Tuesday, January 30, 2018

President Anne Johnson's First State of the Union Address

Members of both houses of Congress, the United States Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sitting members of the Cabinet, diplomatic corps, and my fellow Americans,

My name is Anne Johnson. I have been appointed to serve out the remainder of the term of presidency that would have fallen to Donald J. Trump. This is my first State of the Union Address.

I am going to ask you to do something, Congress. For this one bright, shining moment, none of you know anything about me. You have no idea what my policies will be or how I will act in office, and therefore in this one brief click of time, none of you know whether you will cheer me and shower me with standing ovations, or sit on your hands and scowl.

Wouldn't it be nice to keep that moment and live within it for awhile?

Because that, my friends, is exactly what we need. We've got to step back, acknowledge philosophical differences respectfully, and dedicate ourselves to working together for all citizens.

Nothing will ever get done if two sides both entrench and legislate by fiat when they find themselves in power. All you'll have is a sea change in policy every four years.

How about we try a new tactic? Let's bring some sanity and decorum back to this chamber. Let's take a deep breath and see if we couldn't possibly work together for the greater good.

Look at that! You're all applauding! It's a good idea, isn't it? I like it too.

Now, here is the part of the speech where the president gets down to brass tacks and starts crowing about last year's accomplishments and planning next year's, with an eye to the voting base and the party. I'm not going to do that. I'm a blank slate, remember?

Here's a novel idea: Go put your heads together and bring me some good ideas! I have no voting base to please, because I wasn't elected! I'm open to any reasonable, judicious, thoughtful, and sober suggestion, so long as it will make Americans better off than they are now.

There's one word I want to leave you with, my fellow Americans. That word is temperance. This past year, we have been sadly lacking the temperance and reserve necessary to do the important job of running the country. We are going to dial down the drama and look at this task as something that professionals do.

Temperance. If there's anything I've learned from my previous work experience as a school teacher, it's that nothing gets done when the heat is turned up and the voices go shrill. But if we keep things reasonable and respectful, if we converse with humility, we can restore this democracy to health.

Thank you, and Gods bless America!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Work and Play with My Union

I feel like I'm being let in on the final act of a play. At the tender age of 58 (almost 9) I have become active in my local bargaining unit.

Due to the resignation of one of my school's teachers mid-year, I agreed to be a member of my unit's Rep Council. (I'm already on the negotiating committee.) You know what I didn't know? Being a rep means you're warmly welcomed at state- or region-wide leadership conferences.

On Friday I went to my first-ever winter leadership conference. It was good ol' unionism at its finest.

The conference was held in Atlantic City, at a casino. We had a one-hour workshop Friday from 6 to 7 p.m., then a sumptuous banquet from 7-9. Then our unit's regional director cordially offered to drown us in alcohol at the hotel bar. Then the other members of my unit who were there decided to play beer pong in the large, loud pub on the casino's ground floor.

Saturday morning we had a gourmet breakfast, followed by four hours of workshops in which it seemed that everyone (myself excluded) was nursing a morning head. Let me tell you, readers. I've struggled through many a 5-hour teaching workshop, but this union one was riveting. The hours flew by. I'm not even being glib.

We had a mid-morning break during which we were showered with fresh fruit, hot beverages, and pastries. There were stacks of salt water taffy sitting everywhere.

After the final two-hour work session, we had a lavish luncheon buffet that featured five different desserts.

I had a private room in the casino. I've lived in New Jersey since 1987 and never stayed in a casino before.

I watched the sun rise out of the Atlantic.


The union paid for my room, for all of the food, for parking, and (through a member) booze. I'll be reimbursed for the mileage to and from the conference.

I write this because in a few weeks the U.S. Supreme Court will render a decision that will make union dues 100 percent optional. This is a goal long sought by corporations and the one percent, who correctly perceive that collective bargaining benefits workers in terms of wages, health care, and working conditions.

Would you cough up $50 out of each of your monthly paychecks for union membership if you didn't have to? Especially if you were told that you would benefit equally with every member who does pay their dues?

