Category Archives: humanity

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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Getting an Abortion is the Same Thing as Getting a Tattoo (not really, but kind of)

I actively avoid talking about abortion (for the most part) because there’s too much of a risk that I’m going to have to explain why I believe we need to reframe this conversation as a human rights argument rather than a feminist issue. It’s a boring conversation.  See, I believe that a person should have the right to decide whether or not she wants an abortion/ terminate a pregnancy/ kill her unborn child/ get pregnant just for the fun of getting an abortion. I believe this because I believe that people should just be able to do whatever they want to the only thing they have total ownership of- their physical body. It shouldn’t be a women’s right to choose, it should be a human’s right to choose.

The only thing we have complete autonomy over is our body (For the purpose of this post, “body” includes the concept of the two-track, that is, that the body and mind/consciousness are integrated). You can’t deny that we are born into everything that we are- you had no choice in what you were born into. This is a pretty heddy concept, and its application is personal, spiritual, and political.

Ok, so try to follow me here: the only thing we are born with that we have 100% control over is our physical bodies. As infants we learn and choose to move our bodies, associate and experience love and happiness through the action of eye contact and coddling from others, cry and experience all the sensations that comes with that cry, etc. This is the human condition- the subjectivity of ourselves. Everything else we are born into and have no control over. We don’t have control over where we are physically born into (ie: Upper Middle Class America vs. Village in Nicaragua). We don’t have control over the family and living situation we’re born into: whether there are other kids in the house, or whether there’s a dog, or whether we having loving parents, or whether we have no loving parents. The ONLY thing we have control over is whether or not to wiggle our toes, to run around, to continuing being.

Obvious-Child-clinic-shot

From “obvious child” which is a good movie about abortion, i guess. i am in love with jenny slate for real tho.

So, if all that we have complete control over is what we can or can’t do in our subjective physical and cognitive experience, then shouldn’t everyone have a right to do whatever they want in those domains? Can’t we agree on the idea that we all deserve to live in a society where we can maximize our autonomy to the highest degree? To live in a society where we can cut our hair if we want, tattoo our bodies if we want, get a liver transplant if we want? Get a vasectomy if we want? And if you were born into this thing called life as a woman who is able to do this bodily function called reproducing, then shouldn’t the same principle apply and shouldn’t you be able to choose whether or not you want your body to reproduce?  

Right?

I’m not trying to minimize pregnancy to the same thing as getting a tattoo… but in theory… it kind is. Shouldn’t you decide whether or not you want to be pregnant?

oprah

Oprah being intersectional and humancentric ❤

This is where I think 4th/intersectional feminism needs to step up and recognize that the women who have worked hard before us, those that made abortion a feminist issue because it was an issue that needed to be elevated in order to help push for women’s rights, did us good. Now though, the political and cultural environment has changed greatly and intersectionality means promotion of expanded inclusivity. Which means we need to use our similarities (Ie: being a freaking human) as strengths. Before, the act of choosing to have an abortion has been a women’s issue, because it affects women’s bodies, but this line between gender needs to eventually be broken in order to have an equitable way of understanding our political and cultural landscape. Now that women have more rights than ever, the way to making a better world is by changing our thoughts about the world, which I think means respecting everyone’s subjective experience. And it also means moving away towards the language which has kept us separate (Woman’s Right to Choose) to an inclusive way of understanding the issue on a broader scale (Human’s Right to Choose).

So yeah. I guess I just wrote this because it’s important that we get to do what we want to our bodies and I kind of just want to be able to get all the abortions I want for the heck of it.  

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2018 Feminism: Understanding Intergenerational Patriarchy

Disclaimer: This article refers to women in the western sense. The arguments presented do not refer to the millions of women living in greater patriarchal and underdeveloped societies.

2017 marked the year that the US began acknowledging intergenerational patriarchy on a mass scale.  The #MeToo movement and public exposure of Hollywood sexual perpetrators empowered millions of women to speak out about their own abuse, which is a huge deal. It’s not just meaningful on the personal plane (ie: the women who have been directly empowered), but is arguably more meaningful in the macro sense, or overall cultural shift, of women’s empowerment.  However, this mass empowerment is not without criticism or confusion in how to interpret it’s meaning: 2017 seemed to have left a lot of questions unanswered about what it means to be a woman in 2018.

