Category Archives: Politics

Knowledge is Power

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This is going to be a long one, but I hope you’ll indulge me by reading it anyway.

I was doing some research last night and learned some disturbing news about a bill that Congress passed after the debt ceiling debacle of 2010.

First, some backstory.

We all remember the fight in congress a couple of years ago where Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling. At the time, the argument was framed in a way that was misleading. Well, actually it was a lie.  Here’s why.

We were told that the refusal to raise the debt ceiling was a refusal to borrow more money. It was put forth as the equivalent of refusing to buy a new house on credit that we couldn’t afford.

What it actually was, was a refusal to pay on debts we had already incurred. It was really the equivalent of refusing to make a house payment on a house we had already bought on credit and moved into.

Now, rather than default on our loans, the Democrats met with Republicans and wrote a law they called the Budget Control Act.  The law was passed and signed by President Obama in August of 2011.

The act included a provision where a committee of twelve, six Democrats and six Republicans would be required to come up with a way to reduce the deficit over the next decade [2021].

As an incentive to the committee, a plan for cutting spending was put into the bill that would go into effect automatically at the end of 2012. The spending cuts were massive and across the board.  The bill set a deadline for the committee to reach an agreement, and on November 21, 2012, the committee revealed that they couldn’t come to an agreement.

Now, most of the records of the committee meetings are sealed. The general public is barred from reading the minutes, and we are basically forced to take the committee members’ word for it on what actually happened.

Republicans said that the reason they couldn’t come to an agreement was that Democrats refused to cut entitlement programs. Democrats said that it was because Republicans refused any and all tax increases.

Now, it’s important to remember that our government currently doesn’t receive enough money in tax revenue to balance the budget. Taxes are going to have to be raised for someone if we’re ever going to be able to reduce the deficit.

Grover Norquist has been going around for years, forcing Republicans to sign a pact stating that they will never raise taxes, no matter what.  He’s proven more than once that if a Republican goes against the pact, they will not be re-elected. George H. W. Bush failed to be re-elected largely because he approved a tax hike.

I have no idea how Norquist managed to get so much power, but he’s not afraid to use it and basically destroys any Republican who reneges on the deal.

So the Republicans continue to refuse to raise taxes, even though there is no other way to cut the deficit. In fact, the party line is that taxes should be cut, no matter what.

Now, the other half of the equation is that spending has to be cut as well. Republicans are notorious for putting social safety net programs up for cuts, but they nearly always refuse to cut defense spending, and in fact, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan advocate more tax cuts for the rich [even though it will increase our deficit] while also increasing defense spending.

There isn’t enough money in social programs to offset the increases in defense spending, or decrease the deficit, especially when you continue to reduce revenue with tax cuts, which means that funding for education, infrastructure, and various other programs will have to be cut as well.  We’re talking roads and bridges, public schools, non-profit colleges, science programs, including the money we spend on research and development for curing diseases and a bunch of other stuff that has the potential to make life better for all of us.

So at the end of 2012, the Budget control act will force these across the board cuts to programs that are necessary for our country to function.  The Republican refusal to increase taxes, in spite of the fact that there is no way to balance the budget without it, put the committee into gridlock and an agreement couldn’t be reached.

Now, the Democrats probably did refuse to cut entitlements, but my guess is that they refused it because the Republicans refused to raise taxes. Our deficit is high enough that it is impossible to balance the budget without increased revenue.  Couple that with the Republican insistence on cutting taxes for the wealthy even more, and you’ve got a serious problem.

You can’t cut spending AND taxes and reduce the deficit.  The math just doesn’t work.

So here we are. The budget control act automatic spending cuts will go into effect on January 1, 2013 if Congress can’t figure out a way to reduce the deficit.  The act doesn’t increase taxes, except to allow the Bush Tax Cuts to expire.

Now, what that means for the middle class is that the tax cuts we received will go away. Our tax bills will increase, and for those of us who are barely making it as it is, more people will fall below the poverty level.

The wealthy will have their taxes go up, too, but since they already make massive amounts of money, the increase in taxes might prevent them from buying a second home, but they won’t have to struggle to put food on the table like the rest of us.

It’s also important to realize that the budget control act is a law. Unlike the budget proposals that the Democrats, Republicans, and President put forth each year to be voted on, the budget control act is legally binding.

Budget proposals are nothing more than an outline of how each group thinks we should allocate our national budget money for the next year. They are not legally binding, so even if Congress approves a budget, they can ignore it or follow it and there are no real consequences.  It’s kind of like when I write a schedule for my day. I can follow the schedule or chuck it, and the only effect is that I decided to do something else.

The Budget Control Act is a law. These spending cuts will go into effect unless congress votes to repeal or amend it.  What the Republicans did by holding the debt ceiling hostage was force Democrats to pass a law that very well may slam  our country into a downward spiral of depression.

The cuts are dramatic, and they will affect all of us.  As government spending decreases, real people lose jobs.  When people lose jobs, they stop buying stuff, which causes businesses to close, which leads to more job losses, and on and on.

