Every one has value, no matter how much we object to even their most fundamental beliefs. This principle requires us to value the possibilities  no matter how small or few to work with people we disagree with on some issues, to better people's lives in other ways. That's not unity for the sake of appearance. That's seizing every available opportunity to make an actual difference, by living out the belief that truly every human  even those most objectionable to you  has real value. Marvin

Citizenship & Constitution Day

Sep. 17, 2019 - Today is Citizenship & Constitution Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution. I became a naturalized citizen in 2007, sworn in in Washington, DC steps from the Supreme Court, as our country was right in the midst of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was motivated by idealism: specifically, that I could some day work in government and affect change from within.

As someone now running for office, I continue to be inspired by that idea. But I also know that change, in or out of government, on any scale - from fixing a broken pothole to fixing a broken national security system - can't happen without many other concerned citizens.

That's why, as important as any work on policy, I continue to center this campaign around engaging people - including those that have every reason to be discouraged or cynical about the system. I want them to see that people do care - and that there is power in their joining together, to try and make things better, in small and big ways. And that power, for citizens, is arguably greatest of all at the ballot box.

September 11

Sep. 11, 2019 - There's a quote at the 9/11 Memorial, by the Roman poet Virgil, that I think about a lot: "No day shall erase you from the memory of time." And that's what I'm thinking of today, in the midst of a world that seems like it will always be dealing with the harms of what happened 18 years ago.

 

That quote is salient for me, because it's helpful when the question "why does suffering exist?" bubbles up again - as it often does in my mind. Those closest to me know that I think about that question enough to have dedicated hundreds of hours and lots of late-night writing trying to answer it, as well as taken on my non-political volunteer activities in ways that try to address it in acute forms - particularly at the margins of life (e.g., community emergency response, crisis lines, organ donor facilitation).

 

But naturally, if countless thinkers throughout the ages - faithful or secular - haven't given a universally satisfactory answer, I'm certainly not going to be able to. Can anyone truly justify the pain that something like September 11 caused? Of course, some people try to. And I've tried to understand why. For example, one of my early law review articles looked at Muslim jihadists and Christian abortion clinic bombers, to see where they fit in the paradigm of our criminal justice system's so-called "insanity" defense. Because I just wanted to understand how they thought. But, of course, there's no convincing answer.

 

I've said before that, as humans, we tend to say that each human life has immutable, infinite, irreplaceable, and equal value. I used to think the problem was that, logically and mathematically, those four characteristics cannot actually co-exist. And while that's true - which is why we have "tragic choices" sometimes (for you philosophers, think trolley problem) - I've realized more recently that the problem is that those aren't really our ideals, even if we say they are. We don't *really* believe that all lives have equal value, that every and all lives really "matter." Every person has hopes and dreams, every person wants some measure of consistent peace even as they strive for greater things, and every person wants to avoid great pain. But, most times, we just think of our *own* hopes, peace, and pain. In effect, even if not in conscious intent, we prioritize either the survival or even mere comfort of ourselves and our closest ones. Natural events aside - and even those, as our warming climate shows, are insidiously impacted by human action - that's the primary root of human harm.

 

And even as I'm aware of and saying all of this, I do the same myself, in many aspects of my life. Of course, I'm not drawing a moral equivalence between whatever actions I do and committing acts of terror. Still, like any human, I've been selfish and inflicted harm on others. Perhaps the one difference is that I'm more consciously aware that I'm making these choices than others. But, sometimes, I think that actually make it worse. And whatever the criticisms to concepts like Arendt's "banality" of evil, or experiments like Milgram's that have tried to test those concepts, it'd be dangerous to think any of us is immune from engaging in terrible acts, under certain conditions. It may not be justification, excuse, or even a mitigation factor - but, even with belief in free will, it's hard for any person to escape the combined forces of nature and nurture.

 

All of that may seem hopeless - but that's why I frequently come back to the quote from the 9/11 Memorial. Because, no - I don't have an answer for why suffering exists, big or small. And nothing can justify what happened that Tuesday. But, for myself, I carry on for myself and for others, because, beyond being immutable, infinite, and irreplaceable, I believe the good value that comes from every human being is *immortal* - even if we ourselves are not. Whatever pain that arises in any life, and whether that pain is or isn't justified…the good exists anyway. And it can't be taken away, by time or space - or, in my mind, even the existence of spacetime. For once it happened, it has happened forever. Like the good of the lives that were lost on September 11, 2001.

 

A lot of bad things haven't changed since that day, unfortunately. But, even if the bad things seem like they'll never change, I'll keep fighting for that good that can't ever be erased.

Labor Day

Sep. 2, 2019 - A happy Labor Day to all – and a thank you to the workers, the union organizers, and the many others in our country’s labor movement. They have driven progress on issues like work hours, overtime pay, and minimum wage – protections that have benefited so many of us. Still, not everyone benefits, and still there is much progress we must still make, particularly in Georgia, to ensure all workers are adequately protected.

 

I believe in all sorts of freedoms, especially as a civil rights attorney. And one that is as important as any other is meaningful economic freedom – including to work and labor in ways that are sustainable and provide meaningful opportunity, for individual and their families. This is a vision that is not only morally sound, but also possible to achieve. With Democratic leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders pushing economic reforms, so many people today are worried about the state of individual freedoms in America (e.g., those who allege a “communist” threat). But to me, the problem isn’t our society potentially becoming too collectively oriented, at the price of individual freedom. To me, the main is that our society overvalues, not individual freedom for all, but the individual freedom of only a few.

 

That’s apparent in many aspects of our society, one being our economy. By allowing, for example, a certain few people to amass a great deal of the wealth and capital, we are, in effect, taking away meaningful economic freedom for others – for example, the freedom to start their own businesses and compete in certain industries. This is why we have anti-monopoly laws, after all. This phenomenon manifests itself in many forms in Georgia, as in the rest of the United States: for example, the healthcare industry, which has been the subject of so much policy debate the last several years. It’s full of monopolies at every level, whether at the level of hospitals, drug manufacturers, insurers, and even doctors and specialists who are resistant to allowing other healthcare professionals, such nurses, to assume greater responsibilities despite shortages.[1] All of this combines to put most of the control and power in the hands of the industry, not consumers, who are often dealing with life-and-death implications.