               And it is a confusing time to be a woman. We have more freedoms than ever and I believe that the pace is only accelerating towards a more egalitarian society. It’s really exciting and is the best time in history to be a woman. However, these new liberations and cultural acknowledgements of the female experience has also lead us into uncharted territories. Again: What exactly does it mean to be a woman in 2018? What is on the other side of these liberations? What comes after #MeToo?

It’s the cultural experiences, such as the #MeToo movement, that help push our society towards the egalitarian sweet spot. You know, I think a lot of people probably believe that women have total equality in the US, however I have to argue that we’re not there yet, and we won’t be arriving for probably a few decades. Intergenerational patriarchy is still in our bloodline.

societal continuum

very scientific infographic i made.

The US has always been a patriarchal society, and if we look back in time, we don’t have to go far to see areas where we have only just experienced liberation. Guys, we haven’t even been voting for 100 years yet (the 19th Amendment was added to the constitution in 1919). And even though the cultural events which moves us further away from the patriarchy should be celebrated, there is still quite a bit of sexist gunk planted in our psyche from past generations.

If we think about society as made up of symbiotic systems, we can examine how patriarchy has been passed down through generations. For example, let’s use the Hollywood sexual predator exposures to help us better understand intergenerational patriarchy. The inception of the cinema happened around the turn of the 20th century (Think about this: Motion pictures are older than women’s right to vote). When the first motion picture was being screened in theaters, US culture and society were totally patriarchal, and thinkers who deviated from this were considered morally inept. We’re talking women couldn’t leave their homes without a chaperone type patriarchy. So, actresses were in a position where they had to submit to the male authority in order to be granted roles. I believe the greater the inequality in the relationship, the greater the chance and degree of exploitation. It became the ingroup (Hollywood) cultural norm for females to submit to sexual advances in order to keep and increase their status in the group. Intergenerational patriarchy are the remnants of sexist practices and sexist ways of thinking continuing today. It has taken over 100 years for our society to begin exposing these practices in the mainstream. That is also a big deal.

The Hollywood system is a closed system, outsiders are not allowed access. Therefore, these types of sexual abuses are more easily accepted. It is the same thing as religious groups hiding their abusive practices. Since Hollywood started during a period of overwhelming and almost complete patriarchy, it is going to take more time for these unwritten rules to be rewritten. An argument I heard from a lot of older people about women coming forward was, “Why did they wait so long? Why does it matter now?”. The answer is simple: time.  It’s only through time that women felt safe enough to call out these accepted practices.  It’s only through time that women in this closed system can expose the patriarchy that has ruled the system. It’s only through time that a closed system (Hollywood) can evolve in the same direction of the greater society (US/Western society).

There needs to be a safe societal environment for women to speak up against what has been accepted in the past. The good news is that the shift has begun, and we are getting closer and closer towards the societal egalitarian sweet spot. This acceleration will only continue if we support each other to question and expose abuses in closed systems. If we continue to blindly take what has been given to us, the intergenerational patriarchy, then we are at danger of slowing down the shift (and in a dystopian Atwood mindset- the potential to go backwards). It is my belief that we have an obligation as 4th wave feminists to support and empower each other so that we will be passing down intergenerational equality, not patriarchy, to the future.

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#METOO and Challenging the Patriarchy

I recently broke my number one rule about social media usage: don’t engage with people who aren’t willing to hear a different point of view. I took this stance about a year and a half ago and it’s been pretty beneficial to my mental health. I often see things posted on social media that irk me because I believe them not to be true, but I need to step back and recognize that the poster believes what they posted and that’s okay. Unless someone is soliciting feedback, I won’t engage, so most the time I brush off stupid facebook posts as just that- stupid. Now listen, I love talking about things I’m passionate about, and a large part of my interests are all things intersectional-feminism. I love engaging in real discussion IRL (this is one of the reasons why I miss graduate school so much), or as a proxy I will respond to comments on my blog or to direct messages, but these occurrences are few and far between lately. My practice of not engaging with people on Facebook has strengthened my own beliefs and values because I take the time to learn as much as I can about an issue so that I can write a cohesive and well thought-out blog post. Another one of my digital media rules is to write my blog with the only expectation being that it is self-serving to me. If other people read it, that’s way super cool, but the point of my blog is for my own catharsis, a placeholder for the discussions I often don’t get to have face to face.

