On Words

There is a popular country song on the radio right now by Eric Church called “Kill a Word”. I have to be honest.  The first few times I heard the song, I thought it was about fishing. No lie; my brain interpreted the lyric as “kill a worm”.  Let’s face it, I’m not too observant and I expect country songs to be about fishing – not the power of words.

The truth is that words are the most powerful tool we have.  I haven’t always understood this.  I was one of those people who thought the world was becoming too politically correct.  I was of the opinion that it was the meaning behind what was said that mattered and not the word itself.  I was wrong.  This didn’t make me a bad person; it just made me ignorant.  I was ignorant because words had never been used against me.  Maybe they have, but like I said, I’m not too observant.  I also have the blessed ability to not really be affected by much.  I guess you could say I have a “thick skin” or selective deafness, either way the school yard chant about words and rubber and glue kind of resonated with me.  This isn’t to say that I went around hurling hurtful words at people; I’m much too polite for that. These opinions, about words, not people, only came out in private thoughts and conversations.

I can almost point to the day on a calendar when my attitude changed.  I was stranded in an airport reading a book while waiting for my plane to board  when a nicely dressed woman breeze by in a huff.  As she walked away, I heard her say “Those damn #$#$%@ are ruining this country.” This wasn’t something she said under her breath either; the entire terminal collectively gasped at the disparaging remark.  She meant for everyone to hear what she was thinking – not just her target.  We fellow travelers exchanged nervous glances and we mumbled to our companions about how horrid of a woman she was, but not one person called her out or sought out the target of her rage.  Within minutes the normal din of the airport terminal returned and the moment was quickly forgotten.

I was reminded of this incident the other day when I read a comment about President-elect Trump along the lines of “I’d rather have someone I know is a racist than someone who I don’t know what they are hiding.”  This comment sent a chill down my spine.  Suddenly, I was back in that airport terminal witnessing what it was like when a woman thought the world needed to know exactly what kind of person she was.  She too was proud of her hatred; the difference was that the people in that terminal were shocked.

People are no longer shocked by hatred.  In fact, I think it’s become celebrated.  Not caring if your words hurt has become a point of pride.  The attitude that kindness and consideration is nothing more than “PC bullshit” is now the norm.  I use to make excuses for older people because it’s “all they’ve ever known.”  Well that’s only true if they’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years.  Everyone knows what words are harmful, what words cut so deep that they may as well have been carried in on an arrow.  It’s not okay folks.  I’ve heard people say that our President-elect isn’t a racist or homophobic or any of the other things “the liberals” claim he is.  He may not be, but this week, he just placed the de facto leader of the alt-right movement into a position of influence into the white house.  These are people who carry signs proclaiming that diversity is white genocide.

How many times have you heard the phrase “If you lie down with dogs you get fleas”? This is a phrase that is told to teenagers who are hanging out with the “wrong crowd.”  Well, even if our President-elect had never once said an off-color thing (which he has multiple times) he still didn’t stand against those who did.  While he has had plenty to say about the people protesting him this week, he has yet to speak against the hateful words that many of his supporters have proudly displayed throughout his campaign.  If you are a white, Christian American, please imagine for a second that you are not.  Imagine you’re an African-American mother trying to explain to your children that the men holding the sign saying “make American white again” doesn’t really mean it or that their new president doesn’t really hate them.  Imagine you are a Muslim American family sending your daughter to school everyday scared that she will be assaulted because she’s wearing a hijab.  Imagine you’re a Mexican-American third grader who has only ever known the United States as his home worried that his parents, who have also been here since they were children, are going to be deported because they have never been able to afford to become citizens.  Put yourselves in their shoes for one minute and tell me this is all okay. Tell me these words aren’t harmful – that they’re just words.

So, how do we “kill a word” like the song says?  We kill them first by not using them.  We kill them by reminding people that they are not okay when you hear someone say them. We kill them by replacing them with kind words.  We kill them by realizing that words can hurt.  We kill them by purposefully removing them from our collective vocabulary.  Let’s kill these words once and for all.  Let’s kill the hateful words and replace them with words of love, acceptance, and kindness.  Get up and shake off the fleas. Be kind. Be respectful. Love your neighbor.

 

 

On change

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  I have heard this phrase many, many times.  I have no idea who said it (Gandhi maybe??) – I know I could find out with a ridiculously fast google search, but I don’t really want to – or need to for that matter.  All that matters are the words and I know what each of the words in that sentence mean.

Be – To exist; to live.  Be is the very essence of who we are.  Be is an action.  It means you are doing something.  I am, I was, I have been, I am being.  It’s also not something you have to do alone.  We can all be.  We can all exist in so many ways.