 

In my opinion, it’s absolutely possible to protect individual freedom, while also ensuring that collectively society provides for the very basic needs of all. It includes protections for local entrepreneurs and small businesses that must compete with gargantuan corporations. That includes, of course, protections for laborers – whatever job classification, immigration status, or industry. And that includes protections for those in our workforce who are retiring, can no longer, and/or can't find sustainable work. These include retirement benefits for all, stronger unemployment benefits, as well as general assistance programs (which Georgia doesn’t have) that would provide safety net for those in poverty who  don’t typically qualify for other, more traditional forms of public assistance (i.e., no minor children, no disability, not elderly).[2]

 

Ensuring that basic goods and services provided by monopolies can be effectively provided by other entities public or private is a big task. The arguments being made in Medicare-for-All debate, even among just Democrats, are a testament to that. The first step, however, is to recognize that, in fact, every person – and not just a select few – should have meaningful freedom. As much as anything else, that includes economic freedom. To me, Labor Day stands for that.

 

References:

[1] The U.S. health care system is full of monopolies, https://www.axios.com/health-care-costs-monopolies-competition-hospitals-9839f396-c95d-4792-b106-663a727ef1f4.html

[2] State General Assistance programs are weakening despite increased need, https://www.cbpp.org/research/family-income-support/state-general-assistance-programs-are-weakening-despite-increased

Women's Equality Day

Aug. 26, 2019 - Today is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating this year the 99th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment that recognized the American woman’s right to vote. I think of all the people I’ve worked with in Georgia on civic engagement, voter registration, canvassing, etc., especially the last few years – and they’ve been mostly women. I’m so grateful they’ve taken on this work – something that benefits all of us progressives, regardless of gender – all while living out the other parts of their lives, in a society that still refuses to recognize the clearly extraordinary abilities they possess equal to, or far beyond men like myself.

 

And a special thanks to my mom, who is a primary example of so many of the challenges women face, and their strength in the midst of it all. In the Philippines, my mom gave birth to me and my brother, then quickly went back to work, because my family needed the income and because her job wouldn’t let her take more than a couple weeks off. Then when we moved to America, she had to sacrifice her career, as we didn’t have family or a network here to help care for me and my brother – and since we came here because of my father’s work, the caretaking job fell primarily on her. When she finally was able to work, she experienced what so many women do: harassment, to the point where she had to quit one job because of it. And because we weren’t yet citizens and she didn’t want to jeopardize our status, she didn’t report it. Still, she persevered. And a few years ago, she not only became an American citizen, but also exercised the very right that today celebrates: the vote.

 

Not only her vote, but also her power – like the power of all other women – is what Women’s Equality Day is about. And what we should be thankful for every day. So to her – and to the women in my family, my bosses (most of whom, in 15 years, have been women), my colleagues, my friends – you have my unending gratitude, along with my commitment to continue helping you, as I’m called, to achieve equality not just at the ballot box, but also the home, the workplace, the public square, and everywhere else. I long ago realized that I’ll never understand how difficult it all can be, to experience the litany of things you’ve detailed: being called aggressive for being assertive, being passed over for jobs that went to less qualified men, having to hide pregnancies, being told you’re too covered up or not enough, needing to be more careful – when you obviously shouldn’t have to – in everyday interactions, everywhere from the streets to social media to dating apps, and constantly navigating objectification, harassment, even violence.

 

There’s a long road ahead to achieving true equality, but however long, I’ll be there as you call me.

Organ transplants and healthcare equity

Aug. 21, 2019 - Yesterday, I was in Chicago for a meeting of the Patient Affairs Committee of UNOS – the organization that manages the organ transplant system in America. I joined the Committee for many reasons, one of which has been my long-standing interest in healthcare equity. And the meeting – where we discussed proposals to allocate donor kidneys and lungs more equitably, across geographical regions – solidified for me the importance of better healthcare systems, particularly in Georgia.

 

Our state, unfortunately, has among the highest waitlist-to-donor ratios in the country, at almost 10 people who need an organ for every 1 donor. One of the major reasons? Because Georgians are particularly prone to diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. Certain minority groups even more so.

 

Organs for transplant are one resource in our healthcare system that is definitely finite. But the reason so many Georgians need them in the first place is an indictment of our healthcare system overall – like our inability to ensure that all people are covered under healthcare insurance. That’s why we need Medicaid expansion, among other policies. We as a state must realize that allocating our resources to save many people’s lives – long before they are put in a hopeless situation, needing an organ that no amount of money or our finest technology yet can create – is something that is not only fiscally feasible, but morally necessary.

Support from our communities

Aug. 13, 2019 - When we were awaiting our green cards, back in the 90s, my family relied on some public benefits. Far from being a "burden" on society, we were collectively also logging in scads of volunteer hours. And we weren't - and aren't - exceptional in this way, even among just the immigrant families around us whom we knew. This "public charge" rule - which is derived from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, for goodness' sake - is wrong.

 

Relatedly, I'd compiled a list of (public and private) resources in the community, for those who could use support: www.marvinlimforga.com/find-resources. A list of organizations seeking volunteers is included, for those seeking to support others.

 

I compiled these because, more important than any one election, I hope to help people feel part of the community. But that ideal starts with recognizing life's realities - which make it hard for some people just to survive, let alone participate in civic life (including voting at all, for anyone). Providing information on resources - including private ones, especially given the proposed federal "public charge" rule - is one thing I can do.

 

And by providing information on ways to get involved in the community - including some oriented towards voter engagement or advocacy - I hope people can feel empowered, despite life's challenges, that they can do something.

"What can I do?"

Aug. 5, 2019 - Since I work in gun violence prevention, I'm often asked what people can do, in the wake of these tragedies. Here is a non-exhaustive list - starting with education, ending with action:

 

  • CALL your FEDERAL LEGISLATORS and tell them you SUPPORT:​​​

  • Ban on Assault Weapons and High Capacity Magazines (H.R. 1296/S. 66) (H.R. 1186/S. 447)

  • Disarm Hate Act (H.R. 2708/S. 1462)

  • Extreme Risk Protection Order Act (H.R.1236/S. 506) (these "red flag" laws" enable family members and law enforcement to petition a court for a temporary order prohibiting a person from purchasing or possessing firearms)

  • National Licensing & Registration of Handguns (S. 1884)

(thanks to the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus for this list of legislation: https://keepgunsoffcampus.org)

DISCLOSURE: I've been employed by both Giffords Law Center and the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus.

An adequate education

Aug. 5, 2019 - With school back in session today in Gwinnett, I’ve been reflecting on a sobering reality: how luck plays a major role in which children can access a good education. This was certainly true for me and my brother growing up – and it makes me reflect on what we still have to do to ensure educational equity.