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What a gross fat f*ck

So lately, all this stuff about Harvey Weinstein and the the #metoo campaign has got me a little bit optimistic because I think this is perfect timing to push for real pro-feminist measures, like Affirmative Consent. I know some people (mostly men from my observations) found all the #metoo posts surprising, but I think most women were pretty chill about it, since sexual harassment is part of the woman experience. I think the #metoo campaign has been pretty successful in getting the conversation really rolling, and opening up a lot of people’s eyes to the enormity that is sexual harassment and misogyny behavior.

This brings me to the stupid Facebook comment-discussion I had. Basically, the person was saying that if the victims of Weinstein knew about his predatory behavior than why did they choose to go to his hotel rooms? I tried to explain my understanding of what this might feel like, based on my own worldview and experiences as a woman. I tried explaining to this person that there still continues to exist a hierarchy in male/female relationships, not in all arenas, thank God, but in many areas and aspects of life. It’s sad and antiquated, but unfortunately they exist. I tried explaining how I could imagine that this power relationship probably continues to exist in Hollywood culture (just as these abuses are able to exist in any closed system that is self-serving), as it’s been passed down from generations before. Women still do not have equal power in a lot of institutions and systems, and Hollywood seems to be one..Weinstein’s behavior was normalized by never being questioned, and therefore it was validated and allowed to continue. Weinstein’s victims probably experienced cognitive dissonance when they were walking to the hotel room, but they were in the weaker position in this power imbalance where saying no had worse consequence than being coerced into sex.

I related this to my own experiences of dealing with this imbalance in male-female relationships. When I was 19, I worked full time in the service industry where the assistant manager was a creep. This assistant manager used to make offhand comments and would buy our uniform blouses a size too small. I would be as cold-shouldered as possible towards this man, but I watched many other female co-workers put up with him constantly making innuendos, hitting on them, commenting on their bodies, etc. I couldn’t stand up to him, because I needed my job, and I was in a work-culture where this behavior was tolerated. He made my schedule and I worked basically the same hours as he did, so had I tried to stand up, I knew there would probably be retaliation. I knew that it was wrong that I had to put up with this behavior, but I also knew that it was normalized and if I wanted to keep my job or at least keep my job as stress free as possible, then it would be best that I keep my mouth shut. Happy ending: he was eventually fired for other reasons. But here’s a takeaway: I didn’t even really realize that this was that big of a deal. Because it was totally normal and I had experienced instances like this before in my short life then, and I have continued to experience power inequalities over the next decade.

The person I had the facebook disagreement seemed to be most offended when I insinuated that he was victim blaming. He said that we don’t leave our cars unlocked in shady neighborhoods and then expect people to be shocked or feel bad for us when our car is stolen, and therefore we shouldn’t be shocked or feel bad for the women who went willingly to Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room since they knew his reputation. I explained to this person that I could understand his frustration about this seemingly double standard of accountability. Then I let my emotions get the best of me, and told him that I could understand how it’s hard to not blame the victim in these situations. I knew that this would stir the pot, but I felt it necessary to call out what his argument deduced to. The is a difference in these two examples based on their context- one exists without a power dynamic, one exists within a power dynamic. The problem isn’t Weinstein in this case, it is the SYSTEM that supports and normalizes this behavior which is the larger, overarching perpetrator. Patriarchy is the real problem, and even though these women knew about Weinstein’s reputation, they were still in a system that enabled such coercion.

See, this is the intersection that I care about in this whole thing. It’s not the sensationalism that there are so many abuses in Hollywood against those in lowered powered positions, which is horrific in itself, it’s the fact that we live in a Patriarchal society where such abuses of power can take place. Calling out abusers can be extremely empowering for victims, which is why I think the #metoo campaign has been so successful. Sadly though, acknowledging that sexual abuse is rampant will not change its pervasiveness if we continue to live passively in this system that supports inherited power relations between genders.

Our entire world history is a patriarchal one, and we’ve only just began to shift the locus of control on the continuum of power towards a more balanced society. Women haven’t even been voting for 100 years yet. Too often I observe areas where we are stuck in ingrained ways of thinking, and the solution is to reexamine these beliefs! Moving from a Patriarchal society to a more inclusive and intersectionally just one is going to take work, and it is going to take the type of momentum that the #metoo campaign had 100 times over. We have to reexamine how our society understands our own values, and then change our beliefs and behaviors based on these principles. And guys, we can do it. If we can all begin to envision a world where gender hierarchy doesn’t exist, then we can have a world where gender hierarchy doesn’t exist.