So as I donned my union identifier badge and shouldered my swag bag, I had a sense of twilight, or autumn, in the whole organized labor adventure. It's a given that a conservative court will take a tire iron to unionizing's knees. Public sector unions will find themselves begging members to pay dues, and employers will be sure to hire candidates who won't want to join the union.

Until all of this crashes down, my fellow union reps and I will gather in Atlantic City to hold an idea dear -- that workers are stronger when they are bound by formal ties.

PS - I spent 24 hours in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I arrived with $50 and left with $50. Casinos and bars don't move me, wallet-wise.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Women's March on Philadelphia 2018

If you sit on the left side in the elevated train from New Jersey to Philadelphia, there's one place where you can look out the window and see the skyline of Philly all arrayed just two or three miles away. On a day when the sky is clear, it's a sight -- not Manhattan, but a vast, gleaming city nevertheless.

Growing up in the mountains, I never, ever expected to spend most of my life a stone's throw from Philadelphia. But as I looked out of the train on Saturday morning, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to become a citizen of the Great Blue Northeast. I even teared up a little bit. Sheesh. I'm a sentimental slob.

When I was young I thought the government taxes were too high, and I thought that through hard work and bootstraps and all that, anyone could become rich and successful. Moving to the city (first Baltimore, then Detroit, then Philadelphia) changed my worldview. Perhaps if I had stayed in Appalachia I would be like so many people living there now: conservative to a point where they don't even vote in their own best interests.

Instead, I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. So on Saturday, January 20 (a day that will live in infamy), I got on the el with my tambourine and my fairy sweater and my Pagan jewelry, and I rode into Center City, Philadelphia. There were lots of other suburban white women on the train, even though I went in two hours early. Lest anyone sneer at suburban white women, please remember that we are a demographic that gets courted by politicians of every stripe. It's up to us to do the right thing, which is never a given.

I disembarked the train at 13th and Locust and got myself a breakfast sandwich at a little cafe called Jean's on Walnut Street. Then I walked around City Hall, in the opposite direction that I had come on New Year's Day with the Mummers, and walked down to Logan Square, across from the Free Library of Philadelphia (where Gumby works! I'm proud of her.) I had learned that a group called Drum Like a Lady would be forming at the fountain, and I wanted to get there before it got too crowded to see if I could find the drummers.

It's easy to find drummers. Have you ever noticed? They give themselves away. And in this case, the leader of Drum Like a Lady is not only an accomplished drummer, she's almost a goddess in human form -- tall, beautiful, vigorous even in a leg brace, and ready to do some upbeat leadership.

I joined the circle just as it began to gear up, and what a phenomenal experience it turned out to be. These lady leaders knew what they were doing. They had designated one person as the heartbeat (more circles should try this ... it's the essential piece so often missing). Drawing on the heartbeat, all sorts of women with all kinds of percussion were able to play along. I think we had it all, except for those hella heavy djembes and dun duns. I'd thought about taking my doumbek, but the tambourine turned out better, because occasionally I danced -- and the tambourine can keep an easy beat and fill in some spaces.

When we lady drummers got our groove going, we were sending energy to the sky. It was a very multi-racial and multicultural group, all in happy harmony. The leader, LaTreice Branson, took turns addressing the crowd through a bullhorn and playing a small djembe.

The crowd got thicker and thicker, pushing our circle in on itself. Only once did I have to ask a tall, young white boy to take his camera elsewhere when he pushed in front of me to get photos. Mmm mmm, yeah, they are always around. But at least he did as I asked.

As I said, the drum circle's diversity was awesome. No one would have mistaken me for anything but a Pagan in my fairy sweater, with my acorn necklace dangling. There might have been one or two other Pagan women there, judging simply by attire and hair. Readers, we all sounded great. And we drummed for two and a half hours.

We led the march (sort of), but in the throng we kind of got spread out a bit. All of a sudden I felt a tug on my elbow, and there was Gumby, grinning from ear to ear! We hugged, and I hugged Gumby's boyfriend (I really like him), but I had to move on to keep up with my circle.