The only people who will be left standing after such a devastating spiral are the people who are already wealthy.  The middle class could disappear completely.

So when you hear people talking about the ‘fiscal cliff’ and ‘sequestration’ you need to be aware that this all started with Republicans threatening to default on our mortgage.

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Straws and Camels

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Back in April, I wrote a post about why the thought of Mitt Romney as president scared the living hell out of me.  I talked about the Paul Ryan budget, how it slashes social safety net programs, and how, if enacted, would essentially make what I do here with J impossible.

You may have noticed that Paul Ryan is now the Republican candidate for Vice President.  While there are at least five instances of Mitt Romney supporting and agreeing completely with the Ryan budget, there is also video of him saying that he has his own budget that isn’t the same as Ryan’s.  At this point, nobody really knows what the hell Mitt Romney actually stands for, but last night, former President Bill Clinton spoke at length about the Republican ticket and their budget policies.

He reminded everyone that the Ryan budget will not only change Medicare to a voucher system for everyone under 55, he brought up something else that no one has really been talking about. It also cuts Medicaid spending by 1/3.

Clinton stated, and the fact checkers have verified, that two-thirds of Medicaid spending goes toward nursing home care for the elderly and people with disabilities and serious illnesses.

The money my husband and I get paid for taking care of my brother comes directly from the Medicaid Waiver program. His medical equipment, including his electric wheelchair and communication device, as well as the Chux, adult briefs, catheter supplies, and co-pays for medical services and medications that Medicare doesn’t cover also come directly from the Medicaid program.

In my April post, I gave a lot of details about the costs associated with taking care of J.  About 3/4 of the money we get paid working with J goes directly toward the expenses of taking care of him. Our added costs for housing, utilities, monthly fuel bills, insurance, medical care, travel expenses, cleaning supplies, and other out-of-pocket expenses for J’s needs amount to well over $1000 a month.

When you figure in how much it would cost us to pay out-of-pocket for medical equipment, medical supplies, and medications, the costs are astronomical.  There is absolutely no way we could come close to covering the extra $1000 we already pay per month if it wasn’t for Medicaid.  Trying to pay for the other stuff is a sick joke.

From the time I was a child, one of the most important values my parents instilled in me was that we take care of our family, no matter what the cost.  My dad took over the family farm before I was born, and shared the income equally with his parents and brother, in spite of the fact that he did the vast majority of the work.  He’s an excellent farmer, but it wasn’t exactly his dream job.  He sacrificed his own dreams to make sure his family was taken care of.

My mother paid for my grandma’s medications and helped her out financially for years, and when Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Mom took her into her own home and did her best to take care of her for two years until dealing with the strain became impossible. She wrecked her own health in the process.

So three and a half years ago when J became critically ill, my husband and I uprooted our family and moved 180 miles back home to take care of him.

We were faced with a choice between putting J in a nursing home, letting my parents try to take care of him themselves, in spite of the fact that they were both in their 60s and had health issues of their own, or moving back to take care of him ourselves.

So we moved.

I’ve written pretty extensively about some of the difficulties we’ve had, so I won’t go into it much here, except to say that it’s been hard. Trying to raise our three kids and take care of J, who was critically ill for the first year we lived here is the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. In fact, it was impossible to meet everyone’s needs. My kids were pretty much on their own, even though I was in the house, my marriage was put way on the back burner, and my own needs didn’t even figure into the equation for a long time.

It’s still a constant struggle to try to find a balance when there’s just too much to be done and not enough me to go around.  A lot of the time, we’re just treading water, hoping we don’t drown.

Which leads me back to the Romney/Ryan ticket and politics. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are both pretty open about wanting to cut Medicaid and other entitlements. Ryan has talked about privatizing Social Security [another benefit that J gets, without which, we would have to pay for his food, personal care items, clothing, etc. out-of-pocket as well].

Basically, privatizing Social Security would mean giving SS money to the banks to invest as they see fit and try to grow the fund.  We all remember what happened when the banks were given access to the money we had in commercial banks and allowed to use it for investment banking, right? In eight years, they managed to tank our entire economy.

Back in April, I basically bled all over my keyboard and wrote one of the most difficult posts of my entire life. It also signaled my official ‘coming out’ as a liberal to my family and friends, most of whom were, and still are, staunch conservatives.

Admitting to the people I loved most that I could no longer pretend to be something I wasn’t, in spite of the fact that all of them had passionately conservative political views, was not easy, to say the least.  In fact, if I’d been able to quiet my conscience and continue to lie about it, it may very well have made my life easier, at least for the time being.

But at that point, I’d been hiding my spiritual, emotional, and political journey from almost everyone for years, and eventually, it just became too much. It felt like I was betraying myself and more importantly, my kids, by not speaking out and telling the truth.

I’ve always insisted that the one thing we ALWAYS do in our family is tell the truth.  Honesty is so important to me that when my kids were little, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell them that Santa Claus was real because it wasn’t true.

