Celebrating Earth Day

By Claudia Hackney, ACE Steering Committee Member

On April 22, 1970, Earth Day was born, an idea conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who had a goal to move environmental protection “permanently onto the national political agenda.”


Reflecting on 50 years of Earth Day last year in the March/April 2020 Sierra Club magazine, this quote caught my eye. “Since then, the influence of Earth Day has waxed and waned; at times it had seemed little more than an occasion for corporate greenwashing. But the fieriness of the first Earth Day remains like an ember within the original idea.”


Like many ambitious ideas, what is intended at its beginning is not always how future efforts, or celebrations for that matter, end up. Anything that lasts for fifty-one years as Earth Day has is going to morph over time and not always in ways true to the original concept. But it has persisted.


I was an idealistic suburban high school kid on that first Earth Day. Details have faded, but I do remember driving with friends to Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. It was an impulsive decision, not much like me. The day was just beautiful, with one of those gorgeous spring-time blue skies. There were a lot of people, all kinds of people, and the energy was exciting. There were many speakers, not all of whom could be heard clearly, but they sure held everyone’s attention. People were sitting and standing on the grass (and smoking it, as well!). It was the first time I ever smelled pot.


Like the influence of Earth Day, my focus on it has also waxed and waned over the years, although some threads kept running through—a persistent, and some of my friends and family might say, irritating insistence on the importance of recycling.


Environmental justice and climate change are where my interest and energy are expended these days, and I am grateful for the new ideas, energy and refocus of generations coming up. After all, they are the ones who will be living in the world that results from our efforts to save this beautiful and one-of-a-kind planet. There is so much to learn from climate activists all over the globe, including pointing out where efforts have strayed from something that was intended to be multiracial and incorporating more than a little of the idealism of the civil rights and anti-war movements.


What can we do? We can focus our attention and intentions in the direction of things like: good energy jobs, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) being a current example; working to reduce carbon emissions in an effective and equitable way by supporting efforts like the Citizens’ Climate Lobby; and by educating young and old about the importance of conservation in all its many guises, including encouraging and not squelching the enthusiasm and ideals of our youth.


I am hopeful, but not naïve, that what we do now can truly make a difference. If Earth Day does nothing else (and I hope it does much more), once a year we can turn our sights and focus our actions into taking care of Mother Earth. I think she would like to be healthy and able to take care of us, her children, well into the foreseeable future.


Claudia Hackney is a retired IT desktop support professional. A member of the ACE Environmental Committee, she helped organize our September 2019 panel, which included members of the DuPage Clean Energy Coalition and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Claudia also spearheaded the Meatless Mondays Initiative and is a member of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, as well as the League of Women Voters-Naperville. She also volunteers at the First Congregational Church-UCC in Naperville.

Finding Redemption and Healing for Our Unfinished Nation

By Beverly George, ACE Founder

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just’ is isn’t always justice.”
— Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb” written for and recited at the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on January 20, 2021.

That’s what Amanda Gorman said. However, this is what I heard.

“. . . and the norms and notions of what ‘just is’ isn’t always justice.”

Just a small change in punctuation and meaning, yet that tiny difference triggered a memory for me from about 70 years ago.

I was born in 1946 and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, before it was the big cosmopolitan city it was becoming when we moved away in 1977. The first house I remember was a small red-brick home in an area called Morningside, which was mostly comprised of houses built by and for veterans just after World War II under the GI Bill. It was—and still is—a pretty residential area of the city. I had an older brother, Mike, and my parents owned one car, a 1948 Nash. We had a good life, and we lived securely in early suburban white privilege in a very southern city.

I recall going downtown on the city bus with my mother when I was very young, maybe five years old. I watched black riders get on the bus, pay their fares, and walk directly to the back of the bus to take their seats, even when empty places were available near the front. I asked my mother why they did that, and her answer was something like, “That’s just the way things are.” The Jim Crow laws had been the bedrock of southern life for decades by the time she was born, so her answer was tragically accurate.

What I heard in Amanda Gorman’s poem, “ . . . what just is,” brought back that memory so clearly. “Just” in this thought is an adverb, and it means “exactly.” What exactly is.

Looking back at Jim Crow laws in the early 1950s, “what just is” was horribly unjust.

Look again at what Amanda Gorman wrote and said:

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just’ is isn’t always justice.

Gorman is speaking in the present about our 400-year history of justice applied so consistently and yet so unequally and inequitably—in every era—to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, and today it still ends tragically in the death of another George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Trayvon Martin. Furthermore, and too often, no one is held accountable in our criminal justice system for these deaths.

