Category Archives: democracy

Healthcare is Confusing Part IV: Undocumented & Uninsured

The majority of the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States live in poverty. They often work minimum wage jobs (or are paid less than the minimum wage, if working under the table) that do not offer employer sponsored health insurance. Since they lack citizenship status, they aren’t eligible for any government benefits, like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP (food stamps), or Cash Assistance. Preventative healthcare isn’t an option, unless a free clinic or a pay-what-you-can clinic will accept them as patients, and a lot of time these types of clinics require a social security number, meaning that undocumented people are shut out. Ohhh, and undocumented people are barred from even trying to find their own private plans through Healthcare.gov (aka the ACA, aka Obamacare).

A Kaiser-Permanente study recently looked at the number of undocumented and uninsured people currently living in the US and found the number to be around 6 million, which I was very surprised to learn (I think this is a pretty conservative estimate).  Regardless, that’s a ton of people to have basically no option for health coverage. The only way an undocumented person can get health insurance is either through employer sponsored plans or “off-exchange” plans. Both of these options are often unaffordable for undocumented people who are already living in poverty and they often choose to opt out of these coverages because they can’t afford the monthly premium that is deducted from their paychecks. These plans are also frequently classified as being “under-insurance” meaning that they don’t cover necessary medical treatments or have such a high deductible/monthly premium that they are basically useless. Of the entire US population who is uninsured, undocumented people make up 20% (out of the total US population, undocumented people only make up 3%).

undocumented and uninsured

So, what happens when someone who is undocumented and uninsured gets sick? The short answer is that they suffer. Securing any kind of healthcare while undocumented is virtually impossible. As stated above, the only place undocumented and uninsured people can get healthcare is 1.) either by going to a free or charitable clinics that doesn’t deny eligibility due to citizen status or 2.) going to the ER. Our country hasn’t yet barred undocumented people from getting emergency care in an ER, which is a blessing, but also contributed to the huge cost burdens that ER visits produce. When someone goes to the ER and are uninsured, they often are left with an astronomical bill (last year, my ER visit in May cost $7,000 and I was only there for a few hours- luckily I was able to get my insurance to cover it, a privilege of being born in the US and a privilege of having health insurance). If I couldn’t pay the $7,000, the burden of the cost would fall on those who are insured via the form of higher insurance premiums. Keeping people out of the ER is a huge initiative around the country since patients who can’t pay are more likely to utilize an ER, and the best way to do so is by having preventative care- a luxury often not available to those who are uninsured.

So what about when an undocumented person gets sick sick, like cancer sick? Well, they are pretty much in a pickle. The only solution to this, at least in Pennsylvania, is applying for Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA). EMA is tricky and difficult to obtain. First, the person has to prove that they have a life or death medical situation going on. They have to have a physician write a letter explaining what is wrong with the person, their diagnosis, and all medical records pertaining to the health need. This letter and information is then reviewed by a eligibility determining judge who decides whether or not the person has a drastic enough impairment or illness that they will not be able to survive without medical assistance. There are no clear eligibility requirements available to the public as to what consists of a emergency medical issue. For example, one person I know needs gallbladder surgery. She is often in pain, however she manages to go to work and get through her day. She received EMA and saw a specialist, who scheduled surgery in a the fall (6 months out). EMA is time limited, so she only had two months in the first place to secure all her medical needs. Since the EMA expired, she has to reapply and hope that it is granted it again in order to cover the necessary surgery.

Another example: a person I know has some type of neurological disorder in which his fingers became immobile and basically froze together. The disorder then progressed to his hands and arms to the point that he can’t bend his wrists, move his fingers, or stretch out his arms. He applied for EMA and was denied. He appealed the decision a month ago, and still hasn’t heard back. I think his chances are slim to none, and he’ll just have to learn to live with his body slowly shutting down on him.

And finally, what about the kids? Well, if you are a child and are undocumented and poor, guess what? You also are entitled to nothing. Undocumented kids aren’t eligible for CHIP, which means that they aren’t getting routine check-ups, they aren’t being monitored for developmental delays, and they aren’t getting vaccinated. Guys. This is an issue.

So what’s the solution? Other than changing our entire healthcare infrastructure, we can hope that Medicaid might be expanded to, at minimum, allowing CHIP to cover undocumented kids. We can also hope that Medicaid might be expanded to open up eligible disorders that would qualify someone for EMA. And we can also just hope that Medicaid is expanded in general, so that it covers everyone, regardless of citizen status. The sad news, is that Medicaid most likely isn’t going to be expanded, and massive cuts to both Medicaid and Medicare have been proposed in the last week. It’s looking bleak out there for people who are uninsured, and especially worse if you are undocumented.

How can you help, knowing that there is little health care options available for undocumented uninsured people? Look up your local free and charitable clinics and see if they will help undocumented people. If they do, consider donating your money, time, or talents to these organizations. Another way you can help is by spreading the truth- telling the people who complain about undocumented people using government benefits that they are incorrect in this assumption. Undocumented people aren’t entitled to ANY government benefits (even though they contribute to these benefits by paying billions in taxes each year, and never reap any of the benefits), which is a sad reflection of America’s current values, not just on immigration, but on social justice and human rights.   

