Category Archives: Politics

In Flanders Fields #MemorialDay

The Indianapolis 500 took place on Sunday, and while I wasn’t there this year, my son was.

But Memorial Day is more than just the official launch of Summer here, more than just a car race. It began after the American Civil War in 1868 as “Decoration Day,” established as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Officially, Memorial Day is the last Monday in May.

In the US, it is a 3-day holiday weekend. Banks are closed on Monday, and the US Postal Service is also closed. The American flag is traditionally set at half-staff until noon to honor all those whose lives have been given in the service of our country. At noon, it is raised to the top of the staff, signifying that we, as a nation, will rise again.

After each great and terrible war of the last two centuries, the hope was always that we had fought a “war to end all wars.” World War I, also known as The Great War, was spoken of in literature as just that: a war to end all wars.

With each conflict we still hope, but we are less able to believe it.

From Wikipedia:  “In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. In Flanders Fields was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

Sources and Attributions

In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, PD|75 years

John McCrae died of pneumonia January 28, 1918, near the end of the Great War. In Flanders’ Fields is a staple poem for Memorial Day services.

Wikipedia contributors, “In Flanders Fields,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed May 28, 2017).

1912 Indianapolis 500, Joe Dawson winning, Image By Bain News Service, publisher [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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#flashfictionfriday: Beyond Ecola’s Door

Heaven lies beyond the hills, beside the Tillamook Head.

At Ecola’s door, where the river finds the sea,

Where east meets west and seabirds nest, my feet are often led.


Gray waves pound the stony cliffs, stout and standing tall

Rock is strong and water soft,  yet crumbling ‘neath the waves.

Winter’s wrath of wind and surge slowly grinds them small.


And out to sea a lighthouse stands beyond the Tillamook Head

No keepers shelter ‘neath her lamp, Tilly stands alone,

Guarded by the white-winged birds, and ashes of the dead.


Black rock rises from the waves, beyond Ecola’s door

I long to be at river’s edge, where Ecola meets the sea

And soon and soon, I’ll walk the sand, along the wild shore.

horses on the beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon by C.J. Jasperson 8-13-2014

Beyond Ecola’s Door, © Connie J. Jasperson 2016


Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Politics, Uncategorized

Comfort Books, the main course: The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Eye Of The WorldFor the main course of this three course meal I’ve chosen a hearty 14-book trilogy. I warned you that many of the books I love and turn to when I need a good book are NOT comforting in any way, and for many people the incredibly long, epic series, the Wheel of Time, definitely falls into the UNcomfortable category. This is for a variety of reasons.

The Eye of the World was the opening volley in what would ultimately become one of the most controversial series in epic fantasy. Written by Robert Jordan and first published in 1990, this series of books has polarized the most dedicated fans of true fantasy into two groups: the lovers and the haters.  No reader walks away from this series unscathed.

WoT05_TheFiresOfHeavenThe story begins in the exceedingly rural village of  Emond’s Field. They are so rural that they have no concept that they are still considered to be a part of a larger country. The village is suddenly attacked by Trollocs (the antagonist’s soldiers) and a Myrddraal (the undead-like officer commanding the Trollocs).  These creatures are intent on capturing the three protagonists, Rand al’Thor, Matrim (Mat) Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, although why they are being hunted is not revealed at first. To save their village from further attacks, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene (Rand’s first love interest) flee the village, accompanied by the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred, her Warder, Al’Lan Mandragoran, and gleeman, Thom Merrilin.They are later joined by Nynaeve al’Meara, who is their village’s medicine woman.

WoT03_TheDragonRebornThis huge range of characters and the many, many threads that weave an incredibly tangled plot are what polarizes the reading community over this series of books. Originally intended to be a trilogy, it eventually expanded to encompass fourteen LARGE, long books.

Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 while working on the final book, leaving the series uncompleted, but he left the rough draft and enough notes behind that Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the series, eventually breaking that final volume into three very large  books, and bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion.