Change – To make different; to transform.  Do you know how difficult this little word is?  A caterpillar has to fight and struggle to become a butterfly – it doesn’t  just happen overnight.  This is monumental stuff.  That six letter word is one of the hardest tasks in the history of tasks.  Think about some of the ways you can change: you can change your heart, your mind, your attitude; these can be wonderful things, but none are  easy – there’s a level of sacrifice involved.

Want – to desire; to yearn.  Want is probably a word you hear all the time.  You want a drink, your child wants a cookie, or your dog wants a treat.    Want can become mundane, but desire – desire is special.  Something you  desire is something you want from the very depths of your soul.

See – To perceive, or more deeply, to discern.  Think about this word as  more than what you do with your eyes.  When we discern, our eyes are  only a part of it.  To discern is to understand – to know.

World – the earth, and all the people, animals, plants and things in it.    Now this is a big one.  Think about how much space you occupy in your house at  any given moment and about how much space your house occupies in  your town, your town in your state, your state in your country, and now your country in the world.  The space a single person occupies is so insignificant that it is immeasurable – the world is just that huge.

 

With a little word play, “Be the change you want to see in the world” becomes “Exist to be the transformation you desire to know in this giant place we call Earth.”

As I sit here thinking about everything that has changed in the last week, it gets to be somewhat overwhelming.  I decided to start writing this blog on a whim because Facebook posts were not enough to contain all the words I had, and now there are over 300 people a day reading those words.  I’ve always had a lot of words, but now, I have a cause.  I have something worth fighting for – worth changing for.

This change has not been easy.  If a caterpillar can’t break through its cocoon, he dies.  It’s not the transformation that kills him, it’s the inability to leave the safety of the familiar and comfortable world he created.   Like the caterpillar, I’ve had to break out of my cocoon.  My cocoon wasn’t made of silk though; it was made of fear, complacency, and social blindness.  My emergence has had a mostly positive reaction.  I’ve been getting a dozen or so Facebook friend requests and messages everyday from strangers who identify with my words; that’s the good part – the easy part.  I imagine it’s how the butterfly feels after his emergence as he shows off his new wings and bright colors to the world for the first time.  This is where the caterpillar analogy starts to break down because his is a change that all of his little insect friends expected – mine was not.

When I get new messages, either here on WordPress or on Facebook, my phone makes a noise.  That noise has started causing a bit of anxiety.  So much so that I’ve started giving my phone to friends to pre-screen the message, or just delete it if I know it’s going to be antagonizing.  I’m not afraid of confrontation, but I don’t want this to make me have bad feelings toward people.  People challenging my views isn’t what bothers me. What bothers me are the people who send me messages damning me to hell or telling me that I’m not a real Christian anymore because of my transformation.  Not one of these messages have come from a stranger; they are coming from people I know – multiple people from different stages and places in my life.  I know this has been shocking to some and I have lost some people who were at one time very important to me, but that is a sacrifice I have to make.

As I said earlier, change comes with sacrifice.  I am willing to make this sacrifice to stand up for what is right.  If my words can make even one person see that there are people being hurt by others in our country – it’s worth it.  If my words can encourage others to speak up when they see hate toward another person – it’s worth it.  It’s worth it because in order for this to become a better world, I have to be a better human and part of that is not being silent.  What we have now is a country full of hate and distrust and the only way that is going to change is by each person making a decision to fight that hate with every word and every action.  I am being the difference I want to see in this world and I’m not going to stop.

My call to action is simply this: stand with me.  Stand with me to fight racism.  Stand with me to fight sexism and misogyny.  Stand with me for our LGBT friends, our Hispanic friends, our Muslim friends.  Stand with me for all the people who are, rightfully so, too afraid to stand for themselves.  Stand with me against hate of all kinds.  Let’s stand together in love, inclusion, and peace because that’s the only way that we are going to stop all the bad things that are happening all around us.

 

 

On The Media

Just a few minutes ago I googled “independent news sources” because I like to know my facts before I form an argument.  Well, I was taken here which has a list of non-corporate owned news sites, fact checking sites, financial accountability sites, etc. Most of what was on there I already knew about, so it wasn’t too helpful.  However, the blurb at the beginning of the list was.  It reads:

“There was a time when the nightly news was synonymous with the words objective, impartial, fair and balanced. Reporters and newscasters saw it as their duty and badge of honor to inform the public, as factually as possible, of the happenings in this country and around the world. Today, instead of journalists such as Walter Cronkite, a legend in his own right who brought the scandals of Watergate and the Vietnam War to the American people unfiltered, we have the major media outlets and their Talking Heads blindly supporting “facts” as told to them by the government, corporations and anyone else they deem worthy.”