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Gender Equity and The Green Party

I consider myself a 4th wave feminist, which means that I believe that all social injustices are interconnected. I’m also a social worker who believes in systems theory, meaning that no problem can be fixed independently. Classism, racism, and sexism cannot be demolished by only working in one domain. Our understanding of political issues can’t be reduced to just working on racism without taking into account the classism and sexism that is undoubtedly attached to racism. So we can’t work on fixing sexism without taking time to look at how we can fix class and racism in order to establish an egalitarian society.

The Green Party’s ideology is organized into Four Pillars which are then broken down into 10 key values. Feminism and Gender Equity are part of the key values, and it was this value which caused me to switch parties from blue to green. See, Greens don’t just want Gender Equality, they want Gender Equity, and that’s an important distinction.

green party four pillars

The Four Pillars of the Green Party

What is Gender Equity?  It’s the idea of allocating resources and positions of power to those who are underrepresented. Part of the Green Party’s bylaws is that there has to be equal gender representation whenever possible. This is true for the Lackawanna County Greens, where I’ve been secretary for the past two years- of the executive committee there are two men and two women. This happened organically, but the value of gender equity is important because it at least recognizes that historically it has been very difficult for women to be elected to any position of power. Gender Equity widens the gap and welcomes and values women.

The Green Party on Feminism and Gender Equity:

“We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control, with more cooperative ways of interacting which respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity between the -sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want.”

The Green Party cares about the process (one reason why we don’t take corporate money). We care about integrity. We care about having a moral standing in face of deception and sensationalism. We care about intersectionality and are established on these values which makes the Green Party the the best party for 4th wavers to introduce their objectives, especially on the local level, to help create a more peaceful planet.

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A Quick Explanation of Brazile’s DNC Bombshell and it’s Apathetic Implications for the Future of Truth

Last week, Bernie supporters, DemExiters, and the remaining disillusioned Dems have had our beliefs proven by Donna Brazile’s recent book that finally reveals that the DNC rigged the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. Most of my compatriots who fall into the aforementioned categories have known that the DNC was not on our side since 2015, so Brazile’s claims aren’t necessarily news to us. However, it is a bit satisfying that our truth has been recognized as such, and that we aren’t the un-American, conspiracy theorists, election-sabotagers that the Democratic Party has made us out to be. I personally have not rejoiced over Brazile’s admittance, although I am grateful for it, because I think the Democratic PR Machine is working right now to dissolve this mess and replace it with their rallying cry of “We did nothing wrong!”. This post is to hopefully help people understand what happened, so that the truth is a bit harder to sweep under the rug.

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Key Players

Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC): 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary loser to Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate loser to Republican challenger, Donald Trump. Since her loss, she has been spending her time promoting her book, “What Happened”, which details the 16 reasons why she lost the election (none of the reasons have to do with her or her campaign, fyi).

Democratic National Committee (DNC): is the organization  that runs the Democrat Party. They help figure out who to run, craft the party’s platform, and create campaigns to get Democrats to win unilaterally across local, state, and national races. It’s main purpose is to raise money and then use this to best strategize ways to get their candidates to win. When people want to donate money to the Democratic party, the DNC is the beneficiary.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (DWS): She was one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides for her 2008 campaign. She became the chair of the DNC in 2011, where she took Tim Kane’s position, who would later be HRC’s 2016 running mate. She resigned from the DNC in 2016 after emails were published that showed her preference towards HRC during the campaign, among other allegations. She was a close friend to HRC, and didn’t resign herself from the DNC during HRC’s 2016 run, which is pretty unethical considering the chair is supposed to be unbiased. I mean, how can you be unbiased when one of your BFFs, and someone who would give you a top job in her administration, is running for president? For further reading, see this post from 2015 where I was first critical about DWS’ bias for HRC and the lack of Primary Democratic Debates between HRC and Sanders.

Donna Brazile: Took over as interim chair of the DNC in 2016, when DWS resigned, until Feb 2017 when Tom Perez was voted in as chair. Her book, “Hacks“, which this article is based on, comes out November 7th.

Hillary for America (HFA): Hillary Clinton’s official presidential organized campaign.  Under FEC rules, the maximum individual contribution allowed to any candidate is $2,700.

Hillary Victory Fund (HVF): Hillary’s Super PAC- if an individual exhausted the maximum contribution to HFA, they could give an additional $353,400 to this PAC in support of HRC.  In 2016 they raised $529,943,912.

Brazile’s book talks about a conversation she had with Gary Gensler, Hillary’s Chief Financial Officer, when she took over the DNC in the summer of 2016.  He explained to her that in 2015, the DNC, under DWS’s rule, contracted an agreement known as “The Joint Fundraising Agreement between the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America”. Apparently, the DNC was in debt in 2015 due to Obama’s campaign, and DWS was a shitty fundraiser and manager.  Under this agreement, HRC would pay off the DNC’s 2 million dollar debt (which is kind of measly, right?) in exchange for having control over the Democratic Party’s finances, strategy, and all of the money raised. Anything that happened within the DNC and the decisions about everything from operations to messaging of the Democratic Party had to go through Hillary. HRC had control of the entire party, ultimately halting any potential support from the party to go towards Sanders. Brazile writes, “The campaign had the DNC on life support, allocating money each month to meet its basic expenses, while using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse”. 

