Thursday, September 18, 2014

Weisser to Deliver Opening Remarks at 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam Championships in PHX

OMG, my tremendous good fortune, was to meet Aaron Johnson in 2008 and have him change my AZ life forever. At that point I was a busy happy local poet in the Kingman/Bullhead City area, but he asked me to start performing in the larger AZ circuit and the courage and skills I developed from growing to become a touring poet are at the heart of who I have become as a political figure. Somehow the courage to combine poetry and politics has given this small town rube a tremendous nearly impossible opportunity: I have been asked to give the opening remarks to the world's most elite poetry slam competition. To remember where I started as a scared little scribbler at 14 and decided I would commit to being a poet, no matter what that meant; to see where that faith has brought me--oh my, oh my.

Now this speech won't be delivered until Oct. 8 at the opening ceremonies.

  1. Address: 905 N 5th St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Opening Remarks 2014 iWPS

Poets, bless you. Thank you for coming to save us. My name is Mikel Weisser and it is one of the great honors in my lifetime to be on hand to welcome the world’s finest poets to AZ, to PHX in fact, for this year’s Individual World Poetry Slam championship!
As a poet who has somehow managed to become the democratic candidate for US House of Representatives in Arizona’s Fourth Congressional District, I live my life in the shadow of the famous quote by Shelley about poets being the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
While I do not know if that phrase characterizes the soul of every wordsmith who ever mangled sentence structure so “moon” and “June” could spoon, I do believe that the assembled talent here this weekend, take their mandate quite seriously: if you are going to open your mouth to fill our minds, it better be about something. I am, to say again, humbled to merely be this close to so many legends, so many great entertainers, so many passionate activists. This weekend, Phoenix will hear if we hear the pulse of the universe in the tones our poets bring out. Phoenix let me warn you: it may not be pretty.
Poets, more than many other public bloviators, tend to remember we have an obligation to enlighten and entertain and, in the process, it’s the ugly we exactly need to hear. People don’t always want to allow the ugly to be seen. Sometimes we want to think that poetry is nothing more than window dressing: comparing your lovely to a summer’s day, instead of simply saying she’s hot. And, yes, there’s times when it’s true that’s all poetry needs to be. But these are the worst of times and the best of times and we have seen the best minds of multiple generations dragged through the disasters of human folly and the whole thing made worse, because no one would address the ugly. We can’t change the ugly truths of life by ignoring them, by disguising ourselves and our emotions. We aren’t chameleons, we’re just humans and luckily us all it is the poets that remember this.
Just to be sure we all understand, I’m not just rattling my jaw because I fell off the donkey truck near a place where there’s free food (there’s food right?) I have a Masters in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield and an M Ed in Secondary Ed from NAU and been performing, publishing, and promoting poetry for about 20yrs after writing in my closet for 20yrs before that and I can tell you, based on that considerable experience, there is a whole lot of ugly the world needs to hear about.
There is a tremendous sense of urgency, corruption does not have a curfew. The poor don’t stop starving just because no one hears about it and our childhoods are always being reborn or destroyed anew w every new moment, at least sometimes there’s a poet there to catch us. Poets are willing to reach down deep in their hearts and write w their blood on the page, maybe to satisfy us, mostly to be lost in the din between the stage and where we stand, mere players. But sometimes, pretty or no, the moons align, the thunder cracks and the words of the poet bring light to the darkness of insanity. And whether we think it’s pretty or whether we think it ugly, it’s the poets’ truth that sets us free.
Let us go then, past the question of “Do I dare?”And let these games begin. Ladies and gentlemen of PHX, it is my honor and privilege to be here today, to be in earshot as the greatest poets of the world speak. Thank you for welcoming them, and thank you poets for coming, with your husky brawling voices and your big shoulders to carry the weight of the world. Thank you Aaron Johnson for bringing us all here today.  Thank you for bringing pretty and ugly and everything beautiful. Thank you for letting me listen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Safer AZ Announces 2016 Drive at PHX NORML 9/2/14 (Mikel Weisser)

Safer AZ is pushing to be a functioning political action committee that helps shape marijuana policy in Arizona.

Our constituency is the cannabis community in all aspects of that rather expansive group. As patients ourselves our primary concerns are w patients, of course, but Safer Arizona aims to make marijuana legal for all people in AZ—smokers and vaporizer users, edibles users, folks w cannabis infused health and beauty products. Even more we want to make marijuana safer for the stores that sell marijuana and the attendant industry and boutique businesses that have grown up around cannabis and are all often demonized.