This blurb is speaking to the inherent bias that exist in the news outlets that are owned by corporations.  While this makes network and cable news, at best, untrustworthy, there is an even bigger problem out here on the internet – completely fabricated news sites.  This practice is so popular that new ones are added almost daily.  Fake new sites come in three categories: Fake/hoax news sites, Satire sites, and clickbait cites.

Here are the links to check out the list so you can double check what you read.  All information comes from Fake News Watch .

Hoax/Fake news

Satire

Clickbait

These news sites are incredibly dangerous and will say anything to get people to click a link.  The most popular tactic is to post a headline as “Breaking News” with a graphic that looks like it comes from a legitimate source.  Here are some examples:

breaking-news-1

breaking-news-2

breaking-news-3

With the exception of the satire sites, which usually advertise somewhere that they are not meant to be taken seriously, these sites only purpose is to mislead and spread harmful rumors that have an agenda of some sort.  As I look down my Facebook newsfeed, all I see anymore are these links and they come from both sides of the political spectrum.  In addition to spreading lies, they can also spread viruses.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the consumer to verify what we hear, read, and watch.  All I can say is research, research, research.  It’s not that hard to verify information and there are outlets to do that.  The following outlets are ran by non-partisan organizations and are considered trustworthy, but as always it’s still your responsibility to do additional research if something seems off.

Christian Science Monitor

Reuters

The Center for Public Integrity

Aljazeera America

BBC America

Politifact

Open Secrets

Fact Check

Institute for Public Accuracy

Please be responsible media consumers and do as much as you can to verify information you distribute.  If you share “news articles” that are not factual, you are part of the problem.  I hope this helps.

On Hope

This election has shown me some of the ugliness that exists in this country, but something good has come out of it that I couldn’t have predicted and it has given me hope.

Over the last few days I have spent a lot of time on Facebook.  Not just scrolling through, but actively engaging with people.  Through this, I have met a few people who, like me, are saddened by what is taking place in this country.  They are saddened by the racism, sexism, and hate in general for people who are not white, straight, and Christian.  Within these various groups of strangers, I have found my voice.  That may sound funny to some who know me, since I never seem to be silent, but the truth is that I have been.

When people make remarks that are racist, I have been silent.  When men make sexist jokes, sometimes even directed at me, I have been silent.  When someone says something disparaging about a different religion, I have been silent.  My silence tells people that it’s okay.  My silence makes me an accomplice to the hate.  This is not okay.  It’s never okay.

Through random post in random groups on Facebook, I have met people, who are complete strangers, encouraging one another to join together to fight the hate.  They are pledging to “Love, honor, and call out racist bulls***” when ever they see it.  They want to “create a world filled with learning, laughter, and compassion” and to “work together to foster equality knowing that together we will build a world far better than we could imagine alone.”  Is not an amazing attitude to have at a time like this?

For those of you shaking your heads and denying that there’s anything wrong with the new leadership.  There is.  Maybe not for you, but for many there is.  Since Tuesday night, suicide hotline calls from LGBT teens has gone through the roof.  They are scared of future legislation that might restrict their lives or threaten their safety.  Whole schools have dismissed early because of an abundance of racial slurs and threats.  Families are worried about being torn apart.  This friends, is a problem.  A problem that was caused by silent compliance.  I read a blog post earlier.  Here it is so I don’t have to write it all out: The Cinemax Theory of Racism Basically, someone who voted for Trump, even if they are not racist, sexist, or any of the other things he stands for, they were willing to accept those things in order to “Make America Great Again.”

In random Facebook conversations, in Random Facebook groups, I have seen that America is already great, if you know where to look.  I have seen that there is hope for our future. The hope is in people who want to make this country great for everyone in it.  The hope is not in the silence – the hope is in the collective voices of those standing up against all the terrible things that the election of that man represents.

 

 

On Grief

Y’all, yesterday was rough.  I discovered that this election meant more to me than I ever could imagine.  I experienced feelings that are usually reserved for things that happen within my private sphere.  For the first time, I made an election personal.

There are 5 stages of grief:  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Denial happened for me around 8pm Tuesday night.  I am in the anger stage right now and that’s okay. I will get through this, but it’s a process.  You may ask why I am experiencing grief. I don’t know that I have a firm answer to that question, but I do know that I’m not alone.

Tuesday night, I couldn’t make myself go to bed.  I dozed in my recliner, but I never slept.    I watched in disbelief as it felt like all the hope I had built up for the future was gone. Truthfully, I know that is an exaggeration, but it was how I felt at that moment.  When Marianne got up she asked me how the rest of the coverage went and I just started crying. No amount of soft words or “it’ll be okays” were going to make this situation any better.  I couldn’t even really tell her why I was crying. I mean it was an election and my side didn’t win. It happens to half the country every four years! Where was all this emotion coming from?  I don’t really get that emotional over much and here I was sitting staring at my best friend with not enough words to express all the feelings.  I was grieving and though I didn’t realize it yet, so was half the country.

