Category Archives: Politics

Stories

It’s personal. But it’s not. I don’t know. I’m appalled that Donald Trump has been elected our next President, and that he’s already putting at least one person with white nationalist ties into his administration. I’m frightened by the apparent outbreak of bigotry, harassment and even physical attacks tied to the election.

But I’ve also been reminded more than once that this has been happening all along for black people and other marginalized groups. And we still haven’t done anything about it. It’s just more overt now. And the person who’s going to be in charge of our country is the symbolic focus of it.

How is it personal? I pass for white, Christian and heterosexual, so I’m generally safe, right?

I could tell you about my non-white, non-cis-gendered, non-heterosexual friends and family. I’m certainly worried on their behalf, but those are their stories to tell.

Here’s mine: I’m not straight. Some of you know that, or have guessed, but lots of you don’t. I identify as bisexual. I have for a long time. I’ve also been monogamously married to a man for almost 21 years. And my sexuality doesn’t generally come up in conversation, unless you want to talk about the hotness of Rachel Maddow. We can totally do that if you want.

Back when I didn’t pass, when I went around in super-short hair and a leather jacket, I got mis-gendered all the time. And I had slurs yelled at me on the street — in Berkeley! And I was afraid to talk to my family about it. I guess I still am. Thinking about writing this post was kind of terrifying. My friends and family are far braver than I am.

I’m also not strictly white. My grandmother was from the Philippines. I pass. Some of my relatives don’t.  But if, say, the government decided that only people whose grandparents were all born in the United States could vote, that would cut out me and my siblings and all of my first cousins (on both sides of the family, because my other grandmother emigrated from England), not to mention my parents, aunts and uncles.

And finally, I’m cis-gendered, but I am a woman, which isn’t an asset in the Trumpian worldview. That thing about grabbing women by the p___y? That literally happened to me in seventh grade. Some boy  in the hallway grabbed and then kept walking. I never knew who it was and didn’t know what to do.

I definitely don’t have as much reason to be afraid as some others do. But these are my stories, and they are part of why I am angry and afraid.

 

Teach Your Children

I haven’t done a post with this title yet? Good. Because today, it just fits.

If you’ve been hanging out on the internet lately, you may have noticed that there appears to be a significant segment of the U.S. population that still, consciously or unconsciously, supports racism. You don’t even have to read a Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman story to see it. You could take a look at the people who think that Marc Anthony (a born-in-the-USA American citizen of Puerto Rican descent) is not fit to sing “God Bless America” at a sporting event.

It’s horrible. And it’s not always that overt. Sometimes it’s just, as President Obama described, being followed in a department store, or crossing the street and hearing car door locks snap down, or seeing a white woman become nervous because you’re there.

But why are people still acting this way in 2013? They had to learn it somewhere, and I would guess that in most cases it begins with the parents or other primary caregivers. And I would guess that this is true about other forms of bigotry as well: religious bigotry, homophobia, and sexism for instance. And about violence — bullying, gun violence, gang violence, violence against women, even, perhaps, war.

So, parents and other adults, if we want things to change, it’s at least partly up to us. We have to be the ones to teach our children that bigotry and violence are wrong. We have to tell them, and model for them as best we can, that people are people no matter what color they are, and no matter what language they speak. We must teach them that it’s not OK to shoot or beat up other people, and that it’s not cool or funny to rape.

We also have to admit that we are not perfect at this. I know I am not. I sometimes react to people who look different, even if I keep that reaction inside. I’m not proud of it. I want to do better, and I want my children to do better. That’s something the President addressed, too — he said that Malia and Sasha and their friends are much better at not being racist than we are. I think my kids probably are, too. But what about the rest of the country? Obviously there are families and places where kids simply aren’t learning these things. Will it just take longer there? Maybe.

But you, the one reading this. I know you’re probably more likely to agree with me anyway, but let’s do what we can! If you haven’t directly talked with your kids about bigotry and violence, do it! Make sure they know that this is not the way to live. And then live the example with them.