Once we got to the Art Museum, we drummed for another long stretch before the speeches started. Then the leaders left, and the minute they did, all the rhythm went with them. It was okay, though. There were plenty of speeches. Dozens and dozens. I stayed for them all.

When the whole thing was over, I walked alone back to the train.

Quite a few of my teaching colleagues had gone in a group. Both Olivia and Gumby attended. But on this day I elected to make my own way and find my rhythm sisters and make a noise for the Resistance. It turned out swell.

It sure looks like we'll be marching for years to come. I can take it. I'm a Mummer.

And rise!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Another March

My my, I do get my exercise! Another year, another march.

The good thing about being appointed president (rather than elected) is that no one knows what I look like. I'm therefore free to mingle with the citizenry. I will do so in Philadelphia at this year's Women's March.

Last year my daughter Gumby and I went to Washington, DC for the Women's March on Washington. Gumby put me through it, I tell you. She wasn't satisfied until we got all the way to the White House ... from RFK Stadium, a round trip of 8 or more miles.


Learned my lesson, for sure! Can't keep up with Gumby! As I understand it, both of my daughters will be attending the march in Philly, but I'm not going with either one of them.

Instead, I will be joining a troupe called Drum Like a Lady . I am totally stoked. I can't decide whether or not to take my doumbek, but the tambourine is portable and can keep a heartbeat. Being part of the drum corps means I'll get a front seat at the speakers' podium.

I don't care about front seats, but drumming up some energy ... well, that's the ticket.

Judging by how many of my friends and acquaintances are attending this march (12 in rough count), it is going to be a vast throng of humanity.

And what is the purpose of large political rallies? Solidarity and sisterhood. Sending a message. Considering how thin-skinned some elected presidents are, it's got to be a thorn in the side.

I hope, wherever you are, you'll set aside a few minutes on Saturday to petition the Goddess Columbia for a safe end to the madness. Take a minute and bang a pot in front of your house. Or put up a sign.



1. Make a sign or bring a drum.
2. March
3. Campaign
4. Vote

We resist. We persist. We rise.

Monday, January 15, 2018

President Anne's Address on the Occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

My fellow Americans,

Nine years ago, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, many folks (myself included) believed that we had moved beyond the corrosive racism and prejudice that marked much of our nation's history. But most of the people who thought Obama's inauguration signaled an end to prejudice were, themselves, white.

Black people knew differently. They knew that the pulse of racism still beat strongly in America. They weren't optimistic about change. They saw the blow-back coming. It's no coincidence that Black Lives Matter was formed during the Obama administration. Even as President Obama sought to widen the safety net with affordable health care and protections for the poor, ordinary Black Americans faced an America that was "business as usual" -- police brutality, wage inequality, and fewer opportunities than white Americans enjoyed. Indeed, I have had Black friends tell me they weren't one bit surprised by the election of Donald Trump, they fully expected a racist to follow Obama into office.

Sure enough, that's what we got. A racist chief executive, with racist advisers, encouraging the most virulent racist behavior and indulging in it themselves. Now that we have seen this behavior elevated to the national stage in an unprecedented way, it is time for me to ask you: What can you do about this?

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't waste his wrath on the loudest racists. He reserved his scorn instead for the good people who did nothing. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." How many of us blush a bit as we realize we are the "shallow people of good will?" I know I do.

And so, my fellow Americans, I would ask you: What can we "people of good will" do to deepen our commitment to absolute racial justice in our nation? We need to start in our own homes and communities, forging ties with minority citizens so that we can better understand their plight. We need to find government leaders who will actively seek to end racist practices in America, and vote for those leaders. We need to look our brothers and sisters of other races in the eye and witness their experience as citizens from their point of view.

We need to pay more than just lip service to the quest for racial equality in America. Because if we don't do anything, and the racists do something, then Black lives won't appear to matter at all.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the kind of America that would vote -- twice -- for an African American president. Let us be mindful of the needs of our fellow citizens and willing to assist them in their quest for equality and justice. And let us denounce, in no uncertain terms, any actions, any gatherings, any speakers, who advocate for a racist agenda. This hate is off the plate. Now and forevermore.