When I got to school, I went to see a friend.  We got through our hellos and again the tears started.  We cried because we had lost something.  We lost lots of somethings.  We tried to talk out our feelings, but there were not enough words – just emotion.  We sat through my first class; because at that moment, that was where I needed to be.  I needed a metaphorical wake.  When the words came, they expressed our fears, our sorrows, and yes, our grief.  We talked about what we have lost.

Women all over this country have lost the ability to say, with confidence, that our bodies are our own.  This isn’t only about abortion either.  When this country elected Donald Trump as our next president, it decided that it was okay for a man to gawk at, comment on, or grab any part of our bodies.  This country elected someone with absolutely zero respect for women.  This country elected a man who thinks he can “grab her by the pussy” or walk in on naked teenage girls because he has money.

If you are a woman who has never encountered any type of sexual harassment, you are in the minority.  From a young age, our bodies are not our own.  We get pulled into laps and tickled whether we want it or not.  As we get older and start to look like women, our father’s friends tell him to “keep us locked up” and more often than not, comment on our growing breasts or say “call me when she’s 18…”  When we become an adult, it doesn’t get any better.  During college, 1 in 4 women are raped and even worse than that statistic is the fact that we are blamed for it.  When we go out with the girls, random men rub against us and grab our behinds.  It’s all okay though because it’s just what men do.  When they tell us to show them our breast to get a drink, it’s okay because it’s just a joke.  It’s just “locker room talk.”  When we enter the work force, we learn that sexual harassment is just part of life.  When we are looking for a mate, we learn that rejection can be dangerous because if you turn down a date with someone it’s because you are a lesbian who “needs a lesson on what it’s like to be with a real man” — not because you’re just not interested.  With this election, we told our little girls that all of this is okay.

Some of us have also lost the right to health insurance.  Mitch McConnell has already said that their first order of business will be to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  You can read my whole story from earlier in the week here: http://wp.me/p84ZbE-g .  In short, I have Lupus and if the ACA is repealed, I will have no protection from the insurance companies.  They will be able to charge me whatever they want or deny me coverage all together.

We have lost what little equality we were gaining in this country.  The Republican voter base is largely made up of conservative, evangelical Christians.  Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for these people; respect for their beliefs and their devotion.  Many of my closest friends fall in this category, but that life is not for everyone.  They believe, for the most part, that women are to be subservient to men.  How is this still a thing?  Every woman has the right to live life as she chooses — with or without a man.  We lost the ability, for now, to show little girls that a woman can rise to the highest office in America.  We lost this, not because Hillary Clinton wasn’t qualified, but because men refused to vote for her.  She lost to a man with no experience, no decorum, and no respect for anyone.  She lost because sexism is still a thing here in the US.  Sexism is blaming a woman for her husband’s affair.  Sexism is calling a strong woman nasty.  Sexism is judging a candidate by what she wears instead what she says.  Sexism is paying a woman less for the same job as a man.

Yes, sexism is still a thing.  Racism is a thing.  Homophobia is a thing.  Xenophobia is a thing.  We cannot continue to let these “things” control our country.

I am not the only one grieving.  The women in this country are in a state of mourning.  We will pass through all the stages and recover.  We will rise.  We will educate.  We will vote again. What we won’t do is be silent.  As of right now, there is a secret Facebook group that is over 3 million women strong.  This group was started less than a month ago.  Women are joining together to fight for ourselves.  To fight for our bodies.  To fight for the LGBT community, immigrants, people of color, and anyone else who will be marginalized in our new political climate.  We will fight and we will win because we truly are stronger together.

On disappointment

Yesterday I needed to talk about unity and so I did; I still need to today, but this time I’m talking to myself.  Unity will not be easy simply because unity lost; diversity and inclusion lost, the people lost.  However, this is what the majority of American’s wanted, so I have to live in it and accept these results.  I have to keep my optimism for this country.  I have to believe that goodness will prevail.  I have to have hope.  Eventually these things will come, but today is not that day.  Today I’m  disappointed and scared and sorry.

I’m disappointed because I thought we could do better.  I thought people would care enough about each other to not give in to fear.  Boy was I wrong.  The thing that disappoints me more than any thing else is people’s lack of self preservation.  I have about 400 Facebook friends, and with the exception of about a dozen people, I know them all.  I’d say around 90% voiced their support for President Elect Donald Trump.  I know them well enough to know their situation.