Isabel Wilkerson came to the College of DuPage (COD) several years ago to talk about her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns. It is her story of the Great Migration of Black Americans from the Jim Crow South beginning just after World War I and ending in the early 1970s. In her presentation at COD, she said something that I found jarringly clear and true. I’m paraphrasing her here, so bear with me. I remember her saying something to the effect of when “one group works so hard to hold another group ‘down in a ditch’ socially, economically, and legally, the first group has to climb down into the ditch to hold the subordinate group there.”

I’ve just finished reading Wilkerson’s second book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. In it, she lays out a convincing argument that America, India, and Nazi Germany all have had distinct caste systems during their national histories, and the only country “in recovery” is Germany. The United States and India are still mired in the suffocating, toxic, lasting effects of their caste systems.

Cast: in a play, portraying characters to deliver the same story over and over.
Cast: of plaster of Paris, to heal a broken bone.
Caste: legally defined social strata we’ve seen—and still see—in societies.

Cast. Cast. Caste. They all have an unchanging quality, a stifling rigidity.

Our history from 1619 to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter—it’s exhausting, dark, and dirty living in that damned ditch, and it’s time for all of us to climb out.

Illinois HB 3653, the criminal justice reform bill, is a start, written to lift us and our criminal justice system out of this American ditch. The story of what we do today will become the history we read about and reflect on tomorrow. Let’s turn the page.


ACE Founder Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Previous Speak Out Posts

Timeline of Events Triggers Hard Questions on the Coup Attempt on January 6

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, a group of Americans took control of the U.S. Capitol Building for several hours, blocking the function of our Congress as it met to certify electoral votes from the November 3, 2020 election.

I suffer from insomnia occasionally, and it came as no surprise when I tossed and turned that night. Did anyone sleep well?

I woke around 2:30 a.m. and read the news and found the daily Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson, professor of history at Boston College. After reading her essay, I read the early morning Washington Post article reviewing the January 6 events with time stamps. The timeline troubled me greatly, even though I had watched the TV coverage all day.

Between the two sources, here’s what I found. NOTE: All times are EST.

11:33 a.m.: President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd and lies about having won by a landslide and that the election was stolen from them. He invites supporters to walk with him to the Capitol. However, he returns to the White House at 12:59 p.m. while they make their way to the Capitol. At some time in the middle of the day, Rudy Giuliani speaks to the crowd and says “Let’s have trial by combat.”
12:05 p.m.: Congress meets in joint session to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Dozens of Republicans are present to object to counting the submitted Electoral College votes from Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and other states.
12:10 p.m.: Vice President Mike Pence says he will not intervene to change the election outcome.
12:45 p.m.: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warns overturning Biden’s election would put our democracy into a “death spiral.”
12:46 p.m.: GOP members object to Arizona’s electoral votes for Biden.
12:49 to 12:54 p.m.: More GOP members object and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urges the Senate to accept the electoral votes, which reflect the voters’ decision.
12:55 p.m.: Republican National Committee headquarters is evacuated over “suspicious package,” according to the Washington Post. Hours later—at 2:58 a.m. on January 7—Heather Cox Richardson reports “police found two pipe bombs near the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., as well as a truck full of weapons and ammunition, and mobs gathered at statehouses across the country, including in Kansas, Ohio, Minnesota, California, and Georgia.”
1:17 p.m.: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks and defends his challenge to Biden’s win in Arizona.
1:34 p.m.: Trump lashes out at Pence while his supporters breach U.S. Capitol.
1:34 p.m.: House and Senate recess as protesters enter and roam the Capitol.
1:48 p.m.: Washington Post reports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th District) requests deployment of National Guard troops to Capitol. For two and a half hours, the White House, the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security all remain silent, according to Richardson and the Washington Post. During this time, President-elect Joe Biden speaks to the country and urges President Trump to tell his supporters to go home.
4:17 p.m.: Trump issues his video from the Rose Garden, which reiterates his lies about his huge election victory having been stolen and ends with a call to supporters to “go home, we love you, you’re very special.”
5 p.m.: Heather Cox Richardson reports that “by 5 p.m., acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller issued a statement saying he had conferred with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, Vice President Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and had fully activated the D.C. National Guard.” Trump was not mentioned in the statement. This was three and a half hours after the Washington Post reported Pelosi had requested help.
5:46 p.m.: Speaker Pelosi calls for Electoral College certification to continue Wednesday night.
Prior to 7:30 p.m.: custodial staff thoroughly scrubs the Capitol chambers.
7:34 p.m.: Senate reopens with message to get back to work.
8:20 p.m.: Speaker Pelosi brings House back into session.
9:17 p.m.: Senate rejects challenge to Arizona’s electoral votes.
10:15 p.m.: House rejects challenge to Arizona’s electoral votes.
11:01 p.m.: Congress resumes counting votes.
11:03 p.m.: Georgia’s electoral votes certified for Biden after Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) withdraws objection.
11:29 p.m.: House and Senate adjourn to debate objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
11:48 p.m.: Senate rejects challenge to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
2:13 a.m.: House rejects challenge to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
2:46 a.m.: Pence officially affirms Biden’s win.