 

For my first couple of grades, while I still lived in the Philippines, my parents were spending a bulk of their dual incomes to send my brother and me to a good school, because of the total inadequacy of local public schools. One of the benefits we saw from moving to the United States was that my brother and I were going to be able to go to a good public school, tuition-free – or so they thought, according to their preconceptions of the American education system.

 

That didn’t turn out to be the case, at least at first. And, seeing as how we qualified for the free school breakfasts and lunches (which I thought were delicious, by the way), private school was certainly not an option. In DeKalb County at the time – I moved to Gwinnett and my current district in 2001 – my parents first tried to get us into magnet schools, which admitted people based on lottery. Talk about depending on luck. After several failed tries, my parents made the decision to move us from our apartment complex to another more expensive one just a few miles away, just so we could be in a better school district. Of course, the move itself was intentional, and required not a little bit of sacrifice to make feasible.

 

The “luck” for us came in something the rarity of which I appreciated only later on: the schools in that district not only ended up being good, but also, even though this wasn’t part of my immigrant parents’ calculation, very diverse. In high school, for example, I ended up taking every Advanced Placement course I wanted to take – a product of being in a solidly middle-class neighborhood, meaning higher school funding from property taxes. Among other things, that saved me a year of college tuition, as I was later able to graduate from Emory in three years because of my AP credit.

 

At the same time, I repeated the benefits of a school that had no racial minority – or in other words, was quite diverse. I remember, for example, my lunch crew during sophomore year: besides me, my friends were of Ethiopian, Chinese, and Russian descent, among other backgrounds.

 

That diversity, of course, wasn’t happenstance for the people who fought decades to desegregate schools, something that Kamala Harris brought back into the spotlight recently during the first round of Democratic presidential debates. One of those efforts still ongoing when I was in school was M-to-M busing – that is, majority-to-minority busing, which for my high school meant that minorities from outside the majority-white district had, for years, exercised the option to be bused in. Recently, I found a write-up I did on M-to-M busing 20 years ago, in my 9th grade civics class. In it, I expressed my support for the program (while also misunderstanding what turned out to be a mere misprint – hey, I was 14 years old!). But only later in life – when I realized that the rest of the world wasn’t like my school – could I really appreciate what all of it meant.

And only later in life have I appreciated: not everyone will have such luck, or be able – geographically, financially, or otherwise – to access school districts that provide adequate education in both academics and citizenship. An adequate education should be guaranteed for all people – regardless of who they are, and where they are. And, having benefited from such education, I’ll certainly do what I can to make that a reality for others.

A crisis of public health

Aug. 4, 2019 - CW: suicides. There’s been so much in the news lately about suicides, and how they’re impacting a variety of populations: teenagers, seniors, veterans, law enforcement, the LGBT community, minorities, and so many others. So many people, of all kinds of backgrounds, have been personally impacted by the suicide of a loved one. In my life, I had two friends, one in high school and another in law school, who took their lives. And, like many in that situation, I definitely asked myself what, if anything, I could have done differently.

 

The challenge, of course, is that problems of mental health in America are perpetuated, as much as anything else, by systemic forces. There’s the firearms issue: I’ve mentioned before that suicides account for most firearms-related deaths in the United States, by far, something that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It’s not just the availability of firearms, but also a gun culture where there are large swaths of firearms owners that don’t adhere to safe storage practices. And, of course, there’s the healthcare issue, too. Lack of access to healthcare insurance means lack of access to mental healthcare – another reason Medicaid expansion in our state is so important. And, in so many of our schools, there remains a dearth of funding for mental health resources.

Those are just two of the many issues that make suicide such a complex problem. That said, while there’s never going to be one “solution” to this problem, it’s clear that a lot can be done. In Georgia, we can pass a range of firearms laws: laws incentivizing safe storage, so-called “red flag” laws that permit the temporary removal of firearms owned by people at risk, funding for training on suicide prevention among underserved communities as well as gun owners themselves – something with which states like New Hampshire and Utah have seen some success. Expanding insurance to all people, and funding mental health in schools, take care of another aspect. And there are still so many other possible initiatives, ranging from new models of preventative programming, to funding for families who survive their loved ones after suicide.

 

One can imagine, naturally, some of the objections usually raised against a few of these proposals. “Red flag” laws give rise to due process concerns, though a proper version of the law must account for those. And cost is always another barrier: I think of how lack of funding delayed the construction of a suicide deterrent on the Golden Gate Bridge for years, for example, even though most people agreed it was a good idea. Naturally, people will raise these objections when they perceive a threat to something they value for themselves (e.g., the ability to own firearms), or perceive a scarcity of resources (e.g., funding for healthcare).

 

But people on the margins of society, like those contemplating suicide, deserve our consideration of their (and not just our) human needs. Mental health can be complex, but that doesn’t change that the human experience is common in a few ways: working constantly towards a better life, having hope that that’s possible, seeking peace with things we can’t transform to our liking, and trying to ease the pain we come across. It’s when people are derailed from those things – and there aren’t resources for them to turn to – that can be defeating. At the very least, we can do a better job of providing access to those resources.

For 24/7 confidential suicide prevention support, contact: 

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, or 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish)

  • Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741

  • The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ youth): 1-866-488-7386or text START to 678678

Mom's Medicare maze 

Jul. 23, 2019 - This month, my mom turned 65, making her eligible for Medicare – a process that, unfortunately but predictably, turned out to be far more complicated than it should have been.

 

Among other things: she and I called her private insurer multiple times, and got contradictory information as to whether they would remain the "primary" or "secondary" payer, for purposes of Medicare Part B. In addition, their paperwork and their website had incomplete and outdated information. We finally just insisted on getting everything mailed to us in writing, to ensure that she wouldn’t suffer the consequences of getting Medicare enrollment wrong, like penalties for late enrollment – or, worse, not having sufficient coverage whenever she should need it.

This is not an uncommon story. As this recent op-ed in the New York Times stated, private insurers make Medicare confusing, and very few people end up getting the best coverage for the lowest cost, which requires switching plans nearly every year: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/04/opinion/medicare-for-all.html

This is just one of the many problems in our healthcare system. Healthcare is a basic need, and there are too many disparities in who gets access – and that’s in no small part because consumers, like mom, have to jump hoops just to get basic information.

I started advocating for better healthcare policy long ago, with my first passion being mental health parity. And I’ll continue doing so, now on a much wider array of issues, for my mom and for all others in Georgia.

