Category Archives: Charlotte’s Intersections Blog

Don’t Mess with Our Texas Children

The Paris News reported on Monday, April 22 that  “the Texas rate of uninsured children was the highest in the country in 2017 at 10.7% … more than twice the national child uninsured rate of 5%.” An estimated 835,000 Texas children went without health insurance in 2017, an increase of more than 10 percent from 2016.

The proposed 2020-2021 Texas state budget seeks to cut $900 million from the Health and Human Services Commission, the department that manages Medicaid coverage. So our legislators want to decrease access to health care for our poorest children even while Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation.

This does NOT make us Texas Proud!

Quite a few people I care about depend on medical coverage provided by Medicaid or the CHIP program; probably this is true for you as well.

Millions of our Texas neighbors count on a variety of social safety nets just to make ends meet. Some of these supports are charitable, offered by communities like ours: the Downtown Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, Spirit of Giving, Kings Daughters, Boys and Girls Club, CitySquare Paris… I am ever so grateful for the leaders, volunteers and donors who faithfully provide compassionate assistance to our Lamar County neighbors.

Charitable organizations are a vital part of the network that supports every community, but they alone cannot provide the full range of services that are needed to keep families functioning in a pinch. Medicaid and CHIP offer crucial services to our neighbors right here in Lamar County, services that churches and nonprofits are not able to provide – especially for our children.

I realize those of us across the political spectrum have different opinions about Medicaid expansion in Texas. I am all for it (those are my tax dollars, after all, sent to D.C. Why then does our Legislature refuse to allow those dollars back into the Texas economy? It makes no sense to me. )

I do realize this issue can be approached from several different angles. But I also believe that most Texans – no matter our politics – want to provide healthy foundations for our children – ALL our children. Healthcare, education, safety: these are issues that ought to bring us together in good faith as we seek to have productive conversations and develop collaborative cooperation.

We need broad based ‘both-and’ approaches to our social safety nets: both charitable and governmental. We need to be both donating to private charitable efforts and pooling our tax dollars to help care for our Texas neighbors – especially our children.

I urge you to consider carefully the issue of Medicaid expansion in Texas (or to re-consider if you think you have made up your mind.) I urge you to contact your Texas representatives and ask them not to decrease Medicaid resources in the 2020-2021 State Budget. And I encourage you to join me in supporting East Texas Giving day on April 30.

Let’s pull together and not let partisan politics mess with our Texas children.

One of the winners for the 2016 Don’t mess with Texas youth education program.
I’m sorry I can’t find the artist’s name.

Charlotte wrote this guest column for The Paris News after it published an article from the Texas Tribune on April 22, 2019: “Texas removes 1,000s of children from Medicaid each month”

Charlotte’s ongoing discussion with local Republicans

Guest Column to The Paris News

A few months ago, Chris Dux took me to task for an op-ed I wrote in The Paris News. He sent the same list of complaints to my website so I chose to answer his challenges there instead of belaboring our conversation in public. Now it’s my turn to challenge something in his latest essay: “Wealth creation is happening faster than ever before” (March 24).

Dear Chris, I have appreciated the back and forth debates between you and your Democrat counterpart, Gary O’Connor. You both express your viewpoints clearly and courteously; this is what we expect from our political leaders.

In this last piece, you presented your argument that wealth inequality is not a major problem because you believe economic growth at the top benefits our entire society.

I know that this is a major conservative position and I’m not surprised to see you make the argument. However, the way I see it, too many regular Americans are struggling and don’t ever benefit from wealth trickling down from the wealthiest. So I guess we will have to agree to disagree on your rosy picture of wealth in America.

But here is where I must speak up: your last sentence, the apparent pinnacle of your argument quoted Jesus. “Jesus must have been okay with wealth inequality because he always spoke the truth, ‘the poor you will always have with you.’”

Oh my goodness, Chris! What were you thinking? It is this very attitude that I took issue with before: this way of baptizing the positions of the Republican Party with divine sanction. As I said in my earlier response to you: “God’s will on earth does not align with the Republican platform.”

Instead of bending Jesus’ words to prop up political positions, isn’t it more faithful for us to bend our practice and beliefs to align with Jesus the Word of God?

Instead of using Jesus to support Republican policies that keep the poor trapped in wealth inequity, how about finishing Jesus’ sentence in Mark 14:7 and see where that leads: “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish.” Please tell me how your party might enact “kindness” to the poor within its platform and policies.

A person who argues that the first part of Jesus’ sentence informs their politics cannot argue that the second part of his statement does not. Showing kindness to the poor is not just an individual charitable concern. Rather caring for the poor is also a societal responsibility – especially for anyone who would claim that this is a “Christian” nation.

