On lies, lies, and more lies

When only 4% of what your president says is true and 26% is half or mostly true, it’s hard to trust anything that comes out of his mouth.  This truth vs. lies is not an opinion either and when confronted with the truth he makes excuses; usually it’s someone else’s fault.  Yet people continue to believe what he says; in fact, what he says becomes reality.  He speaks without caring what the truth is because he can.  He then tries to de-legitimize the press so that when he is challenged, his followers will believe him.  Cable news is cable news; it’s partisan.  However, if you discredit CNN, you must discredit Fox as well as they are biased.  You can’t only give credit to the side you agree with.  My problem is with the New York Times. The NYT has been a trusted source since 1851.  What people, including Trump, are confusing are news articles and opinion articles.  When you see something on Facebook from the NYT, 99% of the time, it is an opinion article/blog. This means it is not reporting on the news and isn’t a trusted source.  I still share them; not to report news or claim something as fact, but to say that I agree with their opinion.  An opinion is not, and can never be, “fake news” because IT’S NOT NEWS.  Where was the term when fox news and others were saying that Hillary Clinton worships satan and goes to LA every weekend to worship him and have lesbian orgies (thank you Breitbart). Where was the term when every right-wing media outlet was reporting that President Obama’s birth certificate was fake (thank you Donald Trump).

Now, on Breitbart.  Breitbart is not a news outlet; they are at best a rumor mill and at worst soldiers in the war against equality.  They absolutely hate women over there; for example, headlines include: “Birth Control makes women unattractive and crazy”, “The solution of online ‘Harassment’ is simple: women should log off”,and “Here’s Why There Ought to Be a Cap on Women Studying Science and Maths”.  How are any of these articles okay?  Now, theses are not news, but this is the “outlet” Trump trusts most and believes that they are reporting news and other trusted outlets are “fake news”.

Fake news is when people just make stuff up and report it as fact, which is what often happens when our president and mouthpieces speak (Bowling Green and Sweden anyone?)  I watch all the news networks often so I can hear both sides.  I also happen to be a very good researcher.  I have seen the lies told by the right (again, including Trump) and have seen the evidence that they were lies.  When the president will flat-out lie about things that absolutely do not matter (like whether or not it was raining during his inauguration), he will lie about anything.

Blah, I hate all the things right now that has to do with our government.  Disclaimer here: I am not paid by any super rich Democrat to protest, make calls, write letters, or post on facebook.  I am a member of several groups that organize visits with elected officials, attend protests, and conduct letter writing/call campaigns.  No one is paid, we just want our voice heard as we are the minority in our area.  Please stop insulting those who are working very hard in their very limited spare time to advocate for themselves and the people they love.

It’s time to get back to reality people.

 

On when to draw the line

Facebook has become a place of nightmares.  I rarely enjoy what I see, yet I feel compelled to scroll through and see what horrors have befallen our world in the fifteen seconds since I last refreshed.  Okay, it’s not quite that extreme, but it’s close.  The questions that keep running through my head are like “Is there anything that Donald Trump could do that his supporters would consider not okay?” and  “How much lying and backpedaling are people willing to put up with?”

There seems to be a segment of the population that will support or excuse anything that Donald Trump does.  It started during the election.  His admitted tendency to sexually assault women was excused.  His association with and later appointment of a known white supremacist and anti-semite was not challenged.  His refusal to sever ties with his very expansive business interest is apparently okay. And now his complete ban on travel for “immigrants and non-immigrants” holding passports from seven middle eastern countries and the suspension of  the 42 year old refugee program including indefinitely suspending entry of refugees from Syria (you know, the place where terrorist blow up children’s hospitals) is the new American way.

As a Christian, what has hurt the most is that people are saying all of this is ordained by God because God has anointed the lady part grabbing narcissists as he did Saul and David. Donald Trump is the new Cyrus; the unholy savior of God’s people (to be clear, this only includes Americans).  I detest the way this represents Christians because a group is only judged by its worst; i.e. Muslim=Terrorist.  In truth, all of the hate being spewed (just look on a conservative facebook page or website) is based on fear.  Pure, unadulterated fear.  There are dozens if not hundreds of official petitions to ban Sharia Law.  Guess what! We already have that; it’s called the Constitution of the United States of America. The reason the US Constitution protects us is because of the Establishment Clause; it reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” It was later interpreted by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black as meaning, ” Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.”

Sharia Law is religious law.  Do you want to know what would open up America to Sharia Law in the future?  Supreme Court decisions that favor Christianity.  Yep, if there is a Supreme Court decision that is based strictly on the Christian Bible, then it sets a precedent for future laws based on the Quran.  This is why the separation of Church and State is so freaking important. Continually pushing for a “Christian America” is advocating a Theocracy.  A theocracy is not defined as a “form of government in which a deity is the source from which all authority derives.” Notice that it says a deity, not the Christian God.  Once a Theocracy is established, a new deity could come with each new leader.  I’m not saying that this will happen, just that it could.

