Sick Day

sneeze

I caught a bug this week. I wasn’t feeling great yesterday, so I missed a day of sharing why we should all be excited about voting on November 8th. Hopefully I didn’t make any of you turn back on your mental path to the polls. Something has been going around my office. It decided, after I’d had a few sleepless nights, I’d be a good host. I disagreed, but it’s a bad listener. I’m sure I won’t get much sicker, but if I did, it would be little more than an inconvenience. See, I have health insurance. If I go to the doctor, I give them only a copay. If I get a bunch of tests done, I don’t pay a fee. If I need a prescription, I hand them my card. Both Dave and I are on plans with our employers, but that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve had a few short spans of time without insurance and Dave has had even more. It was in our days of invincible youth, so we weren’t worried, but we should have been. We laughed about it as we crossed a dangerous street or ate suspect food. Thankfully, we didn’t have any disasters during those months. There were avoided check-ups, well-used stashes of Dayquil, and bowls of soup—but no disasters.

I would have benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that parents be allowed to keep children up to the age of 26 on their plans. My parent’s more generous government policy helped for awhile, but once I graduated from college, I was booted from that one as well. Dave got shown the door long before. That particular change came too late for us, but the others might not have. Now, I’m not allowed to be charged more by insurance companies because I’m a woman. Preventative health care includes women’s care more broadly than it used to. I can’t be denied insurance based on a pre-existing condition and I can’t be denied my insurance benefits just because I got too sick too many times that year. So far, none of that has changed my life, but that’s because I’m lucky.

The Act isn’t perfect. There were a lot of compromises made to get it passed. Insurance companies can still make strange and financially motivated decisions about what types of care are necessary. The policies are confusing, allowing for loopholes and high expense limits for patients. People are still falling into massive debt when they get sick. Every week, I see a GoFundMe site for a family who’s been hit by a medical emergency. Their tragic stories made even more tragic by the fact that they have to reach out to their friends and family to pay for the treatment. I’m all for the village mentality, but we already have a village meant to do that job—it’s called insurance. We’re all supposed to pitch in so that, when any one of us needs help, it’s there.

Trump has repeated over and over again that one of the first things he’ll do if he wins the presidency will be to repeal Obamacare. Obama’s opposition loves to hate on the bill, never mind that many of its issues came from the forced compromises. Trump would like to start from scratch, pulling 24 year old’s off their parents insurance and taking away birth control from women across the country. He doesn’t say that out loud, of course, but that’s what it would mean. All those people who have gotten insurance since the bill’s passing? Now uninsured. All those women living in states without a Planned Parenthood? No more free cancer screenings. The people that now have Medicaid because of expanded limits? Back to high cost, low coverage plans.

I think we can all agree this sounds pretty terrible. Luckily, a bit of this is up to us. We can vote for the candidate who is hellbent on pulling us backward or we can vote for the candidate with the goal of moving us forward.

 

Glorious Times

susanbanthony

On August 28, 1920 the United States government ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” It took a long, long struggle to get this amendment passed. After a tough fight led by Susan B. Anthony and other brave ladies, a Californian Senator introduced an amendment similar to the 19th in 1878. It sat around for awhile and then failed. Other activists tried for a few decades. They failed too. Then they had some success in state-based legislation. Finally, in 1918, the group brought the amendment again. It failed. Obviously. This time, though, some important people, like President Wilson, really wished it had passed. They brought it back up, and finally, it went through. And then probably all those dudes tried to take credit for the work those badass women did, because that’s just how the world works. But jokes on them, cause we all know who Susan B. Anthony is and no one knows the name of the dude that introduced that amendment. Well, someone does. But not me, so don’t worry about it.

There are women alive today who were born before that amendment passed. You can go talk to them, if you frequent a lot of nursing homes and Big Boys. You can find 34 of them on this website, which my super amazing friend sent me over the weekend. It’s good to have a friend who knows the key to my heart—bold old ladies and even bolder feminism. These awesome women are profiled on the site, happily asserting their vote for Hillary. They include Helen Snook, 102, who says, “We cannot allow that disgraceful man to win,” to which I say, “For realz.” Helen looks like a pretty hip lady, so I think she’d understand the lingo. There’s also Garvin Colburn, 96, who says, “It really is remarkable to think of all that has happened in 96 years.” True, Garvin. A lot has certainly changed over this last near-century, most notably the serious fluctuation of fringe in women’s fashion. And I guess that whole basic human rights thing.