To "go back" where I'm from

Jul. 15, 2019 - As an immigrant, here’s my personal answer to President Trump’s call to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places” where I’m from, “then come back and show us how it is done.”

 

One: why go back to the Philippines, when Trump is already “learning” from its approach to crime: a drug war where thousands of people have died without any due process, at the hands of governments that make actual “kill lists”? Human rights groups have condemned this approach. And every time I make plans to visit my family there, at least one friend here will inevitably warn me to be careful.

 

But Trump himself? He once telephoned Filipino Pres. Duterte, who is leading this war, and actually said: ”Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing.”[1] Given Trump’s statements – and the ever-increasing militarization of our own civilian policing, including immigration policing – it’s apparent: my going back and showing America how it’s done would only be redundant.

 

Two: America too often has a big hand in creating these “broken and crime infested places” – and the very problems that drive immigrants, asylees, and refugees to our country. I’m not even talking about historical problems with continuing effects, like colonialization. Instead, I’ll speak from the perspective of an attorney who specializes in present-day gun violence.

 

Here in the United States, we tend to focus on the gun violence problem within our borders. But let’s not forget: the United States is the top exporter of firearms around the world, in terms of dollar value.[2] And that’s just counting legal firearms. Factor in American-made firearms that end up in illicit firearms trafficking – and then factor in other types of weapons, like bombs and grenades – and it’s even clearer how overrun the world is with American firepower. That includes:

 

  • Mexico and Central America. Did you know that there’s only one gun store in Mexico? But millions of dollars of legal firearms exports into Mexico – and, according to Mexican authorities, about 2,000 guns illegally trafficked from the United States daily – account for thousands of deaths.[3] American guns have been used in tragedies like a 2014 massacre of students in Guerrero by local police, who were armed by AR6530 rifles legally exported from the U.S. And then there are the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, places tragically rife with homicide, gang activity, and other types of violence. American firearms play a big role there as well: for example, the ATF itself has reported that half the guns found in El Salvador’s crime scenes were manufactured in the U.S.[4] It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that America’s policies help drive the very crisis at our southern borders.

  • The Middle East and North Africa. It’s now well-publicized that Saudi Arabia is a significant consumer of American firearms and weapons. This is a country that has led a war in Yemen, creating a massive refugee crisis. Even when America isn’t directly supplying weapons in this region, there’s the blowback: American-manufactured firearms, originally provided to opposition in Syria – another country with a massive refugee crisis – have been found before in ISIS arsenals. And American-produced weapons originally supplied to troops fighting against terrorism once ended up in the hands a large Somalian terror group.

  • And, of course, the Philippines – to which the United States is its largest supplier of weapons, which naturally fuel the aforementioned drug war. There, the President once complained about getting “second hand” weapons from the US. Those complaints worked: the U.S. government gave him new, American-made machine guns, assault rifles, and grenade launchers.

 

So: who needs to go back anywhere, when some here in America are contributing to the problem? But it doesn’t have to be that way. In America (and, of course, Georgia) we have good, kind, decent human beings – including those among our immigrants. It’s these people – wherever they’re originally from – that will “show us how it is done.”

 

References:

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/us/politics/trump-duterte-phone-transcript-philippine-drug-crackdown.html

[2] http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/B-Occasional-papers/SAS-OP19-US.pdf

[3] https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/2000-illegal-weapons-cross-us-mexico-border-every-day

[4] https://www.lawg.org/arming-the-conflict-el-salvadors-gun-market

Happy July 4th

Jul. 4, 2019 - Leading up to this July 4th, I’ve been thinking, as someone running for office, about what it means to be an “American.” It’s a hard question for me – as it probably is for most people, regardless of their origin, race, gender, or politics. Live I’ve said, as an immigrant, I appreciate so much of what this country has given me. But I also know that America’s reality is often far from the ideals we’re celebrating today. There’s probably no better example of this than what’s happening to immigrants at our Southern borders, people facing choices no humans should have to – and that aren’t that different from those that the first Europeans who came here faced: face persecution and violence at home, or risk coming to a place that may provide a much better life – or may not be any more welcoming.

 

For people living in some countries to our south, staying at home means risking possible rape, kidnapping, torture, and murder – especially if they’re women or children. These are, unfortunately, regular events in too many places. And that’s why so many people are risking their lives, and often those of their children, to come to our country, in hopes they can live a better life – or, in many cases, just keep living. But they also know that, even if they survive the journey here – and we’ve seen, graphically, that many don’t – their families will probably face some horrific conditions here, too, starting with how they’re treated by our immigration and law enforcement.

 

Their situations reinforce for me, not just how unjust life often is, but also how being in America – despite our ideals – hardly guarantees that justice is any more likely. Growing up, I was personally taught to value humans, above all – regardless of who they were, or where they were from. There are over 7 billion of us on earth, and I was taught that each one of us has value that is unique, infinite, and also – somehow – equal. And when I immigrated here, it was imparted on me constantly (particularly on July 4th) that it was our country’s recognition of equality in particular that made America so different. “All men are created equal,” we believe here.

 

But, of course, that’s not how life really works. To begin with, we’re all born into wildly different circumstances. Some people are born in America, into more privileged existences. Some people aren’t born here, and face circumstances so dire that America becomes the Promised Land. And some people are born here – or are granted the opportunity to come – and still live a hard life.

 

Though I’m an immigrant myself, I think of how different my family’s circumstances were compared to those faced by the immigrants at our borders, or refugees coming from Syria, Yemen, or any number of other troubled places in the world. We weren’t being persecuted, we weren’t “stateless” individuals, and we were given the opportunity to come (and stay) here because of my dad’s work. And, after we’d been here for a certain period, we were granted the choice to become – or not become, if that’s what we preferred – American citizens. Having that choice was a privilege in itself – something so many people would risk death to have.

 

You could say that this is just the nature of human life on earth – being born into unique circumstances is what creates the “unique” value of each human, after all. Still, it’s not like human beings are always using their advanced capacities for either rationality or empathy, to try and make things better for people who aren’t lucky enough to be born into better circumstances. Actually, we often make things worse. When I think of the 150 billion who have ever lived in human history, I can’t help but ponder how many of them were abused, enslaved, murdered, killed in war, neglected, or otherwise treated poorly, not by nature or other animals, but by their fellow humans.