WoT10_CrossroadsOfTwilightSo what is the basis for the plot’s tension, what conflict could possibly draw the reader in and keep them reading for such a long, drawn out process? It’s Robert Jordan, folks–the eternal quest for power, and dominance through violence, religion and politics is the core of this tale. According to Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge: The series draws on numerous elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism, the metaphysical concepts of balance and duality, and a respect for nature found in Daoism. Additionally, its creation story has similarities to Christianity’s “Creator” (Light) and Shai’tan, “The Dark One” (Shaytan is an Arabic word which in religious contexts is used as a name for the Devil). It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869).”

300px-WoT08_ThePathOfDaggersI loved the first three books in this series. I both enjoyed and endured the next three, hoping Robert Jordan would get to the point and finish the damned series. I had become a little irritated with book eight, Path of Daggers, but by the time Winter’s Heart came out, I was resigned to never seeing an end to it, and was back to simply enjoying each strange plot twist and new random thread for what it was–just a great tale.

When Robert Jordan died, I was thrilled that Brandon Sanderson was the author tapped to finally bring that unwieldy mess together. There were so many different stories within the greater story that the task of winding up each thread must have been incredibly daunting, and he did it magnificently.

The reason so many devoted fans abandoned the series somewhere around book six , Lord of Chaos, was that Rand al’Thor’s story ( and Mat’s and Perrin’s) stalled, and Jordan was sent way off track by the stories of Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elaine Trakand. In fantasy, there is a large contingent of readers who want instant gratification are not going to wait around for eight more books. They proved it by jumping ship and trash-talking his work.

TheGatheringStormUSCoverThroughout the series, the quality of the writing never faltered. The depth of story and the intensely alive characters whose stories graced those pages never failed to intrigue me. The fact that it felt like the conflict would never be resolved was, at times, upsetting to me as a reader, and is a lesson authors should take to heart with their own work.

To write a story that is so compelling that readers become so violently polarized over it is quite an accomplishment.  I see this happening with George R.R. Martin‘s fans right now. Although I adore him as a person, I’ve never cared much for his style of writing, as he jumps around too much even for me. Have patience, people! It looks like George has a large story there too, so it may take him a while.

Towers_of_Midnight_hardcoverFor Brandon Sanderson to step into the wasps’ nest of controversy that was the Wheel of Time and complete the series with such grace and finesse is nothing short of amazing, and I am glad I stuck with it to the end. Brandon Sanderson has become one of my favorite authors because of what he did to wind up this epic series.

In the end, the final resolution was satisfying, and was well worth the journey.  I have gotten rid of most of my hard copies, and am down to only one room’s worth of hardbound books at our house. I don’t buy too many hard copies of books, being a fan of the Kindle, and  but I did make an exception for this book.   For me, some books need to be in hard copy form and the Wheel of Time Series is one of them, as are the Harry Potter books. There was a large contingent of people who were upset that the epub edition wasn’t released until 4 months after the paperbook, but this was a choice made by Robert Jordan’s widow and her publisher, TOR. It was a strange one in my opinion, but it was their choice.

A_Memory_of_Light_coverAmazon’s early reviews of the later books in this series were rife with trolls and naysayers who couldn’t wait to emerge from the woodwork and have their say. Apparently very few of these people purchased the book, much less read it. That is the price of success and these days it’s almost an honor to have so many haters just spoiling to knock you down. But their strident caws and self-important rants should have no effect on the true fans of WoT. In my humble opinion these works are masterpieces and Brandon Sanderson’s three books are a triumphant finish to the series.

I love Brandon Sanderson’s handling of this series finale, and feel I more than got my money’s worth from this series of book, as I will definitely read it again and again–in my opinion it’s that good. If you love this series, you will love the way it ends!

The original cover artist for these amazing books was none other than the late Darrell K. Sweet, who was just as amazing a fantasy artist as is Michael Whelan. The newer covers are nice, but for me they lack the power of Sweet’s brilliant paintings.

