Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The New 4-Letter H-Word

I’ve turned into the exact type of person who everyone wants to punch in the face right now. I’m trying really, really hard to keep my opinions to myself… but I have a really itchy share-button finger and a (however unwitting) platform to use as a digital soapbox. I try to be as open-minded as possible, but it’s REALLY hard when one side of the aisle has a firm closed-mind policy. Because it drags me down to the level of lowest-common denominator and forces me to be close-minded against their close-mindedness, and really lock down solid stances when part of the thing I used to like about myself is that I was always learning and exploring and trying on new ideas to see how they fit.

It’s hard to be open minded when so much of the world insists on seeing things in black and white. It forces you to take a definitive stance, when life would be so much better if we could take an ala-carte view to things. And yes, I'm talking politics, if you somehow missed it. 

There are things I feel well-informed about, and things I don't. I am not smart in the nuances of economy and finances, though I suspect that giving special breaks to super-rich people and corporations and then raising taxes on the middle class – if that is a factual representation of the plan – is not a good thing. I don’t understand every last bit of the health care reform, but I do know that I’ve seen it help people. My mother, for instance. Thanks to some of the parts of the ACA (the phrase “Obamacare” does not sit well with me, even though when he was at my alma mater last week, he claimed it was growing on him (“I DO care!”), and, um, close parenthesis here) that were enacted more immediately on the timeline, she is able to go to the doctor and see specialists, something that her truckload of pre-existing conditions has long prevented. She can get treatment without going into crippling amounts of (additional) debt. She’s healthier and happier, and maybe the people opposed to the health care reform can’t see that it truly does affect people and improve their lives. Acutal, real people, with families and limited bank accounts. So I’m biased. I’ll admit it. But I've noticed that a lot of people find my political viewpoints and opinions to be more valid if they're coming from a place of self-interest, so... there's that. (I feel like I'd be much more effective at arguing for gay marriage if I was, in fact, gay.)

Do I think it should be mandatory for every person to have coverage? Not really. But I do think it’s nice that it’s affordable for people who do want it and couldn’t maybe afford it otherwise.

When I graduated from college, I got booted off my dad’s insurance plan. I was 23 and was working retail because the job market sucked and, suddenly, I had no insurance. It was mildly terrifying. Because while I – thankfully – remained healthy, what if I’d broken a leg or gotten cancer or something? I was working AT TARGET. I would have been financially ruined for life. I was barely making enough to pay for my rent and my bills as it was - not to mention the student loans that were looming over my head. Fortunately, I eventually put in enough time to qualify for insurance, and I even kept working part-time at Target until the insurance at my current job kicked in, because I was so afraid of a lapse. It killed me to work seven days a week for an entire month, I was exhausted and stressed out but hey, at least I was covered. Just in case. With the reform, I would have been able to stay on his plan until I was 26 – time enough to find a “real” job and get my own coverage. It’s not like I was a welfare queen or some bum that would have been mooching off the system, like I’m sure everyone just assumes would be the benefactor of such a plan. I was a well-groomed, college-educated, lower-middle class female who was working her ass off to try to get by. I was (then) a blonde-haired, blue-eyed good ol’ Iowa girl with a Midwestern work ethic and a determination to succeed. My criminal record consists of a small handful of speeding tickets. I’m involved in my community. I coach softball and serve as a role model to pre-teen girls. I patronize local businesses when I can. I’m not overly religious but I try to be a good person. I adopted a cat from an animal shelter. I visit my family when I can and I send cards on birthdays. My biggest personality flaw is that I struggle with punctuality and sometimes I’m a bit flaky, but I always have the best of intentions.

What I'm saying is, I’m your stereotypical girl next door, the embodiment of someone’s idea of the average American.

It’s almost embarrassing how little I have to complain about. I’ve got it pretty good. I’m not overly privileged and Lord knows I don’t come from money, but I don’t have a lot of things working against me right now. I am able to complain about very firsty First World Problems – my biggest problem in life right now is that I’ve gained too much weight that I’m afraid my hips have gotten too love-handley for the bridesmaid dress I need to wear later this month. I’ve got a nice job with a stable company and I can pay my bills every month and maybe splurge on a completely unnecessary pair of shoes or something else equally frivolous. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or if I’ll have a place to sleep. I don’t have to worry that I’ll be bullied or terrorized when I walk down the street because of how I look or who I'm with. I don’t have to worry that I’ll have a hate crime committed against me or my family. Perhaps I take for granted the life of ease that comes from being a straight white female – the next best thing, it would seem, in the eyes of politicians, to being a straight white male like themselves. (I mean, it would be better if I couldn’t drive or vote or speak or make my own health care decisions, but at least I’m genetically similar to them, right?) I'm pretty vanilla. I forget what movie it was (or maybe it's a tv show, I don't remember) where someone accuses someone else of being "beige" and it was funny but now that I think about it... I'm pretty beige myself.

If I was a good girl that lived up to the stereotypes of my station in life, I'd go along with whatever the influences in my life tell me, and I should probably be inclined to want to keep the status quo.