 

Confederate History Month

This is a little off-topic, but it interests me at the moment. You’ve probably heard that Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has declared April Confederate History Month.  It’s not the first time Virginia has had this, er, celebration, but it is the first time since 2002. Some people think this is not a problem, and that they should be allowed to commemorate the history of the South in this way. Others think it’s not appropriate to celebrate a society that both practiced slavery and committed treason by rebelling against the United States of America.

I’d never thought about it much before, but Confederate history is part of my family’s history, too.  My maternal grandfather’s family originated from the southern states.  My aunt recently forwarded to me a history (written by a cousin) of my great-great-great grandfather’s Civil War service — in the Confederate army. And he’s not the only ancestor who served on that side.

I’m always interested in family history, but this case is a little different. Is it something to be proud of, or should I be ashamed? I have no idea. I don’t think I can even frame it in those terms. For one thing, I didn’t know the man, and I don’t know anyone who did (he died in 1909). So I know nothing of his motivation for fighting in the war.

Great-Great-Great Grandpa Russell served in the 42nd Regiment of the Mississippi Volunteers.  In his pre- and post-war life, he was a farmer with a wife and children (14 children with two different wives!). He never rose above the rank of Private; he was probably just one of many ordinary men in Mississippi.

No doubt Russell thought he was doing the right thing by serving in the army, whatever his reasons were. But thinking it’s so doesn’t necessarily make it right, no matter how sincere you are.

My cousin included the text of a letter Russell wrote to his wife. He wrote with obvious affection, which is good to see:

My dear Melvina I will have to close as I havnt time to rite more  I will have a chance to send this by hand by one of the 17 Miss.  I wante you to write if you pleas for I havent recvd a letter from you sence in June…

But he also says this:

I am so vary tierd of the way we have to liv lying in brest works I haven’t had but 2 clean shirts in 2 months I am vary black and dirty and stink as bad as a negrow…

Ouch.  So he clearly also shared the prejudices of his time and place in history.

And that leaves me with mixed feelings. While I certainly recognize that Russell was wrong in saying things like that (believe me, I winced while reading it), and that the Confederacy was wrong in defending slavery, I don’t hate or condemn my ancestor for it, either. And while finding out more about family history is fascinating, I don’t feel like celebrating this part of it, either.

I do have to agree with the view that it’s a good idea to know history, though. Not just so that we won’t repeat it, but so that we understand who we are as a society, and how we got to be this way.

On that note, fellow blogger Gunfighter will be taking a look at some incidents in Confederate history in a decidedly non-celebratory way. I’m interested in seeing what he has to say. You might want to take a look as well.

I Hate You, Soda Tax Lady

Hi, my name is Kathleen, and I’m a soda addict. Or a sugar and caffeine addict. Or is it the high fructose corn syrup?

Anyway, every once in a while I go soda-free. It’s occasionally lasted months at a time! But I always go back on the soda. Lately, I’ve been trying to replace the soda with homemade coffee, which worked well for a few weeks, but when I get really stressed out, I fall back on the soda every time.

And yet, I don’t really have a problem with a soda tax. I don’t think it’s necessarily the best idea for generating revenue for the government, but I’m not totally against it, either.

That’s why I find the anti-soda-tax tv commercial that’s airing right now (at least in Oregon) so laughable. Well, I alternate between wanting to punch that lady for her attitude (even though she’s just an actress) and laughing.

It makes no sense. The commercial claims that a soda and juice drink tax would be a burden on people who are just trying to feed their families.

I’m sorry, but YOU DON’T NEED SODA AND JUICE DRINKS TO FEED YOUR FAMILY!  Even I, the soda addict, know that these are luxuries.

And we’re not talking about JUICE here. Your regular orange juice, apple juice, cranberry juice, etc. would not be taxed. What they’re talking about is the juice drinks that are not 100% juice; that have sugar or high fructose corn syrup added to them.

You can feed your family without those.

Another Health Care Post, In Which I Go Chuck Norris

434px-Chuck_Norris_croppedWhen Chuck Norris popped up in my search results while I was researching the health care reform bill, my first thought was “Who does he think he is?”, followed quickly by, “But then, who do I think I am?”