I know that seems ridiculous, but for me, being lied to is the worst kind of betrayal, and under no circumstances was I going to do that to my babies. I don’t always give them every detail, but it’s always been a policy in our house that if the kids ask a question, I will give them an honest answer, no matter what.

Well, eventually, I realized that I was hiding a lot of myself from the people around me. I was always honest with Steve, and he stood by me and listened to me through all my struggles to figure out exactly what I believe and why.

I joined Facebook after we moved to take care of J in order to try to keep in touch with our friends in St. Joe, so it made sense to me that since cyberspace was the only place I could really go, I could tell the truth about my life on Facebook.

Well, it turned out you’re not actually supposed to talk about real stuff on Facebook. I suspect a better name for it might be ‘Maskbook’ or ‘Fakebook’ but whatever.  Part of the transformation I underwent during that time included tearing away every mask I’d ever put on and learning to just be me. The real me.

I figured if I was going to teach my kids what it means to be honest, I needed to be honest with myself first, and then with everyone else.

Yeah, well. First and foremost, I’ve always been a dreamer.

One of the things I love most, and happen to be relatively good at is writing. I’ve been writing regularly through online journaling for eight years or so now. A lot of the stuff I write is crap, but some of it is good enough that when I go back and read it later, it doesn’t even seem like I wrote it.

I suspect this may end up being crap, but oh well.

I think initially, I used Facebook instead of the blog because I’d kind of burnt myself out on blogging.  I also liked that there’s no counter on Facebook. Unless someone comments or hits the like button, you never know if anyone saw it or not. When you know people are reading your words, and you know how many, you tend to gauge ‘success’ by the number of hits.

So why am I back on the blog?  Well, I’ve pretty much outworn my welcome on Facebook. It’s an election year, and I have some political opinions that are less than mainstream in my group of friends. I knew that going in, which is why I was so scared of posting about politics in the first place.  It wasn’t so much that I wanted to piss everyone off, it was just that I felt like I’d spent so many years contorting myself into the person others expected me to be, I’d forgotten who I was.

And once I found myself again, the most amazing thing happened. I actually liked me! Go figure. :-/

So, I began testing the waters and posting some opinions, and then I waited to see if people would leave my friends list in droves. For a while, they did.  On the one hand, I get it. Everyone has preferences, and some people hate politics or stories about poop, so naturally, some people were going to leave.

It still kinda hurts, but I do understand. The times when I really had a hard time with the whole ‘Facebook De-Friending Drama’ is when someone would post a disagreement on my wall about something I’d posted and get irate when I defended myself. When you have an argument with someone, it takes longer than a day to forget about the disagreement, and when your friends list gets one number smaller, well, it’s pretty easy to figure out that someone got pissed and left.

I’ve always had issues with people storming off angry, so even on something as goofy as a Facebook Fight, it feels like unfinished business. It also reminds me of Jr. High, and when the people leaving in a huff are people you once respected as a mentor and friend, well, it’s a little harder not to take that personally.

I don’t mind debating, in fact, it’s something I enjoy immensely when it’s done properly.  I love writing, and I love research, so learning things and sharing what I’ve learned is something that feels like flying to me. I enjoy having my opinions challenged, and I love it when people bring up points I hadn’t thought of and basically give me something else to study.

I don’t mind being wrong any more than anyone else does. It’s embarrassing sometimes, but the older I get the more I realize just how little I know about the world, so it’s a lot easier now than it was when I was younger.

One of the things I don’t deal well with, though, is when someone quotes a ‘fact’ that is demonstrably untrue and then refuses to admit that their statement has been thoroughly debunked. This is not how debating is supposed to work.

Everyone is biased, and a lot of people aren’t above using some spin, including me, but I do not deliberately quote lies and call them truth.

Ever.

And when someone else does, it makes me irate.

And now we’re back to Romney/Ryan.  Romney and Ryan have both been caught in outright lies.  These aren’t your typical bias, distortions or spin, these are straight up bullshit fairy tales worthy of the National Inquirer.

The blatant, shameless dishonesty that has been exhibited by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan just in the past couple of weeks would have been more than enough for me to either refuse to vote at all or switch parties if I was still a staunch Republican like the rest of my family.

However, even without the lies, there’s the fact of the Ryan Budget and what it does to Medicaid and Medicare.  I am not lying or even exaggerating when I tell you that if J were to lose 1/3 of the money he gets for all the care he needs, we would not be able to afford to take care of him.

J’s life, and our lives, would end as we know it.  We would lose our house. We would not be able to afford utilities or decent food. J has to have Ensure because he can’t chew, and his food cost per month is at least $200.00. On Steve’s income alone, our food budget for the five of us was about $300.00 a month.  So without Medicaid, either J would go hungry or we would.

The house we could afford on Steve’s income alone in St. Joe was a tiny three bedroom, one bath house that was a whopping 927 square feet.  We couldn’t begin to fit J and all of his stuff into that house with the rest of us.

