In Memory of Richard Thornburgh, a Real Republican

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on January 8,2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor. 

The Republican party has historically stood for upholding the Constitution, standing for free elections, integrity and courage. These are the principles our former governor, Richard Thornburgh, lived out when he was governor from 1979-1987.  Our current Republican representative, Lloyd Smucker, has negated everything that Richard Thornburgh represented and worked for as a Republican in public office. Smucker’s low blow to Republicanism came when he was one of eight Pennsylvania congressmen to opposed the recent presidential election certifications. 

On January 1, 2021, I retrieved my souvenir “Thornburgh for Governor” glass and drank a toast to Richard Thornburgh who died the night before on New Year’s Eve. Dick and Ginny were neighbors when we lived in Pittsburgh and our children were toddlers. We mourned with Dick when he lost Ginny in a terrible car accident and their infant son, Peter, was injured. We were present when he was introduced to another Ginny, who became his second wife three years later.  With Ginny, Dick took on the cause of advocacy for the disabled, culminating in the passage of the 1990 Disability Act.  Dick led the Commonwealth as Governor for two terms. He then moved to Washington where he was chosen by two presidents to be Attorney General, tackling injustice and corruption as head of the Justice Department.

 Today, Smucker and other Republican politicians, both in Pennsylvania and Washington, would do well to examine how far they have veered from historic Republican principles.  For example, Senator Scott Martin in Harrisburg questions global warming and Congressman Smucker prefers to follow the whims and dictates of his party’s mob boss, Donald Trump. In enabling and following Trump, our current Republican elected politicians dishonor the party, defy the Constitution, believe in conspiracy theories, and turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice. In memory of Richard Thornburgh, the current Republican party needs to return to historic Republican principles. 

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

It’s Time to Move Forward

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This piece was first published on December 16, 2020 in LancasterOnline/LNP. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

If you are one of the majority of Lancastrians who voted for Donald Trump for another four years as president, you may be feeling sad or angry or both. Maybe you believe the election was rigged, stolen, or that fraudulent votes were counted illegally. Maybe you are pro-life or believe in Trump’s policies. Perhaps you attended his rally at the airport and heard him tell you he is making America great again and not to worry about getting or spreading the coronavirus. 

While I hear your pain, I can agree on one of your concerns but respectfully disagree on others. I do share your concern about unborn babies, but what about immigrant children still in detention facilities and children who are food deprived because their parents are now unemployed.

As for America’s greatness, doesn’t feeding starving children, alleviating suffering, and welcoming immigrant families matter? When have you heard President Trump last urging you to follow public health guidelines and modeling them to slow the spread of the coronavirus now raging?

When all is said and done, Joe Biden won the election, according to certified results, with 306 electoral college votes and over 80 million popular votes. No fraud has been uncovered. Recounts have added to Biden’s popular vote win and almost all of Trump law suits have been dismissed by the courts – the most recent one by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Now is the time to share with others and reason things out or form a “With Malice Toward None” support group through Braverangels.org.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.


Football, Politics and the Importance of a Handshake

Written by Irma Ilustre, Manheim Township. A shorter version of this piece was first published on November 29, 2020 in LancasterOnline/LNP under the title “What Happened to Good Losers?”. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

Fall is a great time of year – not for the leaves or the pumpkin spice lattes, but for football. I grew up in a football family with both my brothers playing in high school and college.  When I went away to college, watching football on Sunday night was a weekly ritual and solidified my team of choice. After getting married, we had a group of friends who rotated hosting Sunday football games.  The food was great but the “trash talk” and celebration dances were even better! We may have been on opposing teams on Sunday, but that didn’t matter to our friendship on the other days of the week. 

Unfortunately, that great American tradition of gathering on Sunday for food and football may have fallen by the wayside during these pandemic times. Even more disappointing, is the loss of other American cultural norms that have long been showcased in our national game as well as in real life.

When I was younger, it used to be, that after a game – whether it was football or baseball, basketball or soccer, even volleyball or dodgeball – the team that won would shake hands with the team that lost and say, “Good game.” Even when everyone was getting participation awards, this tradition was still in place. But maybe that sense of “everyone wins” has been taken too far because in competition not everyone wins. In competition, there are winners and losers. 

There were also accepted and expected behaviors around these temporary titles (because these labels are truly only held until the next game when the roles might be switched). Winners won gracefully – they didn’t rub it in the loser’s face, they didn’t bad mouth the team or person that lost. Losers lost gracefully – they didn’t have a tantrum about losing and turned their attention to the future and what they could do better. Losers were also able to say what the winners did that won the game and sometimes, they might even say this with resignation and a hint of admiration.

Politics is a game where there are winners and losers. However, this most recent game has been marred by sore losers and sour grapes. While there are also stories of ungraceful winners, the actions of members of the losing political party has been egregious. Did they not learn how to shake hands and say “good game” when they younger? Or were they the kid who sulked on the bench and got a talking to from Coach and their parents? 