 

And, of course, America has played a big part in that mistreatment – something our country (and Georgia) have yet to fully reckon with. Our founding, as the United States, was based on that: Europeans came here to escape persecution, and, in doing so, took the lands and lives of Native Americans – a group that so many of us often forget today.

 

They enslaved Africans. And then, even when enslaved people were “freed,” imposed a series of laws that continued to degrade African-Americans and deprive them of basic recognition as humans. And these laws often still appear in our legal system today, in some form, like voter ID and other laws that disenfranchise minority voters.

 

America’s broader policy of “Manifest Destiny” inflicted American violence and colonialization worldwide – including in the Philippines where I’m from, a country that the U.S. occupied from 1898 to 1946, after its victory in the Spanish-American War.

 

And throughout our history, many other American policies on race and immigration – from the Chinese Exclusion Act, to Japanese internment, to the modern immigration practices that most often hurt people from Latin America and the Middle East – have continued to convey: yes, all men are created equal – but some are always going to be more equal than others. And these are injustices on the basis of just race and origin.

 

Unfortunately, our country has still never done penance for so many of these horrific practices in our history. We fail to apologize, fail to recognize and rectify the continuing, intergenerational effects of these institutions, fail to recognize the modern-day versions of some of these institutions.

 

To the contrary, Americans often defend them. Those were different times that shouldn’t be judged by modern standards, they say. But even if that’s somehow an excuse, that certainly doesn’t make it a justification. Not time, not cultural relativity, not anything else could ever actually justify – whenever and wherever they exist – institutions that inflict such pain on other humans.

 

What’s more, in many ways, Americans still celebrate these institutions. We revere our Founding Fathers while failing at least to acknowledge openly that they built slavery into the Constitution, owned slaved themselves, and deprived Native Americans in order to form a “more perfect union.” And, here in Georgia and in many other places, we continue to protect Confederate memorials – like Stone Mountain, where I remember taking more than one field trip growing up here in Atlanta, without ever being educated as to what, really, it was celebrating.

 

Many defend these memorials as honoring historical Southern values and ancestry, believing that the problem of slavery can be separated. And I think: are these really the best reminders of Southern ideals and ancestry that do stand the test of time – values that include, according to what I was taught growing up, hospitality, kindness to strangers (really), and hard work no matter the (hot) weather?

 

So, what does all this mean, as far as what I think being “American” means? Well, for one, I do still believe in the American ideal of democracy we’re celebrating today. As I’ve argued before in my story about voting, whatever revolution our country needs, it can and should be through peaceful democratic processes, like the ballot box and other forms of political participation – even if those processes are often rigged to disadvantage some groups.

 

But, speaking of, I also think being American means owning up to how far America routinely falls from the ideals it trumpets. And doing that inevitably means that each one of us, individually, has to recognize how we benefit from things in America that we in no way “earned” – including things built on the backs, and at the expense, of others.

 

For me, then, being an American means that I recognize the privilege of having had the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen, even as I can (and do) recognize that my immigrant status has hurt me in other ways (see, again, my earlier voting story). It also means recognizing that my Asian-American race, though disadvantageous in ways, is disadvantageous in ways that aren’t the same as what black and brown people face. And it means recognizing that, whatever disadvantages I’ve had, I’ve also had advantages in the realms of socioeconomics, education, religion, and gender – advantages that were inevitably built on societal systems of oppression.

 

It’s my recognition of these realities that make me, as an American, want to support all people. America, I believe, should not be a zero-sum game, and should care particularly about people whom it’s historically cared least about. That means not allowing my Asian-American and documented immigrant statuses to be used as a wedge to disadvantage other minority groups. This is why, for example, I support policies like DAPA and DACA that help undocumented immigrants, even as I’m fully aware there many others – including many of my own relatives in the Philippines – who also wish to come here, and aren’t able to because of other aspects of American immigration policy.

 

Of course, I fully recognize that real “fairness” is going to take a long time. Along the way, we will need to make hard choices – like who gets to be an American and who doesn’t. In an ideal world, there would no need for nation-state borders, no need for national defense or weapons, no need for anyone to go without so that someone else might live. But that's not going to happen tomorrow. What exists now is a product of what's happened over, not even the hundreds of years of America’s existence, but the thousands of years of human civilization as a whole. So, it’ll be awhile.

 

But, still, being truly American means making these hard choices while truly believing – even if we can’t fully actualize it quite yet – that every one of the 7 billion people on earth, American or not, actually does have equal value. Even with the best of human intentions, disorder and imperfection will always exist. But we should still strive to value all people equally as best as we can, in substance and – especially if that’s not possible – in our processes.

 

To me, then, it’s that vision of equality that best defines being an “American” – a vision that, like immigrants at our border, actually recognizes the grim realities of the situation, but still strives towards the ideal, even when it’s hard and failure is quite possible. Only with that vision can we, as Americans, ultimately recognize our country’s – and arguably the human race’s – greatest aspirations.

Jun. 30 contribution deadline

Jun. 30, 2019 - Reminder: the deadline is today (Jun 30) for your donations to be counted in my first contribution report: www.marvinlimforga.com/donate. While you're at it, consider also finding other candidates to donate to, via the 2019 GA Voter Guide: https://bit.ly/2Xn7unv.

 

And because transparency should be the hallmark of campaign finance, I'll continue to be open about two things: (1) people have many needs – and finite financial resources, (2) there are Democratic candidates across the country, beyond presidential ones – and especially in flippable Georgia districts – for whom financial resources are critical. Thankfully, I live in a generally progressive place – the result of many factors, beyond any one person's (including my own) previous work in GOTV, and community engagement.

Given all that: know that I definitely don't take your money lightly. My intent: use it to engage my community, and get them excited about political participation long-term – and *beyond* voting. That's a "win" larger than any one person. Because it's a group of voices, not just mine, that'll make real change – and make government more responsive to the very challenge of "many needs, finite money."

 

For anyone who's studied campaign finance, or been involved on that side of a campaign, you know: direct voter contact costs. Forget media buys; think direct mailers, canvassers, and other things more applicable to localized races like mine. Plus, of course, fairly paying any staffers. (And none of this is helped by the "race to the bottom" America's campaign finance system, sucking in money that actually could be better used, to serve people's basic needs.)

 

But it's directly connecting with people that gets out their votes – and ultimately amplifies our collective voices. I've adhered to that belief since I did my first canvas in 2002, for then-Senator Max Cleland. I'll continue to adhere to it when I canvas for other candidates – because, again, it'll always be about more than just myself. And I adhere to it now, in my own campaign.