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Healthcare is Confusing Part III: The Uninsured and Serious and Terminal Illness

So, this is one of those mega questions that I think all of our discussions about how we pay for and organize healthcare should boil down to: How does someone who is uninsured pay for treatment for serious, progressive or terminal illness? Guys, this shouldn’t be a hard question. The answer should reflect the value and theoretical framework that our healthcare infrastructure is based on. But, no surprise here, this is not the case in America. Our currently healthcare system is not based on valuing health, but on valuing profit. American healthcare is concerned more about money made than lives saved, and the answer to this question isn’t easy or simple.

can-amp-039-t-afford-health-insurance-then-go-make-drugs-to-pay-them-off-and-later-kill-yourself_o_3802805

I mean, it’s not that crazy of a premise these days. 

I’m a social worker at a free clinic for those who are working but are uninsured or underinsured. Rita (not her real name) came into my office a month ago. She had short, gelled and spikey brown hair, stood about 5’4” and couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds. She was wearing short sleeves that showed off her barbed wire tattoo around her right bicep and a faded rose on her left arm. She didn’t have an ounce of fat on her, and looked closer to 25 than her actual age of 45, with the exception of her tired eyes. She was the assistant manager of a local 24-hour gas station and once refused to give up her drawer to a man who was robbing the store. This didn’t surprise me.  Rita reminded me of a few tough women I’ve known in my life, a few women who have been through some real hardships in life, and I immediately liked her- I immediately cared about her.

As soon as she sat down, Rita warned me that she was “a bitch”, and started to tell me about herself. She just moved back to the city a year ago after spending the past five years with an abusive boyfriend, living in a trailer park in rural Pennsyltucky. Once she got the courage to leave, she moved into an apartment in a housing project that her elderly mother and deteriorating aunt lived in so that she could help take care of them. She loved her job as the assistant manager, especially finding and firing the “scumbag thieves” who stole from the store during their shift.

Rita’s gynecologist, who is a volunteer at our clinic referred her to me. “I found out two days ago have cervical cancer and I don’t have insurance”. My heart dropped. I asked her how she was dealing with this news, which she replied that she couldn’t do anything but keep up her normal routine. She hadn’t told the few people she had in her life- her aunt, mother, and co-workers, and wasn’t planning on telling them anytime soon. She had no support group and was trying to figure out what to do on her own. She explained further that she didn’t have insurance from her job- she started as part time and once she moved to full time status they never offered her health insurance. She would be able to enroll in two months when her job offered open enrollment, but even then, the actual coverage wouldn’t start until January 2018. The cancer was progressing fast and her doctor needed to start treatment now.

I didn’t know what to tell her. I knew she made too much to qualify for Medicaid, but I didn’t want to discourage her. I told her to go home and I would call her as soon as I could with a solution. The truth was that I had no idea what the solution would be and was overwhelmed thinking about how this woman who was so full of life was going to die because she couldn’t afford stupid insurance.

Luckily, the answer in this case scenario came easily enough. Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program contracts with The Healthy Women Program which offers a medical assistance to women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. The paper work was simple enough- send in 2016’s tax filings, proof of income for this year, and proof of the cancer. I made phone calls all day, and by 5:00 I was able to tell Rita that I had begun her application for medical assistance. I spoke with a representative from the managed care company, who The Healthy Women Program sub-contracts, after I filled out her application and was informed that the processing time would be 5-10 business days. I spent the next day completing the application for Rita, getting all of her paperwork in check, and pestering the Healthy Women Program to send the final application to the County Assistance Office for final approval. I checked in with Rita throughout all of this, and she was a fucking warrior. The weekend went by and Monday morning, Rita told me that her doctor informed her that she was going to need to get a procedure done ASAP and start treatment for the cancer- apparently, the cancer was worse than they originally thought. When I got off the phone with Rita, I got in my car and drove to the County Assistance Office to see what was going on with her application since no one had returned my phone calls. Luckily, I was able to speak with a reluctantly kind case worker and I pleaded for her to expedite Rita’s application. The case worker told me that they didn’t expedite any applications and she couldn’t talk to me at all about Rita’s application due to confidentiality, however the caseworker asked me for Rita’s phone number and called her right there to finish the application process. This caseworker didn’t have to do this, and I am so grateful that she listened to my pleas.