When terminated our 2014 petition drive, we said we would continue to push for marijuana legalization in AZ we quickly decided to develop an understanding of the upcoming MPP effort. Starting in June we began actively working to develop an understanding of MPP’s efforts and sensing them to be sound, pro-marijuana and pro-Arizona, we have begun to promote MPP in the state. This is often a difficult sell because of lingering frustrations w provisions in the AMMA, the problematic campaign that nearly lost the initiative at the very end and the tense relationship that has developed between certain figures associated w the 2010 Prop 203 campaign as well as the hostility between patients and the dispensary industry.
This speech was meant to give the public, both in person and online, an overview of Safer AZ’s view of the upcoming MPP guided campaign.
Feel free to contact me through our normal congressional campaign channels, but also through:
for cannabis related issues. We really are going to legalize it. Join us—

Mikel Weisser
Director, Safer Arizona

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why I LOVE the James Woods for Congress Campaign

Sometimes people ask me why I spend my time trying to change the world. There are so many people with so many problems. What difference can one person make?
Sometimes it is hard to have a snappy reply. In canvassing in my mostly rural, mostly poor district, I encounter all sorts of suffering. While I have great big ideas on how to fix the future, the reality of so many people’s lives cries for help right now. So many people have already given up on ever finding leaders who are even interested in their personal struggles. These days so many people feel that the guys running for office have no understanding of the people’s lives. And, I must admit, working in this field, I frequently see that’s true.
Which is why I want to tell you this story about James Woods, the Democratic congressional candidate in AZ-05. James is challenging AZ GOP heavyweight Matt Salmon.

 I could tell you all sorts of awful things about Salmon and why he needs to be defeated, but this is a story about James Woods, me, and a blind woman in Kingman.
When I first met James Woods and his campaign team, they asked me if I wanted to have some of my business cards printed in Braille. Thinking it a cool novelty, I said yes and gave them about a dozen. They came back w imprinted w Braille dimples, saying “Vote Weisser” or something like that.  It wasn’t an actual translation of all the material on the card, we but everyone agreed that if I should ever run into a blind person they would probably be amazed anyone even took the time to think of them. Months went by and my special cards got mixed in w others and all the sighted people who received one thought they were neat, but like so many other cards, after the moment of novelty wore off, they were tucked away, probably forgotten. Soon the cards were almost gone. I knew that there was someone who would treasure the card, so I kept the last one in a special place in my wallet to make sure I didn’t accidentally give it away.
That’s how I met Bobby. I am going to call her Bobby, anyway.
It was a Sunday and the neighborhood was alive w activity as we canvassed that day. Kids were playing, people were doing their Sunday fix-er-upper chores. At first we thought the house was abandoned, weeds had taken over the yard, trash was stuck there. I knocked anyway, and was just walking away when I heard the door open. I knew right away she was blind. As Bobby stood in the dark door of her house, she tried to explain how hard her life had become. I listened attentively, and took some notes.
. Bobby was a mother, whose kids were teens when she went blind. She had had a functional life--work, friends, boyfriends, fun, the basics we all want out of life. Then it was gone. Here blindness took over her life in the course of a year, she had lost her job, her home and her roommates. When her kids moved on into their own lives, things got even harder. She moved to Kingman to stretch her disability budget and had lived in the shadows of her dark house for years worrying what the rest of the world thought of the shut-in lady in the rundown house. Bobby held back tears when I came to her door, because she knew the yard needed work and she was ashamed. She had tried hiring neighbors before, only to be ripped off to the point she had given up. She had lived this way now for years.
The truth is, we all knew I only had limited abilities to help her. I asked if there was a local office of Center-for-Independent-Living, a national network of disabilities support organizations. Yes, she exclaimed, amazed that a political figure would even know of such things. We talked another few minutes when I remembered the Braille card in my wallet.
“I have something for you,” I said and placed the card in her hand. At first, she started to say she couldn’t read it, but she stopped suddenly when her fingers found the Braille. “Oh my god, what? V-O-T-E W-E-I-S-S-E-R. Oh my god, this is so great. Where did you get it?”
I told her about James Woods and his campaign. “I love that man,” she laughed. We talked another 20 minutes. She brightened a bit and stepped out into the doorway. We discussed ways to get her help for her yard. We talked about politics and in particular James Woods.  When I left I knew that much of this woman’s life would remain a struggle; but witnessing that day’s transformation reminded me of why I do this and why I appreciate James Woods so much.
This was a story of the difference James made in on person’s life with one type of problem, but the James Woods campaign cares about the struggles of all people, especially those in the shadows hoping someone will someday care enough to look in. It’s the kind of vision we need more of these days.

--Mikel Weisser is the Democratic candidate for US House in AZ’s 4th Congressional District.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galling the GOP (Pinal County Gala Speech)

So, it is great to be back here in Casa Grande. I tell you what I appreciate especially, is that you guys already know me, you know the issues, you know Paul Gosar [holds nose].

SO, that means I don’t have to give you guys a traditional speech. Looky here, there are 12 different candidates here who can give you a traditional speech.  So since I only have a few minutes, I am simply going to talk to you about why I am wearing pants.

(Photo Rita Jo Anthony)

Well, these pants, here tonight. [steps from behind podium to reveal blue slacks].  Yep, you’re right, go ahead and take a picture, tell your friends, you saw me out of uniform. Usually I start my speeches saying I didn’t come here to play dress up, but I guess tonight I did, because I am clearly out of uniform. That’s right, the blue jeans and white shirt I usually wear are the same kind of uniform I wore when I was a plumber. Y’all know I was a plumber till I was 35, right? Didn’t learn to type till I was 27, started back to college at 30. That’s why I’m always dressed like a working man, just like a plumber, because when it comes to the GOP, I am STILL having to spend my days dealing w their crap.

And as I have taken on this battle, stayed at it, learned my lessons, taken a few lumps, but kept at it, more and more the Democrats around the state are giving me huge support, massive love. Not always the kind of support I might be looking for, but support none the less.

Take the folks of the Yavapai Democratic Women’s Club for example. Now, I have been crashing these ladies’ luncheons for over two years now. At first, I couldn’t even get some of them to listen to my words because they were so busy staring at my tennis shoes. But as I have grown and they’ve grown to know me, just like you guys, more and more, they’ve come to love my work. Like two weeks ago, I was their feature speaker and, since it was a women’s group, I was talking about the women in my life who’d shaped my politics and we were all crying. Seriously, I was reading through tears; there were five women in the audience just sobbing away. Which I guess is what you want from a speech: when they start crying, you can tell it’s effective (as long as they don’t start crying while you’re telling jokes).

But, anyway, when it was over, and folks were, like sniffing in their napkins and stuff, the first lady to come up to me was all visibly shaken. [moves over to the emcee and leans on him, pretending to be the woman in the story] She goes, “Mikel, that was a great speech. I was so moved. … Can I buy you a haircut?”
[shows off fresh hair cut] See? Pretty nice, huh? 

A couple of days later I am back in Yavapai for their annual picnic. I sing, I dance, I speechify, I bring sound equipment and even stay and help pack up when it was done, and this other little old lady comes up w a bag and says, “Look, I brought you pants!” [shows off pants] Yeah!

Now, that explains how I got the pants, but now let me explain how the pants got here. Don’t give up out there. Bear with me, while I said this wasn’t a traditional campaign speech, it is an actual speech. There will be a point. I’ve almost figured out what it is.

(But just in case you’re interested, now that I’ve got some pants … folks, my shoe size is 10 ½. That's Chuck Taylor model Converse black high-tops, just saying.)

So, turns out that very next weekend, my loyal, trusty old van broke down and the mechanic who has kept it running for over 205,000 miles said, ‘no more highway driving.’ No highway driving? The congressional district is the size of the state of Pennsylvania, you can’t just walk it. 

(Photo Beth Weisser)

How was I going to get the message to the people? I will tell you how: the people, the Democrats, are making sure it happens. People started offering me rides, folks started working with each other to cart me around the state like a package of donkey-flavored whup-ass to make sure the message gets out. I am currently on my fourth campaign trip since being grounded, but thanks to the help of Democrats like yourselves stepping up, I am here with you tonight. THX to people like ourselves becoming part of my campaign, making it their campaign.

The trip to get these pants here to you tonight, Saturday, actually started Wednesday, when LD5 state house candidate using a borrowed vehicle took me to Seligman. There we met the LD1  state house candidate, Frank Cuccia, and we attended a candidate forum. Then he took me the rest of the way to Prescott and deposited me at the house of the local women’s club chair, Toni Denis. Toni then freighted me around Prescott for two days so I could attend the local Democrats’ monthly meeting. Then a Prescott PC, Bill Gaulsow, took me on a 200 mile round trip across the mountains to Payson. In Payson we met the Gila County party chair, Chris Tilley, in time to decorate their float for their annual parade. She fed me dinner and then deposited me at the home 84 old Democrat, Mavis Denofsky. Mavis showed me the flags of the 38 countries she’s visited and I showed her TED Talks. Everybody Wins! Then this morning, your candidate for Corporation Commission, Jim Holway, joined me at the parade, brought me back to PHX where we gathered up his lovely wife, Ms Rita Jo Anthony, and then came on down here so I could enthrall you guys w tales of my pants.

After tonight’s event, the Holways will hand me over to your very own Barb and Maynard Njos, who will get me back to Apache Junction and I’ve worked out a ride from there back to PHX and I will just keep campaigning from there. And that doesn’t even address the way your county officers worked together to make I could get in once I got here, but that’s how this is done. That’s what this takes. So I know by now you can see this isn’t just the story of a pair of pants and this really isn’t even my story. This is the story of all the Democrats along the way who made sure they did their part to get this message out: Tell the Right They’re Wrong. End the GOP tyranny before they destroy us all. Go Team!

This is the story of us all working together on our ideas, our ideals-the people, the demos, working together to make it happen. I can assure you this is not the story of my own self-aggrandizement. There is nothing grand about trying to campaign without a working vehicle, other than the immense love and support I receive. Ask Felecia Rotellini when she's traipsing around the state if she feels grand when she’s about 300 miles into a 500 mile travel day. Ask Terry Goddard, sitting there. His campaign isn’t for his aggrandizement--former PHX mayor, former attorney general, gubernatorial candidate. His career has already pretty darn grand. He’s doing it because he believes in the Democratic cause, because he believes in you. Terry believes in the Democrats that collected his petition signatures across the state and contributed to his clean elections campaign, because he believes in the idea of us, just like I do, just you do, my fellow Democrats.

