Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Believe

On this, the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I just want to share a little bit of what has been going through my head. There is a part of me that feels I should not share this with anyone, but there's another part of me, a stronger part that knows I have the courage of my convictions to support me. So here it goes.

Someone that I used to work with (and whom I still greatly admire for her dedication to her family, her intelligence and her embrace of her creative side - you know who you are!) once told me that I would make a great lawyer because I have a very strong sense of justice. That was something that made me proud. I think my father also once implied something along those lines when he told me that I was a "good kid" after expressing to him my frustration about a family disagreement when I was a teenager.

Let me explain what a strong sense of justice is to me... In this country, the Tea Party, as far as I can tell, is probably the biggest threat to our security as Americans. I feel it is a bigger threat than any religious zealot in a far-flung country, bigger than any kind of "home bred" terrorism. Why is it such a threat? Because it is tearing this country apart from within.

We have children in this country who go to bed hungry every single night. We have record unemployment rates. We have people losing their homes because of unregulated practices on Wall Street. We have an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in our country RIGHT NOW. And all the Tea Party seems to care about is cutting government spending - even if it is at the expense of our children, our compassion for one another and the future of this country.

We can withstand an attack from outside - 9/11 clearly showed that. Americans came together in a way unseen since the second World War. It was an amazing and moving experience for me to live through that in my small community in the North Country. But how much longer can we allow the politicians to put their own self-interests (as well as the special interests who line their pockets) ahead of what is best for our nation as a whole? Do we really need to listen to our elected leaders talk about how PRAYER will solve everything? Hey, even the Islamic extremists don't rely on prayer alone. No, they've seen how powerful the use of guns and bombs and hijacked airplanes can be when you want to accomplish something. (Note that I am not condoning or sanctioning violence of any sort at any time. I just want to establish the difference between taking concrete action and simply sitting around, looking at the sky and waiting for something to happen.)

When someone tells me that they want to eliminate an "entitlement" program like Medicare or Social Security, I start to see red. Entitlement is a bad word now? You can be damn sure that if I pay into Social Security for my entire working life (and I started working when I was 16, just so you know) I sure as hell feel like I'm "entitled" to draw on that money if and when I decided to retire!

When the GOP presidential candidates start talking about eliminating Medicare and Social Security, I cringe. We do not live in a "welfare state", as many believe. Far from it. I have worked hard my entire adult life, and I continue to do so. But I also understand that there are many, many people in this country who have not had the same opportunities that I have had, regardless of all this nonsense talk of "equality" that the politicians like to spew at you. Should we just ignore the folks who were not born to wealthy parents? Are their lives not worth the same as mine? Do they have less of a right to peace of mind and well-being? And most importantly, should our government be responsible for assisting its citizens in becoming productive members of society if they can't do it on their own?

When Michelle Bachman starts to talk gibberish about dismantling the Department of Education, I cringe. My husband and I are going to send our son to public school. What happens to the population when there is no government mandate to educate them? Do we simply accept our fall from one of the most literate, educated countries in the world because no one in the government cares enough to make sure that we educate our children? What happens to the economy when you are faced with an entire citizenry of uneducated workers who are barely qualified to run a cash register because they lack basic math skills? How is slashing education budgets going to HELP our economy?

So here is where I think the Tea Party got it wrong. I would challenge any of them to go live in a country - say, sub-Saharan Africa - where there are NO government services. No clean water. No sewer system. No public roads. No public health care for the very poor or the elderly. No government unemployment insurance. Go live there for ten years. See what your life is like. And then after you've experienced how the other 90% of the world lives, only then can you be allowed to come back into America where we have a government that provides all these things that you take for granted every single day of your miserable lives.

And speaking of "equality" back there - why do the politicians seem to think that if all men are created equal, some of them should shoulder more of the tax burden than others? How does that make any sense at all? If we are all equal in the eyes of the government, then we should all pay an equal share of taxes. My husband and I work damn hard. And we pay nearly 34% of our income in taxes. Why does Joe Q. Millionaire only have to pay 3% or 4% of his income in taxes? Because he earns more money? What kind of weird political logic is that? If cutting the taxes of the fabulously wealthy creates more jobs, why are we still seeing record unemployment in this country? Doesn't anybody else see these things as totally outrageous and inherently unjust? (Note: I did not use the word "fair". Life is not fair. I understand that. What I am concerned with here is a sense of JUSTICE. We are talking right and wrong here, people. That's the difference between your parents telling you that life isn't always fair because you didn't make the cheerleading squad and a murderer walking free because of a lack of evidence, which, sadly, I have personal experience of.)

So here is what I suggest. We need to change the way our system works. We need to get rid of the special interests. Lobbying by special interests to the American government should become, as of this very second, illegal. If anyone is caught lobbying to an elected representative in the United States government, they are sent to jail for the rest of their lives. Sure, we designed the lobbying program to ensure that things were done "fairly" - but what we have created is a system that is UNJUST, where the corporation with the most money wins and the rest of us can go to hell and eat rice gruel while our children starve and their minds wither because we have no government that can provide services and jobs for its citizens. Is it really right that the huge corporations with the best lawyers and the most money to buy their politicians get all the perks? Is that really what America is all about?