Particularly joyful about the current state of events is Consuelo Lopez, 96, who says, “When I was born women had no voice and were not allowed to vote. Now we are about to make history and have a woman president for the United States. I never thought in a million years I would see that happen. It’s a glorious time.” It sure is a glorious time, Consuelo. The trees are changing colors, I ate ice cream in my sweatpants last night, and, in just 12 days, we’ll be electing the first female president of the United States. That is, if we get out and vote. It’s gonna be a glorious, girl-power time.

Sometimes Silent Revolt

protest

My mother took me to my first political protest when I was an infant. It was 1987 and she trekked to the National Mall to stand against the horrendous treatment of Jews living in the Soviet Union. I have no memory of the event, but I have this image in my mind of my mom holding me while a mass of outraged American Jews voice their anger and support. I can picture the Mall, packed with protesters, and tiny little me looking around at the power of the people.

Even though I don’t remember the moment, it means something to me. I like to think the spirit of peaceful revolt was injected into me early. And the spirit of sometimes not-so-peaceful revolt. Things don’t always go smoothly when it comes to civil and personal (the personal is political, after all) disobedience. I was a quick human rights sympathizer. Even as a toddler, I felt deeply that certain things were fair or unfair, right or wrong. I expressed these feelings through loud and unruly tantrums.

I’d be lying if I said my epic tantrums have left me forever. I just try my best to channel them into a more acceptable form for an adult. We all choose different methods of revolt. Sometimes it’s standing alongside same-minded strangers. Sometimes it’s sitting next to people who need help. Sometimes it means walking away. A lot of times it means walking. People love walk-a-thons. The core of any protest, really, is making your voice heard. And having a sturdy pair of shoes.

There was a time when heading to the polls was a protest on its own, when people were killed for just trying to cast their choice. Those voters knew having their opinion heard meant more than just tediously checking a box. When I step into my polling place in November, I’m going to remember that spirit. I’ll be issuing my silent protest against hate and ignorance and sending my vote to fight for equality and progress. And when I do, I’ll be thinking of my mother, carrying her baby girl through the streets of this country’s capital city to stand against the wrongs of the world and try to make them right. If she can do that, we can fill out a ballot.

Pancake Politics

cafeteria

In our house, Sunday mornings are for pancakes and extra blanket time. If I’m lucky, I wake up to the smells wafting off the griddle and lay on the couch until I fill my belly with delicious, sugary carbs. Dave makes them from the whole wheat flour and pure maple syrup that are always in our cabinets. Sometimes I toss a bit of fruit on my plate to pretend like I’m being healthy. After all, I have a basket full of bananas on my counter and a freezer stuffed with frozen berries. Dave usually adds chocolate chips to his, because he likes to live a life of luxury. If I’m feeling extra motivated, I’ll mash up a tofu scramble and add the spinach, peppers, and onions that always seem to find their way into our kitchen.

When I eat our lazy Sunday breakfast, I’m always appreciative of the moment together, Dave’s excellent pancake making skills, and the time I have to relax. Sometimes—though not often enough—I remember to appreciate the ease with which we fill our cupboards and fridge, the privilege of having enough for this feast every week.

That’s not the case for everyone. During the 2014-2015 school year, 21.5 million kids qualified for free or reduced school lunches. Around one in every five children and one in every ten senior citizens lived in food-insecure homes in 2015. Nearly half of SNAP (the federal food benefit program) recipients are children. For people who struggle to fill their family’s freezers and their children’s bellies, every meal is a concern. The worry never disappears. One day you could have just enough and the next you could be going to sleep hungry. Think about how hard it is to make it through your work day without a 3pm snack. Imagine that feeling for three months. For three years. Weeks and weeks of fluctuating between just barely filling your plate and opening an empty fridge in the morning. Imagine relying on a federal program to help you feed your children and then having it taken away when your government starts to cut the budget.

One of America’s most beautiful qualities—the pride we take in our ability to work hard and carve out a bit of the world for ourselves—backfires when we’re tasked with taking care of one another. We live in a system of praise and punishment, so that’s what we dole out. We forget that not everyone starts in the same place. We forget that our brains don’t all work the same way. We forget that this isn’t an all-or-nothing game. And our politicians know we forget those things. They forget too. So they pass bills that make the numbers look better and we let them because social needs are complicated and never-ending.

