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.