Brazlie’s book is the proof that all of us who dared to question HRC and the DNC had waited for: that Bernie Sanders’s chance at winning the 2016 primary was doomed from the start due to the pro-HRC biased messaging and spending disseminated throughout the US by the Democratic Machine (DNC), which had HRC at the helm. The question is, now that our beliefs have been confirmed, will anyone who refused to believe that HRC or the party did anything wrong acknowledge and accept this new reality? Sadly, I have my doubts. I believe that the DNC and HRC manipulated messaging and took advantage of creating and promoting identity politics which lead to the formation of the current militant group of anti-Trumpers/HRC lovers, who shun and shame any thought that is outside of the Democratic box. The HRC “Feminist” Facebook Moms, who identify and exploit the message that they were wronged due to no fault of their own, most likely aren’t willing to open their ears to Brazile’s truth, let alone accept it. And that’s the problem. Even though the truth is out there, even though it’s been clear that the deck was stacked since 2015, too many people aren’t willing to accept that their golden calf was actually a serpent  who cares nothing of truth, virtue, dignity, fairness, or the democratic process from inception.

Again, I sadly don’t expect much to happen from this news. I hope it helps persuade people to question the Almighty Democratic Doctrine, but my faith in this is pretty low. I guess all we can do is continue to strive for truth and hope others eventually recognize that the truth is more important than being right.

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I used Brazile’s book excerpt and the actual Joint-Fundraising Agreement as the main sources for this article.

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Being Afraid of The Police as a Law-Abiding White Woman

I’m afraid of the police. No lie: I’ve been afraid of the police for the past 10+ years due to witnessing police brutality and abuse of power. Over the past few years I have worked on this, but there is still an unconscious response of anxiety when I happen to be in a convenient store and a police officer walks in, or when I’m driving down the road and a cop car pulls in behind me, or when I witness a cop pulling over someone else, or when I have to talk to the police for any reason.

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How is this not frightening to see coming down your street?

This shouldn’t be the case, and certainly one would think that a young white woman wouldn’t have a fear of police… but I do. And the more and more the police forces become militarized, the more and more I worry about abuses of power. My town recently had a “Police Appreciation Parade” and my house sits on the parade route (legit, my town has like 20 parades a year, and they are all in front of my house. I never thought I would hate parades until I moved here). So, the police force in my town has a lot of money that is partially funded by a huge, stinky landfill that you can smell from my back yard (and I’m about 4 miles from it). So the police have a lot of toys. The parade scared the crap out of me. Police vehicle after police vehicle set off all of their freaking ridiculously loud sirens, with officers armed in heavy duty SWAT team armor and heavy duty, scarily huge guns (I’m sorry I don’t know anything about guns. These looked like big machine weapon guns). The alarms were so ridiculously loud, and really scared me, and my poor dog. They weren’t just the regular police siren, but were the alarms that were the high pitch beep and the one that says “This is not a test” and stuff like “Stay in your houses, we are on lockdown”. All I could think about was how re-traumatizing this probably was for veterans and people who have been in warzones. The end of the parade had camouflaged humvees and other war vehicles. The only thing that makes living on a parade route tolerable is the candy thrown to those watching the parade. Needless to say, there was no candy being thrown for “Police Appreciation Day”.

Now listen. I realize that most police officers are good people, people who want to legitimately make the world a better place, and for these people, I can’t express my gratitude. I cannot imagine what it is like going into a job knowing that you could encounter dangerous situations, that maybe this is the day you don’t come home. I also can’t imagine the stress police officers are going through, knowing that now people are watching their every move and the blanket of criticism that has been laid on the police force since Ferguson (well, I mean, really since reconstruction, but Ferguson seems to be the easier chapter to look at for millennials to understand the effects of authoritarian policing and stigmatized racism).

Image result for afraid of police

True Dat

How I’ve dealt with my anxiety of police officers is consciously working on turning this fear into love. When cops pass me multiple times while walking my dog, I wave. I say hello when they’re drinking their coffee in the corner store. And I have a friend who is a police officer, and this helps me personalize police officers and reconfirm my belief that there are many good, hardworking police officers who just want to make the world a better place and improve their community. It’s unfortunate when one bad banana spoils the public opinion of the rest of the bunch, however, I can talk from experience, that after seeing police brutality up close I gained a strong distrust for police. I think this is appropriate though. If the only interaction I have with police is negative, then of course my view of all police are going to be tainted. So when there are police departments that support a culture of racism and authoritarianism, of course people in those communities are going to have a hard time believing that the harmful police methods (ie: stop and frisk) will cease.

Just thought I’d keep it short and sweet. In conclusion: wear your seatbelt and download Waze while driving, and try to think of police officers as your equal, not someone who should be feared. Easier said than done.