So, thank you, for contributing the resources to make it happen.

Disenfranchisement: my mom and the “American Dream” of voting

Jun. 23, 2019 - I’ve been asked many times what motivates me to run for office. And I’ve almost always responded with some variation of a story that centers around my father – he being the reason, because his work transfer, my family ended up in the United States. His life and death, and his successes and struggles, obviously play a key role in who I am, and why I’m doing this. But there’s another story centered around my mom that drives me as well: her experiences with election corruption in the Philippines, and her skepticism towards voting in the United States after we both became American citizens – especially after Georgia wrongly flagged me as non-citizen who couldn’t vote.

 

My mom comes from a humble, rural area of the Philippines. I still have vivid memories, in fact, of the pigs and chickens at her childhood home, which we’d visit pretty often. When I talk about the Philippines, I try to convey that, just like any country – doesn’t matter whether it’s “developed” or “developing” – there are always some people with more, and some people with less. My mom and her family had less.

 

And like in many places, where there is poverty, there is often corruption in the Philippines – including in elections. I’m not just talking the kind of voting “irregularities” we’ve seen in Georgia (and I don’t mean “voter fraud” by non-citizens – more on that in a second). I’m also talking literal, person-to-person vote-buying: like candidates promising people groceries in exchange for their votes.[1] Growing up, my mom saw this happening regularly.

 

So, fast forward to the 2000s, when we became US citizens. Personally, I chose to become a US citizen so that I could work as a civil servant for the federal government. At the time, our country was several years into the post-9/11 era, deeply embroiled in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and regularly discriminating against minorities here in America. Working in foreign policy for a non-profit at the time, I wanted to try to make a difference from within the government. Shortly after I went through the naturalization process, my mom did, too.

 

But I was the first one who had the chance to vote in America, in 2008. And, while the outcome of that election is one thing, the process of voting, for me, wasn’t a positive experience. Anticipating long Election Day lines for the likely, historic election of Sen. Barack Obama, I chose to mail an absentee ballot a month beforehand. But after I did, I got a letter from the office of then-Secretary of State Karen Handel, who had pushed Georgia’s voter “proof of citizenship” law: I had been flagged as a non-citizen.

 

At first, it seemed like just a minor inconvenience. Fine, I thought: even though the government – with all the surveillance state powers it was so intent to exercise post-9/11 – should know I’m a citizen, I’m fortunate enough to have my naturalization certificate, which I could easily just fax it into the Gwinnett County elections board. Wrong: despite faxing it almost 10 different times, I was repeatedly told I was still being flagged as a non-citizen. Not once did I get confirmation I could actually vote.

 

At that point, I just hoped I wouldn’t be flagged for committing some form of voter fraud. At that point, I didn’t yet realize that the real point of such voter ID laws is not actually to protect against voter fraud, but to disenfranchise people like myself, immigrants and minorities who are well within their rights to vote. I also thought of the Georgians who didn’t have their proof with them, for whatever legitimate reason, or who did, but who wouldn’t go through the trouble of contacting their elections board so many times. Well-meaning Georgians who wanted to participate in a process that, according to all of the Americans civics classes I took growing up, was so integral to America.

 

Motivated by all of that, I eventually joined a lawsuit regarding this and other problematic voter laws in Georgia, represented by the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. This mess also gave me the chance to testify for the first time, in 2010, at the Georgia General Assembly. I still remember recounting my story to lawmakers, and the suspicion from at least one of them: then-State Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican who shortly afterwards was elected as Representative for Georgia’s 8th Congressional District. That experience, not surprisingly, was formative to me.

 

Not surprisingly, it was also formative for my mom, but in a different way: given that she already had skepticism about voting because of what she saw in the Philippines – and now seeing how my first time attempting to vote anywhere went – she wasn’t exactly trusting of the process. Fast forward again several years later to the 2016 elections, when I finally succeeded in convincing her that she should vote. Unfortunately, the results only made her ask, and I quote: “But why would I vote again?”

 

Her question made me think long and hard – and ultimately brings me back to why I’m running for office. The answer I eventually gave her, though, turned out to be pretty straightforward: because, I said, we just have to keep trying. On the one hand, I refused to dismiss my mother’s concern. Today, I still refuse to be a “vote-shamer,” because I’m not going to tell people who’ve been disenfranchised time and again that it’s their responsibility that our country is a certain way. The reality for too many people – whether in the Philippines, in the United States, or in many other parts of the world that claim to be a democracy – is that it hasn’t seemed to matter who or which candidates have gotten elected. Change, for them, hasn’t happened, at least not meaningfully or fast enough. And, when you’ve been the “worst off” in society, regardless of who’s been in power, why believe anything can really change?

 

On the other hand, democracy – and voting as a critical part of it – is still the best way we know to make progress. To my mom, I pointed to the 1986 “People Power Revolution” in the Philippines that she saw firsthand: peaceful, civil resistance that saw the overthrow of a dictatorship (which, I sometimes remember, I technically lived under for the first couple years of my life). This event inspired later the Eastern European revolutions against communism, and revolutions across the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia after the Cold War. Change can happen, to and through democracy.

 

We’ve still got a long way to go, of course. In Georgia, the 2018 elections – and the notorious problems many people experienced with casting their ballots – gave me flashbacks to my experiences in 2008. And immigrants and minorities in America continue to face challenges. Naturally, I can speak most directly to Asian-Americans, who, many don’t know, constitute a majority of the most recent waves of immigration to this country.[2] Among other things, “Model Minority” stereotypes continue to obscure the fact that certain Southeast Asian groups actually have higher poverty rates than Americans as a whole[3]. And they obscure the fact that, whatever our educational advantages, they haven’t necessarily translated into equal success in actual employment – probably because of continuing biases in our society, as well as racial inequalities in cultural or social “capital.”[4]

 

But I fully recognize that change takes time. I believe in the idea, popularized by MLK, Jr., that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Along the way, millions of people will suffer, not seeing the change they deserve in their lifetimes. They will be thwarted by human behaviors that aggravate the challenges our entire species already faces even in the best of times. And even scientific and technological progress can't fully improve human nature. To the contrary, such progress can hasten challenges, like climate change, that pose a threat to all of our species. The moral arc probably does bend towards justice – but whether our species will live to see anywhere near its glorious end, I’m less certain.

 

Still – and I know my mom believes this part – if we can make the lives better of even a few people, it will be worth it. Because I wholeheartedly believe that any moment of joy or contentment in people’s lives, if we can generate it, can never be taken away. And it stands apart from any senseless suffering the same people might also experience.

