Sunday, January 08, 2017

I'm back

I won't start off by apologizing for not blogging in a while. Sometimes it is hard to blog when life is pretty good.

And life has been pretty good. My wife and I are in jobs we like. Life at post is good...the pollution and less than awesome health care makes it a little challenging at times, but the work is interesting and the people we work with are awesome. So we are happy here.

And while we only have six months left at post, we both got our top choice of onwards. We are going back to DC and really happy about it.

I started this blog as a way to let my dad know I was safe in Jerusalem, but it turned quickly into a combination of recruiting tool (because life is better when your co-workers are awesome) and a way to raise awareness about the Foreign Service in general and LGBT issues specifically.

But in those areas, life too has been pretty good. We have marriage equality as the law of the land, so my wife and I are officially a tandem and my LGBT colleagues who are not tandems have EFM status for their spouses. Members of the trans* community can have their passports issued according to their gender identity regardless of surgical status. Yes, there are still challenges ahead (reciprocity, I am looking at you), but things are pretty good.

But then we had the election, and everything changed.

Things don't look so great anymore.

Congress has already started making noise again about attacking federal employees via their pensions and outsourcing more to contractors (because not only are contractors more expensive, but using them worked so well with Snowden). Even more concerning, they have re-enacted a rule allowing them to target individual federal employees and reduce their salaries to ONE DOLLAR. When you couple that with the President -elect's transition team's requests for the names and positions on anyone working on particular issues (like climate change at the Department of Energy or gender equality and LGBT issues at State), that looks a little ominous. (kudos to Energy for refusing and to certain bureaus at State for handing the team a complete org chart and saying we all work on gender equality).

And now you have Senators putting forward a bill to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv. I will leave aside whether or not that is a good idea, since that is specifically a foreign policy matter and so not one I feel I can discuss on this forum (but if you know me in person, you know I am not ambivalent about it).

Now that in and of itself is not all that concerning. Such bills have been put forth for years, always delayed by the President. But this time, not only do we have a President-elect who says he is willing to sign it, but a really frightening caveat has been added: 50 PERCENT funds for Diplomatic Security will be withheld, until the embassy is moved.

Never mind that we in the Foreign Service are simply the implementers of the President's policy. So whether we think it should move or not is irrelevant (much like the issues above that they want the names of people who cover them. We all follow the directives of the President, whether we agree or not).

And never mind that it can take as much as 15 YEARS to build a new embassy. Senators Heller, Cruz, and Rubio (and now others) want to cut our security budget and put our lives in very real danger. These are by the way, the same Senators who have been raising hell about Benghazi and how State's lack of security cost the lives of four diplomats, including my friend, Ambassador Chris Stevens. (Also please be kind enough not to notice that the lack of security was a direct result of cuts those same Senators made to State Department security...nothing to see here...).

(It is almost like those hearings were really about damaging Secretary Clinton's chances at becoming President and not about our safety. But I am sure I am wrong...)

And never mind that only the day before yesterday, a first tour consular officer was deliberately targeted and shot in Guadalajara.

Clearly we can do without half of our security funding for up to 15 years. It isn't like our jobs can be dangerous.

Except they are. We know they are. We all knew that when we signed up.

But we shouldn't be used as pawns for political points when we are serving the country. Or have our livelihoods threatened for following the directives of our bosses. Or have our retirements threatened because that wins political points while doing almost nothing for the budget.

And so I am back..


Dana pierson said...

Welcome back. Your voice is needed!

Dana pierson said...

Welcome back. Your voice is needed!

Kim D'Auria-Vazira said...

GREAT!!!!! I don't remember if I read your blog before, but this is wonderful! Thanks for writing it and posting Michelle!