This is real.  If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win the election in November, and if their plan to cut Medicaid goes forward, they will be sentencing my family to a life of  poverty. They will greatly shorten J’s lifespan, and they will put us in a position where we have to choose between taking care of J and taking care of our kids.

I am a mother first.

One of the things that has been so disheartening for me is how a few of my own relatives have reacted to my becoming a Democrat.  The reactions have ranged from disappointment, to anger, to condescending arrogance, to accusations of being a Communist [now conveniently called ‘socialism’].

I’ve had to deal with being attacked personally, first on my Facebook wall, and then when I refused to be cowed on my own page, on their news feeds as rants and random Facebook memes that include how stupid and evil ‘liberals’ are.

I never dreamed I’d be a black sheep in my family, considering I’m a stable, happily married mother of three, who is also taking care of her adult quadriplegic brother, but here I am.

To find out that some of my own family values hearing what they want to hear and believing lies just because they back up their own ideas has been beyond infuriating to me.

To realize that people in my own family will vote for a man in November who will sentence me to an even more impossible life than the one I’m currently living is heartbreaking.

To know that some of the people in my family would rather hate President Obama based on nothing more than lies and spin from the worst news network in the history of television fills me with white-hot rage.

And I guess this is why I’m writing this one last [potential] Facebook political post, and why I’m finally talking about the people in my very own family who have treated me with less compassion, understanding, and mercy than I would expect from a stranger.

Some of the same people who showed me that when family needs you, you do whatever you have to do to make sure they’re taken care of, the people I’ve respected and loved since I was a child, are the people who now refuse to listen to me, accuse me of being a communist, treat me like I’m an idiot unworthy of anything but contempt, and in November, they will vote for a man who will choose to enact a budget that will very likely end my life, the life of my family, and the life of my brother as we’ve known it.

I know it’s crass to air dirty laundry on the Internet, and if I choose to post this on Facebook, I may very well burn some bridges with people I’ve loved all my life, but this is my reality.  This is the anxiety, stress, and agonizing pain I live with every day.  The people I believed would always be there for me have already shut me out, whether they realize it or not.  Stubbornness and the need to be ‘right’ has taken precedence over any willingness to understand me and where I’m coming from.

People always say to ‘vote your conscience’ which is often a way to tell people to vote against abortion.  Well, that’s your right, of course. But when you go defend the unborn, keep in mind that the candidates who would outlaw abortion are the very same people who believe that the life of my entire family is not worthy of consideration.  That is the real choice you face.

Reality

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Here’s the honest to goodness truth about why the thought of Mitt Romney as president scares the unholy living hell out of me.  He has said repeatedly that he plans on phasing out Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SSI, and disability.  Here’s what my life looks like:

Steve and I both get paid to take care of Jeremi.  Our combined net income is just under $1400 a month.  Jeremi gets Social Security and SSI, which totals up to just under $700 a month.  All of this money comes from Medicaid, Social Security, SSI, and J’s meds are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid [he takes 11 different meds each day, plus he has a baclofen pump that costs about $1000 every four months to refill]

J buys his own food and drinks [Ensure, applesauce, cranberry juice and hot tea], which averages about $250.00 a month. He buys his over the counter meds that Medicaid doesn’t cover [$25 a month]He pays for our water bill, and our Satellite TV [about $200 a month], and some of the cleaning supplies [$20].

He also covers the cost of gloves and the various medical supplies that Medicaid doesn’t cover[about $50 a month].  He also buys clothes and shoes once or twice a year, and gas for his wheelchair van [$50-$100 a month].

That leaves him $50-$100 ‘spending money’ each month.  The only expenses that Jeremi helps us with are the water bill, satellite, and cleaning supplies.

Of the $1400 a month net pay that Steve and I get from taking care of J, about $1000 of it goes toward added expenses that are necessary to keep him with us. This includes a higher mortgage payment, higher electricity, gas, and taxes.  It includes the cost of meds that I have to take in order to be able to function [antidepressants, meds to help me sleep, and pain meds] and various other expenses.

Because of the cuts that have  already been made to Medicaid, the back on the new wheelchair J got a few months ago has broken twice because the company that makes it cuts corners in order to save money, which means the product we get is less durable than J needs it to be.  New electric wheelchairs cost somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000 each. I have no idea how much repairs cost when it has to be sent back.

Jeremi uses a communication device called an ECO, which enables him to speak to us as well as control his TV.  It also comes with Windows and functions as a laptop [albeit a pathetic one].  The cost of a new one is around $7000-$8000.  His ECO has broken down and had to be sent back at least four times in the past two and a half years.  We’ve had to order two new chargers because the cords are horrible about shorting out. Each charger costs $75.00, and repair bills are several hundred each.

Medicaid pays for all of that stuff.  If we had to pay it, he’d be stuck in a manual wheelchair with no ECO because after expenses, Steve and I clear about $400 extra per month above and beyond what we need just to make ends meet.