On this important day, I commend all Americans who took part in community service in their neighborhoods, in their cities, and in their school. Bright blessings upon you. You are the change that we need in this great nation. Keep up the good work! 

Finally, I wish to use this occasion to re-instate, immediately, all protections and benefits afforded to those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Dreamers, your months of fear and anxiety are over. Your path to full citizenship is clear. We embrace you with open arms and encourage your wildest dreams -- because it was the dreams and plans of all the immigrants before you to become successful in America, and look at all they have done!

I make this announcement today in the spirit of justice, which was what Dr. King dedicated his life to pursuing. We will have justice for all in America. We will again be the land of opportunity. We will be a force for good in the world, and at home.

Thank you, and Gods bless America.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

In Which I Find a Job for Steve Bannon

It's been a few weeks now since I, Anne Johnson, was asked to take over the presidency of the United States of America. Wow, what a job! It's nonstop. I've been pretty much overwhelmed trying to track down trusted advisers from previous administrations in order to fill all the posts that have either been open, or worse, filled with evil warlords from the pit of Hell.

The warlords are gone. The lot of them, with Bet$y DeVo$ leading the way! So long, chumps! Go back to your billions and leave us alone!

You know what, though? I'm a soft touch.

Poor Steve Bannon. Up on top in April, shot down in May. One's heart bleeds.


I don't know about you, but I've been unemployed a few times in my life. It's so tough. A real sock to the self-esteem and the wallet ... even if it's a layoff due to revised head count. But this is no layoff. This is a straight-out "go the hell away." Steve already looked like he'd seen the bottom of too many bottles of Fireball. What's he to do now, as a middle-aged journalist? Heck, even young journalists can't find a job.

But it's Steve's lucky day! Because I, Anne Johnson, had a good, steady job that I don't need anymore. As president, I will call my former employer and highly recommend Mr. Bannon as a public school teacher for minority students in Camden, New Jersey. Some of you will remember that I got hired on a provisional certificate and then had to earn a teaching license. It'll be a snap for him to do the same!

It's a good job, teaching at the Vo-Tech. The base salary for Step 1 is a solid $47,000 with health benefits (you have to contribute) and a pension plan (you have to contribute and work 10 years to be vested). If you don't need to make more money, you can take the whole summer off. And if you do need money, Mr. Bannon, you can take my summer job and paint the hallways in the school!

I know what you're thinking, reader. You're thinking, "Anne. You would recommend this shameless racist for a teaching job in a school that is 99 percent minority, including a heaping helping of Dreamers?" Yes sirree. That's exactly what I'm doing. No one needs to witness the humanity of minority teenagers more than Steve Bannon. It's so easy to dismiss entire segments of the population with a flick of the lily-white wrist, if you really don't know anyone in that demographic. Quite another thing to hold such contemptible views when kid after kid strolls into your classroom, smiling shyly and saying "good morning."

Steve, I defy you to call for the deportation of Dreamers after one of them grins and holds a door open for you as you ascend three flights of stairs with a home room folder and a travel mug of tea! Sweet kids, Steve. You will love them. Most of them work really hard and listen closely. The hardest workers? The Dreamers. Hands down.

So fret not, Mr. Bannon! You can teach school! I fear your colleagues won't welcome you with open arms, but the kids will be great, so long as you're humble and willing to accord them the respect that all of your fellow humans should receive.

Good luck in your new career, Steve! The first two years are rough, what with night school and weekend lectures at Rowan University (and extra observations and frequent pop-ins by teacher-coaches). But I got through it at just about your age (acknowledging here that your age is hard to determine by looking at you). You'll be just fine.

See? This is how a nation should be governed. With humanity and tenderness and a little bit of counter-intuitive thinking.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

President Johnson (Me) on the Thorny Problem of North Korea

My fellow Americans,

Things have gotten so bad in the US of A that I have been asked to take over the helm. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm no expert on anything, domestic or foreign. A good president solicits advice and takes it humbly.