Wouldn’t it be more authentic for all of us who claim to be Christian to actually live the prayer Christ taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

If more Christians lived out this prayer within our politics, then we would surely be working together on this earth to try to accomplish some of the justice we imagine must be “God’s will in heaven.” I can’t imagine that God’s kingdom could ever be characterized by the kind of vast wealth inequalities typical in all the imperfect kingdoms we humans create for ourselves.

I hope you and Gary will continue your left/right dialogue, but I encourage you to stick to politics; your particular version of conservative Christian theology really does not improve your arguments.

By the way, I’m still open for that cup of coffee you offered.

Read Lamar County Republican Chair Chris Dux essay here. (This online version is limited to 300 words and so the final sentence is not included.)

Read Lamar County Democrat Chair Gary O’Connor essay here

Bill Collins’ Letter to the Editor is here. It is behind a paywall but this is my favorite part: “Once again the ever lovely and effervescent Charlotte Coyle has come forth with an opinion column …”

Charlotte’s Open Letter to her Republican Neighbors

To the Association of Lamar County Republicans

On February 12, 2019, your president, Robert Black, published an op-ed in The Paris News. This isn’t the first time he has said some outrageous things in your name; so many twisted statements in fact, I scarcely know where to begin.

Mr. Black’s screed against “the left” is classic fear mongering. Those of us who lean left are not enemies; we are your neighbors. We sing in choirs with you and pray together in church. We deliver Meals on Wheels with you and work together on local boards and committees. We pledge alliance to the flag with you and work together to make Paris beautiful.

You know us; we are friends. Please do not let your president get away with demonizing your fellow citizens in this way.

There is deep irony in Mr. Black’s call to “incite unity” when his approach is so disrespectful and divisive. He is not asking for unity; he expects lockstep uniformity.

Continue reading Charlotte’s Open Letter to her Republican Neighbors

“Enough of this centrist BS” ? No sir, Not Nearly Enough

I used to never, ever read the comments people make in cyberspace. We’ve all heard how toxic the conversation can be when commenters get to say whatever they want with the safety of distance and anonymity of the internet.

But now I read the comments and – besides the ugliness – I’m discovering some hopeful respectful connections in places I never would have imagined.

I volunteer with Coffee Party USA and one of my jobs is to post blogs and articles to our Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page. A dozen of us editors keep the page populated with content we believe is worthy of discussion, every hour on the hour, 24/7. Our Coffee Party Facebook page has over a million followers and we volunteers take our work very seriously. The things I post usually don’t garner much attention since I circulate articles that encourage people to disagree agreeably, to respect differences and to collaborate constructively.

In today’s polarized, angry culture, you can bet a message of civility will fall on deaf ears much of the time.

But I had an experience recently on our Join the Coffee Party Movement page that completely blindsided me. Continue reading “Enough of this centrist BS” ? No sir, Not Nearly Enough

Diversity is Our Reality; Unity is Our Goal

A friend once asked me why we liberals talk so much about diversity. As a conservative, she prefers to focus on unity.

I’ve seen this attitude in cyberspace conversations as well. Sometimes commenters scold: Making a big deal out of our differences is a kind of reverse racism. We should be color blind and see only the ways we are alike. 

I once posted this meme on social media once and got several of these “reverse racism” comments. Just by naming the various groups, some people see this meme as divisive. Here’s one comment: This type of message only reinforces a divisive identity policy instead of emphasizing what is our common human identity. The teacher should emphasize our individual human rights as opposed to group identities.

This makes sense in some ways as it speaks to the worthy ideal of being together in community without letting our differences divide us. I applaud this goal; but I disagree that only “emphasizing our common humanity” will stop the divisions. I disagree that “color blindness” will accomplish the goal.

I think we should all see all the color: the splashy and the subtle colors, the soft and the loud colors with which our humanity is painted. For me, color blindness sounds like a sadness, a handicap.

Our diversity is one of the gifts our Creator has given us so why wouldn’t we celebrate it?

Our diversity reminds us that our Creator is a multifaceted, many-sided Reality so of course humanity “created in the image and likeness of God” will reflect this infinite beauty.

Diversity is our inevitable human reality.

It is unity that that requires our serious efforts.

Continue reading Diversity is Our Reality; Unity is Our Goal

If the Right Must be Right then the Left Must be Heresy

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. People who don’t live in this bubble have no idea how much power such an ideology carries. In this way of thinking, there is this deep conviction that we must be RIGHT. Being wrong meant judgment, shame and a hell of a lot worse consequences. We Fundamentalists had to be right and that meant anyone who disagreed with us must be wrong.