Each time an election comes around, though, its a chance to place people who remember in positions of power. It’s a chance to tell our government that we can both work hard to succeed and be understanding of people who need a bit more than we do. We can have something to which we all aspire—this grand ideal of ultimate success—while also firmly establishing a ground floor beneath which none of us should fall. At the very least, we can make sure we’re all fed, warm, and healthy.

I can’t buy a sandwich for every hungry kid or send a care package to every hungry family, but I can vote for politicians who support programs that align with my values. I can vote for representatives who maintain strong SNAP and WIC funding, who work to grow healthy food programs in low-income neighborhoods, and who prioritize school breakfast and lunch programs. Our presidential candidates haven’t been talking much about this issue—children with growling stomachs don’t vote very often—but state and local governments play a big role in keeping communities fed and healthy, and we can shape those roles just as we shape the presidency—if we cast our ballots.

 

Stick It To ‘Em

stickbook

The next reason in my “go vote” countdown: You get a sticker. Think about the lengths you went to obtain a sticker when you were seven—filled out tedious multiplication tables, vacuumed the living room, traded your fruit roll-up at lunch. Voting is so much easier than all those things. Don’t disappoint your seven-year-old self. Go get your sticker.

Do Not Pass Go

solitairepresident

As promised, I’m going to write about another reason we all need to vote in November. I spent a long time yesterday writing for the job that pays me the medium-bucks, so my creative juices are a little low, but a promise is a promise. That’s what I tell Dave after he says he’ll give me a foot rub and then takes a socks-off whiff of my toes. Gotta stick to your word.

Today’s reason is rooted in two particularly dangerous quotes we heard at the second and third presidential debates. In the second debate, Donald Trump explained in his always-eloquent style how he would assign his attorney general, not the attorney general, mind you, but his, to investigate Hillary Clinton’s lost emails. In it, he went through what he believed Hillary did with those emails, and Hillary, in response, said “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.” To which Donald quipped, “Because you’d be in jail.”

Now, this post is not about the emails. Maybe we can dive into that another time, but not today. This post is about that last little phrase, the one threatening jail time to a political opponent, and what it means alongside this next exchange.

At the final debate, Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump whether he would accept the results of the election. Donald gave a long-winded answer that basically claimed the election and the media are corrupt and that he would decide at that particular moment whether he would concede. He would like to “keep [us] in suspense” as to whether or not he will peacefully remove himself from the race, as other losing candidates in our history have done, or whether he will decide to incite a mass riot and burn effigies in the street.

While doing this, he continued to claim rampant voter fraud by misinterpreting a Pew Research study stating voter registrations are outdated and inaccurate. The study, done in 2012, brought to light that many states’ voting records contain millions of entries that are no longer valid, represent people who have died, or are for voters simultaneously registered in other states. These errors exist because of old systems, requirements to maintain entries until absolute proof of ineligibility is given, and voter registration error. However, the study never makes any claims about actual voter fraud. It doesn’t say that people are voting for those dead people or that people are driving between Washington and Oregon to vote twice in one day. The study says that we have some updating to do technologically. In fact, other studies have decidedly determined that the amount of voter fraud in this country is miniscule. A study by News21 analyzed voter fraud claims and found 10 cases since 2010. One was a 17-year-old voting in his dad’s name. One was a recent immigrant who received two voter cards and thought he had to go to both locations. Four were people who filled out ballots for themselves and their spouses. Donald isn’t the first person to make these claims, but he’s wrong. Voter fraud happens, but it happens on an incredibly small scale. It’s been proven over and over again that we can barely get people out to vote once, let alone ten times.

When Donald makes these claims, he’s doing two things. He’s telling people that we can’t trust our democracy and he’s claiming that he is above the law. He’s openly decided to take one of two vastly un-American actions at the end of this election: jail his opponent if he wins or revolt against the democratic process if he loses.

Does it get scarier than that?

We’re going to need someone in the White House at the end of this who can rise above whatever chaos may or may not occur at the finish line. I’m voting on November 8th because I’d like a president who values our country’s complicated, but relatively stable political process more than her own ego.

 

Totally Judging

oldtimeywigs

I can’t take it anymore. I, being the responsible citizen I am, watched the final presidential debate. Or, rather, I hid under my Tardis blanket and hoped it would send me into another universe. It didn’t. I was still on my couch—being stared down by a predatory, entitled reality television cast member. And I love reality television. I feel personally invested in Khloe Kardashian’s happiness and I fantasize about running the Amazing Race. I tried to find comfort in the intelligent, experienced public servant on the other side of the screen, but it was to no avail. I felt my insides compacting with every interruption, insult, and lie.