For my friends who receive food stamps.  What will happen in six months when the “united” executive and legislative branches cut the program because they will have no one fighting for the poor?  The fact that we have had a Democrat controlled Senate and a Democrat President is the reason you can feed your families. Republicans have tried to pass bill after bill in an attempt to gut the program.  All I have to say, is that hopefully the people who will be profiting off of this election, business and the very wealthy, will do what they can to support their local food banks in the years to come.

For all of my friends making minimum wage, especially in the poorer southern states where your local governments are desperate for new manufactures to move in. I hope your state will step up when the federal minimum wage vanishes and it’s up to your state to set their own.  I hope your state legislature and governor doesn’t turn your, already too low, $7.50/hour pay into $5.50/hour to attract new businesses; unless, of course the reason for adding more jobs is so people can have more than one.

For my friends who have children on Tenncare, ARKids, or another CHIP program.  Did you know this has been on the chopping block too?  Kids healthcare is expensive.  I hope there will be new programs that pay for all of those shots, doctor appointments and medications.  How much is cost of amoxicillin these days?  Adderall? Insulin? I honestly don’t know and I bet you don’t either.  Maybe you’ll never have to find out.

For my friends who’s kids get free or reduced lunch at school.  Again, I hope the food banks stay stocked.  With your new, state set, minimum wage, it will be hard to buy all the extra food needed to send your kids to school with a full lunch box.

For my friends who’s kids go to daycare.  I’m sorry you didn’t see the need for that to cost less, especially knowing what could happen to your paycheck.

I honestly, sincerely hope these things don’t happen.  I hope that congress will want to help the american people – even if it’s just because they want to hold on to their seats in the mid-terms.  I hope they care more for the people than we did, but I’m scared.

I’m scared that racism and violence will increase.  I’m scared that hate for those who are on the margins will destroy lives and lead to atrocities.  I’m scared that I won’t be able to afford health insurance in 2018 and if you read http://wp.me/p84ZbE-g  you’ll know why.

Some will say that if I’m a Christian I should be happy, not scared because now abortion will be abolished.  It won’t, and if it happens to come to pass, congratulations.  You will have finally accomplished your goal of having an untold number of babies in homes without the  resources to feed, provide adequate healthcare for, or educate them; remember, no health insurance = no vaccines = no school.  When rates of preventable childhood diseases rise and children start dying from lack of adequate care, I will mourn with you . That will not be the time to divide us more with I told you so’s.

Finally, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for all the people who are not white, christian males.  I’m sorry African Americans.  I’m sorry that the police will no longer be questioned when they step out of line.  I’m sorry Muslims.  I’m sorry that your freedom of religion will be challenged.  Keep the faith; I will pray that God blesses you.  I’m sorry fellow women.  I’m sorry that we live in a world where rape is our fault because if it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves from getting raped, it’s our fault if it happens.  I’m sorry that we won’t have equality in the work place for awhile.  To our young women and girls.  I’m sorry that we failed you today.  You didn’t have a voice; remember this day and choose wisely when you can.

The truth is that I hope I’m wrong.  I hope I backed the wrong candidate.  Dear God, I hope I have never been more wrong in my life.  I hope with all that I have that President Elect Donald Trump truly is the right person to lead this country and that the extreme things he said were to entertain and get votes.  I hope he wants a second term badly enough to fight for the people like he claimed and not against them.

No matter what, I hope we can stand together and keep this country from falling apart.  I hope we can survive this.

 

 

 

On Election Day

Well friends, today is the day.  The day we pick the next president of the United States of America.  For the last several days, I have explained the reasons I am voting for Hillary Clinton to fill that position.  Today, I want to talk about something else.  Unity.

No matter who wins today, there will be a loser.  Let’s not make it the American People.  This has been a very nasty election cycle and it makes me worry for our future.  I wish we could go back; back to before this election started and put some thought into what we would say, or more commonly post, in the months that would be to come.  We have relationships to heal.  The truth is that on Wednesday morning, we will all still be family, coworkers, neighbors, and friends.  Those bonds didn’t disappear when we decided to disagree so furiously.  Come January we will have a new government who are going to need to work together too.  Can we set an example for them?  Can we unite again?

I have heard Republicans say that they will not recognize Hillary Clinton as their president if she wins and Democrats say they are moving to Canada if Donald Trump wins.  There are people already claiming that the election is rigged.  We need to be careful.  Yesterday on the news, a reporter compared this election to the election of Abraham Lincoln.  He won the presidency and it split the country in two.  It happened then and it could happen again if we let it.  We can’t let this division remain.  We can’t let the fear that has driven this election continue.