If Steve and I were to lose our income for taking care of J and we were going to try to make it work anyway, the two of us would have to work 65-70 hours per week extra [above and beyond what Steve works at the Patrol each week] at our current pay rate [$10 an hour and $8.25 an hour] in order to maintain the same income.

We would also have to figure out how to continue taking care of Jeremi [who is only gone for work 35 hours a week. The rest of the time, he’s here and someone has to stay with him], AND raise our three kids at the same time.

Since we’ve moved back to Sedalia, we’ve had to modify our home.  We purchased the materials to build two ramps and to modify the bathroom into a roll in shower and did the work ourselves. Even so, the cost of both was about $4000 out of pocket because the process of getting home modifications paid for through Medicaid is a nightmare.

The lift we had to get [was purchased by the Center and Medicaid] was $4000 as well.  His new shower chair [which ended up being a complete piece of crap that fell apart within two months], was about $2000. It doesn’t work well at all, but J is stuck with it now because it’s considered a ‘once in a lifetime’ purchase.

Because it is a personal hygiene product, there are no returns, and no refunds.  We’ve had to replace two seat cushions in the year he’s had it, the wheels are next to impossible to turn, and once the seat is wet, he slides into the commode hole in the seat, which is uncomfortable and leads to skin breakdown. There’s no way we could have anticipated any of those things just by sitting him in it once, with clothes on, for five minutes as our ‘test drive’.

Once the shower chair is out of warranty, we will have to continue to replace the faulty seat cushions at our own expense.

Children with disabilities are born every day.  People have accidents and get spinal cord or brain injuries every single day. If these programs are done away with, as Mitt Romney and the GOP keep saying they want to do, only the wealthy will be able to take care of family members with disabilities.

If Medicaid and Medicare go, it will be impossible to get help from in-home care workers and even nursing homes will no longer be an option.  If Social Security disappears, those of us who are living paycheck to paycheck and barely making ends meet now will have nothing to supplement whatever meager retirement we managed to scrape up with our just over minimum wage jobs.

What will happen to the elderly, infirm, and disabled who are not lucky enough to have wealthy family or friends who are willing to foot the bill for their care?  My generation is the one that will experience this firsthand.  The people who are making the decisions right now won’t lose their benefits, but I will.

And there’s no way to know what will happen with Jeremi’s funding in the next few years.  Medicaid and Medicare are often the first things on the chopping block, while tax breaks for giant corporations are considered sacrosanct.  Funding for the military is sacred.  But taking care of the poor, disabled, elderly, and ill?  Let’s cut ’em, ’cause they’re all worthless freeloaders anyway.

I take that kind of thing very personally, because I am working my ever loving ass off trying to do the right thing.  I’ve made sacrifices that I never wanted to have to make, because there was no other way to make sure that Jeremi was taken care of, and that my parents didn’t kill themselves taking on that responsibility again.  Our only other option was a nursing home, and that was pretty much a death sentence for J.  He was 39 when we moved back.

Without these services, there would be absolutely no possible way for us to afford Jeremi’s care.  I couldn’t pay for his medications, let alone anything else.

So when I hear people talking about voting for Mitt Romney for no other reason than he’s not Barack Obama, I want to scream. When I see someone saying that Paul Ryan’s so-called budget plan is a good idea, I want to punch the wall.

I want to ask you, “How could you do this to me?”  Because I am directly affected by the cutting of Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, SSI, and Disability. Jeremi is directly affected.

If the GOP actually cuts these programs, I am one of those ‘freeloaders’ who will ‘get what I deserve.’

THAT’S why I get so passionate about politics. THAT’S why I’m so frustrated with conservatives.  THAT’S why I fight so hard to point out facts and make myself heard.  Because this is MY life that’s being judged as unworthy of any help from the government.  You shrink ‘entitlement’ programs, and MY life becomes unlivable.  You take away the safety net, and MY family suffers.

I’m absolutely terrified of the election in November, because I know that regardless of my vote, there’s a very good chance that Romney is going to beat President Obama.

I am watching as our country moves inexorably into Social Darwinism, and I know that I won’t be one of the ‘fittest’ who survives.  I know that Jeremi will be one of the first to be sacrificed, and I am helpless to do anything about it.  I’m screaming for mercy, but no one hears me.

At best, I’m tolerated [but not to be taken seriously]. At worst, I’m ridiculed, judged as evil or stupid or both, de-friended, and ostracized.

Even as I sit here and debate whether to post this or not, I know that if I do, a few more people will silently disappear from my friends list because I’m too annoying or too political or too controversial.

I know that mostly there will be deafening silence.

I know that most people will scroll right past this when they see I’ve written another book.

I know I’m failing to make a difference, yet I can’t seem to stop trying.  Maybe I AM insane.

Change of Heart

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Good grief.  So I did a little research about US history in the past decade and the more I read, the more I stand firm.

