Category Archives: progressive

The Case for Hope

If a soothsayer last year told me that 2020 would consist of a mutating and elusive virus, resulting in the necessity of the world to self-quarantine, along with being the year of the greatest civil unrest ever experience in my lifetime, due to another brutal police murder of an unarmed black man, well, I’m pretty positive I would’ve had a panic attack. However, we have arrived, and surprisingly I only really had one panic attack this year, the catalyst being the final democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in mid-March. That debate was so surreal… It was so satisfying for Bernie to speak undeniable truth to power in the face of a bewildered Biden, and to speak so passionately, but to a silent, empty audience. It was cinematically bizarre, cathartic, and so very disturbing. But alas, I digress. 

I’ve been thinking about all this unrest that has been 2020 so far (as we all have been): all the anger I believe we are all collectively feeling, the role of mass communication and fast information, and the necessity of compromising one’s psychological safety in order to achieve a degree of clarity concerning the state of America. I also have been reflecting on how I used to write so much, and how privileged I was to go to graduate school for social(ist) work 2015-2017, and what changed for me personally- why I have hardly written anything in the past two years. The answer to my lack is that I’ve been overwhelmed and then recovering from all of these political and cultural shocks to my system, my psyche. 

Shock therapy for the US has been full throttle for the American public over the past five years, the most visible origin being Trump’s campaign announcement. I believe that this is when our current new chapter of America’s book began, and I find it as perturbing as other stories in our dark past.  Shock therapy has been used for as long as there’s been power and corruption, and I highly recommend everyone who hasn’t read the primer on this, “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein, to pick up as soon as possible. This is the text that really woke me up personally in 2015, and wiped away any rose hue left on my glasses. Shock therapy centers on the idea that neoliberal free trade markets exploit national crises (disasters, upheavals, global pandemics, etc.) to establish controversial and questionable policies, where citizens are excessively distracted that they cannot engage and develop an adequate response, resist effectively, or even process the information at hand. When you recover from a shock, you have to take time to rest, recover, and try to make sense of the new reality. After a shock, we naturally find a new homeostasis, which more times than not, requires normalizing our environment, regardless of how abnormal it is. 

I haven’t written seriously in a while because I’ve been recovering from all of these shocks, all these horrific acts of violence we’ve experienced as a nation over the past four years, all the things I’ve previously written about from 2015-2018. I’ve been tired, atrophied, and apathetic. I’ve allowed myself to stay quiet, because really trying to process and learn about our current environment is so taxing and can feel so hopeless. I’m doing my best to break out of that now, but it is hard and I am still weary. However, I am grateful that I feel this spark of motivation growing brighter inside of me, and I’m trying to fan this flame. For myself, the best way to grow and harness this energy comes from illuminating hope and consciously choosing love over fear. 

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Me at Trump’s Inauguration in DC when my brain was focused on this truth rather than fear

I subscribe to the theory that there are only two emotions- love and fear- and all other emotions stem from these two primary emotions. It wasn’t until I had a recent conversation with a close friend that I recognized just how much I have been fearful in the past two weeks since George Floyd’s murder. I have been so angry, so overwhelmed, so stressed, so nervous, and dare I say even hateful, that I almost lost sight of love. I had not been feeling much compassion, only horror and outrage. 

 I was not super productive during this quarantine, and although I’ve enjoyed having more downtime, my personal mental health hasn’t been great. I’ve been worried, lonely, and sad. I regressed into old routines, like not having a routine, and even stopped meditating daily, which I’m terribly ashamed to admit. I share this personal accountability in order to give insight into where my head and heart had been lately; they’ve been pretty fear-based and loveless.

Quarantine did allow me to finally read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, an account of a Viennan psychiatrist who survived three Nazi concentration camps. He was survived by no one, his entire family was murdered in the camps, including his young wife. After liberation, he went on to create the theoretical basis for logotherapy, a therapeutic modality that is based on the premise that humans are driven to find meaning and purpose in their life. I’d been familiar with logotherapy, but never read this seminal work until a month ago. One of the most important points I took from “Man’s Search from Meaning” was Frankl’s observation that the first people to perish in the concentration camps were those who lost hope. Hope is necessary for survival, it is a requirement for resilience. 