That’s really what this speech is about: the way your ideals and your efforts are actively, clearly making the difference in this state, whether it’s saving education, conserving water, or protecting Arizonans from the bigotry and BS of the GOP, or whether it is merely moving a pair of pants across state so I could come here and tell jokes about them. Yes, this is a Democratic story, the people, the demos, working together, working to get the message out, fighting to make sure we have a government that works for all the people.
Thank you, Democrats, for making sure I got this chance to tell it.

PS: I am still trying to figure out the trip from PHX to Kingman, if anyone has any suggestions? 

--Mikel Weisser writes from the left coast of AZ  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The "Telling the Right They're Wrong!" Speech for the Meadview Candidate Forum

After two years of telling people I believed in "Telling the Right They're Wrong!" I realized that despite all the sound and fury and the many scenes I have caused trying to do exactly that, that I had never actually written a speech for a mixed or Republican audience. In twelve hours I will be at a GOP dominated candidate forum in extreme rural AZ: Meadview. Here is the speech I hope to give:

My name is Mikel Weisser.
I am the Democratic candidate for US House in AZ’s 4th Congressional District. I’m a native Texan, a former teen runaway. Grew up in a small town near the border of Mexico,  about 15 yrs ago I moved to AZ from Illinois por que yo hablo poquito espanol. I share my humble beginnings because I believe the beauty of the American Dream is that a man can remake himself and make a better world if he tries.

I grew up a working man, 3rd generation construction worker. I didn’t learn to type till I was 27, didn’t really go to college till I was 30, worked as a plumber till I was 35, put myself through college and then grad school working as a carnie, then a homeless shelter administrator. I did freelance journalism part-time and had a political column going for about 25 years. I retired as a social studies teacher a year ago to do this full time. I have two masters degrees, one in English from the University of Illinois and one in secondary Ed from NAU.
Currently, I serve as the executive director and legislative liaison of Safer AZ, the state’s cannabis reform PAC and as a vice chair in the progressive caucus of the Democratic Party. I also sing, play guitar & perform poetry around the southwest.  I love my wife and kids and grandkids and dogs and cats and the beauty and the challenge of living in rural Arizona.
Now that’s a whole lot of biography for a little bitty speech like this, and I want you to understand I understand for many of you, nothing else mattered after I said Democrat. But I been a Democrat since I was en utero and I am especially proud to be a Democrat here in Western AZ.
Some of you may know my campaign slogan is, “Tell the Right They’re Wrong!” I mean that. You don’t have to take that personally, but if you just blindly hate anything Dem, then none of the rest of this will matter anyway.
But yes, that is my belief: I run as a Democrat because I believe the Republican Party has dominated our society, our laws and government since the 60s and their rule has come at a terrible price. The conservative values agenda has wrecked our social life, imperiled us globally and gutted our economy to serve the rich. I don’t care which hometown patriotic values the Right claim to care about, bottom line, they are only serving the corporate interests of their campaign donors. Like the way their economic plans first dismantled Wall Street’s security system, stole everybody’s piggybank and six million people’s homes, stuck you w the bill and then blamed the poor and the struggling to hide their tracks. That’s the GOP, that’s your Republicans.