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Healthcare is Confusing I: Medicaid 101

By far, one of my least favorite policy areas, one that I knew very little about until recently, one that I am only now really putting the time and effort in to understanding, is Healthcare. A little under a month ago I started my first post-graduation job and am now gainfully employed as the social worker/social care coordinator at a free clinic in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Thank you sweet, sweet universe for this job, I was getting a little nervous there for a while.

So, as it happens, when I graduated I was pretty positive that I didn’t want to be a medical social worker. I am overwhelmed by understanding my own chronic medical issues, I have some anxiety about hospitals, I hate, hate, hate blood (vasovagal syncoper here) and most bodily functions, and healthcare in general is fucking confusing and difficult to understand and navigate. BUT HOW THE UNIVERSE HAS A SUPREME SENSE OF HUMOR and here I am, the new social worker for a free clinic that only has like 5 people on payroll, but a reliable cohort of volunteer doctors, dentists, hygienists, nurses, and receptionists (but if you wanna volunteer, we need you). I actually love working at this clinic so far, even though it can be a little scary to think that we’re one of the only places that is available to working people who don’t have insurance. Luzerne County has a population of about 318,500 with an uninsured rate hovering around 14%... which means that about 44,600 people are uninsured in the county. That’s a lot of people who can’t get sick.

And within the short three and a half weeks that I’ve been employed, I have had meaningful experiences helping people see a dentist when their faces are writhed with pain from a toothache, the kind of pain that has kept them from sleeping over the past week, and I’ve gotten to help them get rid of some of the anxiety they’ve been plagued with not knowing how they would get help for their tooth without having health insurance.  I just started working with a woman from a religious sect that emphasizes the importance of motherhood, and she has been having fertility issues. I am determined to help her find a way for fertility treatments, even if she and her husband are at the 200% of federal poverty levels (PS: Here’s a spreadsheet of resources I’ve been putting together concerning fertility scholarships and information) So far, this seems like the job that I’m supposed to be at.

Anywho, I joined the mostly defunct Vox Weed’s Book Club, and the first book was “An American Sickness”. I read this May-June, and it really opened my eyes to the atrocities that have been able to take place under the guise of “better treatment”, when in all reality these treatments are overpriced and often unnecessary. Healthcare costs has become a burden to many, many people, including myself, so I figured now is the best time to really explore and learn as much as I can about the Healthcare Policy in the USofA. I meant to have this post out a few weeks ago when all the hubbub was happening in the Senate, but alas, life has been freaking busy lately. I figured though that it’d might be helpful if I did a little series on healthcare related stuff, since I’ve taken on the task of learning as much as I can about all things Healthcare. So hopefully this is helpful.

SO I thought I’d start with explaining Medicaid, what it is and what it does, and what the healthcare bills that were floating around would have done to these programs that legit keep people alive everyday.

doctor free use

“So Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we can’t help you because PA no longer covers pregnant women under Medicaid, but I can show you some helpful DIY blogs that can show you how to deliver your baby yourself”

  • All of the healthcare bills were an assault on Medicaid. Well, Chelsea, what exactly is Medicaid? Is it the same as Medicare? Or like, isn’t it kind of like Medicare? Or wait, isn’t Medicaid actually a part of Medicare?
    • Guys, no. And listen: I didn’t know any of this shit until very, very recently. This shit is complicated to learn about and its freaking boring. BUT THIS SHIT IS IMPORTANT. Okay soooo Medicaid is a FEDERAL program ADMINISTERED by STATES. So, what this means is that Medicaid gets money from the FEDERAL government (when we pay federal taxes, most of our money goes to building bombs, some of it goes to helping sick people by way of Medicaid). So how Medicaid’s financing structure is set up now is in a way that it can respond to need of the states (ie: say, one state coughPENNSYLVANIAcough has a growing elderly population- Medicaid responds to this need by allocating more money to cover the costs of taking care of the people who need nursing homes so we don’t have to worry about Nana dying alone on the street in the gutter).
  • OK- so who gets Medicaid? Back in the day, Medicaid was called Medical Assistance. I wish It was still known as MA because that would be way helpful for people learning the difference between Medicaid and Medicare, two terms that only differ by 2 letters. ANYWAYS. Medicaid differs by states in who they cover (this is what I mean when I say that it’s ADMINISTERED BY THE STATE), but it has to cover some percentage of low income people, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and the elderly in some capacity. This is a federal rule that all Medicaid programs have to subscribe to (what I mean when I say it’s a federal program). Ok. Moving on. You know when you hear about “states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA”? That actually translates to “States that widened the eligibility so more people could be covered”. So basically, how Medicaid is intended, is to help the most vulnerable of our society when they are in need of medical assistance. There is federal oversight, and states can decide on whether or not they want to expand who they cover.
  • What the healthcare bills proposed is that Medicaid could be covered under a block grant given to a state. A block grant is a set amount of money given to a state by the federal government and then the state uses it to administer a program. Congress would figure out how much money to give to each state. How they figure out this amount or what they will base it on is unclear. This is a problem in itself, because if there is a finite amount of money, then there is going to be difficulties deciding who will be eligible for coverage. Or, if the federal government says that states still have to cover the same people, the cost of their services will either need to have a lower reimbursement rate (fat chance), which will cause less doctors to take Medicaid, and cause a higher case load for those that are willing to take the lower reimbursement. Or, like I mentioned, States might just change who is eligible for health insurance (Medicaid) and figure out who’s life is more “valuable” (aka, cheaper to cover). For example, states will have to choose between situations like covering a 19 year old with cerebral palsy who is born to a single mother who makes $15,080 a year as a housekeeper at the local Hilton (that’s the current salary of someone who makes the federal minimum wage, working 40 hours a week, for 52 weeks, with no vacation, before taxes, and before other expenses) or the 87 year old woman with dementia, who needs 24 hour nursing care, who’s loved ones and family has all died off. These are the legit questions that we’re going to have to ask ourselves. It’s really fucked up, yo.

                Even though the bills seem currently dead (thank you, Senators Collins, Murkowski, and McCain for having a sliver of integrity and belief in bipartisan democracy) we know that nothing in the Trump administration is ever actually dead. Staying informed about the actual policies is what is the most important right now, and I hope that this helped demystify at least a little bit about Medicaid and the need to protect from block grants.

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Who and Where Are Our Leaders?

Who and where are our leaders? This is a question that I have spent a lot of time mulling over throughout the past year. My mind probably first wrestled with this when Bernie Sanders conceded his nomination for the Democratic Presidential Candidate at the DNC last summer. I’m sure the emotions I felt watching the speech were similar to other Sanders supporters- the feeling of defeat, the disappointment in the American electorate and democratic process, and the frustration that the Democratic Party got away with rigging the election in order to, once again, demand support and submission to their chosen golden calf. It was a rough night, I cried knowing that the hope I had in my heart for a real revolution wasn’t going to come by way of electoral politics.

I would say that Bernie is still probably the most revered US political leader today, however his followers aren’t nearly as energized as they were a year and a half ago. The same is true for HRC supporters. The only other person with a continuous strong following is Trump, and I think this is just because his base fails to ever take responsibility that Trump is ever in the wrong (ie: Trump said we’re going to Syria which is another broken campaign promise. Does his base really care? Probably not. Somehow, they’ll still be correct in their own minds). So this is pretty depressing if our most recognized leaders are Trump and Sanders.

So, why is this? Why does there seem to be less leaders in the era of Trump and Post-Truthism? Is  political fatigue really the reason behind the lackluster support? Are people too tired to care anymore? I have to believe that tiredness is only partially to blame- the real problem is the lack of enthusiastic, idealistic, moral leadership available.

I finally finished Judgement Days which is about the heavy weighted relationship between LBJ and MLK and chronicles their work on the Civil Rights Bill. The revolutionary movements that were sparked by the 60s wouldn’t have happened without these strong leaders and who knows what worse of a state we’d be in had they given up on their convictions. And you know what’s crazy? While I read JD I kind of felt jealous that there were actual leaders, leading groups of people and entire movements towards a real goal. Groups like the ACLU, SNCC, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference all were lead by leaders with strong organizing skills and a passionate heart. Where are these types of leaders now?

LBJ and MLK Signing 1965 Voting Rights Act

LBJ and MLK Getting Work Done and Signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act

A great number of activist groups have popped up and grown since November 8th, which is really great and important. BUT, I have to wonder. Who are the leaders of these movements? BLM? DSA? Who are the leaders of the movements to get money out of politics (other than Bernie?) ? Who is leading the movements to end discrimination against LGBTQI where, even in places like Scranton, PA, it is legal for landlords and employers to discriminate against gay and trans people? Who is trying to create real gun reform? Or criminal justice reform? Who is trying to end the war on drugs? Where are these people, and if they exist, why aren’t they visible and vocal?

Maybe I’m out of touch. These people must exist, but what are they doing for their movements? And why aren’t they actively trying to form coalitions with these like-minded lib groups? It’s so frustrating. I’m happy to be part of a bunch of different activist groups, but I have to wonder, where are we headed? Sure, acting locally is going to allow us to do more work than shooting for national initiatives, but there needs to be an overall national goal, right? We need some kind of roadmap if we really want to transform this nation, but we’re not going to get anywhere if no one is at the front of the line leading the way. 

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“Don’t Mind Him, He’s A Republican” shouldn’t be a thing

 

Guys. We gotta end attaching the connotations that someone is bad or stupid based on their political party. It’s gotta end now before it adds to any more reasons to develop unwarranted hate towards others. Stereotypes already exist and we need to question our biases NOW. Here’s a quick example: One of my big projects for my policy class was on the proposed borderwall. Not surprisingly my group took a liberal approach to the problem.  One part of the project was a critique from the class. One of my classmates said that maybe we should’ve looked more at the argument that the borderwall would save Americans money somehow (even though our project clarified this myth). Anyways, he had to critique us, and it wasn’t anything malicious or mean, he was just doing his work as a student. After the class, he and one of his friends and I were talking about my group’s presentation and his friend says, “Don’t mind his remark, he’s a Republican”. I was really confused by this and said I don’t care what anyone’s political party is and laughed it off.

