: 30,161
  • “eligible”: 8,077
  • percentage: 27%

Queens (Queens Co.)

  • Total: 26,131
  • “eligible”: 5,352
  • percentage: 20%

Staten Island (Richmond Co.)

  • Total: 4,566
  • “eligible”: 429
  • percentage: 9%

Bronx (Bronx Co.)

  • Total: 22,984
  • “eligible”: 7,836
  • percentage: 34%

The affidavit ballot totals for the 2016 primary are almost five times the total that were counted (not submitted) for last contested presidential primary, in 2008, when 26,242 affidavits were counted.

The same source also notes that the affidavit ballots cast were more than a tenth as much as the 1,032,796 regular ballots counted in the initial results.

For an overview of the situation and current developments, I suggest going to the NY Primary Problems and/or Election Justice USA pages on Facebook. Media coverage has been spotty, and MSM, with the glaring prime example of the New York Times, nearly nonexistent. Best sources I’ve found are the New York Daily News and Gothamist. Feel free to include links to other background info on the primary and lawsuits in the comments; I’ll also do this when I can.

If the comments get nasty in any way, I reserve the right to censor. Voter disenfranchisement is not a partisan issue. It’s also not conspiracy theory: what I’m presenting here are facts, drawn from published government documents.

Disenfranchisement — whether by intent or bureaucratic ineptitude — strikes at the heart of democracy. In the United States of America, one’s vote is one’s voice; thus, by this count alone, nearly a hundred thousand people have had their voices taken by the government, which is supposed to be the servant of the public. Again, this is not a partisan issue.

The story is much larger than New York City and these actual existing affidavits. There were far more voters turned away at the polls, statewide, because of illegal voter roll purges and swapped or lost registrations, who did not file affidavit ballots — because they were not aware of their rights, or were misinformed by poll workers. There were also voters who checked their registrations ahead of time, saw that they had been purged or their registration switched, and didn’t go to the polls at all.

Again, please feel free to leave more information in the comments. If you were disenfranchised, please contact Election Justice USA at justice@electionjusticeusa.org.

April 19, 2016

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(Originally appeared on Medium)


“The world has seen no grander movement than that of our Revolution…the people, to a man [sic], were full of a great and noble sentiment. It is marvelous to see how many powerful writers, orators, and soldiers started up just at the time they were needed…all made to unite in the one object of establishing freedom and independence in America.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Two hundred and forty-one years ago today, on April 19, 1775, a man named John Buttrick gave the command for the minutemen of Concord, Massachusetts to fire on British soldiers at the Old North Bridge. The Revolutionary War had already started, several hours before, down the road in Lexington. There had been about eighty Minutemen assembled on the town green, and eight had died. Still, in Concord, they were not to fire unless fired upon, which they were — and so Major Buttrick gave the order, the “shot heard round the world.” Continue reading

The revolution might not be televised. But it will be written. By us.

(Originally appeared on Medium)

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mesa, Arizona. Lines in the evening were around three hours. (Photo: Michael Chow/The Republic)(via Common Dreams)
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mesa, Arizona. Lines in the evening were around three hours. (Photo: Michael Chow/The Republic)(via Common Dreams)

(Update, April 8, 2016: The Sanders campaign is not contesting the Arizona results, even though over 20,000 provisional ballots were thrown out. [Arizona is a closed primary, and the ballots were submitted by people listed as independent, even though many voters claim the county had their registration wrong.]

However, Bernie’s election attorney “is instead considering a federal lawsuit challenging Maricopa County’s election practices, possibly partnering with other concerned groups.” In addition, The Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into whether the county violated voting rights laws.

Meanwhile, a petition to the White House for an Arizona revote is one of the four most popular petitions on whitehouse.gov.)

This is a call to action for all Writers for Bernie, official andunofficial. It’s a call to action for all writers, all speakers, all citizens who believe in our democracy.

Continue reading

Writers for Bernie

My friend Marie Myung-Ok Lee and I have co-founded Writers for Bernie. We can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Medium, with more info on our website. We are beginning with sixty writers, including Jane Smiley, Laila Lalami, Jamie Quatro and Jonathan Lethem, among others. Here is our endorsement:

We believe that America’s founding ideals, along with the very health of our planet, are being eclipsed by corporate interests and institutionalized inequality.

We believe that in order to restore a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, we need a leader who envisions and demands economic, environmental, and racial justice, and that, in 2016, that leader is Bernie Sanders.

As writers, we have based our lives on the power of words. We are astonished that a person who speaks with such consistent integrity, honesty, and moral authority exists in national politics today. He has been fighting for the same humane causes — raising the minimum wage, getting corporate money out of politics, establishing reliable health care for all, protecting American jobs, saving our planet from climate change — for his entire career.

​We believe his ideas are in no way radical or unpragmatic, but instead the course correction we desperately need to save our democracy.

2016 is not a usual political year, but, luckily, Bernie Sanders is not a usual candidate. We endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.