 

And we can have faith, not only that our actions might make a larger, longer, and lasting change, but also that they matter right now – even if it doesn’t seem like it’s making any difference. These difference-making actions include speaking the truth – not the least through voting  – even when we don’t have any evidence that it’ll make any change. Because I feel that to speak the truth is to affirm, if nothing else, our common human dignity.

 

When I reflect on my mom’s question these days, I often think one of my favorite lyrics in all of song: “No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity.” This is from the song “The Greatest Love of All,” popularized by the late Whitney Houston, which my mom and I both love and often sing together. I also think about the fact that what is “dignified” – and, ultimately, what is “true” and deserves our belief – is often debated, especially in our day and age. I think, for example, about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Besides being from Georgia, he has also said he loves these lyrics[5], and talks about dignity pretty often in his case opinions, like:

 

[H]uman dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.[6]

 

These words are, to me, so beautiful. But, sadly, they actually come from his opinion disagreeing with the Court’s decision to hold bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. I don’t agree with his opinion on that, and many other issues.[7]

 

But all of this – the fact that truth and dignity are often defined by those who would actually deny the truth and dignity of others – is why we have to keep trying. To that end, one of my proudest “speaking truth” moments happened with Justice Thomas himself, and touches on the Japanese internment camps he frustratingly invokes in his same-sex marriage opinion. In 2011, he was the guest lecturer for one of my classes in law school, teaching our unit about “habeas corpus.” This is a right that someone arrested and imprisoned has, to request to stand before a court and have their detainment found legal or illegal. As an Asian-American, I asked Justice Thomas what reason Korematsu – the infamous case that said these camps were constitutional, despite their violation of habeas corpus – was still legitimate law (which it was until 2018). Unfortunately, he deflected, saying that such legal complexities were why he needed smart law clerks to assist him. But I didn’t expect otherwise. And I was still proud of myself.

 

And that’s why – now told from the perspective of my mom and our exchanges about voting – I’m running for office. Myself, I truly believe that every person has dignity: every person, after all, is united through the shared experience of human consciousness, including both those who experience the worst of human suffering and those who cause that suffering. For that reason, we all have priceless value as humans.

 

I want to uphold that dignity, and in spite of whatever reasons exist to believe that it won’t matter. So, I will continue to speak out, through my vote at the ballot box – and, I hope eventually, through my votes as a legislator. And I hope my mother will continue to join me.

 

References:

[1] The many ways of buying votes, https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/121802-vote-buying-methods

[2] Asian-Americans make up most of the new U.S. immigrant population, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2018/09/asian-immigrants-latin-americans-united-states-study-news/

[3] [Hmong/Cambodians/Laotians] in the U.S. fact sheet[s], https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/fact-sheet/asian-americans-hmong-in-the-u-s, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/fact-sheet/asian-americans-cambodians-in-the-u-s, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/fact-sheet/asian-americans-laotians-in-the-u-s

[4] Revisiting the Asian second-generation advantage, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01419870.2019.1579920

[5] From Whitney Houston to Obergefell: Clarence Thomas on human dignity, http://crookedtimber.org/2015/06/29/from-whitney-houston-to-obergefell-clarence-thomas-on-human-dignity/

[6] Obergefell v. Hodges (Thomas, J., dissenting), https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

[7] In addition, if we’re talking about dignity, I personally find Anita’s Hill testimony about his sexual harassment credible – something that, at the very least, deserved to have the complete and impartial investigation that it never got, failing due process for both her and Clarence Thomas.

Capital punishment and the execution of Marion Wilson, Jr.

Jun. 20, 2019 - Tonight, the State of Georgia plans to execute Marion Wilson Jr., 42 of Milledgeville. It will be the 1,500th execution in America since 1976, when the Supreme Court ended a temporary moratorium that had begun in 1972. This case displays two of the elements that make the death penalty "cruel and unusual": racial disparities and doubts about guilt. It also displays what, to me and many others, is the strongest reason against the death penalty: Mr. Wilson is a living, human being.

 

The lives of victims and their families – here, Donovan Corey Parks and his father Freddie who continues to survive him – are shattered in these cases. And the impulse for retribution, for better and worse, is natural in humans; in many ways, I've written, it's a desire for empathy. But the idea that a person can, through certain actions, lose all worth as a human being is dangerous. It tells us: "You not only possess the ability, but are in fact required, to 'earn' and keep your humanity." This is an argument that so many reject when it comes to other contexts – like abortion, assisted suicide, and other life-and-death situations where many argue that the lack or diminution of certain physical and mental capabilities is irrelevant to a human's worth. 

In those contexts, the most basic human impulses – to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, let alone to think – are considered priceless. These are impulses that even "guilty" human beings have – impulses that, no matter what happens, continue to indicate their humanity.

There are several great organizations – the Southern Center for Human Rights, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, among others – leading the way here in Georgia on this issue, including actions in support of Mr. Wilson. Please consider supporting these organizations - and checking their Facebook pages for actions to take (e.g., vigils for Mr. Wilson): GFADP website FacebookSCHR website & Facebook.

It was through such organizations that I had my first experience lobbying at the Gold Dome, in 2009 alongside many others advocating against a bill that would have allowed a non-unanimous jury to impose the death penalty – as well as for justice for Troy Davis, who would be unjustly executed two years later. Let's continue working on this issue together, until Georgia truly does value all human lives.

Reference:

-Georgia prepares for 1,500th execution in the U.S. since 1976, https://theintercept.com/2019/06/18/georgia-execution-death-row

Gun Violence Awareness Month

Jun. 18, 2019 - Officially, June is Gun Violence Awareness month, but I think many of us would agree: it’s hard – or should be hard – for us to forget gun violence in this country on any given day. As an attorney who has worked in gun violence prevention for the last 4 years, of course that’s true for me. But, especially working in this field, it’s also hard not to get discouraged at how far our country still has to go to address this problem. Georgia is certainly no exception.

 

To me, gun violence is one example of our country too frequently valuing the individual liberties of a select few, over the liberties – and ultimately lives – of many, many others. Those “others” tend to include the most vulnerable in our society, like minorities who are disproportionately impacted by gun violence – a phenomenon not traditionally reflected in media reporting of gun violence.[1]

 

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” say some gun rights advocates, to justify the near-absolute levels of protection they want guns to have. To me, it can’t be as simple as that, particularly if I think about what actually is the most common incident of gun-related fatality in America (again despite what media reporting of gun violence might lead one to believe). Not mass shootings or crimes, but suicides.[2] As practically any one working in mental health will tell you: access to lethal means, in the moment of crisis, can make all the difference between life and death. In that sense, guns absolutely kill people who wouldn’t have otherwise died, if guns hadn’t been readily available.

 

And even though people who commit gun violence are already troubled for a whole host of reasons, America’s attitude of “liberty or death” as it applies to firearms can only amplify, not deescalate, troubled mindsets. Stand Your Ground – an issue I’ve worked on extensively because it speaks directly to when our society believes killing is justified – is a perfect example. A law originally designed to protect people’s honor has become sanction for people to commit violence whenever they feel they will be harmed – even if they are completely wrong, and often driven by racial and other bias.[3]

 

Until we uproot this approach to “liberty,” we’re probably never going to rid ourselves of our gun violence epidemic. That’s especially true in Georgia, which passed the first “Guns Everywhere” law in 2014, and where gun culture is prevalent – whether in urban, rural, or suburban communities.[4]

 

But I think it’s possible – particularly if those of us who advocate for gun violence prevention respond, not just to certain types of tragedies, but also to those who don’t usually get as much attention: like gun violence in minority communities, or suicides in rural communities where gun ownership tends to be higher. That’s what I’ll continue to be dedicated to.

 

References:

[1] Gun violence in the US kills more black people and urban dwellers, https://theconversation.com/gun-violence-in-the-us-kills-more-black-people-and-urban-dwellers-86825

[2] The disturbing trend behind America’s soaring gun deaths, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/12/gun-deaths-city-murders-suicides/578812

[3] Dan M. Kahan, The Secret Ambition of Deterrence, 113 HARV. L. REV. 413, 432-33 (1999)

[4] Georgia law allows guns in some schools, bars, churches, https://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/us/georgia-governor-signs-gun-bill/index.html

Father's Day remembrance: the "American Dream"

Jun. 16, 2019 - Today is Father’s Day: a yearly occasion for me to crank up “In the Living Years” by Mike + the Mechanics and remember how my father – who passed away now 10 years ago – shaped my views on the “American Dream.” Like many immigrants, it’s a dream with which my family has a complicated relationship: we’ve experienced, in varying degrees, both its promise and its mythical impossibility – in spite of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” adage we’ve been peddled.

 

My family immigrated to this country in 1991 when I was 7, arriving immediately in Atlanta, after my father’s work in the Philippines transferred him here. Meaning: if not for him, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. For that, I’m grateful.

 

That said, our narrative in America took many turns. Focusing on just my father’s storyline: after a few years, my father was laid off from his job, and struggled to find work. He eventually left Atlanta to be able to make a living for us – first for Detroit, then to southern rural Georgia, near Vidalia. My mom, brother, and I stayed behind, primarily so that our schooling wouldn’t be interrupted. (We did get to see him, though: he would spend 5 hours driving every weekend back to Atlanta, just to come see us. Conversely, we were culturally exposed to parts of Georgia that many Atlantans never see.) Eventually, my father developed health problems – the work and travel, among other things, took a toll – and he passed away at age 56, just a few days after he’d accompanied me to take the Law School Admissions Test.

 

Naturally, all of this taught me the value of hard work, of sacrifice, of family. At the same time, it made me think: should achieving the “American Dream” have to come at such a big price?

 

In the decade since my father’s passing, I’ve grown a lot myself – particularly learning to accept what it means both to strive in life towards one’s full potential, while simultaneously accepting that it’s difficult, sometimes impossible, to change certain circumstances. (I joke that it’s a good balance of stereotypical Western and Eastern values.) For example, my experiences with my father pushed me to be more comfortable with the idea that death – for all of us, from the poor to the privileged – is inevitable. And I’ve channeled that acceptance into doing work around death and dying, like volunteering for Hospice Atlanta.

 

At the same time, certain other things shouldn’t be as inevitable as they are for many. No one lives forever – but that doesn’t mean we should tolerate the inequities in access to end-of-life resources. And, certainly, there should be more equity in healthcare in general, so that every person does have an equal opportunity at least to live a “normal” lifespan.

Personally, I’d trade all the “achievement” in my life for more time with my dad. (Another of my song recommendations for this annual occasion: Dance With My Father, by Luther Vandross.) Since that’s not possible, I’ll do the next best thing: I’m going to fight to make sure that this equal opportunity does come to fruition. That, to me, is when the American Dream will fulfill its promise – for not some, but all.

Celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month

Jun. 6, 2019 - June is LGBTQ Pride month – and as a member of this particular community as well as Catholic, it’s long weighed on me how we allow “disgust” for other human beings to deny the most basic resources for living. This is certainly true here in Georgia, which has a long way to go to protect the basic needs of its LGBT inhabitants.

 

Though I’m Catholic,  I count myself lucky to have been quite fortunate in one respect: I was raised by my parents in the “social justice” tradition of the Catholic Church prevalent within our communities in the Philippines – a tradition that emphasized compassion, particularly for the vulnerable, rather than shame, condemnation, and outcasting of others.

 

Unfortunately, this is not the case for all people – which is why Georgia has practically no protections for its LGBT community. At the state level, there is still no law protecting LGBT people against discrimination in employment, public accommodations, or other basic resources. And access to basic healthcare, particularly for transgender people, remains difficult to access. These problems are only compounded outside of large metropolitan areas (particularly the few metropolitan areas that have succeeded in passing city or county-level ordinances).

 

Motivated by all of this, immediately after I finished law school, I worked for LGBT rights with the ACLU and the ACLU of Georgia – including fighting in the Georgia General Assembly against “religious liberty” bills that would sanction as a reason for discriminating on the basis of LGBT status. One of my proudest moments was to debate an author of one of these bills, at one of former Republican State Rep. Beth Beskin’s town halls, in front of a not-so-friendly crowd.

 

This is work I hope to continue doing as a state legislator. This year’s Pride commemorates the 50th anniversary of the June 28, 1969 riots against the police raid of Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar. 50 years later, the fight continues – and I’ll continue to try to do my part right here in Georgia.

LAUNCH: Marvin Lim for Georgia State Representative (HD 99)

Jun. 4, 2019 - Today, I'm thrilled to announce​ the launch of my campaign, as a Democratic candidate for Ga. State Rep. of House District 99. Georgia and House District 99 have long been my home - and I'm excited to work together to make them better. I hope you'll join me!

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