This is just one example. I could rant all day and not cover all the highlights and I could also not convince you. Just like folks didn’t want to believe that Nixon was a crook, or that Reagan let Iran-Contra happen, or that Bush lied to us about weapons of mass destruction, and millions were killed, and billions squandered and trillions more stolen and much of the world has now turned against us in your name. I know no one wants to believe it; but when it comes to domestic policy, foreign policy and especially economic policy the conservative values agenda have been wrong, dead wrong.
And many those folks will tell you I am the enemy, even call me an enemy to America just for thinking such things. Of course they are the same people who will tell you that I am an enemy because I let my hair grow out sometimes, because I wear jeans and Chuck Taylors, instead of pin stripes and wing tips. Because I don’t think that gays or immigrants are subhuman, because I like to smoke and drink and occasionally cuss.
And so I know that they’re wrong about that, because those things just make me a lot like a lot of the rest of you. So, I would like to talk about the things we could agree on. I know some of you would like to hear some new ideas beyond the same old same old GOP BS.
Like, I believe in educating our children, in roads and solar power. I tell you people, this is Arizona in August, you step outside and you cannot help but believe in the power of solar, just saying.
I believe that my government is NOT supposed to treat me like an enemy, or stick its nose into people’s personal lives. I want the government to stay off of my back and out of my bedroom and as long as I am not trampling on the rights of my fellow man, I want to be free to pursue my own life, my own happiness.
I believe we need to be conservative w our precious natural resources and protect the lives of innocent children, especially after they’re born. I believe in Arizona’s dream of rugged independence, carving out your own vision and honoring your land and your country. I believe in encouraging innovation, I believe we owe something to our children.
 And I very much believe that we live in an extremely dangerous time. Yet with all the problems we face on a global scale, the GOP want to be sure we spend most of our time fighting each other. I believe that America is worth fighting and, when necessary, dying for. But I also believe that it is worth living for. I wish everybody believed that way, then, we really could have a country of, for, and by the people.
Now here are some things many of you will disagree on. Like first that a lot of the messes we face were made by Republicans and they lie and wave a flag in front of us expecting everyone to go along. Look at the last 40yrs of American history, especially in this state. Who’s been in power? So who’re the folks to blame?
Look at the way Carter, Clinton and Obama were treated, even though greatly different presidents, they all get attacked the same way, relentlessly, insanely. I think they waste our time w this nonsense, I think they squander our money, I think they don’t solve the problems we hired them to fix because they’re too busy slinging mud and begging for money. When Obama got elected, Mitch McConnell, famously said his goal for the next four yrs was to obstruct Obama’s efforts and tell me what else have they really done lately, except become very good at wasting our time and money?
I also don’t believe that the immigrants are the cause of America’s problems anymore than they were when my grandparents were immigrants 100 yrs ago. They were also poor, uneducated and didn’t speak English.
I don’t believe that someone’s right to be a religious fundamentalist extremist trumps women’s right to make their own reproductive choices.
I don’t believe that government services make us weaker; that tax cuts create jobs; that every Democrat is after your guns; or, that the 80 yr prohibition on marijuana has ever been anything but a fraud and a crime against the American people, people like yourself and your children.
And I tell you what I do believe in: I believe in jobs: in education, in construction, in innovation, and in tourism and rural development. I believe we need to address the refugee crisis on our border, but we have to treat immigrants as people and children as children. I believe corporations are not people and their rights are not superior to the rights of actually humans and that we need a Constitutional Amendment to solve that problem once and for all.
 I also have proposals on issues like rural solar electrification and water reclamation. I am one of the shapers of the state’s marijuana laws and have proposals to stop the federal prohibition the same way we are dismantling AZ’s private prison pipeline.
There are so many things we could agree on. There are so many issues the right will never work on for you and there is only so little time to act before they drive the country over the cliff again. I know that many of you have been true believers in the GOP for a long time. But am I asking the honorable people in the audience to think about what they’re doing, the way they act, who the Republican Party has become and ask yourself, does the GOP really represent you these days?

I hope you’ll say, “No!” I hope you’ll join my fight.  
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of az.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yavapai Democratic Women's Club Speech on Gender Issues

How I Learned About Gender Issues

So, I asked Toni if I could speak about gender issues when I came here. I say gender issues because to me, sexual inequality, for women, for the LGBT community, has forever been a central issue in humanity and in the past 150 yrs or so has finally gotten some air time on the political stage. You know it took women 72 yrs to get the right to vote back in 1920. Seventy-two yrs! It was that difficult for the minds of men to comprehend treating women as equal, treating everyone as equal, was a reasonable idea. But you know men. There was a lot at stake. When you are the dominant force in society, treating others as equal means giving up power.
 In communication theory, they talk about the concept of “the other.” The Other is someone outside the approved group, someone it is OK to pick on, to marginalize, to ignore, to exploit. The other is always mysterious and not part of the community of the “understood.” Being mysterious, the Other always provokes distrust and suspicion. Essentially unknowable, or supposedly so, the Other’s methods are concerning, their intentions suspect, and their hidden savagery and selfish intention always a given. Because of this,the Other is forever being attacked. They’re ripe for subjugation, they must be controlled, kept away for the switches of power. It is for everybody’s own good if we define them and keep them in their place.
Now I tried to write this to make you think of the way the mainstream looks at, say Muslims, or marijuana users, the poor, the pagan, sundry brown-skinned people of varying ethnicity or, most recently, Guatemalan teen-age immigrants, but you know I am talking about the way society, meaning our male-dominated society, treats women and the LGBT community.
Now I know I do not have to tell you about what it is like to be marginalized in your own society. If we are dealing w stereotypes here then I am the stereotype oppressor: a hetero old white guy. I only know stories of women’s lives, you guys live them.  I don’t need to tell you about the grand or the everyday struggles of being a woman, a mother, or a daughter in a society that presents women as a commodity to be consumed and a social force needing to be corralled, nearly 100 yrs after women got the vote and the idea of equality, but it’s not reality yet. Though I myself have never been a woman, I can plainly see that. Though I have been a man, a father and a son and intimately and socially involved w women my whole life. Heck, I like women so much I used to live in one.
But seriously. Women’s issues in specific are not something I will ever know from the inside out as it were. But I can tell you about some of the women I’ve known, the things I’ve seen them face. My mom, Patsy Ann Perrodin, was a nightclub singer. She never quite liked being thought of as a  “Patsy” and changed her stage name to Pattie Weisser when she married my step-dad, a rough and tumble hard drinking electrical contractor literally named Bud Weisser. But before they met I was raised by a single mom, who shaped my life more than she lived to know
She kept a professional music career going for nearly 20 yrs despite being in and out of the hospital repeatedly for umpteen surgeries, even as the world of live music was leaving her style behind. She made sure I understood that politics was important, that the world operated in ways we must pay attention to or else the powers that be will take care of their own wants at our expense. We championed Martin Luther King. We cried when Bobby died, opposed the war in a part of the US where it was not safe to do so, and watched the Watergate hearing together intently in the summer of ’73.
She quietly overcame a mountain of medical complications that repeatedly halted her momentum as a performer, constantly reinventing herself, a writer, a painter, a small-town, small-time business woman. When I returned from being a teen runaway, we went to college together. My dad fought against it. He needed a ditch-digger; but she persisted and we went to school, 40 miles each way for my first semester back into quote real world after living on the road. Her health dropped off and dropped her out of school at some point in our second semester; and my early taste for misadventure derailed me before too long. But that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell you about her.
When I was very little, she spent some time in a mental hospital. As you can guess, when she returned, to my little baby’s mind, she seemed a superhero to me and I really never changed in my mind after that. In my childhood, in her youth, she lived her life a star. But my mom’s ancient local celebrity isn’t the point here. The point of the story here is I remember her being afraid … and taking on the world anyway. I mean she literally sang for our supper in a time when working in a nightclub made her a marked woman. She focused on her gifts. She focused on her hope and never stopped; and those are skills that men do not teach each other.
So, I honor women’s issues because I honor my mom. I also fight for women’s issues at least as intently to honor my surrogate mom during my teens, Susanne Nicholson, a take-no-nonsense Viet vet nurse who was way more butch than most drill sergeants. She fought for every activist issue you could imagine in the early 70s and for about five yrs lived w us while she worked as a social worker and put herself through college at Pan American University in Edinburg, TX same nearby college my mom and I would go to. Later when she went onto grad school,  in the booming city of Houston where she got her doctorate in gerontology, I got to spend summers w her and see what the world outside my tiny town of five thousand was like.
Later, Suzanne returned to Edinburg to create nutritional programs for nursing home in South Texas, I got to live w her and actually be a student on the campus where’d I’d spent my teenage summers. It was a dream come true … for a couple of semesters then I moved on and that is a whole other story but, it was Suzanne who introduced me to the politics of gender equality in a way my mom never could. Suzanne was a buzz-cut butch. This was back in the 70s, back in the day when the straight culture, especially the rural straight culture, had no qualms about being openly hostile to gay culture. This was in a time when stories like Matthew Sheppard were routine.
Once she moved away from Raymondville, TX, Suzanne immersed herself in the suddenly emerging LGBT culture and she showed me that being LGBT, though a rich culture, was more than a whim. Much more than the ridiculous messages my pop culture was telling me at the time. In some cases it is a biological imperative, in all cases it was a battle against a society that has no qualms about marginalizing and even killing the LGBT, the queer, the weirdo. I know about that first hand as well, remind me to tell you sometime about surviving my very own gay-bashing, but that is a different story.
Yes, Suzanne gave me so much and taught more than me about acceptance of gay culture. After I moved on, she continued to help and house other awkward youth. Later on when she died , she and her partner were together at home. They had to be. Lesbian couples were not allowed together in hospitals back then. No wonder she taught me to fight. She was the person who taught me that feminism wasn’t just a lesbians’ issue or a woman’s issue. Gender equality frees straight males from sexual stereotypes just as well. Making sure all children are wanted, get health care, get educated, get loved, these aren’t just women’s issues, female stereotypes, these are the values that make life worth living. These are the values we want from good government. Feminism or no, these values matter more than who has the biggest army, or has accumulated the most wealth.
So, when Suzanne told me about the development of the battle for the ERA and the development of NOW, I had no hesitation wearing a NOW pin to college and that is why I met the 3rd person I work to honor, my late wife Lisa Weisser. In that redneck time in South Texas a young man who would go to college w his mom and wear a NOW pin was pretty rare.  Let’s see, on that campus there was probably … me.
A 20yr Montessori teacher till mental health issues took her life, Lisa Weisser was also a life-long liberal, a feminist, peace activist, secularist, environmentalist, and educator; but she was always troubled. In and out of mental hospitals her whole life, at one point she chose to have an abortion rather than bring a 2nd child into her unstable world. It wasn’t a decision I loved, but she was the woman I loved and it was entirely her body. It was a hard choice, but we never doubted it was hers to make. And I still believe that, as Roe v Wade declared, until a fetus is viable, the life of the mother is the primary concern. I certainly believe that standard safe medical abortion is not murder, and neither is birth control. Birth control is the essence of responsibility. Even more importantly access to safe birth control is the best way to curb abortion and men who try to limit it, are trying to use your own ovaries as chains.
And I have to wonder, being a man and knowing how men think, I have to wonder if the religious rush to illegalize abortion and even prohibit access to birth control is about controlling your ovaries, or controlling your vaginas. I wonder, the way some male dominated cultures, some religiously dominated cultures veil women and shame them for the lustful thoughts men don’t want to take responsibility for having, for hateful actions they explain away as lust. And that’s actually the story I want to tell you about Lisa Weisser and what happened when she was raped once in a mental hospital. I don’t want to tell you about the rape. That is an awful story.
I want to tell you what happened afterward. I want to tell you how, when we discovered the state of Illinois’ budget cut for mental health operations led directly to dissolving the sexual predator ward at the state mental hospital and sending a serial rapist to a unit full of the easy victims, the depressed and the medicated, she fought back against the stupidity in a way she could not fight back against her attacker. When she discovered a bureaucratic decision to save a dime and cut the quality of a government service led directly to her rape and others we found, she filed a landmark lawsuit for placing budget above human concerns. She fought that lawsuit for the rest of her life. And in the end, the State of Illinois was found liable for negligence and endangerment. And the state hospital system changed back to a system that put patient safety first and not nickels and dimes. The case only took 14 yrs. Lisa only lived 11 of them.
I don’t have to tell you the details of this story. You can actually read them in a series of articles in Springfield, Illinois’ Illinois Times.  And it is somewhat unfair that I am not telling you stories of Beth Weisser, my wife for the past 8 yrs, the woman who inspired me every bit as much as any of my other great heroes, who is every bit the activist I am and fighting her own campaign in Mohave County for the LD5 House race. But I don’t have to tell you stories of the women face. You live them. I only have the ones I share.
But I can tell you this: while I may never be a congressman, as a candidate, as a man, as a human, I can tell you I will never be OK w an America that does not respect gender equality. I owe it to the women who taught me what it means to be an American, what it means to be human.I promise you I will never be OK w treating any group of Americans as “the others.” I will fight for the single moms out there singing for their suppers. I will fight to make sure they get every dime they are worth and every dime equal to a man. I will work for laws to protect women and children from domestic violence, from violence against women in the military and from the violence of bullying in our schools. I will work to make sure every child get a chance to experience the way education changed my life, whether it be keeping college in reach of the average American, fully funding full day kindergarten and keeping child care within reach of working moms; so when parents dream of their child’s future, there is a way to make those dreams come true.
I pledge to work for that ERA Constitutional amendment, especially now that it is being revived. I pledge to work for equality for the LGBT community; because if you can’t marry who you want and you can’t adopt when you want and when you can’t be w the one you love at their time of life or death crisis, well, that not even like being a citizen is it? I promise I will never say a woman is not allowed to control her own reproductive rights. I promise as a male, I will NEVER be OK w any kind of restrictions on access to birth control. (& Hobby Lobby, you have not convinced me your right to be greedy heartless bastards trumps the rest of America’s commitment to protecting a woman’s right to have access.
I will never put budget cuts ahead of public safety and most of all I promise to fight for gender issues with all the strengths these women have given me. That I can promise, that I can tell you. But I don’t have to tell you stories of the lives women face. You live them. I only have the ones I share. Thank you for letting me do that.
Thank you.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