As president I will take suggestions from all kinds of knowledgeable people. In the meantime I'm going to be dignified and thoughtful in all my public pronouncements. I represent the nation, after all, and we don't want the world to see America as a bunch of foul-mouthed, shallow, self-obsessed morons, do we? (even if it's partly true)

One of the pressing questions facing our country right now is, what do we do about North Korea? The government is led by a shallow, self-obsessed moron, and they're dumping stacks and stacks and stacks into nuclear weapons. Worse, they're threatening to drop those weapons on America.

Although I intend to have high-level meetings with some of the finest minds in the country concerning this issue, my gut feeling as an ordinary semi-educated mortal is that the horror of nuclear weapons makes every thoughtful person unwilling to use them.

I will say this right now, pending further input from the experts: As president, I will not use nuclear weapons on North Korea.

The loss of life and devastation of landscape associated with nuclear weapons is unacceptable to me. Not only would we kill thousands of innocent citizens in North Korea, we would send plumes of radiation into neighboring nations. These nations are our trading partners and allies. They don't deserve plumes of radiation.

So my message to the dictator in North Korea is pretty simple. Kim, you will be responsible if you detonate a nuclear weapon over America or some other country. The world will see you as an aggressor and will probably help the US of A to retaliate. Because that's what we will do -- retaliate. We're not going to fire the first shot. So think long and hard about that button on your desk. If you push it, we will come. But we won't come until you push first, because as for me, I don't want that on my conscience.

As to the continued development of your program, even the possibility that you have germ warfare? As president I will push for harsh sanctions against your regime. I know that this is causing terrible hardship in your country -- hardship that is being felt by the innocent citizens there. It is my hope that the range of suffering among the citizenry will eventually lead to your ouster. But that suffering is on your plate, Kim, not mine. Feed your people, not your power.

My fellow Americans, please note that this presidential proclamation is subject to change pending long and thoughtful discussions with experts on international relations. No foolish and impulsive popping off on Twitter! We're going to do this sensibly.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A Tale of Two Marches

There's some spark inside me that makes me want to march. Parades, protests, it's all the same to me. You close the roads, I'll walk 'em.

Most of my marching has been in Philadelphia. It's a pretty good place to march, mostly, as it's a grid and not hilly at all. The only thing adversely affecting a march in Philadelphia is the temperature.

In the summer of 2016 I participated in a march that was held at the time of the Democratic National Convention. The temperatures that day topped out in the mid-90s.


The "Michelle" thing is a long story. But this is me on a blistering hot day, with City Hall in the background.

What I chiefly remember about that day was that everyone was trying to find a speck of shade to stand in. People were clustered in the shadows of buildings. When we set out to march from City Hall to the stadiums, I aborted mission at Pine Street, dizzy from the heat.

Fast forward to January 1, 2017. Now, rather than hovering in the mid-90s, the temperature in Philadelphia was flirting with 15. The wind chill made it feel even colder.


Not only am I wearing exponentially more attire, you'll note that I'm standing in the sun. This was the funniest part, to me. In the summertime in Philly, everyone was looking for shade to stand in. On New Year's Day, we were all in search of the sunniest spot to keep our bones warm.

For those of you just joining the action here, I am a Philadelphia Mummer, a proud member of the Two Street Stompers Comic Brigade. Here's a better photo of this year's suit:


Bad lighting. You can hardly see the poodle.

The Mummers Parade is a competition, and this year my club won! Our theme was "Back to the Philadelphia Future." We had a time machine, and the brigade was split into three groups (1950s, 1960s, and 1970s).

If you go to this link, you need to scroll down to the Two Street Stompers, and you can see a somewhat truncated version of our routine. It was a terrific routine, if I might brag a little bit. Shout out to the leader of my unit, Murph, who thought it might be nice to go shirtless in the subzero elements.

It was cold, but the sun was out, and the New Year got rung in with maximum craziness, and the Two Street Stompers emerged with another big victory. And today, the front page of the newspaper ...


If you judge a girl by the company she keeps, I would say I hang out with an interesting crowd. Please note that, as in the first shot in this post, City Hall provides the backdrop.

Happy New Year!