And as we all know, I buy most books for their covers, even epubs, and then fall in love with the tale.

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Pumpkin-Pie-Whole-SliceTomorrow, here in the US, is a national holiday, a day of Thanksgiving. We gather at the homes of relatives, overeat, and then some of us embark on  the 30 days of Christmas shopping.

I don’t.

Oh, I will go to my daughter’s house and overeat, and I will give sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the many blessings I have been given in this life. And I have been blessed, far more than I deserve. I am comfortable, and I have the luxury of being able to write full-time, because my husband has a good, fairly stable job.

But grandma does not shop. Grandma does not go to the midnight sales, the door-busters, the Black Friday events that seem to be a national sport here.

Grandma does the internet for all her shopping these days. Amazon, Zulily,–these are the stores grandma shops in.

christmas-gift-bagsAnd it’s nearly all done already. All I have to do is get a few little thing-a-ma-jigs for you-know-who, and then we’re set!

Shopping for loved ones is so darned difficult. I can’t tell you how much I hate it. No matter how hard I sweat, no matter how pretty I wrap them, the gifts I think are awesome for so-and-so never seem to live up to their potential.

Thus I have become the queen of gift-cards.

Starbucks, Amazon, Barnes&Noble–gift cards are the way to go. The recipient can get what they want, and I am off the hook for another year.

But if you are looking for the awesomest gift ever, may I recommend a book?  Books are small vacations, little diversions into foreign lands and cultures, windows into other people’s lives.

Books can also change the world.

The company that publishes my books, Myrddin Publishing, just announced the successful campaign to raise funds for the international charity, Water is Life, via sales of their Christmas anthology, Christmas O’Clock.

christmas oclock coverChristmas O’Clock is a collection of holiday-themed stories including magic, space travel, and Rudolph. With two complete chapter books, lots of stories, and plenty of spirit, this anthology is great for kids of all ages. Two of the stories in this collection are mine!

In 2014 the publishing group donated all the revenue generated from sales of this book, totaling over $200.00 in royalties. This purchased three bucket systems and eight drinking straws, providing fresh water to three families, and eight individuals. Their goal is to double that in 2015.

It may not seem like a lot, but for those families who now have clean water, it was huge.  We can do better, and this year we intend to.

All proceeds from this wonderful book go to Water Is Life to help children and families in an international effort.

Christmas O’Clock  can be purchased at

Paperback via this link:  $9.51

And for the Kindle via this link  $2.99

a medieval tablesetup 1I live in a soft, easy world of plenty with clean, clear water and plenty of food. I have a warm, dry place to live that is safe and pestilence-free. Not every family has such luxury. My husband and I believe it is our duty to help those who don’t and we do this through actively volunteering in our community. You know that I am involved  as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month and I contribute time and energy to literacy programs here locally, but my husband is far more active on a grassroots level, and what he does has a direct effect within our community.

MH900438718My husband, Greg,  is on the board of the Community Action Council, and has been for more than twenty years. Community Action Council is a private, non-profit 501c(3) agency governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.  Their multipurpose organization focuses on meeting the needs of low-income individuals and families through a variety of programs designed to help them become independent and more self-sufficient. They work collaboratively to develop strategies that address poverty in our local communities,  providing essential human services in Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties since 1966.

I am Grateful, with a capital ‘G’, for all my many blessings, for my husband who works tirelessly in the service of our community and for the opportunities I’ve been given to help make a difference in this sometimes terrible world.



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Loki, Zorg, and why I love the bad-boys

Thor-Everything-LokiI love swashbuckling sword-fights and movies fraught with testosterone and machismo. I don’t need it in real life, thank you–that’s what I have books and movies for. So what are my favorite movies?

Thor–anything Thor will be a winner  from my point of view.

Let’s just say that anything featuring a bad-boy god with a twisted sense of humor is high on my list of must-watch movies. Plot? Sure, if you say so–but this is a movie so bring on the eye-candy now.