Again – if you haven’t been there, you have no idea and I get that so, please keep reading and hear me out. I’m mostly writing this for my Christian Right friends but I’m hoping my Secular Left friends might also find some new insights. And even my Christian Left friends. And maybe some renewed compassion for- and from – all of us

Right and Wrong are interesting categories. They are appropriate descriptions in some fields, but even mathematics reminds us how broad truth can be. 2+2=4 but also 3+1 and 12-8. Right can be right in a variety of ways.

When we function within more subjective categories like philosophy or theology, right and wrong almost lose their meaning. Beliefs, doctrines and dogmas express something about our human experience rather than naming any sort of empirical reality.

Throughout history, humans have misused these subjective constructions as foundations, as eternal truths true for all people in all times. Ideology then becomes a basis for relationship and our beliefs define who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong.

If I am right, you must be wrong.

If my beliefs are orthodox, your beliefs must be heresy.

This black and white, dualistic thinking has plagued us since our human beginnings and has been a source of many of our human conflicts. Continue reading If the Right Must be Right then the Left Must be Heresy

When the Right is Always Wrong and the Left is Always Right

I hear this attitude a lot in my left-of-center circles. And even worse than the old “I’m right and you’re wrong” kind of comments, these days in our angry, polarized society, I’m hearing way too much “I’m right and you’re stupid” disdain meted out by liberal (so-called “open minded”) people.

This is what I call our liberal arrogance. (Stay with me here; this is for us progressives. I’ll spend another future blog talking about conservative self-righteousness. But right now, I need to say this to my friends on the left.)

It is absolutely normal for us humans to believe we are right. We couldn’t bear the moral tension if we knew we were investing ourselves in something clearly false. So of course, when any of us thinks through our positions, we come up with a stance that seems most reasonable and true based on our personality and experience. Of course we think we are right.

The problem comes when some of us also believe that ONLY we can be right on a particular issue. That ONLY our way of making sense makes sense in the world. Continue reading When the Right is Always Wrong and the Left is Always Right

Who is My Neighbor? Who is My Enemy?

I’ve come to the understanding that “enemy” is a social construct. I think humans are born with a need for community, for connection and our first instincts are to welcome and trust all with whom we come into contact. There is no “other” when we begin this journey; we all are human.

But somewhere in the process of clarifying that age-old “who is my neighbor” question, we think we need to decide who is in our circle and who is not. Tribal tendencies demand specification: we want to know exactly where we stand in the various social hierarchies we invent for ourselves.

Of course there is another definition for the word “enemy” and we humans quickly learn not to trust those who do harm. But the act of doing harm to another begins in the mind; there is a cognitive shift in basic understandings about what it means to be human. Someone who acts as an enemy to another has already placed them outside their circle and named them as “other.” They justify their actions based on contrived categories of who is in and who is out. Then the one who has been hurt responds to that mistreatment by doing the same thing: if we have been damaged by X or Y or Z, then everyone who is like them must also be our enemy.

It is a vicious cycle. Not at all neat or logical. We humans can be a complex mess. Continue reading Who is My Neighbor? Who is My Enemy?

Truth!

I really struggle with this question: why do so many people believe the unbelievable?

This sad reality is nothing new. Con men, scam artists and snake oil salesmen have been using and abusing people’s trust for centuries. These hucksters seem to have a special ability to target the naive, to tell them what they want to hear and then entrap them in the web of fantasy they have spun.

They swallow the lie “hook, line and sinker,” we say.

When President Obama spoke at Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth day celebration, he spoke to the increasing danger of this culture of deception.

Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up.

We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more …

The current problem is two-fold: leaders and manipulators who lie in order to deceive coupled with people who believe and even defend both the deceptions and the deceivers.

Historian Will Durant once said: “It may be true that you can’t fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.” Continue reading Truth!

Real Power From the Bottom Up

Top Down Power is the default position for us humans and this has been our story throughout our history. America has mostly been an exception to the rule, except that lately we have been watching authoritarian power infect our government, decreasing the authority that We The People have been accustomed to in this democratic republic.

When people give themselves over to Top Down Power, we are giving ourselves over to a kind of eternal childhood. We want someone else to protect us, to take care of us, to make the hard decisions and exempt us from the consequences. Living in this Neverland is much easier than growing up and taking responsibility for our own lives.

In every society, it’s the grown ups who step up and recognize the authority inherent within themselves and their communities. This kind of authority is not “authoritarian” – attempting to rule over others. Rather it is an egalitarian authority that understands everyone in a community has something to offer. And everyone has something to learn.

When President Barack Obama spoke at Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth day celebration, he reminded us of the power of this Bottom Up authority. Continue reading Real Power From the Bottom Up