Since then, my eyes have been really open to how our culture is using political parties as a way to insult others. And this is a problem for a few reasons.

First, we really only have two political parties (please let me know if you want to come over the Green side…), so grouping people into two narrow ideologies is stupid. People are way more complex than just Blue or Red.

pinkerton

if i’m being honest, it’s pinkerton all the way.

Second, trying to insult someone based on their political party isn’t going to get anything done. I realize that this is way simplifying it, but just because someone likes Pinkerton better than the Blue Album doesn’t mean that either person is better than the other. When we value ourselves based on the hierarchy of perceived “rightness” or “correctness” we devalue others who are no better than us. People who voted for Trump are not inherently evil. I know this can be hard to subscribe to when the liberal echo chambers of social media and sensationalized news often infers the opposite. But this is where I think it’s important to realize- this is someone else’s opinion, and even though I agree with them on a lot of things, I don’t have to hate, or think less than, the people who don’t agree with them.

Third, reducing people to political parties constricts growth. We need to be eager to have friends from all different ideologies in order to learn! So here’s what’s up. I like the Green Party because it is the party that most closely aligns with my personal values. I realize that a lot of people don’t pick political parties based on this- they are often just born into their political party and don’t question it. However, having open-hearted conversations with people about their own beliefs can be really enlightening for both parties (as long as both parties are willing to listen to the other’s side). Most the time when I talk to my friends who are democrats or republicans, I learn something from their point of view. And more often than not, my own personal beliefs and arguments are strengthened by listening to their side.

So yeah. Short and sweet. We gotta stop using “She probably voted for Trump” as a derogatory term. And guys, I am TOTALLY AWARE THAT I HAVE DONE THIS IN THE PAST AS WELL! But I’ve decided to recognize that this bias is stupid and now am conscious to challenge it whenever it might rear its ugly head. We are in a strange time. We have to work together instead of cutting each other part.

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geopolitics is hard

globe puzzle

Geopolitics is a symbiotic jigsaw. When one piece seems to fit in place, another pops out. And this puzzle isn’t going to be put together anytime soon. Fuck, we don’t even know what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. I believe that we’re entering a new era that is changing what that picture will look like and the pieced may have to be rearranged. Whether this era is postcolonialism, I’m not sure, but if we use the past 6 years as a proxy for what will come, I think it’s fair to say that authoritarian powers aren’t going anywhere.

What is happening in Syria is really fucked up. And how Syria got to the state it’s at isn’t a simple path to understand. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about Syria, and the Middle East, and man, when you’re used to learning about your nation that is only 238 years old, it takes some catching up to learn about the history of a region that covers over 3000 years. And here’s the deal- I don’t know what to think of anything. All I can tell is that neoliberalism is strengthening its hold, and just as what was predicted far before Trump even came into the picture, wars aren’t going to end when there is money to be made.

I’m not sure what can be done. I’m nervous after watching how buddy-buddy Trump was with people like el-Sisi and then learning about how seemingly rash the decision to bomb Syria was. My only hope is that America is too big for an authoritarian ruler- that the democratic system in place will safeguard us from what we witnessed in post-Arab Spring countries and that there are too many of us, including elected officials, and too little of them, ultimately the deep statists. However, if we look at the past, empires that were relatively as big as America have fallen, and that’s pretty depressing to think about.

I don’t know what to do. I know it is probably stupid, but for myself, I have to pray (meditate) for some real macro conscious raising- and that’s at a cognitive and spiritual level. We need to help other people understand why we go to war, how war profiteering works, what the dangers are that can lead the US to an authoritarian regime, and how to tune inward in order to produce more loving kindness in the world. I know, it’s hippie shit, but if I don’t believe that there can be good, then what is the point?

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It’s “International Women’s Day” For A Reason

international-womens-day

Just remember, it’s International Women’s Day, not United States of America Women’s Day.

A good measure of how individualistic we are as a country is demonstrated by our response to “International Woman’s Day” (which happens to be on Wednesday March 8th). I bet all the money in my bank account (roughly $112.23) that on International Women’s Day this year someone you know either posts online or says outright in conversation that women already have equal rights and that feminism is basically useless in a society that most claim to be utilitarian in nature. These ideas can’t be further from the truth, and I beg to claim that although American utilitarian virtues can eventually mobilize globally, we need straightforward approaches to making the world a better place for women, and to be confined to our borders as far as our actions go is both uneducated and harmful. We need to start thinking across borders and focusing on how we can help our sisters in countries that have yet to recognize the rights which we are afforded here in USA.