Norris has decided to uncover the dirty secrets of the health care reform bill on Townhall.com. The first dirty secret is about parenting.  Norris is outraged that the government would fund “home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children.”  He thinks this is equivalent to “the government’s coming into homes and usurping parental rights over child care and development.”

Oh, Chuck.  You’re making me read the actual bill again. Hang on.  Where the heck did I put that thing? It’s over 1000 pages long, you’d think I could find it around here.

Here we go. Subpart 3, Support for Quality Home Visitation Programs. Um, I just don’t see it, Chuck. They use the exact words “voluntary home visitation.” It doesn’t say anywhere that parents shall be required to participate. And even if parents do participate, and then they find that the home visitor’s ideas of parenting don’t line up with their own, they’re free to drop out of the program.

I know, because I’ve taken part in this type of program. Shortly after our first child was born, we were told that we could have a visiting nurse come to our home to check on the baby and answer any questions we might have.  As new parents, we thought that was a great idea. The nurse weighed and measured the baby, and gave us some advice on feeding and sleeping and preventing diaper rash. We didn’t agree with all of it. We took what was useful and left the rest.

We also participated in a weekly visitor program when our baby was a little older. Someone came out once a week to see how we were doing, and provide support in any way she could.  Mostly she was someone that we could talk to about our challenges, parental, financial, etc.  – like a mini counseling session. She even brought us free diapers and baby food a few times.  When we didn’t need this any more, we dropped out.

Now, I could see arguing that the government doesn’t need to fund this. Parental support can also be provided by extended family, churches, and non-profit organizations. That’s a reasonable argument. But Norris’s argument is that the government would be taking control of our parenting decisions.  He calls this voluntary home visitation program “Obamacare’s home intrusion and indoctrination family services, in which state agents prioritize houses to enter and enforce their universal values and principles upon the hearts and minds of families across America.”  And that’s just not in this bill.

Oh, you can argue that it could happen.  The government could use this legislation as an excuse to take things further.

But that’s a big maybe. I mean, I could decide to go out and kill someone right now. But I’m not going to.  And if I did, you’d do something about it, right? Just like, if the government did become truly dangerous, I think we’d do something about it.

Instead of a reasonable argument, Norris is using scare tactics, and that’s not cool.

What will you have for us next, Chuck?

Future Health Care

The current U.S. health care system isn’t working. The health care reform bill under consideration now might help, or it might be too little too late.

Many countries use a single-payer system, which sounds good. The government collects taxes. The government pays for health care. The people pay nothing (aside from the taxes) or minimal co-pays for health care.  Everyone is taken care of.

However, there’s strong resistance to single-payer health care in the U.S., and I would now question whether it’s financially feasible on a national level.

I think that at some point in the future, health care decisions won’t be made on a national level.  I think what will work is a community-based system.

There are some existing hints of what this might look like.

The Transition Towns movement includes health care as one of the topics communities need to address in the post-peak oil era. A look at plans developed by Totnes and Kinsale in the UK shows that they’ve thought a great deal about what health care will look like and what kind of health care will be needed, but less about how this will be paid for or otherwise made available to the community.

Christian Healthcare Ministries, which I’ve heard about from Jesus-following radical Shane Claiborne, is a medical cost-sharing nonprofit organization.  Members pay a monthly amount into the program, and after a 45-day waiting period, are eligible to submit medical bills to the organization for assistance with payments. Pre-existing conditions are excluded, however (which is one of the problems with our current health insurance system). Members have a “personal responsiblility” amount they must meet each year, similar to a deductible in a traditional health insurance plan. There’s also a $125,000 lifetime limit for cost-sharing.  Could this work on a local level? You might need a certain number of people involved to make it work.

The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain, in addition to operating its cooperative businesses and schools, provides health care for its members, independently of the state.  So, people pay to be members of the cooperative, and as part of their membership benefit, they get health care.  Sounds pretty good! Again, you might need a critical mass of people involved in order to make it work.