Heather Cox Richardson reported that, at day’s end, four people had died, at least 52 perpetrators had been arrested, and 14 law enforcement officers had been injured.

Prior to yesterday’s events, the following Trump staff purges occurred.

On Nov. 13, 2020, CNN reported the Trump administration had removed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and four senior civil officials and placed loyalists in their place.

On Nov. 18, 2020, CNN reported Trump’s firing Chris Krebs, Homeland Security’s Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, after he reported there was “no evidence” any voting system had been compromised by deleting, losing, or changing votes. Matt Travis, the number 2 official, also resigned.

All of this begs several questions.

The Capitol Police were quickly overwhelmed by the breach. Why was security so weak? Why weren’t the National Guard troops nearby, ready and on stand-by?

Before January 6, who in the government knew the plans, details, and the extent of this coup attempt? Was the FBI following any noise on the internet? Where was Homeland Security? Trump was tweeting and seeking the support of his followers and had invited them to D.C. for the formerly ceremonial event.

To what extent will the 52 arrested coup members be prosecuted?

What future in American politics will Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and new Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) have? Remember their names.

This was the first time in our history the Capitol was breached by American citizens. I feel both anger and sadness and the resolve that this must not happen again.

Sources


https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/06/congress-electoral-college-vote-live-updates/

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/january-6-2021

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/10/politics/pentagon-policy-official-resigns/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/17/politics/chris-krebs-fired-by-trump/index.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-2020-election-results/2020/11/06/932376507/trump-dumps-3-agency-leaders-in-wake-of-election


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

A Fair Tax for Illinois and Illinoisians

Now that the Fair Tax will be on the November 2020 ballot, here are a few things you should know.

 

By Beverly George,
ACE Leader

 

On May 14, I attended a Fair Tax Town Hall in Palatine with former State Sen. Daniel Biss presenting strong arguments for the amendment. Biss used a slideshow presentation prepared by the Responsible Budget Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance of 300 organizations across several different sectors, including human services, health care, civic organizations, pre-K through 12, higher education, and faith communities. A math professor, Biss was thorough in his explanation of the Fair Tax and how it would affect Illinois.

His presentation included the following points:

  • a review of how Illinois’ economy got into this budget hole over many years;
  • why the Flat Tax is unfair in structure and application to Illinoisans, as well as being a constitutional albatross around the state’s economic neck;
  • a comparison of the current Flat Tax structure and formula with tax plans used in other states;
  • how the Fair Tax would affect Illinois taxpayers; and
  • how the proposed Fair Tax would be a positive step forward in turning Illinois’ fiscal ship of state around.

Here is the slideshow. Please read and study the numbers for yourself. FairTax.final

How the Illinois economy got this way

From FY2000 to FY2019, there were several years when the state tried to operate without any budget. This overlapped in part with a period when the country was in a recession, so what was bad to begin with became worse over time. Like a family experiencing a job loss, a rising cost of living, and unpaid bills, routine but necessary maintenance projects, such as infrastructure, went undone as well. One slide shows how critical services lost significant funding from 2000 through 2019.

The Flat Tax as both a fiscal and constitutional albatross on the state’s economy

The Flat Income Tax was written into the state constitution in 1970 as a means to raise revenue. At that time, it seemed like a good idea to the legislators to tax all citizens at the same rate, but in 1970 the economic disparity between the lowest income earners and the highest income earners was far, far less than it is today.
Fast forward 49 years and times have changed, more funds are needed to pay down debt and deliver services. However, to raise more money, the general assembly can only raise the Flat Tax rate with the same rate falling across the backs of rich and poor alike.

How the Fair Tax will affect Illinoisans

Wait! It’s not alike at all, you say. Raising the tax rate 0.5 or 1% would be felt more acutely by the working poor through the middle class. Most Illinois taxpayers believe the top earners (over $250,000 per year) should pay a higher rate, and earners making $1M or more per year, should pay an even higher rate. The Fair Tax will increase income tax on the top 3% of Illinois earners and also provide some modest income tax relief to the bottom 97% who earn less than $250K per year.
Seven states have no state income tax, eight states have a Flat Tax policy, and only four mandate a Flat Tax in their constitutions. The federal government, the remaining states, and the District of Columbia all have graduated tax laws.

In those states that have a flat tax without the constitutional mandate, if voters want to raise revenue by moving to a graduated tax formula, they can vote for candidates running on the promise to enact that policy and bring change by election. However, in Illinois, voters wanting change and/or candidates promising change are ineffective because the Illinois constitution has to change with a new tax amendment.