MLK famously said “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere” or something along those lines (an injustice to anyone is an injustice to everyone? Is that the quote?). Anyways, that’s true. If there are shitty things happening across the globe, it is shitty to all of our human experience. So how do we react to this? What are we obligated to do when we hear that there is still female genital mutilation happening in African tribes? Or that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rape is a common instrument of war?  How about the fact that honor killings continue to take place or that China practices femicide, purposely murdering baby girls after their born or aborting fetuses once the mother learns that she’s pregnant with a female child.

honourkilling protest

Women and men protesting honor killings, which are still commonplace in some areas of India. An honor killing is when a woman is killed if her family is unable to pay a large enough dowry or if she somehow shames her family and husband. It’s not uncommon for a woman who is raped to be murdered by her family in an honor killing. 

We have to think past what we are afforded and imagine this picture of life on a mass scale. Thinking big often gets me laughed at, but I’ll take it. I’d rather be laughed at imagining a better world then succumbing to the idea that the world has to be an awful place.  I also will argue that it is worse to pretend that atrocities don’t exist than to learn about them and ignore them. If you know these practices are happening, and you aren’t doing anything about it, how is it different than if FGM was happening in Kansas, rather than Africa, and you chose to ignore it? It’s not different. It might make us feel shitty that we aren’t actively working for an NGO, trying to educate tribe leaders to not pass down the custom of FGM, but not everyone can do that. There are other ways to act that are beneficial to making the world a better place for women.

So what can you do? 1.) Educate yourself and those around you. When people start to moan about International Women’s Day and how women have rights in America, tell them a little bit about why it’s so important that we think about this on a global level. Technology and communication has allowed us to become a global society, so we ought to start thinking about all aspect of society as such.

2.) Donate $5 right now to some type of womencentric organization. Here’s a few:

Planned Parenthood

Catherine McAuley Center

Working Group on Women’s Peace and Security

RAINN

Scranton Women’s Resource Center

3.) Educate yourself a little more. Make a commitment to follow one issue this year that you care about. I recommend using https://iwpr.org/ to find and follow efforts you care about. it’s also my current dream to work here, fyi if anyone knows anyone here who is hiring  ❤

 And if anyone comes at you about “International Women’s Day”, remind them that it’s not called “United States of American Women’s Day”.

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Progressives and Political Correctness (or lack of)

on-political-correctness

lulz but 4real

I just watched a Dave Rubin YouTube video entitled” Why I Left the Left”,  uploaded via Prager University (just real quick, incase you’re not familiar- they aren’t a university, they’re a blog/media site that gave themselves the title of “university”). Rubin basically said progressives don’t have a progressive agenda because progressives support censorship via political correctness, they don’t believe in the exercise of free speech as demonstrated from such responses in Berkeley to Milo’s planned speech, and they don’t believe that laws should protect religious freedoms even though the absent of these laws violates religious people’s conscious and autonomy (ie: progressives believe no matter who comes in for a wedding cake, say Adam and Steve, Cathy’s Christian Cakes still has to make it even though Cathy believes that Adam and Steve are the devil). Oh, and the video also asserts that trigger warnings are bad and are for cry baby snowflakes who can’t deal with a little blood/angry words.

None of this is true. At least it isn’t true for myself and the “progressives” that I surround myself with. Videos like Rubin’s referenced here are dangerous because they’re spreading a message that generalizes a huge group of people into one school of thought that has defined, or perceived, limits (cough*propaganda*cough). If we group everyone together we lose individuality, which is where truly great ideas will come from. It boxes us all together, and that’s not real! To say that my ideas and outlook on life are the same as all progressives is wrong and a stupid thing to assert. Just because I’m a progressive doesn’t mean that I think we should be spending all of our money on saving baby seals and giving undocumented people mansions.  It gets especially dangerous when the issues/schools of thought a group of people are linked to isn’t even what they endorse or believe.

PROGRESSIVE TRUTH ALERT: Liberty and Social Justice aren’t Mutually Exclusive.

I don’t believe in political correctness in the sense of censorship. I believe people shouldn’t be bigots, and as a society we should value using language in a way that conveys the most truth. This is really important in the digital age where facts can easily get distorted through the rapidness of communication. The Pew Research Center has recently published their recent and updated findings about racial disparities in American society for Black History Month. In a time of much needed good news, Pew reports that there are more African Americans in Congress than ever before with 50 between the House (47) and Senate (3), comprising of 9% between the two chambers. The gap between blacks and whites for finishing high school is also narrowing, where 88% of African American’s have received their high school diploma in comparison with 93% of whites. So where does political correctness come into play here? It doesn’t. I’m stating facts with the absolute greatest objectivity possible. See, if I said something like “blacks aren’t as smart as whites and that’s why they don’t graduate as much”, then I would be spreading a falsehood and would fall on the dishonest side of the political correctness spectrum. If I said “n*ggers are poorer than whites” then I would be using politically incorrect language that falls very closely to the end of the ignorant, dishonest side of the PC spectrum- but hey, if we’re trying to get rid of PC language totally, then the above statement isn’t just politically incorrect, but fucking ignorant, bigoted, and racist.