Or maybe, for some reason, they didn’t get that talk – maybe their parents and Coach told them that they didn’t have to shake hands and that the other team won by luck or because they cheated. Maybe those adults also didn’t learn the lesson about losing being an opportunity to grow and learn and practice being humble.

At this time, it seems we, the citizens of this Great Nation, have to be the parents to these politicians who are not willing to concede the election to president-elect Biden. We have to coach the angry, sulking politicians in our party, muttering about the game being unfair, and tell them, “We played hard and did the best we could. Let’s not focus on this loss, but focus on what we can do better next time.” If we have won this election, we have to show good sportsmanship and extend our hand and say, “Good game.” But more importantly, if we have lost this election, we have to show good sportsmanship and extend our hand and say, “Good game.” Then we can leave the field with dignity and a resolve to do better next time.

This is the American Way. This is how we keep our democracy alive.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

LNP Best Workplaces

Written by Eric Kearsley, Willow Street. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on December 16, 2020 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor.

The LNP should be lauded for sponsoring the idea of a “Best Workplaces” insert.  No doubt it generates advertising revenue for our only newspaper, but it also encourages good practices by our local businesses.  Unfortunately, the Employee Survey Questions completely leaves out any mention of diversity or inclusivity.  Based on the US Census, DATA USA reports that in 2018 only 40.3 % of Lancaster city are White (non-Hispanic), a full 32.3% are Hispanic, and 14.4% are Black; the remainder are Asian or multiracial.  I suggest that every workplace that is truly welcoming to all should demonstrate their commitment to diversity/inclusivity by having a formal statement to that effect on their websites, their personnel documents, and their training programs. It should also be one of the criteria included on the annual LNP Employee Survey.  

Ref: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/lancaster-pa/#demographics

UPDATE: Mr. Kearsley was contacted by LNP after reading this submission. LNP reiterated their commitment to supporting workplace diversity and reported that they will work with their team to include diversity in the workplace survey for next year.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

Honoring the Gig Worker

Written by Dennis Deslippe, Lancaster Township. This piece has been submitted for publication. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

We’ve become accustomed in recent years to other Americans doing the things that we used to do for ourselves.  Once the purview of the elite it has become an expectation for a large swath of the public. The so-called “gig worker” gives us rides to our destination, delivers our food, and opens their house to us for overnight visits. They provide a panoply of services, from folding our clothes, to cleaning our basements, to raking our leaves.  Powerful companies have, through innovative platform applications, created a novel service workforce that can be summoned at a moment’s notice. It is a misnomer to call this a “sharing economy” since it is usually desperation that motivates the “gig worker.” Indeed, they are not “sharing” their automobile or spare bedroom: we pay them, however insufficiently. The narrowed employment options in an era of deepening inequality and eroded workplace rights force many Americans to do this work as a second, or even third, job. 

As last month’s referendum result in California illustrates, we are not willing to afford these workers the protection due to employees. That state’s Proposition 22, a ballot measure to reclassify rideshare drivers as “independent contractors,” passed with 58.6% of the vote. As a result, in the midst of a global pandemic, drivers will be denied sick days and local laws passed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose to protect drivers during COVID-19 will be retroactively undone. Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Instacart, and Doordash succeeded in the spurious argument that their companies are mere platforms rather than employers for “gig workers.” It is a puzzling claim, one that flies in the face of the common sese definition the California Supreme Court provided in their Dynamex ruling in 2018, that a worker is an employee, rather than an independent contractor, “if his or her job forms part of a company’s core business, if the bosses direct the way the work is done or if the worker has not established an independent trade or business.” Polling data indicates that voters were swayed by the $210 million campaign of major gig companies who argued that consumers would pay higher prices for services. 

This privileging of our consumer self-interest over supporting workers’ rights has its roots in the nineteenth century.  A new middle class began to purchase novelty items. They perused the Sears catalog for a universe of goods and shopped in the new palatial department stores with vaulted ceilings. As the economy shifted in emphasis from industrial to service work, Americans paid increasingly less attention to the plight of workers in general. Where once they acknowledged industrial workers and farmers’ labor as being both tangible and valued in the production of goods and crops, they were untroubled by the service sector’s chronically-underpaid workforce that lacked sufficient benefits as well as scarce government health and safety regulations. Policy makers and business leaders succeeded in portraying them in many consumers’ minds as a fleeting, younger, and less-deserving workforce.