Rita was able to get medical assistance and started treatment by the end of the week. I’ve been keeping in touch with her, and she’s still working even though she’s really tired. She’s going to take FMLA, but wants to wait until she absolutely needs it. The cancer is progressing, but she’s not letting this get her down. I keep telling her that she’s a warrior, and she ends each phone call with thanking me for saving her life. I don’t know if Rita is going to live, but I’m so grateful that she was able to get treatment- it’s the happiest ending I could realistically picture of this scenario.

This wouldn’t have been a happy ending if Rita had a different type of cancer or any other serious or terminal illness. There wouldn’t have been a happy ending if Rita lived in a different state that didn’t have a program like the Healthy Women Program. Not to toot my own horn, but Rita was lucky to be referred to me- had she not had someone who was familiar with the confusing systems of American healthcare, and someone who would advocate for her, I guarantee her application wouldn’t have been processed so quickly. Rita got lucky that there was a program that could help her, and see, that’s the problem right there. No one should have to be “lucky” enough that their progressive illness is one of the few that is covered by specialized, state-administered, programs. Someone who is diagnosed with cervical cancer in Arkansas should be able to receive the same healthcare as a person who is diagnosed in Pennsylvania. People who are dying should automatically be eligible for medical assistance and obtaining this assistance shouldn’t be as complicated as it is now.

So, what is the answer to what happens to people who are uninsured and are diagnosed with a serious, progressive illness? There’s a small chance that there may be a specialized program to help pay for their specific illness. There’s also a small chance that they will be picked as out of thousands of other applications for a scholarship, grant, or charity care from large non-profits and foundations. There’s also a small chance that magic Jesus is gonna skateboard down from the heavens to lay hands and miraculously cure the person immediately. The more likely answer is that they person suffers and then dies. People who are uninsured are already unhealthier than those who are insured. Poor people are at a higher risk for serious illness than the middle class. People who are uninsured aren’t able to access preventative care, and thus will more likely have poor and deteriorating health. This is all such a bummer and such a fucking problem. This is the huge question that should be answered based on a collective value, but there are very few people of power who will admit that America healthcare values money over health. I don’t know what the answer is, and I pray that I don’t have to help anyone else in Rita’s situation who isn’t as lucky as she, but I know that I will, and that that patient is on their way.

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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).

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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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Open Letter to Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department

wb township pd

Dear Captain Clark, Officer Godlewski, Patrolman Capparell, and the entire Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department,

I am very concerned about your lack of understanding of why posting a picture of a clothed man asking a topless woman, who is hiding her breasts with her hands, for a high five is in poor taste. I am worried about the character of the police force in Wilkes-Barre Township and am in disgust that by all accounts of the media’s reporting on this, that the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department refuses to recognize why this type of behavior is unacceptable. I am shocked that you refuse to take in mind how sexually abused victims in your township feel and how their reluctance to report abuse is potentially heightened because of your inability to empathize.

It is not a matter of being “offended” by the meme. It’s a matter of missing the point of why posting the picture in the first place was wrong. It’s a matter of balking at people who disagree and instead of listening to why people are “offended”, offering up only other distasteful and dismissive responses to legitimate concerns. It’s a matter of not recognizing that there already exists a hierarchical relationship between victims and police officers, especially victims of abuse and police officers, that creates burdens to people seeking help.

Police officers are on the front lines in times of crisis and have the heavy and respected responsibility of helping those in vulnerable situations. Rape victims, sexual assault victims, child sexual abuse victims, these are all the types of people who need the services of police officers. Officer Godlewski mentioned in the Citizen Voice article that Facebook may be acting like a deterrent for criminals to commit crimes because they don’t want their faces plastered all over the internet. Well, the content you have been posting recently also acts as a deterrent for a different population, as now I, along with many other people I know and social service providers, do not feel comfortable around or referring abused clients to the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Force. I feel less safe around Wilkes-Barre Township Police Officers.

Your defense that you are not always going to please everyone and that the department’s utilization of social media is an opportunity to humanize the force is, in all actuality, extremely depressing and discouraging. The message you send online is that the Wilkes-Barre Police Department is a frathouse of sexist, chauvinistic, “good ole boys”. Your lack of willingness to listen to the people who saw the meme and expressed their concern is disturbing for the fact that you are police officers- you are the men and women who are supposed to help victims! Not help contribute to stigmatizing sexual assault and abuse victims!!!