It was surprisingly difficult to find any information about political correctness online and depending on what you read you will probably get a different understanding and interpretation of the term. I found comedians doing monologues about the topic and sarcastic articles about political correctness in action, but nothing direct and objective within the first five results of a basic google and YouTube search. The only results that did first appeared were additional PragerU and Dave Rubin videos about the topic, which is interesting that they are promoting political incorrectness the most. They seem to be advocating a dissent view on something that doesn’t really seem to be an issue (coughpropellingpropagandacough) for most open-minded people.

The biggest argument about political correctness that I can find is that it sugar coats language and that people need to stop being so soft and easily offended. And I agree with this argument- in my opinion, free speech is the most important American value and it is imperative that we speak in a way that best communicates our message. I don’t agree with ignorant language, however I don’t think it should be banned. I don’t think the argument is so much about being “politically correct” as much as I think it is not being an ignorant idiot. Derogatory speech like nigger, faggot, retard, and spic are not just “politically incorrect”, but are ignorant and conveys that the sender is a racist/bigot/sexist/whatever and gives the message a subtext of hate and unintelligence.

I am a progressive who strongly believes that freedom relies on the right of free speech. I think that Milo should have been able to speak at Berkeley, and that people who were destructive in order to ban his speech are just as dangerous as his rhetoric. It seems that a lot of objectors to political correctness think progressives only believe that speech should be restricted to what aligns with what is soft and comfortable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. See, progressive want progress, we want our society to evolve to a place where we can live our best lives together. Progress can only come from new ideas, and without the ability to think and say whatever you want, the chance of progress greatly diminishes.

cute-wedding-gay-top

awwwww ❤

And what about the issue of the gay wedding cakes? Should a bakery be forced to make a cake for Adam and Steve if they believe that it should be Adam and Eve? Yes. I mean, we rationalized slavery because of the biblical verses where God said it was cool to own other people as long as we treated them nicely. It is impossible for equality to exist if our society legally allows for inequality in any capacity.

So, what about places like Curves, the gym that is exclusively for women? A quintessential part of Curves’ mission is to provide a space where women feel comfortable while working out, and one way they are able to do this is by not allowing male members. I am very supportive of the underlying value of Curves’ mission- that women shouldn’t feel judged or uncomfortable when trying to be healthy- however, I do think it is wrong to exclude men from joining. I think that Curves should do everything that it can to continue programming and engaging in business decisions that are womencentric, but by principle, should not be exclusive to women.  Curves should be allowed to state right from the get-go that their message is to make women comfortable when working out and the main way this is possible is by not having a male presence. Men who are aware of this should honor this request, but no be obligated to it. They shouldn’t be banned from joining, but they should probably rethink their motivation for joining a woman-centered gym.

One other argument thrown in with the anti-political correctness ravings was about the allocation of tax money. It argued that nuns, who are against the use of contraceptions, should not have to pay taxes which fund organizations like Planned Parenthood. My response to this is: I am against war, but I still have to pay taxes for the senseless killings in the five places we’re actively bombing right now. I don’t like where my taxes are going, but I believe in democracy and representation of the people, and if I really don’t want my tax money to making white-phosphorous bombs, then I need to take a stand and work to change this.  

And real quick on trigger warnings- I always thought they were kind of stupid until very recently. I’ve had knee-jerk reactions to seeing posts online that say things like: “TW: rape culture/assault” followed by a paragraph about an interaction the poster had last night with a drunk stranger who lifted her skirt in a bar. I’ve often read these things and thought, that’s not that crazy that it needs a disclaimer, right? We shouldn’t be that sensitive and people should be able to read about that encounter the girl posted without feeling some sort of way, right?

Ehh, not really. Let me use a real example from last week that ended in the realization of “oh shit, this is why trigger warnings aren’t stupid”. I was scrolling through my facebook feed, procrastinating doing work, and stopped when I saw a friend, who normally posts silly videos about dogs or equally mindless shit, posted a video that lacked description, but looked intriguing enough for whatever reason. At first I wasn’t sure what I was watching, and the video just seemed like a bunch of people watching a cop trying to help a woman stand up who was hunched over. I immediately thought that maybe the woman was guarding a puppy or something innocent, but was shocked into reality after about 10 seconds when I recognized that the woman was overdosing on what I assume to be heroin. I was not ready, nor expecting, to see an active overdose and I’d be lying if I said the video didn’t shake me up. I have had the unfortunate opportunity of witnessing people overdose on drugs before, and it is something that I prefer not to watch. If I had I known that the video was of an overdose, I simply would have just kept scrolling without giving it a second thought.  However, since there was no description, let alone a trigger warning, I endured an emotional moment that I would have preferred to do without.  So even though this video probably didn’t bother most people who watched it, having a trigger warning would have been helpful for the ones like me who would prefer not to see that. This goes for people who have unresolved trauma from sexual assault and have an emotion reaction to reading about rape or sexual assault online. Trigger warnings aren’t so snowflakes feel safe, it’s so real people don’t have to look at shit that might be emotionally disturbing, that’s all.

So all in all, progressives, at least progressives like myself, value liberty and free speech just as much as the next person. Placing people in boxes ends conversations before they can begin and stifles creativity, which is integral for the evolution of society to a more just and loving world.

 

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