The familiar consumer role emerged in the post-World War II period. Americans, weary of the Great Depression and World War II rationing, purchased washing machines, new automobiles, and television sets. Shopping for nonessential items became a meaningful activity in a mass consumer economy.  It lay at the heart of the “American Way of Life” in the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union. Where worker rights and wages dominated economic and public discourse the first part of the twentieth century, consumerism focused on prices, convenience, and variety now came to the fore. Harvard historian Lizabeth Cohen writes in her A Consumer’s Republic (2004) that, “Material goods came to embody the promise of America, and the power of consumers to purchase everything from vacuum cleaners to convertibles gave rise to the power of citizens to purchase political influence and effect social change.”  While consumerism could be deployed in the interest of workplace rights, as it was in the United Farm Workers’ boycott of grapes and lettuce in the early 1970s, consumer interests usually prevailed over workplace justice concerns. Cohen observes that, “despite undeniable successes and unprecedented affluence, mass consumption also fostered economic inequality and the fracturing of society along gender, class, and racial lines.”

For all of its power, consumerism has not completely overwhelmed workplace advocacy. The living wage movement that began in Baltimore’s campaign in the early 1990s has been one of the most visible manifestations of support for worker rights.  Over 125 cities and counties approved their own living wage measures between 1994 and 2010. Its success has continued in recent years with the visibility of the “Fight for $15” and “$15 Now” national campaigns. Support for workplace rights defies easy political labels. While California voters, who backed the Biden-Harris ticket with 63.5% support, thwarted gig workers’ “employee” designation, the voters in Florida—who gave Trump-Pence a 51.2% win—approved Amendment 2, which will raise the state’s minimum to $1 an hour until it reaches $15 in 2026.  Most impressive are the efforts of gig workers themselves to organize into unions. The most recent is a group of Instacart employees in Skokie–a suburb of Chicago–who voted to unionize earlier this year. This is a landmark victory for gig worker activism. It represents the first time employees of a tech company that relies predominantly on contract labor have formed a union to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

It is time to rethink ordering consumer preferences over the status of workers.  In 2020 we depended, more than ever, on gig workers. As COVID-19 reorders our lives their place as an employee, not an “independent contractor,” should be secured in 2021 in our legal and economic arrangements. 

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

We Must Live Up to the US Motto

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This piece was first published on Nov. 16, 2020 in LNP/LanasterOnline. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

As we ponder the aftermath of the presidential election, one thing is clear. We are still a divided nation.  Bridging that divide and learning how to communicate with one another poses our greatest challenge. My father used to say that we need to love each other even though we may not like each other or agree with the other person’s life style or opinions. 

E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one, becomes a first order of business. How do we strive to live up to this United States motto? One way will be to put aside our individualistic ideals and political positions and, instead, find ways of solving our common problems such as rapidly increasing climate change, getting the corona virus under control, getting rid once and for all the racism that has plagued this nation since its founding, and integrating immigrants with different cultural backgrounds into the American way of life. We can’t leave the solution to these problems just to our elected politicians to solve, we need grassroots efforts that will bring us together to solve them. Lancaster Stands Up has been working toward this goal. Along with other PA Stands Up groups around the Commonwealth we claim that we are indeed making a difference. 

We have participated in our democracy by voting in person or by mail in amazing numbers. Now let us now find ways to love and dialogue with those who disagree with the results. This will take humility and courage. Let’s begin.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

The Real Story of this Election

Written by Perry Hazeltine, Lancaster City. This piece was first published on November 10, 2020 in LNP/Lancaster Online. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

It turns out that citizenship itself is the winner in this year’s election. We had record-breaking turn out despite a pandemic.  At a rally in Lancaster this week, a woman from Puerto Rico told the crowd that this was the first time she voted in a U.S. election. The thing that struck me the most is when she said to us that casting her vote gave her a sense of dignity.

It wasn’t always this way. Indigenous and enslaved people, people without property, and women did not have what we now see as a right. Even with Emancipation, black people struggled for a century to get real access to the polls, and that didn’t happen in the South until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Women’s fight for suffrage arrived only with the 19th Amendment in 1920.

However, there is a disconnect between Americans’ view of voting as sacred and chronically low voter turnout.  Moreover, we are deeply divided in how accessible voting should be. Many state legislatures have recently tried to restrict voting for partisan reasons. Despite voter suppression and intimidation, the American spirit leans into the headwinds to create a more perfect union where all adults can vote unencumbered.

The real story of this election isn’t about court fights to stop counting votes. It is about millions of everyday people—black, brown, and white—practicing citizenship. It’s about government workers and volunteers doing the mundane task of counting votes. 

This is where democracy lives.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

About Irma Ilustre, Manheim Township

Irma Ilustre is a writer, runner and raiser (of children, not so much plants). Her writings are infused with the sweat and tears of an over-the-hill mother runner’s race to make the world better before passing it down to her children. Her work has been previously published in The BeZine and in the anthology, “We Will Not Be Silenced.”  Currently, Irma is cultivating grace, gratitude, and gumption to increase her community involvement in civic duty, civil discourse, and the civilization of children and adults.  Her poetry and other writings, running endeavors, and parenting adventures can be found on her blog.

%d bloggers like this: