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 the overwhelming need to commiserate

Gosh guys, what’s happening out there.  This is just how I’m feeling today.  I don’t have anything specific to say or any statistics to back it up; I just feel the need to talk.  To commiserate.  To be honest, I’m scared.  I know. I know. You’re thinking, “Waa waa precious little snowflake is worried about losing her health insurance again.”  Well that’s not it today.  Okay, I’m still terrified of that too, but today, I guess scared isn’t the right word.  I don’t know that I have a word. I have lots of things going on in my very busy brain.

I keep compulsively opening Facebook. (really, I should stop; it’s making it worse.) Anyway, I keep opening facebook and seeing the news.  I have unfollowed about 90% of my friends it seems (I still love you, but I just can’t take the Trump love anymore) so all I have left are a few new friends I’ve met through groups and the news.  Well friends, the news is depressing and terrifying and all sorts of unpleasant things and it is making me just want to retreat to the farm, turn off all of the media producing devices, and watch the lambs hop around.

Unfortunately,  I can’t. I can’t because ignorance about everything happening will not make it go away.  This is not the cat in the box or a tree in the woods; this is life.  My life. Your life. America’s life. It feels like a week ago, everything still felt like a joke.  I could watch that guy on SNL imitating the president elect and it was funny.  It was a “haha are we living in an alternate universe” funny. It was an “is this real life” funny. It was a meme. America was a meme.

On Friday, shit got real.  Shit got real real.  Everyday, shit gets more and more real and it feels like there’s no stopping point. It has only been 5 days, but it feels like months have gone by.  So much has been signed or has been promised to be signed that does nothing but hurt the American people.  Keystone has been signed, DAPL has been signed, an immigration order has been signed, a promise to repeal the ACA has been signed, grants have been striped from vital resources like the Office of Violence Against Women. The public’s access to the government has been restricted. The media’s access to the government has been restricted.  The government’s access to the media has been restricted. See, I can’t even tell if I’m getting it all; I don’t even know everything because it is too much.  It is too hard to keep up with all of the damage to America that is taking place.  It is too hard to count all of the people that these actions are going to hurt.

I see people already saying that Trump has done more in 5 days than President Obama did in 8 years.  The way they are meaning it is pure bullshit, but in a way they are right.  Donald Trump has hurt the American people more in 5 days on purpose than the others presidents did by mistake.  Maybe I’m wrong; my presidential history is sketchy at best. (for some reason I know that the 11th president is James K. Polk).

Anyway, I digress.  I think what is bothering me the most is that people are celebrating their own destruction.  I get it. You hate abortion.  I don’t particularly love it, but  to me, it represents the freedom of choice. Being forced to carry a baby is one step from being forced to abort one.  There I said it.  I am not against abortion.  Condemn me to hell.  Hate me.  Pray for my soul.  Do whatever it is you feel the need to do.  I’m secure in my faith and in my opinion because force is force and if your government can force you to do one thing with your body, they can force you to do another; it is a slippery slope.  Don’t tell me it can’t happen, because there is NOTHING that can’t happen.  Do you think people thought it was possible for someone to kill 6 million people without the world batting an eye?  I bet no one thought that was possible, but Hitler managed to do it.  Given the power, governments can force anything.  I won’t sit back and let it happen without a fight.  I won’t give my government that much power over my body.  I make decisions for my body.

If you haven’t already stopped reading, remember this: there is never just one side to an argument.  You may absolutely think that abortion is wrong and you may be right, but it’s not just about the act of abortion; it’s about telling another person what they can and can’t do with their bodies. It’s about telling a woman with three children and a husband at home that the fetus she is carrying will kill her, but she has no choice but to carry it to term because of an absolute, no exception ban. Does God want her to die?  Is that his plan? Maybe you have the emotional strength to carry a baby for 40 weeks that will live for only a few minutes or even a few hours. Maybe you can survive the crushing disappointment that you feel when God doesn’t answer the most sincere prayer you’ve ever had.  Maybe you can, but just maybe she can’t.  Maybe something like that will break up their marriage; maybe carrying that baby, who has no chance at life,  will get to be too much in month 8 and she takes her life because she thinks it’s the only way.  Was trying to carry a dying baby the right decision for her? Was it worth her life?

I’m not trying to get you to accept that something is okay; you don’t have to change your beliefs.  But neither does she.  Maybe a baby that is aborted has a bright future.  Maybe it has a purpose.  But you know what, it doesn’t know that.  You know who has a definite purpose and a definite future and the cognitive function to know? The woman carrying that baby.  Maybe it is a sin, but is it up to you to pass absolute judgment?  How does it affect you?  Is your life on the line?  Is your future on the line? Will your life change one bit?

You are willing to sit back and not only accept, but celebrate, all of the horrible things that are happening in our government to get a ruling that can’t be enforced.  To get a piece of paper signed that will change nothing in your life.  It may hurt your soul to know that abortions are happening.  It may break your heart.  It may make you sad for humanity, but it won’t kill you.  Someone else’s abortion won’t send you to hell.  Pray about it.  Maybe God won’t make anymore babies that are destined to die before they are even born.  Pray about it.  Maybe God will stop that man before he rapes and impregnates that woman.  Pray about it.  Maybe God will change biology and make only intended pregnancies happen.  Pray away the need for abortion, but don’t tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies and maybe no one will ever tell you what you can or can’t do with yours.

On Being Poor

In 1833, publisher and economist Mathew Carey wrote a series of essays titled “Appeal to the Wealthy of the Land, Ladies as Well as Gentlemen, on the Character, Conduct, Situation, and Prospects of Those Whose Sole Dependence for Subsistence Is on the Labor of Their Hands.”  He dedicated this pamphlet “as a small mark of approbation of their Liberality, humanity, and fostering care, directed towards the relief of a large, oppressed, and suffering class of females, whose case often presents scenes of distress, to which nothing but ocular demonstration could secure credit, in a country far more prosperous than any other portion of the habitable globe.”  Wow! That’s a mouth full for sure, but in all of those fancy words, Mr. Carey made a keen observation – people in America, this new country full of opportunity and prosperity, were too poor.  Sadly, they still are.

I have been firmly in the middle class ever since striking it out on my own.  I’m one of the lucky people that was able to get out of abject poverty.  As an adult, I’ve never worried about where I would sleep and I’ve never gone hungry.  I’ve always had the ability to pack up my things and move when the mood struck and that often meant crashing on couches and spare rooms until I figured out where the next road would take me.  Currently, I could decide to move to a dozen different states and about five countries without much planning because I’ve got a friend or two who would accept me with open arms.  Mobility is one of the marks of the middle class; the ability to change, hopefully for the better, your situation.   People who live in poverty and only know others who are in the same situation don’t have that ability.  They are stuck in whatever situation they are in with no power to change it.

As I mentioned earlier, 1833 America had the same problem as 2016 America — once a person became poor, by birth or circumstances, they usually stayed that way.  Mr. Carey was one of the few people of his time who believed that it was everyone’s responsibility to try solve the poverty problem – through direct assistance and fair labor practices. (Sound familiar?).

In his pamphlet, he mentions 4 arguments that the middle and upper classes gave against helping the poor.
1. That every man, woman, and grown child (over 8), able and willing to work may find employment.
2. That the poor, by industry, prudence, and economy, may at all times support themselves comfortably, without depending on charitable aid, from said employment.
3. That their sufferings and distresses chiefly, if not wholly, arise from their idleness, their dissipation (waste), and their extravagance.
4. That taxes for the support of the poor, and aid afforded them by charitable individuals, or benevolent societies, are harmful, as, by encouraging the poor to depend on them, they foster their idleness and improvidence, and thus produce, or at least increase, the poverty and distress they are intended to relieve.

Does that list sound familiar?  Of course we no longer expect 8 year-old children to work    ( 16 is apparently a good age to start supporting the family), but the rest certainly seem to still fit in with America’s view of the poor.  How many times have you heard people say that the poor are just lazy? What about wasteful? How about drunks and drug addicts?  According to The Kairos Center, 48% of the US population are considered low income or impoverished.  That means one out of every two people have very uncertain futures.

While 48% of the population don’t, or barely, make enough to live off of, only 23% of the population receives some form of public assistance.  What’s even more shocking is that 56% of those recipients are employed.  That’s over half! That means that almost 20% of American workers don’t make enough to fully support themselves.  The “lazy” argument doesn’t really hold up, does it (I’m talking to you GOP)?

“They’re spending it on drugs” you say.  Well, actually not so much.  A few states have tried implementing drug testing programs for recipients.  It turns out that these states wasted tons of money for a statistically insignificant amount of positive results.  So, no they’re not a bunch of drug addicts.  “But, they’ll become dependent on the system.” Again, no.  Over half of all people who receive assistance come off of the programs within 2 years.  People don’t want to “live off of the system”.

I can hear you asking me what the problem is then.  Its the same thing it was in 1833.  Wages.  Mr. Carey lays it all out.  In 1833 a day laborer, with his wife and children all working, could expect to make $156 per year.  That same laborer could expect his expenses to be $166.21 per that same year.  That left a $10.21 deficit if all of them were able to work 365 days a year – these were not 40 hour work weeks either; such luxuries didn’t exist.  Today, if a person making minimum wage works 40 hours a week 52 weeks a year, he or she will make $15,080 a year.  Again this is assuming that they take no days off ever.  If their rent is $500 a month, which is a low ball number for most areas, then almost half of their income is almost gone and that doesn’t even count what they pay for utilities.  Can you see where I’m going here?  They are in the same situation as laborers almost 200 years ago.  How do we fix this?  Getting a higher paying job isn’t the answer because, according to the jobs report, 60% of all jobs being created pay minimum wage.

I find myself asking this question a lot, but how is this still okay?  How can we, as a nation, decide that almost half of all Americans are not deserving of financial security.  We have to either raise the minimum wage or expand assistance programs.  Period.  We can’t continue to pretend there is “nothing we can do.”  We can fight poverty with legislation.  We can raise the minimum wage.  We can implement a system of Universal Healthcare.  We can offer assistance for childcare.  We can make getting a college education more affordable.  There IS a lot we can do.  We just seem think that some people are more worthy than others and that everyone should be able to make it on their own no matter what the wages are.  Well America, you’re wrong and in the words of Mathew Carey, “This is one of those decisive facts which ought to silence unnecessary objections for ever on this important subject” – we are letting down 48% of the population and its not okay.

If you disagree with me, check out what the Department of Labor has to say on what will happen to our economy if we raise the minimum wage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.

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.