Kamala Harris Book Review

I ordered this book because I believe it’s my responsibility as a citizen of the United States of America to engage in my own critical evaluation of the candidates before me.  The media has its biases, and the noise created is both distracting and jarring.  I have been watching, eyes wide open and slack jaw as the egregious abuses of power, abhorrent and degrading generalizations of large swaths of the American People, and dangerous affiliations with known aggressors toward our country, become more and more common place.  I do appreciate the bill to support National Parks, and the tough stance we’re taking on China, as they continue to take advantage of our intellectual property, this administration has supported.  However, this does not offset a growing list of serious lapses in judgement that continue to impact our nation with devastating consequences.

I’m compiling this summary because many do not enjoy reading as much as I do, so I wanted to provide an overview of the content, because it was a compelling read.  I would absolutely recommend reading it, as it gives you a chance to really hear the words from the Author herself.   She was warm, engaging, passionate, funny, incredibly brilliant and informed, humble, and excited by each opportunity to serve, as her career in the field of Justice and now politics as evolved.   From the Media’s portrayal I thought I might find a radical extreme leftist that was determined to undermine my rights and freedoms at every turn.  This is simply not true.  Her approach and consideration of the major challenges facing our country today are thoughtful, well informed, and overall put people (the main role of a civil servant) at the center of her campaign.  She doesn’t appear to be looking for fame and fortune, rather committed to service and justice for all, which is refreshing.  She has some great ideas to tackle some challenging problems, and with most of her background being within the Justice department, first as a Prosecutor, District Attorney, then Attorney General, she has a keen eye for predators looking to manipulate others for personal gain, and a proven record that she will not stand for it. 

My critique: I was left wanting to understand how she might balance so many great ideas when our country is already burdened beneath an obscene deficit.  However, neither am I naïve to ignore the dramatic expansion in deficit experienced under our current regime either.

I’ve started by organizing a timeline of major events in her life that will help you order the path that brought her to this moment in history.  Then give a WAY too brief summary of key topics she touched on, and things I learned about these topics that I’d never thought of or had heard before. My skimming of mainstream media, trying to make meaning out of the mess, is often cut short by my inability to stomach the vitriol.   I know I’m not alone in this and am here to say it’s to our collective detriment.  Things are happening at the national level and our heads are in the sand, or hands over our ears.  I also believe by creating such a toxic political environment it could be a brilliant tactic on behalf of those that might want to stay in power but do so unchecked by a population that ‘can’t stomach it’ ☹. 

This book pulled me up short, shook me by the shoulders, and felt like a mom telling her kid to wake and pay attention…  However, it also gave me hope in Kamala. Taking that analogy one step further, the firm maternal role she narrates through the book made me feel a little safer knowing someone IS AWARE, has been aware, and is positioning herself to do something about it!

Timeline:

  • 1938 – Father, Donald Harris, born in Jamaica & Mother born in India
  • 1958 – Mother immigrated from India after completing undergrad at University of Delhi at 19, to attend Berkley in pursuit of a Doctorate in nutrition and endocrinology, eventually dedicating her life to researching breast cancer.  Father began at Berkley pursuing a degree in economics.  The two met at Berkley while participating in the Civil Rights Movement fall in love and get married.
  • 1964 – Kamala (pronounced ‘comma-la’) Born, Oakland, CA
  • 1969 – Her parents divorced, and she was raised by her mother, with her 3 year old sister (Maya). Sounds like she enjoyed a full childhood with lots of diversity and continued exposure to activism and civil rights issues under the mentor-ship of her Mother.
  • 1982 – Undergrad at Howard University – Ran for first elected position as a Freshman (Freshman class representative of the Liberal Arts Student Council)
  • 1986 – Law School at UC Hastings College of Law (Elected President of the Black Law Students Association)
  • 1988 – Summer Internship at Almeda County District Attorney Office during last year of law school
  • 1989 – Graduated Law School but failed the first attempt at the bar exam that fall, passed on retake in February.
  • 1998 – After 9yrs as a prosecutor in Alameda County DA, recruited to San Francisco DA office to run the ‘career criminal unit’.
  • 2000 – Recruited to San Francisco City Attorney’s office.
    • Started Task Force to study issues of sexually exploited youth
    • Developed a network of safe houses to provide protection and rehabilitation to exploited youth.
  • 2004 – Elected District Attorney of San Francisco
    • Cleaned up the office and brought dignity, respect, and integrity back to process of pursuing justice in San Francisco.
    • There was a backlog of unsolved murders that needed to be investigated and justice brought, she reduced it by 25%.
    • Continued putting programs in place and extending the safety net for sexually exploited youth and passed a bill to lengthen jail time for ‘johns’ who pay to have sex with underage girls.
    • Identified implicit bias within law enforcement.
  • 2009 – As DA, Created Mortgage Fraud unit, to help drive justice for those engaged in ‘white collar’ crimes, due to the lack of National Response and regulation.
  • 2010 – Elected as Attorney General of California, out of a desire to see justice for more than the towns she had authority over and expand programs she saw working at a small scale to an even larger scale.
    • Went after big banks for Mortgage Crisis (When she collaborated with Beau Biden, then Attorney General of Delaware).  Initially met with a settlement that would have gotten wronged CA citizens ~$2-4 billion in relief, eventually argued damages were exponentially higher, and eventually was awarded ~$20 Billion in damages for her state.
  • Early 2013 – Blind date with Doug Emhoff
  • June 26th 2013 – Supreme Court Ruling that Prop 8 (prohibiting gay marriage) was unconstitutional.  Kamala helps marry droves of couples waiting to pledge their love and commitment to one another.
  • March 26th, 2014 – Kamala & Doug get engaged
  • August 22nd, 2014 – Kamala & Doug get married (Doug’s Kids from Previous marriage: Cole & Ella are teenagers)
  • Summer 2014 – Approached by US Attorney General Eric Holder to succeed him in that role
    • Ultimately turned him down because she wasn’t finished yet with her work in California which was more important to her than title and prestige, and the limitations that she would experience as Attorney General over the entire US would preclude her from staying focused on what she came to do.
    • Shortly after turning Eric Holder down, Senator Barbara Boxer of California announced she wouldn’t be pursuing re-election after her 22 year career as Senator of California.
    • As Senator she would have the opportunity to “take the issues we were driving forward in the California attorney general’s office and bring them to the national stage… Becoming a U.S. Senator would be a natural extension of the work I was already doing – Fighting for families feeling the burden of stagnant wages, soaring housing costs, and diminishing opportunity; for people imprisoned in a broken criminal justice system; for students exploited by predatory lenders and burdened by skyrocketing tuition; for victims of fraud and white-collar crime; for immigrant communities, for women, for older people.  I knew it mattered whose voice was represented at the table where national priorities and policies were set.” – direct quote pg. 142
  • January 13, 2015 – Announced candidacy for California State Senator
  • Election night 2016 – Celebratory & Somber – Kamala won…. So did Trump.
    • As a newly elected senator there are committees with seats available for newly elected representatives to fill, these are the committees Kamal currently sits on:
      • Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
        • Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
        • Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management
      • Committee on the Budget
      • Committee on the Judiciary
        • Subcommittee on Intellectual Property
        • Subcommittee on the Constitution
      • Select Committee on Intelligence

There are SO. MANY. MORE. Things this woman has done, and is continuing to fight for, that centers on defending and protecting the more vulnerable and/or exploited people of our country.  This is good and noble work.  What follows was my assessment of her position on some key topics, you might infer something different if you read the book.

Criminal Justice:  Serious Sentences for Serious Criminals, and balancing that with smart, impactful community programs for less serious offenses to address the root of less serious crimes, rather than expand the reach, and cost, of an already over-burdened criminal justice system.