I love the character of Loki as played by Tom Hiddleston. He is everything the God of Mischief should be, and then some. He’s like that beloved ex-boyfriend–you’re always glad to see him, and even happier to see him leave.

Fifth_element_poster_(1997)What other sorts of movies intrigue me? Well, I am a huge fan of the 5th Element. I adore the character of Korben Dallas as played by Bruce Willis, but for me the man who stole the film was Zorg, as played by Gary Oldman.  Who doesn’t love a megalomaniac industrialist enslaved to The Great Evil? What a guy! And lets face it, Korben Dallas is just as much fun as Han Solo, and both are quintessential bad-boys.

The thing that intrigued me most about the 5th Element was the way the film portrays consumerism in that society as a living, breathing thing that has veered out of control. Extreme lust for technology and power is set against that of a simple man wanting a simple life–our own flaws are laid bare in the characters of Zorg and Korben Dallas.

But where is the eye-candy in that movie? Well you have to admit it is one of the most visually stunning films of the twentieth century.

You might wonder where I am going with this-so do I. Oh wait!  Bad-boys! Why I love to write about the bad-boys and read about them and even see the movies featuring them!

han-solo-smugglerThe bad-boys are intriguing, dangerous, and definitely not the boy your mama set you up with.

They are fun.  So I have two new manuscripts in the works and one features a bad-boy, a man who falls from grace and years later returns. Some of his experiences have changed him, but some things will never change. While his basic arrogance has been tempered, he is still the man he always was, but with a better grasp of what is truly important.

A bad-boy is a multidimensional character, made of many layers both good and bad, and as the story progress those layers are peeled away, revealing a new facet, but also hinting that more still lies hidden. The trick is to make those layers lure the reader (or watcher) in.  Loki, Han Solo, and Korben Dallas are all characters who intrigued me. They are written perfectly, because at the end of the movie, the observer still doesn’t know them well, but wants to.

From watching these movies, I’ve learned that one should dole out the character in small bits, showing a layer at a time, but always holding out the lure that far more lies hidden beneath the surface.

That is the trick, and it’s one thing to know it and another to do it.  But we try!





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Little yurt in the desert

cavemanred_labelsforprint_cmyk4My friend Evonne is turning 60 this year. She’s not a girl to do things in a low-key sort of way, so she is partying all year. In an effort to keep the party rolling she booked a little mini vacation for 4 of us ladies at Cave B, on the east side of the Columbia River, near the town of Quincy, Washington. My dear friend Irene, my new friend Vaun, and I were more than happy to make the trip with her.

It was a beautiful, peaceful spa, and we had a great time. The scenery was amazing to us who live in the forest–to be in a desert environment is really unique.  Once you go over the Cascade Mountain Range, you are in another world.

Jones Wine logo-hmNow just so you know, Washington State is not your regular state in the US–we’re divided by far more than just a mountain range. I live in Western Washington, and Quincy is in Eastern Washington. While there are no armed guards at the border, hippy-liberal-Obama-loving westerners are encouraged to leave their money and go back home–quickly. Anyone from the West Side is automatically labeled as being ‘from Seattle’ which could mean you are a liberal, tree-hugging, atheist, gay communist. Since there are more people living on the West side than on the East, and the West is generally more Democrat than Republican, during election years there are frequent discussions about the Republican East side seceding from the West, but so far nothing official has occurred and like an unhappily married couple, we muddle along.

White Heron winery labelEven so, they welcomed us and treated us well. Since two of us are vegan and one is a militant, evangelical vegan, their suspicions as to our identities as West-siders were confirmed, but they were raised to be polite, and Jesus loves everyone, no matter how misguided. (Leave your money here, thank you.)

My friend is a woman who works hard and likes to treat herself to an occasional luxury, such as a spa-vacation. She expects a really good return for her money, and could be considered demanding, if you fail to measure up, but she is lavish with her business and cash if you meet the test.

Thorp Fruit StandWe stopped in Thorp at the historic fruit stand for cherries, and continued on to the Columbia Gorge. Despite a minor hiccup the first night, the chef managed to provide a vegan option both nights, and it was a merry adventure.

Over the course of the stay, we toured the tasting rooms at four vineyards: Cave B of course,which was the best value with 10 samples & a glass for $5.00.) I am a non-drinker, but was along as the designated driver. Evonne was in love with their late-harvest wine.

At Cave B, we stayed in yurts, which was really fun. Our last night there we sat out on the deck in front of our yurt and sipped champagne (not me–I sipped water) in the warmth of the desert evening. The sunsets over the Columbia Gorge are sheer beauty–there are no words to describe them. All in all, four ladies, four wineries and no hubbys to provide restraints–it was a rolling party.

Cave B Inn Yurt Village sideshow1


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No matter how careful I am when building my outline, there is always a point where I am writing by the seat of my pants.  As I am normally rather a linear plotter, this can really change the direction a tale goes in.

I hear people whining all the time about this character or that one dying right and left in Game of Thrones. I don’t have HBO, so I’ve never seen it, but I have friends who seem to find this distressing.  I suspect that winging it and writing to a deadline is why people die  so frequently in George R.R. Martin’s world–it’s certainly how they meet a messy end in my world.

But how do we fly freely with our narrative, and yet not destroy the awesome story arc we have created? How do we avoid having to hide the mangled corpses of our beloved characters when they might be useful later?

Enter my home-made Dial-a-Plot (sustainably powered by dark matter).  It’s just your standard circular thingy that can be printed out and taped to your desk.  Whenever you have lost your way writing your epic fantasy, rather than resort to a sudden influx of something as far-fetched as cannibal fairies, feel free to refer back to this little gadget to remind you of those elements that really drive a plot.


When your writing mind has temporarily lost its momentum and you are stretching the boundaries of common sense, it can’t hurt to take some time to consider the central themes that inject true tension into the story, to keep the action moving and the heroes swinging their swords.

Hopefully you won’t have to resort to killing anyone you might need later, and cannibal fairies won’t take your tale in a direction you can’t recover gracefully from…unless…heh heh…Cannibal FAiries


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What I’ve learned from George R.R. Martin

George R. R. Martin photoI’m not a fan of George R.R. Martin’s style of writing, but I adore the man as a person. He has the courage to say out loud what many people would sweep under the rug.

Recently George R.R.  Martin told journalist Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times that although his books are epic fantasy, they are based on history. He said,  “Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day.” 

“To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too.) Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil,” Martin said.

According to Martin, “History is written in blood, and although Westeros – the fictional continent where the series is set – is ‘not the Disneyland Middle Ages,’ it is “no darker nor more depraved than our own world. The atrocities in A Song of Ice and Fire, sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book,” he said. (End of quoted text.)

George is right, and he is not advocating or glorifying rape, in fact just the opposite. If you want to inject realism into a work of fantasy you must address uncomfortable realities that human history has shown to exist. The worst aspects of human nature are portrayed in our everyday life—things I could never dream up. Society at large is blasé about it—unless it affects one personally, it may as well not exist.  Rape in the military is a fact, friends, not a myth, and that is just within our own forces. Not only does she live in a danger zone while in the military, a  woman soldier also knows she faces rape and torture if she is captured by the enemy—that is the first step in breaking her. Many men also suffer sexual assault and torture for the same reasons, whether we wish to acknowledge their pain or not.

Image courtesy of CBS News, and Getty

Image courtesy of CBS News, and Getty

Consider this disgusting item of current news that only rarely makes it onto the nightly newscast in our town: To be a young girl in Borno, Nigeria is an invitation to be kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. More than 200 young girls are living this nightmare right now, because an extremist group, Boko Haram, who is against educating women, goes door to door, breaking into their homes and boarding schools and taking the girls from their beds. This is done as a way to maintain political control and  keep their fathers in line. The families of the stolen children are powerless against these brutal thugs.

Do you think these schoolgirls are not being raped and tortured?  If so, you are living in a dream. The leader of these radicals publicly flaunts their intentions to sell or marry all of them, bragging to all the media that they do it because God told them to.  They loudly proclaim that they will sell all of these girls, and believe me, the world is full of buyers just waiting for such an opportunity. So far, 20 lucky girls have escaped their captors.

If I was writing modern literary fiction or political potboilers, I would have tossed out such an unbelievable plot–it would have seemed completely unrealistic–I mean, a religious cult of pedophiles and rapists systematically kidnapping 200 girls, claiming divine privilege, and no one is able to stop them? Come on, get real.

A 19th-century depiction of Galileo before the Holy Office, by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury image courtesy Wikipedia

A 19th-century depiction of Galileo before the Holy Office, by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury image courtesy Wikipedia

I suspect God would prefer we  humans didn’t give him the credit for our evil, thank you very much.

So what have I actually learned from George R.R. Martin? I have learned to be true to reality in my writing or my story will never hold water.  Draw from history, mash it up all you want, but don’t deny the roots and don’t turn away from the ugly truth. Also, we must  never forget that there is as much beauty to draw from as there is pain, for it is that contrast that makes an intense story compelling.

No work of fiction will ever be more horrific or glorious than the true history of our humanity and inhumanity. We authors will only scratch the surface, and if that small scratch makes a reader slightly uncomfortable, the reader can easily retreat to their ivory tower and read bland romance novels written by someone other than me or George R.R. Martin, where everything is rainbow perfect and happy endings are guaranteed.

If you were privileged to be allowed to learn to read, that is.


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Standing Up

quote-he-behaved-like-an-ostrich-and-put-his-head-in-the-sand-thereby-exposing-his-thinking-parts-george-carman-31924I rarely discuss politics. I figure politics and religion are like sex–everyone has them, and no one wants to hear you go on  about your version of it. It’s not my desire to judge anyone I disagree with.

I’m not allowed to shoot the TV, which is what I want to do every time I see it nowadays.  My poor husband is like a deer in the headlights–he can’t look away. And yet, none of the so called news reporting agencies have the balls to report the truth about Boehner’s coup. For that we must go to the YouTube link and see actual videos of Congressional TV:

The GOP’s little rule change they hoped you wouldn’t notice

Public opinion is overwhelmingly against the minority Tea Party Republicans who have staged this coup and taken control of congress.

Instead of walking away, I choose to stand up and say this is wrong. This is the way Germany fell to to Nazis post WWI. This is the way all democracies become dictatorships.

This is not the way my country works. We cannot allow a minority of radical members of the House of Representatives to put a gag on duly elected representatives who are calling for an end to this stalemate that has been artificially manipulated by disgruntled power-brokers. These are people who would destroy everything America stands for just to see President Obama’s Health Care Reform Act dismantled, out of their hatred of him.

I am reporting this coup, because it needs to be brought out into the open.  We won’t solve this if the only way we are allowed to know what is happening in congress is what the news agencies are allowed to report. We have no impartial source of news in this country anymore, so we must turn to social media and try to sift the wheat from the chaff.

164896_593830007308922_371481903_nIt says something terribly important that the only way the American public can hear about this is through YouTube and Facebook. I have sent an email to  my elected congressional representative, Jaime Herrera Buetler asking her to force an end to this disgrace. This is the text of my email to her as it appeared in the form on her website:

“The actions taken by the congressional rules committee on Clause 4 of rule 22 are tantamount to a hostile takeover of our congress by a minority group. H res 368 is a travesty, and goes against everything our country stands for. I cannot support any member of congress who is supporting this.

Please, please, work to resolve this. Let your constituents know you are working to resolve this and that you do not support a hostile takeover of our government by a minority of congresspersons.”

I have no idea if the woman supported this move or not. I didn’t vote for her, but I live in a rural and traditionally conservative part of the country. I’ve done the only legal thing I can do, and if everyone does this, perhaps we will get this circus-train back on track. Time will tell.


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