21st Century Rules of Political Science (The Ugly Truth of the Actual Physics of Moving Modern People)

Highlights from a Twitter Series:
21st Century Rules of Political Science
(The Ugly Truth of the Actual Physics of Moving Modern People)

Now, if you have been following my Twitter feed (Don’t laugh some folks do), then you’ll recognize I have been putting out a series of little corny koans on the way the political process looks from the ground level of being a very public liberal in a pugnaciously angry red state.

&, of course, from the perspective of being a smart-ass.

Though my work predates the Internet and my now suspended blog probably contains more typos than true wisdom, for about 25 years I claimed to be a humor writer before becoming a candidate in 2012 and published a couple hundred political humor columns in a series I called "Current Comedy that started before the 90s. And every one of them was simply preparation for the challenge of communicating the world of politics in 140 characters. Yes I'm squawking about Twitter.

Now when I first learned of the world of the little blue bird and hyper-communication in telegraph length prose I railed against it. I dug a little just now and found my first mention of Twitter back in my “4/20” column from April of 2009. At the time, I was apparently ready to dismiss it as as vile internet fad as “two girls and a cup.” I railed against the way it creates a short hand of spelling and meaning that would ultimately distort English as we know it.

Four thousand one hundred and seventy-three Tweets later, I am now, quite obviously, a total Twit-aholic and truly do believe that in the world of 21st century politics, the activist, the candidate, even the observer are continuingly the stars of our own show on the internet. We have a responsibility to entertain as well as enlighten and enlighten means more than just beat into mind-numbed submission w an encyclopedic, though depressing, array of facts and figures.

The people already know the world sucks, we owe them more than merely reminding them. As leaders, lovers, parents teachers and statesmen, we owe our kinsman more than that. This challenge has always been the challenge for the candidate but in the age of technology we inhabit, we can do so much more than ever before to create, promote and honor the pageants the people use to erect their own frames for thinking about politics. We create a being for others to interact w and thus “become,” in a world that is little more that blinking lights, comments and likes. More and more, our society is an internet society. Having seen the revolution our cyber-space community has made on the way politicians operate w each  other and w the larger public I believe that like in Egypt, a revolution can be fomented in 140 characters and a teenager in Meadview can make a meme to change the minds of millions in the course of one evening.

So, in preparing to make a speech to the Tempe gathering of an organization called Drinking Liberally, rather the bring out the sober sounding policy statements or the impassioned prose of pathos that turns out to simply be pathetic pleas for money, I thought I would spring these ditties on the unsuspecting public. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am about to attempt to be the first politician to ever spit out a speech devised entirely from stringing tweets together. I will probably be the last one to attempt this parlor trick as well.
Bloviation from twitter-bation? It could work.