  • Something I learned:
    • It costs ~$10K to Prosecute a Felony Case & ~$40k to house someone in jail for 1 year. 
      • As District Attorney, Kamala, developed a program called “Back on Track” designed to partner with non-violent, first time offenders (many drug, theft, etc…, that are in some cases equal parts victim of a system that has failed them in basic human support, early detection of at risk, and identifying/addressing those with mental illness).  The program required they earn a GED if they did not have one already, complete more than 200 hours of community service, submit to regular drug testing, therapy, and education in job training/placement.  If they met all the pillars of the program, at the end of the year the felony offense was expunged from their record giving them an honest 2nd chance without the reminder of a terrible choice negatively impacting them for the rest of their life.
    • “Between 2000 & 2014 95% of the growth in the jail population came from people awaiting trial, a group of largely nonviolent defendants who haven’t been proven guilty, and we’re spending $38 MILLION a DAY to imprison them while they wait on their day in court.”?!? -pg. 65
      • Kamala working on bail reform would save our country billions and afford those the constitutional right of innocent until proven guilty from suffering the stigma of being incarcerated simply because they can’t afford bail.

Immigration: We cannot simply ‘close our borders’, as a founding feature of our nation is that of a nation of immigrants, and she herself is a direct product of the beauty and freedoms inherent in our country.  Yes, we need to be smart, and protect our borders, so she joined the committee focused on homeland security.

  • Something I learned:
    • There is a region in Central America known as the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), and is described as one of the most violent places in the world.  El Salvador Civil war left 75k dead, Guatamala’s civil war left 200k dead.  While Honduras didn’t have a civil war, its’ proximity lead to violence bleeding across borders.  The wars ended but the violence hasn’t marked by broken economies in deep poverty.  Between 2011 & 2014, 50K people were murdered and only 5% resulted in a conviction.  Many of the people we saw ‘marching’ toward America, when Trump was demanding we build the wall to keep them out were fleeing such systemic violence.

The Environment:  We must respect it.  It is as much a threat to our National Safety and Security if disrespected, as terrorism from people groups that do not share our beliefs and seek to do us harm.

  • Something I learned:
    • I’ll be honest, Environment has not been at the forefront of my list of concerns…. Ever.  I take it for granted, and that’s a problem.  If we don’t have leaders listening to science, and making conservative choices that protect our planet, we risk the increase of natural disasters we’re already seeing, water shortages, and food shortages from in-hospitable environments for our food to continue growing, making food prices go up, increasing an already taxed middle/low class society.  As sad as it sounds, having someone write this out for me in black and white made the issue that I had brushed off tangible in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

Other Hot Topics she went into in detail were the following:

  • Health Care
  • The Economy
  • National Security

I cannot stress enough the education this book was for me, nor recommend enough reading it on your own to get her take on the above…. I’m simply running out of steam and there is one more area of importance I want to touch on before finishing.  Faith.

I was born and raised in household/family that supported the Republican party, largely based on its family values platform opposing abortion and LGBTQ Rights.   Attending Catholic church every Sunday, I was raised to believe in the sanctity of life at conception and, if I’m being honest, taught to fear the moral implications of the ‘progressive agenda’.  The message I received was that we had to fight it, lest we all fall away by the depravity that would inevitably ensue.  As I’m growing in my adulthood, and starting to question the narrative I was given, what I’m discovering is concerning to say the least.

In my opinion, not influenced by this book at all, the US Political System is walking a dangerous line bordering on weaponizing the Christian faith against humanity and pitting us against one another.  This grieves me immensely, that the name of Jesus, continues to be used in tactics of persecution.  It is fundamentally in opposition to the life He lived, and the people He died to liberate. 

At the start of Lent, leading up to Easter this year, I made a commitment to read through the Bible.   The narrative summarized SUPER briefly:  A divine creator made us ALL in His image, and at creation endowed us with freewill… which is just bananas now when you look at how we’ve mucked it up, but I digress.  Humanity then ebbs and flows through seasons of faithfulness, and falling away, attempting to adhere to a law we ALL fall short of, ultimately requiring the final Sacrifice of a ‘perfect lamb w/o blemish’, (AKA: Jesus) to bring fulfillment to the law, ushering in a new era, a complete revolution, allowing us to restore the relationship to our Divine Creator that was lost when the first Man/Woman, using their freewill, in a choice between God and Self-Satisfaction, choose self-satisfaction.  In choosing Jesus of our own freewill, we can restore our relationship to the Father!  He never stopped loving, pursuing, and making a way for us to reconnect with Him!  The BEST NEWS!  When you are fully loved, fully forgiven, you can fully love, and fully forgive.  It’s not easy, it requires the ultimate sacrifice daily, to lay down our own lives, choices, and in some cases perceived ‘rights’, to LOVE another.