For those who think I must have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday and hit my head really hard [because who in their right mind would think the way I do?!?], I’ll tell you now, it took me eight years of fact checking and wrestling with my conscience to finally accept that I’d been manipulated into fighting for something I disagree with all the way down to my soul.

Because I spent those eight years researching and struggling to find the truth, you can rest assured that even though I somehow came to a conclusion that a lot of people disagree with, I didn’t do it on a whim, and I didn’t do it without a LOT of serious thought and prayer about how to handle my change of heart.

I was shocked to find that once I stopped taking someone else’s word for it on what the truth was and set out to find it on my own, my own perception was WAY different than what I’d been taught.  If I’m being honest here, I felt seriously betrayed and lied to.  How is it nobody had ever told me the unvarnished truth?  Why did everything have to be tarnished and sullied by ‘spin’ to make the other side sound utterly evil? I should say that I don’t think these people told me falsehoods out of malice or any intent to harm me.  They genuinely believed what they were saying.

Once I listened, really listened, to what the other side was saying, I found that there was no way I could continue on the path I’d been following for years.  And then came the guilt.  How had I been so blind?

The fact is, it was my own fault.  Growing up, I was pretty much a free spirit.  My whole philosophy centered around love, which included being compassionate and trying to figure out a way that everyone could have enough to have their basic needs met.

I was kind of a hippie, which, in the 90s was something I didn’t talk about much. And I guess I was also a closet communist [in the same way the hippies were, with their Communes].  Because see, in my heart of hearts, I’m perfectly okay with working and pooling resources with others and sharing everything equally so that we all have enough.

You can’t even imagine how exhilarated I was the first time I read Acts.  Holy crapoli!  These people shared everything with each other!  To my mind and heart, this is a beautiful thing.  No one cares about who has the most ‘stuff’ because it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we all have enough to live the lives we were created to live, whether that means writing poetry, working in a garden, sewing clothes, being a nurse or doctor, or whatever.  Reaching as much of our own potential as we want is the only goal because we don’t have to scrape and fight for our basic needs to be met.  It’s already taken care of.

I saw the picture in Acts as a model for us to live by.  Needless to say, I was devastated when the people I cared about not only didn’t receive the idea with enthusiasm, but actually became hostile.

Here’s the thing, though, when we’re ruled by love and compassion for each other above all else, it’s not about who deserves what based on what they’ve done or not done.  It’s about seeing a need and filling it, because it’s the right thing to do, and because it’s also what we would have done to us.

So it didn’t take long for me to realize that regardless of what people say, love is always conditional, which is why Communism in practice is not a good thing.  If people could get over their greed and selfishness, it would work brilliantly, but because we’re so worried about having what we want, we’re willing to prevent others from having their needs met, and we’re even gleeful about it, because they don’t deserve it because they didn’t earn it.

I found myself disillusioned and even horrified when I realized this.  I managed to think that way for a few years, and I’m still struggling with the soul-deep scars it left behind.  What bothers me the most is that I learned about this judgmental, conditional take on love in the exact same place I was taught that even though I would never be able to earn it, Jesus came to earth and became man so that I would not be lost.  So that I could have what I really needed: Life, and that abundantly.

I still don’t understand how people can claim to love others when their words and actions toward the weakest, most desolate of souls shows nothing but contempt and ‘Keep your hands off my shit. If you want some, go get it yourself.”

I’m pretty good with words, but I don’t even know how to express to you how utterly sad and hopeless and desolate I feel right now. And I have for a long time.  In fact, ultimately, this is what caused me to basically cut ties with all things Christian.  For a while, I was so angry with God I couldn’t even talk to him, let alone follow him.  I hated the church for a while, too, and I’m still unspeakably disappointed in how badly it’s gotten twisted.

Recent events have gotten me praying again, and I think I’m slowly beginning to come back around to wanting a relationship with God, but I’m having to test the waters all over again and try to figure out if He can actually be trusted or not.  Because based on my personal experience, I’m just not sure anymore.  I was lied to and victimized in so many ways by Religion, and it managed to bring out the very worst in me while almost obliterating everything that was good.  I don’t know how or why my experience was so incredibly different than what most people talk about, but it was.  And now I’m left here, trying to pick up the pieces and trying to figure out if it’s even worth another shot.

And in an odd way, all of this started with an election a few years ago, where I believed a man who claimed that God was guiding him, and then a few short months later,  watched in horror as he showed with his actions that he had no idea what love, compassion and stewardship looked like.  Oh, he was loving and compassionate to our countrymen and anyone else who followed his real religion of “Democracy… Or Else,” but he didn’t bat an eye when it came to disregarding the freedom of others, or their human rights.

And before anyone dares go off on me about 9/11 and our human rights, you can just back off.  That eye for an eye bullshit died with Jesus on the Cross, and two wrongs DON’T make a right.  Gitmo was wrong.  Indefinitely imprisoning a human being who has not been officially charged with anything is wrong.  Torture is wrong.  And just because someone else does it is NOT a valid argument to justify that behavior in ourselves.