Many of the Trump supporters I know are also some of the best, most loving people I know.  I’m experiencing what psychologists call ambivalence.  Ambivalence is defined as “the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.” What they are saying and posting does not match what I know to be true about them and it’s emotionally disturbing. I cannot reconcile the amount of love they show with the amount of hate they are exhibiting. It’s not what I understand as being a Christian.

Thankfully, not all Christians are in agreement.  More than 3,500 religious leaders have signed a letter denouncing the immigration ban as immoral saying that “we are called by our sacred texts and faith traditions to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner.” This letter to Donald Trump and the members of Congress was signed by many of the major Christian denominations including The United Methodist Church, of which I am a member.  I am proud to align myself with a religious organization that stands up for those in need and truly follows the example of Christ.   Some others to speak out are the Episcopal Church, the alliance of Baptists, the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Lutheran Church, and leaders from many other faiths. I am encouraged by the massive call to end the ban and the call to keep the United States open to all faiths.

I celebrate our diversity and hope that we can continue to be a country for all people who seek the same freedoms that our country was truly founded on.

 

On using my words

On November 8th, enough people in the United States voted for Donald Trump to make him our new president. Since the election I have been very vocal about my displeasure regarding the outcome of the election. Despite giving sound, reasonable arguments for said displeasure, I have been accused of whining because my candidate lost, being blind to the world around me,  and my personal favorite, of just not being the Christian they thought I was because of my political alliances.

I will never support Donald Trump.  He is a man who is only out for himself. He refuses to fully take the job of President by keeping his business connections.  He mocks the office by throwing fits on Twitter and by appointing family members to high positions in his Administration. He has no respect for people and he has shown that by mocking real American heroes like John McCain for becoming a POW, parents who lost a son fighting for our country, and most recently John Lewis, a renowned Civil Rights advocate who sacrificed his own comfort and safety to fight for what he believed in. Donald Trump is not a good person and he was most certainly not “anointed by God for such a time as this.”  He did not win because he was chosen by God. He won because he was able to convince desperate people that he would help them to become less desperate. He won because he was able to convince neo-nazis and other racist and hateful people that he would give them a voice. He won because he was able to convince religious conservatives that he would appoint cabinet members and Supreme Court Justices that thought like them.  Notice that I did not lump all Trump supporters together. He was able to convince all of these separate groups that he was just the man they needed. That is why he won. He sold himself as a savior and people believed him. I did not and that makes me an outsider in my circles.

Being vocal about all of this has led to the loss of some decades long friendships, alienation by family members, and a general anxiety about social ramifications to come. I have every reason in the world to stop being vocal about the atrocities that are happening in our government.  Maybe if I stopped sharing articles on Facebook that support my views or just stopped having an opinion altogether, I could regain some of what I have lost.  It would benefit me to do those things, but I won’t – I can’t. I can’t because the stakes are too high and if my words have the potential to convince others to see what is at stake and to contact their representatives and congressmen, then all of my personal losses would be worth it.

While there are many problems with the soon to be POTUS, the real problem lies with  the Republican controlled House and Senate.  After the election, I voiced my concerns about the fact that our newly elected congress had one goal – to repeal the Affordable Care Act. People tried to convince me that I was blowing it out of proportion and my fears were completely unfounded – that everything would be okay.  Well, on January 9th the US Senate proved me right. They started the process of pulling the rug out from under millions of Americans who depend on the ACA to live. They rejected any agreement to save the life saving provisions that I and many others like me depend on.  They made the first step toward my physical destruction and on the 13th, the House of Representatives backed them up.

As many of you know, I am sick.  I am not sick because of poor life choices or risky behavior.  I have Lupus.  My immune system confuses healthy cells for sick ones and will one day cause my kidneys, liver, and heart to fail.  I am 32 years old and I know with some certainty how I am going to die. My access to health care will determine when.  Every cold, seasonal allergy attack, virus, and infection can cause my immune system to go into hyperdrive and damage my organs.  I go to the doctor at the first sniffle or as soon as my temperature hits 99 degrees because I need medication to shut down my immune system so that damage doesn’t occur.  In 2016, my insurance paid out $750,000 in claims. In one year, my medical cost exceeded what all but the wealthiest people could afford for a lifetime of medical care. This is not hyperbole or a tactic to garner pity and attention. It is simply the truth.  I am just one person out of millions who are facing the situation. We are terrified at what is happening in Washington. We are scared for our lives.

Please have some empathy and stop calling me and others like me snowflakes, libtards, or communists.  We just want the same right to live as everyone else and we can’t do that without the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. If voters don’t appeal to their congress people, sick people like me will die.  It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will happen eventually and our blood will be on the hands of those who refused to see that healthcare is not a privilege only reserved for the wealthy or the healthy; it is a basic human right.  I will not stop speaking out, no matter the social ramifications.  I don’t care who stops talking to me or who thinks less of me.  I am not going to stand by and let my life be taken without a fight because it’s not just about me; it’s about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans – healthy or sick, rich or poor.