Here’s the two-step process for change to the Fair Tax:

1. With a vote of 60%, both the state senate and house must pass a resolution to put it on the ballot for November, 2020. (Done.)
2. Once it’s on the ballot, we need 60% of voters to vote in favor of the ballot question, or, because many voters arrive uninformed on resolutions and choose not to vote on them at all, we need more than 50% of the people who vote to vote in favor of it.

And finally, the resolution will propose both the graduated tax structure and that it no longer be constitutionally mandated.

Finally and most importantly, if it gets on the ballot, we all have to sell it. This is a good plan. There will be plenty of money spent to defeat the Fair Tax, and the anti-Fair Tax messages will be false, intimidating, creative—perhaps even ridiculous—persistent, and ubiquitous.

So engage, get informed, and speak out.

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

The #MeToo Movement and the ERA

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

There has been a cacophony of “Me, too!” cries recently from scores of women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace by men in power.

On October 5th, Harvey Weinstein began the long parade of powerful men in business, entertainment, and politics losing their jobs, with more men getting their marching orders every day. The range of odious behavior directed to women begins with inappropriate, rude, or crude comments or actions, and extends to lewd or criminal behavior.

While I am pleased to see the spotlight shine on these heinous acts, I have some nagging thoughts.

First, what about the victims of sexual harassment or assault from a less famous employer, such as the manager of the local corner store, restaurant, manufacturing plant, or car dealership? Will these victims have the courage to tell their stories, or will they fear losing the jobs they desperately need? Will these men be held accountable?

Second, I’ve read about the standing procedure for making a complaint of sexual abuse in the Congress and in other high offices. In the past, victims have received financial settlements, but at the very high personal price of signing non-disclosure agreements so ironclad, the offenders’ names can never be disclosed, enabling them to continue their illicit behavior. I resent mightily that my tax dollars are used to pay the settlements and keep the cloak of secrecy in place while the wheels of these crimes roll over additional victims.

 

‘I resent mightily that my tax dollars are used to pay the settlements and keep the cloak of secrecy in place while the wheels of these crimes roll over additional victims.’

 

Third, the repercussions for an assailant in business is immediate and severe as it should be, but politicians spend a lot of time denying (even with multiple, credible victims) and then dithering. They seem to get a pass if they can ride out the 72-hour news cycle that immediately follows. And when they deny strongly and continuously, many of their female supporters join their cheerleading squad! When I see Alabama women support Roy Moore in spite of the numerous accusers, I am completely dumbstruck. Moore’s incongruous support from women makes me brace for a backlash after the initial, wide support for victims.

Fourth, I worry the emphasis in the media will shift from the deep and enduring harm done to the victims by these predators, to the perceived-as-too-harsh penalties paid by them. Could we hear this statement in the not-so-distant future? “He lost his job, his business, his reputation, his family, his position in the community.” This could backlash into silencing the victims again. And if one, just one, woman’s story is found to be false, the backlash to women will be immediate and acute, and all future testimonies will be discredited with doubt and a suspected “woman scorned” motivation.

I’ve heard TV pundits say we need to keep the conversation going and try to find the elements in our culture that have promoted, or at least allowed, the prevalence of sexual abuse by men in power to grow.

I believe America has a very real caste system. It is a part of American society or culture that people of color and people of lower economic income are valued less than their white or wealthier neighbors. I see it in the prosecution of our laws, differences in public education systems, low minimum wage, investments in community infrastructure, and recent legislative efforts to lessen or remove critical social services from those most in need.

Does this devaluation of some American lives extend to women in America? The evidence indicates it does. American women workers still earn $0.80 on the dollar for the same work done by men. Recent GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA had men writing the legislation to determine and limit reproductive health choices for women. The legislation they wrote without any women’s voices effectively categorized women as chattel. The sexual abuse of women in the workplace is just another symptom of the inequality of women.

 

‘Would passing the ERA change the status of women?’

 

Would passing the Equal Rights Amendment change the status of women? I’m a realist, as well as a feminist, and I believe positive outcomes from adding the ERA to the U.S. Constitution would evolve through the courts, albeit slowly. However, passing the ERA would immediately raise hope, raise voices, and give power to women, and the men who support them, to secure their equal rights under the Constitution. The ERA would have a greater and more lasting effect on women’s lives than any single or multiple pieces of legislation, too often diluted by subsequent efforts to repeal, to revise, or to interpret differently from the original intent.

Passing the ERA into Constitutional law is long overdue. When women are securely equal to men under the Constitution, more of them will be empowered to advocate for themselves in the workplace and not just on the subject of salary.

May the chorus of #MeToo play on.

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.