I’m frustrated, sad, and downright angry right now.  I brought up a lot of stuff writing this post that I still haven’t worked through yet, and it was a little ahead of schedule for some of it.  I’m taking baby steps in regards to God, and that’s what’s best for me right now.  I know all the ‘comforts’ Christians like to offer in cases like mine, because I used to say them to others.  I finally see just how little good they do.  This goes a lot deeper than some cliche on an embroidered napkin.

I’m not sure where this path is going.  I feel that maybe I’ll end up stronger for it, but I gotta say, it kinda sucks right now.  And there’s nothing anybody can really do about it, either, except maybe pray for me.  I want the truth, no matter what that may be.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted.  I guess the bright side is, the more lies, distortions, and untruths I find, the closer I am to finding the real truth, right?  Heh.  Great.  This should only take what, another thousand years or so?

ARGH!

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So am I the only one who sees the sick irony of our country today?  I hear so many people talking about the government trying to steal our money, and how evil President Obama is for trying to create a healthcare bill that will enable the poorest of us to have access to affordable healthcare, and frankly, I do not understand how we can have so little compassion for our fellow human beings.

How is it possible that we claim to be Christians, but refuse his call to love and compassion as long as we or someone we care about isn’t in trouble? And sometimes even then, we pretty much just offer to ‘pray’.

I went without health insurance for five and a half years, and spent another five years without enough money for the co-pays so I could get the help I needed.  I got a helluva lot sicker than I needed to because I couldn’t afford to see a doctor when my issues were mild.  I remember what it’s like to hope and pray I didn’t get sick and end up in the hospital because there was no way I could pay the bill.

I remember what it was like to go in to the ER without health insurance and be sent home with some pills when I probably should have been admitted and undergone some actual medical testing.  And the few times I did end up getting tested for something [only after we had insurance, but not quite enough to cover my expenses] I remember sobbing because there was no way I could pay the medical bill and feed my kids, too.

I also remember being on Medicaid and going into a doctor’s office for my kids and being treated like I was an uneducated piece of trailer trash who didn’t deserve any respect because I was part of the problem in America, sucking on the government tit. I remember going into the WIC office to get vouchers, and jumping through the hoops of proving I was poor, just so I could pay for formula so my kids could live.  I hated all of it, but I had no choice.  We were in a situation where I couldn’t work because of my health, and Steve had a job, but it didn’t pay well enough to cover our living expenses, let alone pay for health insurance [which wasn’t offered where he worked].

So yeah, I’m all for a healthcare plan that gives the poor access to medical care.  And I’m willing to pay for it even though I’m still not rich, and still living paycheck to paycheck.  Because the ends finally meet at the end, and I’m willing to share what little I have so that others have an opportunity to live a life that’s just a little bit easier than what I’ve been through.

If that makes me a bleeding heart liberal or a moron, then so be it.  At least I never, EVER forget that each and every person on the planet has a soul that is just as sacred as mine is, a human being that is just as deserving of dignity and respect as I am.  Not because they’re extraordinary, or even decent human beings, but because they were created in the image of God, and bear his reflection, no matter how dim it may seem to me.

As for why I support the government using my tax money to help the poor, well, it’s because the people who were supposed to do it dropped the ball in a bad way.  Yeah. I’m talking about the majority of the citizens of the US because most of us claim to be Christians.

If we had taken up the responsibility given to us by Christ himself and taken care of the poor, the weak, the widows, prisoners, and disabled, the government would never have had to step in in the first place.  But we didn’t.  We didn’t give a shit, and let them suffer and die alone.

And so when the government says, “You know what, this is wrong.  We need to do something about it,” Those same “Christians”, who refused to offer succor to the helpless on their own, stand up in protest, saying their money is being stolen from them.

At least the government is trying to help.  Christians today seem more concerned about having their huge church buildings and social clubs than actually doing something useful that will not only give someone immediate relief from suffering, but have eternal consequences as well.  I think it’s a sad sad day when a government as corrupt as ours seems to have more compassion for the weak and helpless than the people who were charged with being a “light in the darkness”.

I can’t count the number of massive buildings I see on the outskirts of town and when I get to looking at them, find out they’re church buildings worth millions of dollars, that cost thousands each week to keep up, that are open for ‘business’ a whopping two or three days a week.  If that was a business, it would be closed down in no time.  I’m sorry, but if you give a quarter of a million dollars to various charities or missionaries or whatever, but spend millions on maintaining your building, where are you really storing your treasures?

I fell into the trap for a long time that said if the political candidate claimed to be a Christian and was against abortion, I was morally obligated to vote for that person.  But once I got to looking at how these people voted for the already born, I found that they did nothing to prevent child abuse, nothing to make sure our children get a good education [and the one time they tried, after it became clear it wasn’t going to work out the way they’d hoped, and became a nightmare for everyone involved, they did nothing to fix it], and were all for killing or at the very least disrespecting anyone who doesn’t believe in Christianity.  Not only that, but they did nothing to make sure that anyone who can’t afford exorbitant insurance premiums and co-pays have access to decent healthcare.