I'd like to think not.

If the Tea Party wants to vent their anger about something, how about they vent their anger towards the illegal wars that we have been entrenched in since 2001. How about they vent their anger about the FACT that corporations receive multi-billion dollar bailouts while there are MILLIONS of children in this country who go to bed hungry every single fucking night. Yeah, I'm pretty outraged about that. How about they vent their anger about the fact that there are people in this country, the most prosperous country in the entire fucking WORLD, who are dying of appendicitis and pneumonia because they can't afford to see a doctor? How about they get angry about THAT? What would a world like that look like?

Back in the day, the politicians, the GOP, even, were most concerned with providing social services to the poor and the elderly; protecting the environment; and ensuring that no one in this country went hungry. What happened to those days? Have we coddled our politicians so much, made them so powerful, that they really don't care about the people that they are elected to govern?

Now, after reading this, you might just want to dismiss me as just another uneducated liberal. Go ahead. But in thirty years, when you are ready to quit working and spend some time with your family and friends during the last years of your life and you find that your government-ensured safety net is GONE...don't come crying to me. Because I care about this country. I care about its citizens. I care about making sure that no one goes without food, or without an education or clean water or decent health care. If that makes me a liberal or (God forbid!) a socialist or whatever the fuck label you want to slap on me, I can live with that. Because no matter what else you call me, I am, above all else, a decent human being.

I can only hope that there are few of those left in Washington, D.C., too.


Carol Dean said...

I love you, Jen. For believing, for speaking out, for being you! Brava!

Chris Maj said...

These thoughts go through my mind every single day. I could laugh at all these wackadoodle Teabaggers and their myriad untruths they spew like bilge water, but it truly ain't funny anymore. There is a rabble of bleating sheep following them right off the cliff and they are scrambling to take the country with them kicking and screaming. Justice, Decency and Common Scense are all woefully endangered. Well said!!

Laura said...

Good for you. My heart is beating faster. You're incredibly brave.

Beki said...

Well said, Jen. The information, the emotions, the facts, the frustration....all of it. Now if more people would pull their heads out of the sand and see what we have created of our government and begin to stop this downhill spiral and degradation of our country by not tolerating this type of behavior from our elected officials, we might stand a chance of repairing the damage done. Thank you for this post!

Joan Tucker said...

Ditto ditto ditto;I agree with all of it.
Would have said the same things only you are a better writer. Let us speak up.
Thanks, Joan T.

diane hawkey said...

Thank you

3 Peeps Designs said...

I don't think it's wise to put all of this on the Tea Party. Nor do I think it is wise to depend on Big Government to take care of everyone. What happened to people being involved in local government and charity. Taking care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors. Seems as if we only take care of others during tragedy. We need to get back to basics. Stop the name calling and divisive language. We are one country and we need to act like it. We need to listen to each other and compromise.

VanBeads said...

It's funny that everyone talks about compromise, but it seems that the GOP and the Tea Party are not interested in compromise. They only want to get their way. Obama, bless him, has shown that he is open to compromise, but then he gets walked all over by the opposing side. True compromise means that both sides give a little, and it just seems that the GOP and the T.P. are not interested in giving anything.

I'll say it again: there are countries in Africa and Asia where there are no government services at all. Those people rely on each other, but they have a much, much MUCH lower standard of living than we do in the developed world. Look at countries like France, Canada and Norway - they enjoy some of the highest standards of living in the world. Mothers can take time off to bond with their babies without the fear that they will not be able to provide for those babies. Citizens have access to basic health care without worrying about losing their homes or belongings. No, it's time for us all to buck up and work together and to work WITH our government to provide services. I don't see any doctors or teachers getting together to provide free health care and education to the citizens of the U.S. A government by the people and for the people, that's what the United States is and always should be, and I think our elected representatives, ALL of them, have forgotten about that.

3 Peeps Designs said...

I think a lot of teachers and medical professionals give a lot and don't get a lot in return. Those are thankless jobs. Once your son has been in school for a little while, tell me if you still feel that way about teachers.

Before I trust any government leader, I'd like to see them get rid of the waste and abuse. Of course that is mainly in the hands of the voter. I'd like to live in a utopia but someone has to pay for it. And while there is such waste and abuse, not many people are going to want to pay for it.

Lisa Peters Russ said...

I have written you something I would like to post on Monday or tuesday but I applaud you..
and like CD said on FB, I am so proud to call you my friend.

Kristen said...

Jennifer I have been saying this for years! If only we could put a bunch of Mom's in office to get this all straightened out this country would be fine! We all know how to make budgets work and still have room for giving. Good for you for saying this!