I saw a quote today: “Every single day we need to choose hope over fear, diversity over division.  Fear has never created a single job.  Fear has never fed a single family.  And those who exploit it will never solve the problems that have created such anxiety.”  If you are on the losing side today, don’t let the fear take over.  Don’t let the hate continue. We can’t go back in time and unsay the things we have said, but we can move forward with genuine kindness toward each other.  Whoever our new president is will have a big job ahead of them and I hope that we do our part to help.

If you haven’t voted yet, join me at the polls.  Join me in electing our next president.  More than likely we will be voting for opposite sides, but don’t let that tear us apart.  You wear your “Make America Great Again” hat and I’ll wear my pantsuit and then we’ll go and have a metaphorical drink together, because as long as you’re kind, I want you to stay in my life. As much as I support Hillary Clinton, if she doesn’t win, I will still be an American and you will still be my friend.  I won’t stop fighting for all the things this election represents and I won’t let hate win.

On reconciling faith and politics

It should be more than clear by now that I am supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.  I am also voting, for the most part, Democrat down the rest of the ballot.  I have a confession to make though.  I use to be a Republican.  I voted for George Bush in my first Presidential Election in 2004 and John McCain in 2008.

I can give myself a pass in 2004.  I was 20 years old and the only thing I knew outside of my wretched home life was the church.  Not just any church either; a church of the Pentecostal persuasion.  I didn’t listen to any music that wasn’t labeled as “Christian.” I didn’t watch any movie with an “R” rating  (when I give a funny, “I’m pretending I know what you’re talking about” look when you bring up 90s and 2000s pop culture — this is why).  From 13-18, I “kissed dating goodbye” because the temptation to sin would be too much for my developing body (this is why I don’t have prom, homecoming, senior trip, or post-game bonfire pictures).  I had shunned my best childhood best friend because she was a “Jezebel”.  Wait, what was that?  Yes, that really is a thing in some churches.  Personal note: if anyone reading this was present during this time period and you think I am out of line – I’m sorry and if any one that was present during this time and you feel the same way, I am also sorry; there is a support group on Friday night (just kidding, but there probably should be).  Don’t get me wrong, everyone was perfectly lovely to me.  I’m agreeable and have some sort of charming quality I can’t explain, like a kitten or puppy,  where people want to treat me with overall kindness, for the most part at least. There were a few instances when I felt how others must have felt standing under the scrutiny of the church people, but I digress.  The truth is, I was one of them.  The way I treated my childhood soul mate was the most shameful thing I have ever done.  She died shortly after she turned 22 in a car accident thinking that she was not only unloved, but unloveable. She was truly the best of us. She loved without limits and she loved God with all of her heart.  She saw us as her family, only her family told her she wasn’t good enough, and I wasn’t enough of my own person to stand up for her.  The point is, I didn’t know how to think for myself yet.  I was told the democrats were bad because they supported abortion and gay marriage and if I was really a good Christian, I would vote Republican.  Period.

In 2008 I really had no excuse.  I had plenty of time on my own at this point.  I had lived lots of places and my passport was quickly filling up.  Honestly though, I wasn’t really into politics.  I was 24 and the world was good.  There was no poverty in my world by this point.  There was no racism or bigotry, at least not in my circle.  I was voting my laziness.  I didn’t research candidates.  I didn’t even know what a platform was. I didn’t care who became president.  I was, however, still a Christian and Christians vote Republican, so that’s what I did.

Everything started to change in 2012. I was 28.  I felt like I had lived 12 lifetimes due to life circumstances and illness.  I was working as an advocate for people with disabilities.  I was single. My cats and I spent Friday night watching NCIS reruns.  With my much slower, rural life, I had time to observe the world around me.  Publicly, I was still the same person, but inside I was changing.  Maybe it was the move to West Tennessee where racism and bigotry were rampant.  Maybe it was my own health issues.  I really hope it was the former, but I honestly don’t know; it happened so gradually.  I voted for President Obama in November of 2012 and I didn’t tell a soul.  I was still afraid my people would judge my Christian heart and find it lacking.

Well, now I’m 32 and I know for a fact that the only people who know the state of my heart are me and Jesus.  Me and Jesus think my heart is good — even if I vote Democrat.

So many people say, when asked how they can justify, as a Christian, voting for Donald Trump, the antithesis of the religious right, that they are voting for a platform not a person.  Well, I’ve examined the platforms and I still don’t understand.  I’m voting for a platform AND a person.  A person I believe to be a person of faith.  A person who cares about people.  A person who, like a good Methodist, proclaims that we should “Do all the good we can, for all the people we can, for as long as we can.”  See, while I am no longer affiliated with the church of my youth, I am still very much a Christian.