Unfortunately, I’m terribly naïve and idealistic and want the best for everyone. It’s skewed my perceptions and I know I’m not seeing any clearer than anyone else. There seems to be no middle ground anymore. This election cycle has definitely polarized me, and I haven’t really had a chance to step back and examine what that means.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten so preoccupied with social issues, that it almost doesn’t matter to me who says what about economic or foreign policy or whatever other important issues pop up. I’d love to learn more about sustainable energy and what sort of neat things we could be doing as an evolved humankind… but we’re too busy shouting at each other with our keyboards and our cell phones, that we’re not listening to each other. Nothing is ever going to get done, because people refuse to work together, because compromise is a dirty word. There is no common goal, no common good, and frankly, that worries me. We’re disagreeing simply because we do not want to agree with what anyone else says. We’re going to implode on ourselves, it’s only a matter of time. United we stand, divided we fall.

I have my set of opinions, and whether they are wrong or right, who is to say. I find myself shouting in a sea of other voices that are shouting, too, hoping to find more people that will hear me, so maybe we can find some common ground somewhere. I still have hope for that.

There are things that are more important to me than others. I want our educational system to succeed and be given the proper resources to do so. I want the government to stay out of private affairs and out of the doctors’ offices. I want everyone to be on the same playing field, as far as what legal benefits their life partner is entitled to, regardless of their gender or yours. I want women to make the same amount of money as men. I want everyone to be able to marry who they love. I want fair taxation and I would really like if everyone had the same opportunities available to them. I don’t think people should be mired in a lifetime of debt for either (a) attending college or (b) being hospitalized. I want money to stay out of our government, for our politics to not be so heavily influenced by the wealthy elite or private corporations. A government should not be able to be bribed, should not be a for-profit practice. It should be about the people. By the people, for the people. I think the founding fathers were a bit idealistic, too. Or maybe they just couldn’t anticipate the level of greed that would eventually permeate our society.

I hate that decisions get made based on who will pay the most money, rather than what is best for our society. There is no place for that, here. We live in a society of greed and entitlement, and I absolutely hate that.

I think it’s Jimi Hendrix who is quoted as saying: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

Love - not romantic love, but a humanitarian sort of love - is a funny concept, these days. Seems all we know is hate and envy and selfishness. But that’s another tangent and I’ve already rambled long enough.

I’m not saying our society is great. Far from it. There are a lot of things I hate about our society. I cringe at the fact that we live in a culture where “Honey Boo Boo Child” is one of the top-rated shows on the air, where we care more about celebrities’ marriages than we do about our own, where athletes make more money than teachers, where we’ve forgotten how to communicate in real life, in real time, because we’re so affixed to technology. I hate how much of our lives are digital, now – we’re practically living in our own dystopia. Ray Bradbury was perhaps on to something, but instead of the walls, we have computer screens. Maybe we should just let ourselves self-destruct so we can start over. I don’t know.

What I do know is this: I’m not satisfied with the status quo, even though right now, it mostly works in my favor. I have hope for my idealized version of America, where people are more important than power and money. I have hope that we’ll start treating each other as equals and neighbors and partners, not upper/middle/lower class castes. I have hope that we can fix this mess of a place that we live in.

I still have hope left. And that’s why I will not shut up.


Jenn said...

So you know we share the same political opinions, and I too hate the word Obamacare even when Dems say it, but it isn't mandatory. That's what SCOTUS upheld - that no one was being forced to buy insurance but if they didn't, they would be taxed. I know it's a slight change in wording, but I think it strengthens the argument.

Also, I'm getting more comfortable with saying that I DO actually believe healthcare coverage should be mandatory... I know small-government people fear the slippery slope of a government making you purchase something, but I don't believe healthcare should be a free market, private industry thing. The well-being of a society impacts us all and I am affected if someone is sick and doesn't have health insurance to see a doctor. They can get ME sick and I have to use MY insurance. I'm impacted if someone is in a car accident and needs surgery and doesn't have health insurance, because my tax dollars go towards paying that hospital bill. Hospitals don't eat all of those costs. So yeah, I think everyone would be way better off if we all had healthcare coverage and I'm fine with saying that should be mandatory.

I know we're on the same page with this so I don't mean to rant, just letting you know you're not alone :)

Ashley, the Accidental Olympian said...

I just want to live in a world where the two political sides actually work TOGETHER on things. This whole working to tear down each other isn't why we elected these people. How are we bettering our country if all we're doing is electing people who plan to spend our money fighting for no reason?

When Bill Clinton spoke last night about a world where Dems and Repubs actually worked together to pass major legislation, I realized I've never lived in a world like that as an adult. Just one where people scream and yell and filibusterer to make their point.

We need so much change.

Corey Wilkey said...

I am with Ashley completely. I am so completely sick of the two sides always bashing each other about the bad things and not finding the middle ground to stand on and start helping each other. it's exhausting, and I just cannot see how it does anything at all for anyone.

I wish that the politicians would set it all aside and actually do the job they were elected for.

Caryn said...

SO MUCH YES to this post. Seriously, I would copy and paste the lines that I found myself nodding along to here in the commnet, but I would virtually be reposting the darn thing! Thanks for writing this.

p.s.Did you say what the new 4-letter H-word was, or am i having a blonde moment?

Kelly L said...

I didn't, specifically, but it was intended as "hope." People seem to treat that like a dirty word these days.

Terra said...

Hell to the yes. I still believe we can get to that point where we're not all assholes to each other, where we can engage in conversation and debate instead of just lobbing insults. I think we can do better and be better.

Kelly L said...

BELATED COMMENT AS I GO THROUGH MY INBOX AND NOW I HAVE AN ACTUAL COMMENT FORUM: I didn't, specifically, but it was intended as "hope." People seem to treat that like a dirty word these days. :/