How in the bleeding hell is it better to have no access to healthcare than to have some?!?  How is it better to pay an HMO countless thousands of dollars to tell you that since you’re probably terminal, they aren’t going to pay for your chemo?  Or that since you’re schizophrenic, you’re better off living on the streets with no medication or money than in an institution?  And how much of an asshole does it make the people who say that stuff out loud, whether literally or figuratively through their voting?

Who are you to tell anyone they don’t deserve medication because they don’t have a job?  Who are you to judge someone who doesn’t have a job as unworthy of compassion?  You don’t know their story.  You don’t know how they ended up where they are.  As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that I was never uneducated trailer trash, and even if I had been, I would still deserve to be treated with respect by virtue of my being a living entity on this planet.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done to  me.”  If that’s true, how many ‘Christians’ are gonna feel like shitheels when they see the one they claim to serve?

Voting God’s Politics

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I belong to a newsletter that’s published on line called “Sojourners.”  If there was ever a Christian sect that I relate well to, it’s these people.  One of their guys wrote a guide about voting ‘God’s Politics’ which basically flies in the face of most conservative Christians because it clearly states that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, but lists issues that are clearly of concern to Him based on what we read about him in the Bible [and it’s not as iron-fisted as many interpret it to be].

Anyway, it’s a good guide.  It is well-rounded in the issues that the human race should be concerned about, not just abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, and euthanasia.

Things like compassion and economic justice [meaning that people should be able to work and make a decent living, children shouldn’t be poor, extreme poverty must end.

Other concerns:  Peace and restraint of violence.  We’ve got a President who claims to be a Christian, yet he’s as bloodthirsty as Henry the VIII.  That’s almost an oxymoron, since I think Jesus was closer to being a peacenik than a warmonger.

Consistent Ethic of Life:  Reduce abortion, but not only by legislation.  We should be enabling women to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place and if there is an unwanted pregnancy, we have an obligation to offer the woman a viable alternative to abortion, eh?  I mean telling a woman that abortion is wrong, so she shouldn’t have one, but then abandoning her to deal with the pregnancy/baby on her own is just as wrong as encouraging her to ‘terminate’ when she doesn’t want to.

We also have a responsibility to end genocide, regardless of where it’s happening, or to what race of people, and most especially it should have nothing to do with what natural resources or wealth that country holds.  I can’t even describe how horrified I am at the fact that our country picks and chooses who it wants to defend based on how rich they are.  That is pure evil in my view, and I think our president has hit that one more than once, eh?

Racial Justice:  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28

Isn’t it interesting that so many “Christians” find stuff in the Bible to justify racism when it clearly states that prejudice for any reason is wrong and decidedly non-Christian?  Hmm.  It’s plain to see that if our country lived by this principle that the Katrina disaster would never have happened.  Rich people would have picked up a few poor people before they fled New Orleans, eh?

Conservative Christians love to talk about how this country was founded on Christian principles, and yet we pick and choose which principles are most important.  It disgusts me, can you tell?

The brochure goes on to talk about Human rights, dignity and gender justice, strengthening families and renewing culture [by strengthening marriage and families, but also through restoring integrity to civic and business practices, and preventing violence…]  Good stewardship of God’s creation [which means taking care of our planet, that’s another thing the Religious right scoffs at which makes no sense to me].

Here’s the link to the full brochure.

It’s a PDF, which always slows my computer down to a crawl, but it’s worth reading.  You can download it free and print it off if you want.  I want to hand it out to the people in my church just to remind them that we can’t just look at one or two issues and decide on a candidate.  That’s how our current president got voted in, and it was a horrible mistake.  He may be a good man, but his stand on many of the most important issues is so skewed that our country is in worse shape now than it was five years ago.

We’ve lost sight of what’s important in our country, and my prayer is that we wake up before we’ve destroyed ourselves and everyone else on the planet.

Prednisone, Day Two

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Just so you know, I edited the time stamp on this one so that the other two posts today would come after this. I guess it’s so you can understand the context of the other two entries. I’m not sure if I’m as crazy as I feel right now, but be warned, these entries may not make much sense.

Then again, they may be the most wise, profound words ever written. You just never can tell about those things, eh?

Oy. I was jittery earlier, and in a really bad mood. Now I’m so tired I can’t see straight. The swelling and pain in my joints has gotten better, but I still feel like shit, eh?

Michaela went to bed a couple of hours ago, and is waking up periodically to cry. She was whiny today and just about drove me nuts [my bad mood didn’t help any]. I need to read the chapter in Sunday School, but I don’t really want to do anything.

Last night instead of sleeping, I had about a million thoughts running through my head at top speed. It was hard to make sense of it all. I’m still having that problem. Look at me! Incoherent Pete here. Read at your own risk, eh?

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