Three years ago, I walked into my local United Methodist Church and almost instantly, I felt at home.  Here was a group of people who worshiped together without condemnation.  A place I could worship without fear.  A place I could invite anyone to join me without having to explain the things they couldn’t wear or the parts of their lives they couldn’t talk about.  To be honest, this is not what I expected.  I live in a town in West Tennessee with a population of 5,000 people.  It sounds strange, but anyone of any color of any background of any orientation – anyone on any point of the “Christian” scale could walk in the door and feel welcome and comfortable.   See the thing is, I was no longer comfortable saying that I went to a church where everyone was welcome when they really were not.  If a lovely family with two beautiful children walk in ready to worship and be accepted into a community of faith but happen to be a family with two dads or two moms, I want to worship in a place where they can sit next to me.  Where they can serve their community. See, what church is to me is a community and communities are not homogeneous.  They are not made up of just one kind of people.  I want my politics to reflect my faith.

Here is the truth friends.  I was going to post all of the political facts and compare the platforms, but then this turned strangely personal and it no longer seems to fit.  Instead I’ll just tell you why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t want to revert back to a country where people are ostracized for who they love.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should be welcome in our country.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t want to live in a world where women are subservient to men.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t think sexual assault is okay to joke about.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should have access to health care.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should be paid a living wage.

Most importantly, I am voting for Hillary Clinton for girls like my friend from long ago.  I don’t want a country ran by people who think it’s okay to shame a young lady because she is beautiful or label a 16-year-old girl as “too promiscuous, too much of a threat to the ministry” to even clean the bathrooms in their churches.  I don’t want this to continue to be a country where girls are told it’s their responsibility to protect the boys from impure thoughts; that it’s their responsibility to keep themselves from getting raped.  I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because it’s not okay to grab women by any body part.  I’m voting for Her for all the hers out there.

I am voting for Hillary Clinton because I have grown in my understanding of what it means to be a Christian – I want to do all the good I can, for as many people as I can, for as long as I can.

On the Affordable Care Act

One of the Republican Party’s platforms is that they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  This is one of the main reasons I vote blue.

Let me tell you why….

I have had health insurance for most of my adult life; sometimes it was through a job, but for the most part, I was covered under a private plan.  I rarely had to use it and that was good because even though I paid high premiums there was very little benefit to me unless something catastrophic happened.  In 2011 before I moved from Houston to West Tennessee, I was paying around $350 a month and had a $5,000 deductible.  It did have good office visit and prescription coverage, so it was sufficient for my occasional strep throat and acid reflux.  I moved to Tennessee between Christmas of 2011 and New Year’s Day of 2012.

Skip ahead two weeks… One morning, I woke up with my neck so stiff that I couldn’t lift myself out of the bed.  I couldn’t lift my arms, turn my head or breathe too deep without electric shocks rippling through my body.  My arms were numb and my legs didn’t want to cooperate either.  For all intents and purposes, I was paralyzed.  It was a weekend, so I went to the emergency room where I was given pain killers and muscle relaxers and told to follow-up with my Primary Care Physician on Monday.  My body was throwing a temper tantrum and I hadn’t even met my doctor yet.

I went to the doctor on Monday.  It was determined that I needed an MRI to “rule out some things.”  My doctor put in the authorization and it was denied.  It was denied because only certain services were eligible outside of the state of Texas and imaging studies were not on that list.  So here I had this insurance plan that I could not use in my new state.  I had to pay out-of-pocket for the test.  When I get my MRI results, the news is bad.  The MRI in conjunction with my symptoms, confirmed that I had Multiple Sclerosis (it turns out I actually have Lupus, it just took a few years to sort out exactly how my body was revolting).  This was devastating news to me.  I was someone who had never been sick and loved being active, but that wasn’t the worst part.  The worst part was the fact that I had just become, with one MRI, uninsurable.

My premium went from $350 to $1100 and my deductible jumped to a whopping $10,500.  It still had good office visit and prescription coverage, so I had no choice but to keep it.  Thankfully, just a few months later, I got a job that offered a health care plan once I became a full-time employee.  That happened in August of 2012, so for almost 8 months, I paid more than I made every month just to go to the doctor and fill prescriptions.

It wasn’t until 2015 that I started to see how important the ACA actually was.  In 2015, I found myself in a position that made it necessary to leave my job and therefore lose my insurance.  At this point in my life, I was on seven different prescriptions a day that amounted to over 20 pills.  I never really paid attention to what that meant financially because I had prescription drug coverage, but suddenly, because the State of Tennessee cancelled my insurance a month before I expected, I had to pay out-of-pocket my medication.  The numbers were staggering.  One bottle of pills was over $300 another $150.  This was just 2 out of 7!  It took almost a month for me to get my COBRA paperwork and the news was not good.  To continue my insurance, I was going to have to come up with almost $1200 a month.  I had just enrolled in school and there was no way I could pay that, so I wandered over to the healthcare.gov website and checked it out. I had heard it was expensive and just all around bad coverage, but that is not what I found.