Like most women I know, this isn’t the first time I’ve been confronted with an arrogant, condescending, and overreaching man. It happens over and over again in my life. I’m not the only one who’s felt the gut-wrenching sting of trauma-rooted anxiety when sexual assault so cavalierly became the center of this presidential conversation. I’m not the only one who knowingly winced at each one of the 55 times Hillary Clinton was interrupted during the first debate. I’m not the only one who feels the need to hide from the barrage of hate we’re experiencing. But we can’t. We have to stand up. And walk. To the polls.

From here on out, I’m going to post one reason each day that we all need to vote. That’s 20. I’m sure, if I think real hard with my little lady brain, I can come up with 20 reasons for us to get out to the polls on November 8th. This is the first.

There will be at least one appointment to the Supreme Court made by the next president—probably a few. Bill Clinton said there could be as many of four. Donald Trump said he’ll nominate five if he’s elected. This is massive.

Let’s do a little Schoolhouse Rock rundown on the Supreme Court. Justices have the job of the interpreting the Constitution, that nifty document that’s supposed to hold our country’s core. The Constitution was established back when men wore powdered wigs, so it needs a translator—or nine. Since it currently only has eight, they might be relying on Google Translator on evenings and weekends right now. Not a good look for the most powerful court in America and all the more reason to unfreeze that job listing.

Basically, SCOTUS is the highest federal court in the country, so what it says goes. A whole bunch of important rights have been granted to Americans through the court and others have been withheld, depending on its composition. It changes the country’s trajectory—for better or worse. It established an accused person’s right to an attorney, but it also allowed for the internment of Japanese Americans. It confirmed the legality of segregation and, nearly 60 years later, desegregated schools. It ruled against a woman’s right to vote and then upheld a woman’s right to (mostly) choose what’s right for her body. It denied citizenship to slaves and their descendants and, after 110 years, ruled that interracial marriage must be made legal. Just last year, the court determined that states must allow for same-sex marriage. These are big, and, make no mistake, there will be big things coming.

Justices stay on the court until they decide to peace out, so these next few appointments will impact decades of rulings. This is important stuff, guys. I’m going to vote for the candidate who supports the human rights of me, my friends, and many other lovely strangers. I’m just really into that kind of thing.

Desolation of Smog

gasmask

The World Health Organization just reported that 92% of people are breathing air that falls below the organization’s quality standards. This standard is basically whether or not the air has enough terrible stuff in it (like nitrates, sulfates, and black carbon) to kill you. A bit of that toxic material won’t set off their alarm bells, but once it gets to “will cause severe bodily injury” levels, they take note. If you agree with their non-death-inducing standards, that means nearly every human alive today is filling his or her lungs with harmful, dangerous air.

As a result, in 2012, six and a half million people died just by breathing. Breathing. I’m doing it right now. So are you, I’d bet. Don’t go holding your breath just to prove me wrong. But maybe do hold your breath to limit the amount of toxic air you’re gulping. I’m not a doctor, but it might work. Could we delay the air’s impact on our lungs by forcing our bodies to more efficiently use oxygen? Should we swim more regularly to up our breathing game? Should we breath into paper bags like we’re all suffering through a global panic attack? I feel like that last thing is going to happen either way, so let’s just embrace it as an attempted solution.

To be honest, I’m not sure working on our lung capacity will save us from this disaster. Scientists say we need to develop more efficient transportation systems, stop burning fuel and garbage in our homes, lay off the power plants filled with coal, and refrain from using so much energy to create a bunch of things we don’t need. That means those of us who are privileged enough to have options regarding those four causes should make better choices and those of us who are even more privileged—who have a few extra dollars to spend and give wisely—should do that. I know big problems are hard to solve, but we are literally poisoning one another and we can do better. I have a few ideas.

Buy less stuff. Give some money to scientists and inventors developing better energy sources for global communities. Ride a bike. Vote for representatives who believe in science. Plant a tree. Hug a tree. Support organizations whose purpose is to grow sustainable infrastructure around the world. Pay attention to the labels on your food. Watch a video of an orangutan in Borneo and remember why we make these choices. Eat a vegetable grown near you. Get on the bus (literally and figuratively). Read about how families in other places cook their food and heat their homes. Feel lucky. Take a walk with a friend and discuss how even though you think you’re supposed to like Leonardo DiCaprio because of his dedication to the environment, he’s getting pretty creepy.