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 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 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 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.

How did we get here?

I don’t know if you are aware, but we are currently near the end of the most horrifying presidential race I’ve ever experienced.  Many of you may be thinking that I am referring to the fact that people have to choose between two awful candidates (I’m not, I don’t think Hillary Clinton is “the lesser of two evils;” I think she is very qualified to serve as President of the United States and agree with her platform and policies).  No, this is the most awful race I’ve seen because of the public hate for the side that is not your own.  Folks, this is bad; this is really bad.  It has gotten so bad that people are actually afraid to publicly support the candidate they support.  Read that last sentence again.  People are AFRAID to publicly support a candidate.  I have to put a disclaimer here: I have done zero research on instances of voter violence or property vandalism; I am only voicing what I have observed in my (very small) community.

I have recently started voicing my political opinion on Facebook.  I don’t do this by sharing ridiculous memes or hyperbolic “news” articles;  I just share opinion articles that I agree with and add my comments when appropriate.  I did once attempt to ask a thought provoking question about the Constitution, but that went up in flames like an old barn stuffed with straw soaked with lighter fluid.  Anyway, I don’t post anything that could be considered offensive or derogatory; I just post my opinion.  Well, naturally, my posts have come up in conversation — real conversation, like person-to-person conversation with people I actually know in the real world.  My social circle encompasses all sorts of people: pastors, students, university professors, farmers, lawyers, retirees and everyone in between.

I pretty much know where everyone lies politically, so it was no surprise when my more liberal leaning friends voiced support of my posts (again, #imwithher).  What was surprising was the conversation that often comes next.  Someone, more than one someone actually, told me that they wished they felt free to be as bold as I was being on my Facebook page.  Again, I’m not being loud or disparaging.  I’m not saying whatever comes to mind or voicing my most private thoughts in free association like stream of word vomit.  I am exploring all sides to arguments in a pretty fair and very controlled manner.  So I was curious as to why this made me “bold”.  It made me bold because I took a side that is unpopular in my region.

I have friends that are worried that if they publicly voice their political opinion too much, they will face social repercussions, have their property vandalized, or even become the victim of physical violence.  Seriously folks, this presidential election has gotten so out of control that people are worried for their physical safety, their property, and their financial security if they share what they think in a public forum.  

Let me say this again because it is so important to understand.  PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO PUBLICLY VOICE THEIR POLITICAL OPINION!  This can’t just be happening in my social circle.  The country is pretty much split 50/50 on the nose; the race is so close right now that there really is no clear winner (no matter what partisan media outlets are telling you).  As I drive my usually path to and from home and around town, I see many houses and cars showing their support for Donald Trump.  In fact, I have only seen 2 yard signs for Hillary Clinton.  To, be fair, Tennessee is historically Republican, so one would expect to see more support for the Republican nominee; however, I know there has to be a few Clinton supporters in the area because my own, fairly large, social circle is split about 50/50, just like the rest of the country.

There are many houses in my usually traveled route with no signs.  Could these people too be Clinton supporters who are afraid of repercussions if they voice their support?  Are they afraid that, because they have a blue yard sign, someone will vandalize their home?  Are they afraid that they will get jumped in a parking lot for having an #imwithher bumper sticker?  Are they afraid that they will lose their job if they like the wrong post? If so, this is a sad, sad commentary on our society.  

This election has stripped our society of the very essence of what it means to be American — individuality.  Harry Truman once said, “When even one American – who has done nothing wrong – is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth – then all Americans are in peril.”

We are in peril.  The reaction to this election is un-American.  It’s un-American because America was founded on the freedom to choose.  American is the land with no king, no ruling elite, no dictator — no one telling you how to think or how to be.  We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  When did everything change?  When did we become a country where dissent from the majority is dangerous?  When were we transported into a country with a dangerous regime that threatened our safety if we disagree?  Has America become Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Mussolini’s Italy?

No, we are different from all those other places because this isn’t coming from the leaders, this is coming from the people.  We the people are denying each other the freedoms our great country was founded on.  We the people are the fascist dictators because we the people are the ones we fear.  We fear our neighbors, our family, and our friends.  We fear our colleagues, those who share a pew with us on Sundays, and those who teach our children.  We are afraid of being singled out.  So afraid in fact that we can’t stand together publicly.

I’m not encouraging anyone to stand with me because the truth is that your fear is a wise fear.   This election has changed people; it has changed America.  There are people who can’t be public about what they think and that’s not going to change in the next three days.  This election will hopefully go down in history as unique.  Unique because we cannot let this happen again.  We cannot let opinions cause fear.  We cannot restrict people’s freedom to choose.  We must, no matter who wins this election, unite for the preservation of this country.  There is no “us” and there is no “them”; there is only “we” as in:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

No leader, no president, no one person can fix this.  We are all equal under the constitution. We all have the right to voice our political opinions without fear because this country has never been, is not now, and will never be made up of just one kind of people.  We are, to use yet another cliche, a melting pot.  We are the humbled masses. We are the people.