The process, while a little confusing at first, was easy enough to navigate.  I filled out my eligibility forms and got a shocking surprise — I qualified for a subsidy.  I was sure I wouldn’t because I had a fairly good salary at my previous job, and was living well above the poverty line.  It turns out that is exactly who the ACA is for; those who work.  In theory it was supposed to expand Medicaid for those living below the poverty line, but that decision was turned over to the states.  I found a plan that was better coverage than my plan through the state, and with my subsidy, my premium was 1/10th of what COBRA would have been.  This was so great.  The next year, I found a plan that was even better. This was incredible.  I didn’t understand why people hated this great thing so much.  Here I was, someone who desperately needed insurance and without the ACA, would be denied by company after company due to pre-existing conditions.

Earlier this year the news started to report that premiums were skyrocketing in 2017 and no one would be able to afford coverage.  Around this time, I found out that my current company would not be offering individual plans this year.  I’ve got to be honest; I was very nervous about all of this.  I am full-time student with no ability to get a full-time job with benefits and continue school.  On November 1st, I logged in with great trepidation.  I needed good insurance.  Well friends, I was shocked by what I found.  There was a plan I could afford.  In fact, I found a better plan than I have now!  In 2017, I will only pay  $696.32 in health care expenses for the entire year.

Folks, I have a chronic illness and that is not cheap.  One of my medications, if paid for out-of-pocket, is almost $600 a month and that’s just one of many.  In 2016, I have visited the emergency room 4 times, spent 3 days in the hospital in two different occasions, had 3 CT scans, 2 x-rays, 1 MRI, multiple expensive blood panels, an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, a renal stint and things I probably can’t even recall.  I had all of this done for $837 total.  Total! This amount includes my monthly premium.  Do you have any idea how much all of this would have cost out-of-pocket?  Hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This isn’t something even the wealthiest person I know could afford, and to top it off, this is how every year will be FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.  I will always be sick; I will always need insurance.

I am just one of millions all over this country with a chronic illness who, without insurance, would be completely disabled.  My treatments and medications make me a person that can contribute to society because without them, I wouldn’t be able to even care for myself – let alone go to school, volunteer with the humane society, or take care of our lovely sheep; I would be in my bed because my immune system is literally fighting my body when not kept in check.

I understand that there are problems with the Affordable Care Act, but it needs to be improved, not done away with.  If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, Americans will lose the following provisions that did not exist prior to the ACA:

• No annual or lifetime limits on healthcare.

• All major medical insurance is guaranteed issue, meaning you can’t be denied coverage for any reason.

• You can’t be charged more based on health status or gender.

• Insurance companies can’t drop you when you are sick or for making a mistake on your application.

• You can’t be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.

• Young Adults can stay on their parent’s plan until 26.

• New preventative services at no-out-of pocket costs.

• Essential health benefits like emergency care, hospitalization, prescription drugs, and maternity and newborn care must be included on all non-grandfathered plans at no out-of-pocket limit.

• New rules and regulations ensure that all major medical plans provide a minimum actuarial value and have a maximum out-of-pocket cost no more than $6,600 for an individual and $13,200 for a family for 2015. This is revised each year, see current limits.

For those of you who can’t afford a plan, it’s probably your state’s fault.  They didn’t expand Medicaid even though there were federal subsidies for them to do so.

Let me explain:

Family size of 1 could make up to $16,394 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Family size of 2 could make up to $22,108 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Family size of 3 could make up to $27,821 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Family size of 4 could make up to $33,534 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Additionally, under the ACA if you have a family of 4 and make between $24,300 and $97,200, you qualify for federal subsidies even if your state didn’t expand Medicaid.

Check out this website to see where you fall on the scale and what the ACA can do for you: http://obamacarefacts.com/federal-poverty-level/

Therefore, if the states would have expanded Medicaid (which most blue states did) you could either purchase an affordable plan, or qualify for Medicaid.  So, where does the problem lay?  It lies with partisanship.  Republicans blocked the ACA every way they could.  They are the reason Tennessee and many other states didn’t expand Medicaid.  They are the reason you can’t afford health insurance.  This is why I vote blue.  I vote blue for the right to be healthy and for other’s right to be healthy.  Healthcare shouldn’t just be for those who can afford it.  The problems with the ACA lie with those who fought against it not those who created it.  Stop voting against yourselves.  Do research.  Find where the real problems are.  Discern what is fact and what is just a rumor by looking at non-partisan news outlets.  Disagree if you want, but find out why you disagree and back it up with facts, verifiable facts, and stop thinking only along party lines.