Some of these are probably more effective than others, but I think we should all just jump in wherever feels right. I’m going to start with the videos of precocious infant primates.

 

Cold-Hearted

campaignpromises

I know I said I would post about my trip, but I have something else to get off my chest. (That’s a terrible pun you’ll get after reading a bit further.)

Ok, not that much further. I have a little cough. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s from being in the rain and not sleeping enough and flying on a plane. Nothing serious. However, it’s really helping me identify with our next president, Hillary Clinton. In case you haven’t opened your phone or turned on the television or been awake this past weekend, here’s the deal: Hillary is recovering from a bout of pneumonia and the whole world is talking about it.

The way the media is covering her illness, you’d think she was diagnosed with a tragic, terminal, mind-altering condition. People are saying she won’t be fit to lead our country, because she has the nerve to have human lungs. How dare she? Did she forget that all our past presidents have been robots, unfazed by the germs and viruses the rest of us fight. I mean, that’s why we elect them, right?

Also, everyone knows that if you go to work sick, you have to just take a few Advil and pretend all is well. It’s not her fault, but she’s broken the silent pact we women have signed to quietly, strongly continue on despite any physical or emotional discomfort. She was supposed to carry on unnoticed. To her credit, she tried. For days, she kept campaigning. She worked crazy hours. She attended a memorial event. She spoke with the public and the press. But then she had the nerve to request a short break and that’s really where we all have to draw the line.

Here’s the root of all this nonsense. It’s not because those presidents were robots or immune to all the world’s diseases. That’s just a weird sci-fi story I’m about to write about aliens who create robot presidents and send them to Earth to be elected in an attempt to rule the planet from the other side of the Milky Way. It’s because they were men. If Hillary was one, if the public and the media didn’t already have this presumption that she was just a little bit lesser than, weaker than, she wouldn’t be punished for having a chest cold. She would be praised for working hard while not feeling well. She wouldn’t be told she was unqualified for a job based on her need for a low dose of antibiotics.

I’m glad I don’t want to be president because I had to take a bunch of antibiotics this summer, so I’m pretty sure I’d be banned. I hate when experiences that literally every person I know has had get in the way of otherwise achievable dreams.

Someone’s Something

WeightyWords

I’ve had this thought sitting in my gut for awhile now. I haven’t found the right moment to put it up, because every moment seems like exactly the perfect one and most definitely the wrong one. Just yesterday, though, I read another story about a college-aged boy who was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female peer and given a sentence lighter than many convicted shoplifters and nonviolent drug offenders. It was just one in a long series of these stories that pass through my newsfeed. Every week, I read about girls who have been violated not only by their attackers, but by the judicial system meant to protect them. I almost typed the judicial system made to protect them, but we all know that’s not true.

This post isn’t really about those offensively imbalanced sentences, though, or the fact that the system seems to value items in a store more than the body of a woman. This one isn’t even about the crime—that horrible, tragic, but oh so common crime. This post I’ve got to get out is about how we talk about it afterward, particularly the way many well-meaning men talk about it. Because language matters. And the words we choose are connected to the root of the violence, to its societal persistence, to those careless responses.

When a story like this comes out, there’s a train of men who say, “What if this was your mother, your sister, or your wife? What would you do then?” There are more who say, “Remember she is someone’s daughter, someone’s niece, someone’s girlfriend.” Always in the possessive. Consistently, girls are being told we aren’t valuable until we’re validated by a man. We’re told our significance lies in our relationships to them—that we mean something because we are something to him.

I understand the need to place a stranger inside your own reality in order to pull out that harder-and-harder-to-find empathy. I get the desire to figure out how to relate to a seemingly unrelatable situation and why these words surface each time we face the news of another horrendous assault. It provides an entry point for people who feel like they don’t have an entry point into this conversation. I appreciate that. I appreciate the broadening of this discussion, because the more we talk about it the closer we inch toward justice, equality, and safety. But these feelings shouldn’t be our door to the issue and I’m tired of hearing it over and over again.

We are not someone’s something. Our value isn’t wrapped around the men in our lives. Our value rests in the fact that we are amazing creatures who happened to grow on this strange planet. So the next time you see a kindhearted, misguided man tweet about how we should all remember that the latest newsworthy victim is someone’s girlfriend, please gently correct him. Tell him she means something just because she is. Tell him it’s enough to say, “She is someone.”