Now since this blog post serves as notes for a speech and is not the speech itself. I am presenting the entire list of twitter posted rules, starring the ones I intend to share and highlighting a few topics I intend to expand on. When you read the list, like my presumed readers in the world wide inter-webs of the twitter-verse, please keep in mind I do actually know how to spell and have consciously chosen to embrace the shorthand possibilities of saying as much as 1 can as briefly as possible.


1.      21st century politics #1 If a tree falls in the forest and no one tweets an Instagram of it to their Facebook, who gives a f***?
2.      21st century politics # 2 You can’t know where the line is, if you don’t cross it sometimes.
3.      21st century politics #3 Don't act like you're above gossip or it'll be about YOU instead. Remember EVERYONE n politics is still 13yrs old.
4.      21st century politics #4 EVER into the Public. When faced w a choice, talk to the most people, the more potentially embarrassing the better.
5.      21st century politics #5 Call them on their Bullshit, but don’t bullshit about your own calling or folks’ll want the scoop on u2.
6.      21st century politics #6 Don’t forget the power of your oppression. The public can’t share your glory, but you must share their pain 2 end it.
7.      21st century politics #7 Thou Shalt Not Be a Train Wreck in Public.
8.      21st century politics #8 Be the biggest person in the room.
9.      21st century politics #9 Your supporters want to believe in you … let them.
10.  21st century politics #10 Tell the Right, they’re wrong … not your volunteers, not your allies.
11.  21st century politics #11 Let your opponents create your no’s, not your doubt.
12.  21st century politics #12 We can't expect 2 bring the world together 2 change 4 good when you can't even stop snipping at your allies.
13.  21st century politics #13 If clicking on a link is too much trouble, you can’t change the world .*
14.  21st century politics #14 Fn cuss or not cuss, speak the language of the people, if your words HAVE to condescend then just shut up.
15.  21st century politics #15 Give up on average or ordinary, only extra-ordinary will get this done.*
16.  21st century politics #16: No one listens, no one reads and they don’t return phone calls. You still have to get it done.
17.  21st century politics #17: Your resume won’t matter if you act like a jerk.*
18.  21st century politics #18 Campaigning is not a full-time job, you only really have to work 8AM-12AM; but sometimes there’s some overtime. (A nod to Mark Twain.)
19.  21st century politics #19 The more complex the process, the more chaotic progress appears. Don’t let the quest for simplification kill the impulse for answers. Many valuable, essential things cannot be reduced to simple terms. Don’t disrespect your topics by expecting to reduce them. Life is SUPPOSED to be complicated.
20.  21st century politics #20 Don’t confuse the beauty of your suffering w the beauty of achieving your goal.*
21.  21st century politics #21 If you can’t persuade your enemies, you must defeat them.
22.  21st century politics #22: when facing the impossible, don't give up, give it more time. What's actually "possible" is shifting all the time.*
23.  21st century politics #23: sure, sometimes think: "u haven't figured out how 2 do u yet & u wanna tell me how 2 do me?" But just keep quiet.*
24.  21st century politics #24: Embrace your ordeals. It's ok to break a sweat sometimes. Stressing your strengths is the only way to build them.*
25.  21st century politics #25: when it comes 2 having 2 fake it, when you just can't be real, your best bet is still trying 2 imitate yourself.
26.  21st century politics #26: while it's cool 2b able 2 explain precisely why you made a mistake, that's not the same as learning from it.*
27.  21st century politics #27: Reject "easy." Don't seek it, don't tell others any task, including your election, will be "easy." Failing is easy. Work!*
28.  21st century politics #28: A leader who only looks out for himself and/or his circle isn't much of a leader.
29.  21st Century politics #29: Ya know how nobody returns calls? Don't be a Nobody. Respect those respectful enough to contact you.
30.  21st century politics #30: The phrase "I never heard of him," reveals a lot more about your ignorance than the other person's accomplishments.*
31.  21st century politics #31: Avoid saying "never" or "always." Except 4 exceptions. The correct response 2 crises is virtually NEVER "do less."*
32.  21st century politics #32: If it’s really about the poetry, you can sleep on the floor sometimes.
33.  21st century politics #33: Real men need to be able to cry. That way we know they can still feel their own hearts and others' pain.
34.  21st century politics #34: when facing the impossible, don't give up, give it more time. What's actually "possible" is shifting all the time.
35.  21st century politics #35: even more important than being generous, b generative. The people look 2 u 2 make stuff happen. Not later, now.
36.  21st century politics #36: Guard ur attention: in general if u pay attention to the news stream for 15 minutes, u'll b pissed off 14 of them.
37.  21st century politics #37: people who talk about their past, things they own or others they "know," instead of the task, aren't helping.
38.  21st century politics #38: if u let others define u then the limits of their imagination is all you will become. Most likely their pawn.
39.  21st century politics #39 : If we all wait for someone else to do it, then we’ll never get it done .

--mikel weisser writes from the Left Coast of AZ