I recognize that you have by far one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and I am grateful for your service. Police officers are real life heroes. However, your police force recently has significantly change my opinion about the motivation of police officers and their understanding of victims’ issues. The worst part is, I have a feeling that you will read and ignore this letter or mock it, and won’t take responsibility for your actions. Your lack of apology and dismissiveness towards the situation speaks louder than any social media post.

 

Sincerely,

Chelsea T. Collins

Throop, PA

chelseataylorcollins@gmail.com

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Social Media Isn’t Real (And That’s Okay).

Two quick reminders: Social media isn’t real and I write this blog from a female feminist perspective. My views may be completely off the wall compared with yours (isn’t that cool?!), and whatever the next few paragraphs say, they are no means an attack on anyone I personally know- I feel we can all relate to this shit, na’mean?

i like you more than the instagram you

This is probably true, unless ur a garbage person in real life but super sweet online.

So recently, a few people have commented on pictures of me and my finance on social media, saying things along the line of “perfect couple” or whatever. And I’m not gonna lie, that attention is kind of a nice feeling, but nonetheless I’ve been really, really taken back by these statements. Because a picture alone cannot tell you much about our relationship. I’m not saying that my relationship with my partner is bad or anything like that, but it’s definitely not “perfect”, and I don’t want people thinking that about us, because, well, it’s not true! Also, just real quick: no one’s relationship is perfect.

I know a lot of people have been feeling less-than lately because of internet culture, and I just want to reiterate that social media is not real, and perceive people’s “realness” based on their social media persona can be super toxic, yo. What we see online of people is just part of their cultivated digital personality. Ok, wait a minute. Let me back up real quick. What we see online is of real shit, but the meaning we infer from it is not real. I like social media. I get to see pictures of my friends kids, of my family that lives far away, and just funny shit that my friends post. However, thinking that these pictures are actually a true, complete representation of these people’s lives is way misleading.

Yo, you wanna know the real kicker is? It’s that our feeling of less-than in comparison to someone else’s social media life actually has everything to do with our own perceived inadequacy. Feeling envious of anything or anyone is totally based in how we feel about ourselves, right? We can’t be envious unless we are comparing ourselves to someone else, and if we feel shitty about ourselves in the first place, than jealousy is gonna come around a lot quicker. It sucks that social media makes people think that their lives have to be a certain way because their “friends” lives look that way. Also, this is a pretty big realization that I had to learn the hard way, through years of being jealous (including being jealous of people online). I totally was in the camp of “I suck at life because my house is always messy, I don’t know how to be super crafty/good at makeup/athletic/rich/someone who travels a lot/insert whatever here, plus I have split ends and acne on my face”. It wasn’t until I learned that it is freaking impossible to compare my true, authentic personality to anyone else’s, that I started to feel better about my less than perfect life. We are all unique, and that’s a freaking wonderful, crazy, amazing thing! If my house was spotless, and super beautifully decorated from shit I made, and if I went surfing every weekend after having a brunch of grass-fed grass, well… I probably wouldn’t be super thrilled because that’s not being authentic to myself! It honestly took me basically my whole life to understand this- that there is no reason to compare myself to anyone else because it’s comparing apples and anti-freeze. We’re all different and that’s dope.

Ok, ok ok, I’m being a little overzealous. I totally still get jealous sometimes. I look at people’s Instagram posts and that thought will come in my head- the “I’m not worthy” thought. The thing is now I have a following thought that is, “oh shit, social media can’t communicate what the real truth is behind this picture, and this person strategically picked this photo to post”. ALSO, I don’t know what your motive was for posting that photo, just like you don’t know what my motive was for posting another picture of my dog (it’s because my dog is the fucking cutest and I want the world to know).

And also- it’s totally okay to post whatever the fuck you want. Who gives a shit. And if you post something like a selfie because you are feeling shitty, and want some superficial attention- dude, that’s okay. Or maybe you’re really feeling yourself and that’s why you post a selfie. Dude, do you. Sometimes, when I’m down, I’ll take a selfie and filter the fuck out of it because it makes me feel better. But here’s the deal- it’s still not real, and once we all start realizing that about social media, I bet you $5 that a lot of people will start to feel better about their lives. I think social media can be a really great thing. We just have to keep in mind that it’s not real before actual, real emotions develop in response.

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