When I reflect on this myself, it becomes crystal clear how fearful and hopeless I’ve been the past months, especially these recent two and a half weeks since George Floyd’s murder. I’ve been consumed by the constant shocks to my system and instead of trying to hold on to hope, I’ve been drowning in dread. Now that I am aware of this, that I’ve gained this clarity, I have the power to change it. I must don an old perspective I have not worn much this year, where hope acts as my lens. 

I’ve always been an advocate for dreaming big and consider myself a radical idealist. People across the US are finally being confronted with the truth that is police brutality and the militarization of the police. There’s no hiding these horrific displays of unmitigated violence and cruelty by the police during the major protests. It’s shocking (yet extremely gratifying) in itself that finally, the mainstream media cannot avoid showing this systematic reality because of the digital age!!! And with this greater realization, that police brutality is a systematic injustice ingrained into the foundation of the police FORCE, there is meaning to be made, there is hope. I am hopeful that those who believed it was “only one bad apple” now begin to recognize the truth about police brutality and learn that the institution of policing was created on the foundation of oppression. The more people are confronted with this truth, the more we can imagine a new way of policing (or dare I say abolishing). The more people learn the truth, the greater the chances for real, true change. 

I’m hopeful that all of this civic unrest spurred by racism will bring light to the structural forces embedded within the heart of America that continue to perpetuate unjust treatment of black, indigenous, and other persons of color. I hope that this conversation of racism grows into a conversation about class. I hope poor white folks are able to see how they are so much more similar to poor black folks than they are to Donald Trump. I hope more middle-class white folks see how they are much more similar to poor black folks than they are to Donald Trump. I am hopeful about this awakening. 

I am hopeful about the positive evolution of culture, spurred by greater access to education via the internet. I am hopeful that as a culture we begin to question polarized thinking and instead start to see how everything is gray. At risk of sounding like a kumbaya drum circle leader, I am hopeful about evolving morally. I am hopeful that we evolve together spiritually. I am hopeful for peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying hope replaces outrage. That would be impossible, and outrage has an incredibly important motivating purpose. However, I know for myself, being in a constant state of outrage is exhausting, and that all of these continuous shocks inevitably wears you down to an indolent state of apathy if you’re not careful. What I am saying is that we harness hope in order to recover quicker, and less scathed, from these shocks. The world is not rainbow and unicorns, I am aware of this, and the current state of America is dire. But let us not be fearful. I am advocating that our outrage begets hope, not fear, and that hope catalysts a meaningful change, and welcomes a new reality that us dreamers have been tirelessly waiting for. 

 

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It is an Act of Love to Stay Inside Right Now.

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stay in, like the cute little mountain you are

I am not very fearful of getting COVID19. Chances are, even though I do have breathing issues and am UNINSURED (that’s the only thing that makes me unnerved about my own health), I have a pretty great chance of surviving it.

What I am TERRIFIED OF is contracting COVID19 and causing someone else’s death via my transmission. It is growing towards exponential spread, if it isn’t there already, so the chances of me giving it to someone, who will then give it to someone who doesn’t survive, is very plausible. It takes 2-14 days for symptoms to show up. 2-14 days!!! Two weeks is a long time to be non-symptomatically infected. This is a large part of the problem, COVID19 is being transmitted by people who didn’t know they are infected. You can feel fine in this moment, and be spreading it. This is why I believe it’s really important right now for us to limit as much human contact as possible.

I am saddened and scared thinking about the deep suffering that the world is currently experiencing. I am saddened and scared thinking about the deep suffering we in America are about to endure. Now is the time to care for one another. 

So please, stay in, even if you feel fine. Do what you can to limit human contact. At least until there is more information and direction on how we should act to keep our country safe and healthy. Stay in, if not for your own health, for someone else’s sweet grandparent/parent/sister/son/brother/daughter/friend. By staying in, you are serving the greater good, you are serving something greater than yourself. That, my friend, is truly an act of love and a repulsion of fear. 

May you be well.

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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?

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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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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.

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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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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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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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#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.

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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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