The last few months have been a crazy roller-coaster of emotions. Most, if not all of you, know why. Thank goodness, someone has a sense of humor.
Convo w/foreign pal-
Her: What’s this March Madness I keep hearing of?
Me: That’s what we call the 3rd month of the Trump Administration.
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) March 29, 2017
I totally get why people would want to tune all out politics. What’s going on in our country right now is an effing fiasco; a train wreck of epic proportions; a depressing, dismaying, infuriating, shocking clusterf**k of authoritarianism, fascism and isolationism. Who wouldn’t want to bury their head in the sand, or in a book, or behind a mountain of yarn and two flying knitting needles?
It’s not in my DNA to look the other way. At times it’s a blessing. Often times it’s a curse.
Granted, much of what is happening has little to no direct or immediate effect on me. I am white. I am way beyond reproductive age. I have a job that pays well by Florida state government standards. I have a good HMO. I own my house. My husband and I tend to be fiscally conservative so if I happened to lose my job, we would still be fine financially. Except that my husband has a serious back problem, one that will likely require surgery, and so health care coverage is not something we can take for granted. At least, not in the way that #45 can or Paul Ryan can or Rand Paul can. Any one of them can have a catastrophic illness and not worry about how they’ll pay for treatment and recovery. And, yet, they would accuse me of feeling entitled.
You know, I wasn’t born into a wealthy family. Hell, I wasn’t born into a middle-class or lower middle-class family. My mom was one of 12 born to a so-so farmer (her words: “he wasn’t progressive”). My dad’s family was even poorer. Both my dad and his sister had mental health problems that plagued their lives. My dad couldn’t keep a job so eventually my mom had to take on minimum wage work to support her four kids. And we got Social Security because of his disability. Yes, the very Social Security program that the GOP Congress seems hellbent on destroying was the difference between my family living in a house (that my mom finally paid off when I was 16) and living god-knows-where. The very Social Security program that enabled me to go to college, to aspire to a more secure life than what my mother had known. And let’s not forget the PELL Grant and the other grants that enabled so many of my generation to get our educations without having to go into a sinkhole of debt. Compare my current income with what I would likely be making without my college degrees and I think you could say that the country has benefited from its investment in me.
The GOP Congress wants to totally destroy Planned Parenthood. When I came of age, I started going to Planned Parenthood for my yearly checkups. And, yes, for birth control because, no, I didn’t want to have children. When I was a young adult going to a Planned Parenthood in Oakland, California, the nurses tried to counsel me to use something other than birth control pills. They made a point of providing me with the lowest estrogen pills possible because they knew that we women were simply guinea pigs for Big Pharma. I didn’t have a boyfriend then but the pills were convenient and they regulated my menstrual cycle. I had my priorities.
The nurses at Planned Parenthood tried to warn me. Eventually I did go off the pills, opting to have a tubal ligation in 1988. Too little, too late. Fast forward to 2001 and I’m diagnosed with endometrial cancer, developed no doubt because I had so much estrogen in my body. Menstruation at nine. Birth control pills for roughly ten years. No pregnancies to deplete some of the estrogen. So when people demonize Planned Parenthood, I can only think of how much foresight they had compared to my HMO doctors of later years. Planned Parenthood was looking out for me, so I feel compelled to look out for them.
I’m white, but I wasn’t born into privilege. I wasn’t born onto a level playing field. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not be white, to have to work even harder just because of skin color. Oh, please, there is racism in this country. #45 is evidence of that. Sadly, our country has been built in part on the distinctions we make between ourselves and others on the basis of what we see. And the first thing we see is skin color. I saw it in my small town growing up, where there were only three black kids in my high school. I can’t say for sure that any of them were treated badly, but I believe the one male teenager was pretty damn lonely. You see, they were all cousins so at 15, 16 years old, when everyone else was dating, he wasn’t because no parents wanted their white daughter going out with a black boy. Nothing personal, they would say.
I can’t forget my own history. I can’t ignore my sense of “there but for the grace of God …” because, frankly, much of what I was given, I took for granted. I never thought that Planned Parenthood might someday have to close its doors to me because there was no longer funding for it. I never thought that the grants and Social Security I received might someday not be there because Congress wouldn’t think I was worthy enough. But that is what is happening to young people now. They already have fewer advantages than I had. And what few they do have, the GOP Congress and #45 want to take away. Add to that, the racism and sexism and xenophobia in this country. The “shining city on the hill” is tarnished.
I know people (some I’m even related to) who would say, “I don’t care” when issues like immigration or racism are raised. They would argue that they had had it tough too so why should they give an inch to anyone. I don’t argue with them. It’s a waste of time. I just know that I have to live with myself. And I don’t fight to protect the rights of others in order to ensure that they might in turn protect my rights. I do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Excuse me now as I step off my soapbox and attend to the bright spots in my life:
Marie A Bailey
Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.