Speaking to the political systems and religious leaders of His day, Jesus said this in Luke 11 vs. 52, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge.  You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”  He goes on to say in Chapter 12 to warn about the religious elite of His day, The Pharisees, and their rampant hypocrisy.

It is my position that there is no room for fear in faith.  2nd Timothy 1:7 reminds us “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control.”  I am challenged by Jesus words above to question whether laws judging the choices of another, is the most effective way to facilitate those seeking a relationship with their Heavenly Father?  I am obviously not speaking of violent crimes, or even crimes directly against person/property.  More those ‘choices’ we disagree with, but have limited direct impact to us physically, rather might make us uncomfortable, and grieve the choice another is making.   Are we not hindering those who may otherwise explore a relationship with God, by putting laws in place that obstruct the freewill he gave them?  Do we have faith that God’s never-ending pursuit and loving kindness, His process of redemption and sanctification, are enough to bring change to any area of perceived sin? Sin, I will remind you, that we are ALL guilty of, though the church, again in error would attempt to levy some sort of sliding scale of importance to offenses.

 If we are not with God, are we against Him, scripture reminds…. So I am constantly wrestling out my faith in fear and trembling, keeping my heart and motives pure before Him…. “Search me O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139 23-24)!    I am honestly perplexed at how people will quote Abortion as one of the issues that would definitely have them voting for Trump, who has led the largest attack on Children our country has bore witness too by separating children from their families at the borders, and denying them due process in a timely fashion?  If your justification for such a position is associated to the legality of their entry, I would humbly point you back to the Good Samaritan…. Who then is your neighbor… If not the family fleeing violence, famine, and oppression in their home country?  Will you turn your head from looking at them and cross by on the other side of the road, or will you demand smart immigration reform and the immediate reunification of families!?!  I understand that comes with the challenge that maybe the laws prohibiting abortion would soften, and that grieves me thinking about babies lost.  However, I think there is a much broader approach that should be taken toward the sexual promiscuity of our nation, and I don’t think women alone should bear the brunt of the responsibility of this, especially in the case where trauma and/or abuse has left the sanctity of the MOTHER’S life in question.

At the end of the day, as I critically evaluate the four people in front of me…. I don’t LOVE either choice for President.   However, I made the mistake in the last election to believe that my third-party vote would somehow bring the underdog into the National Spotlight and we’d all cheer at the history of a 3rd party system.  We’re simply not there yet.  As sad as it is, the truth stands that not voting or voting for a third party IS a vote for Trump. Neither can we divorce a person from their party. A vote against Trump does not mean the entire government is suddenly all Democrats, and their agenda will prevail unchecked. That is the beauty of Democracy, we have checks and balances. You can vote for other Republicans at the state and local levels, whose character and leadership aren’t as questionable as the current Commander in Chief’s. Kamala talks in her book, a lot, about the fallacy of ‘false choices’ and her commitment to push back on them. It is a false choice that you have to support Trump or agree with Abortion.

With what I’ve seen over the course of his initial four years in office, the division, fear, and hatred that has been stoked.  The overwhelming LACK of leadership.  I have to believe trying something new is the best path forward.  Reading Kamala’s book has given me hope that she is MUCH more moderate than any mainstream media outlet would dare let you believe as they profit off the extremes and the clickbait it generates.  Biden, choosing Kamala, strikes me as a great first move, as the hopeful next President of the United States, ushering in a long awaited and overdue moment in history that we can celebrate of a woman of color ascending to the 2nd highest office in the country!

If you made it ALL the way here, I’m excited by your commitment critically examine and wrestle with the choices set before you, and pray for wisdom and discernment in your process. God Speed!

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