The Co-Op Village Foundation has created a model (they hope to build an actual village soon) for cooperative villages which would include medical care for all members.  You can download their free book, which details the entire plan, but here are the basics:

-A group catastrophic health policy would be purchased to cover those who do not have entitlement health coverage.
– The Village might contract with a local medical group for primary health care for self-insurance, with X percent of the fees paid for by the Village and the balance paid by the resident. Over a period of time, the full amount might be paid by the Village.
– A pre-existing medical condition clause may be required to protect the Village from being overburdened by current catastrophic conditions. This clause probably would be required by the insurance provider but might apply to the Village self- insurance as well.

The village would also maintain access to preventative care for members, preferably on-site.  But it sounds like their plan is mainly to pay health care costs for members, rather than maintain their own health-care facilities.

That might work for a while.  I think that at some point communities will probably need to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on outside sources for medical care.  I think we’ll probably need something closer to the cooperative system, in which everyone in the community would chip in (at a level appropriate to their income) to hire medical practitioners for that community.  But that might mean that some communities couldn’t offer much more than food and housing to medical practitioners, which could result in great inequities if the doctors prefer to go where they’ll be paid more.

None of these solutions is perfect, and our future is very much in motion. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

Health Care Reform Myths

Health care is the topic in the U.S. government right now, thanks to President Barack Obama. Congress is doing the dirty work of writing up a health care reform bill, but Obama’s insisting that it be done by the end of August (because without a deadline, nothing in Washington gets done).

Government involvement in health care has been a hot-button issue in the U.S. for years — at least since Hillary Clinton tried to reform the system in the 1990’s, if not before.  Many people, especially online, become furious at the thought of government involvement in health care, or at the idea of not providing health care for all.

Part of the problem is myths and misunderstandings. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and for some people, if it’s on the internet or on the radio it must be true! So they’ll spread the misinformation further and further, until it turns into fear and anger.

Myth: The current health-care reform bill will result in government-run health care and/or socialized medicine.

Not any more than in the current system. People will still be able to keep their private and employer-paid insurance.  A public option is not government-run health care either. People would still be getting health care through private insurance companies, hospitals, clinics and physicians, like members of Congress do.  The government would not actually be running hospitals and clinics (except for the Veterans’ Administration).  They would just be paying the insurance bills.

Myth: Pages 16-19 of the current health care reform bill say that private insurance will be outlawed!

This myth is circulating right now on blogs and in blog comments. I haven’t found anything about this from a reputable media source, and I’ve also read pages 16-19 myself (you have to view it in PDF to get page numbers). Nothing in the bill outlaws private insurance. In fact, this section is all about protecting people’s existing insurance plans.

Myth: The government is going to tax our employer-paid health benefits in order to pay for this program.

I heard about this on Facebook. I’m not sure how widely this myth is circulating, but I do know that President Obama has stated that he will veto any bill that removes the tax exemption for health insurance premiums. So I don’t think there’s much chance of this happening.

There are probably more examples, but the best way to avoid falling for a myth is to do your own research. Don’t just believe what you’re told (even what you’ve read here). Get the facts. Read the actual bill. Be informed, regardless of what your opinion is. I’m not 100% in favor of this health care reform bill; I’m more a fan of single-payer health care. But I do want to know what’s going on, and I want to know the truth.

Read the full text of H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, at govtrack.us.

Nonviolence in Iran

In case you were wondering, yes, there is a nonviolent movement in Iran.  We know that the government has fired on its own people, and we’ve seen protestors who seem less than peaceful as well, but here is one call for non-violent protests.  I think they’ve probably done this for Tuesday already, although I don’t see any news reports about it.

From Ara S.:

In a message from former President Mohammad Khatami, he is inviting every person, along with their children, to walk towards the main Tehran Grand Bazaar every day at 9am. No protesting. No signs. No words. If feeling intimidated, pretend like you are window-shopping. Keep walking towards the Grand Bazaar. If we are not allowed to reach the destination, the Bazaar will be shut down. If phone lines are cut off, the Bazaar will be shut down. If they drop tear gas, the Bazaar will be shut down. No need to hold up hands in a V for victory. Just keep walking while thinking about being victorious. Mr. Mousavi, the nation does not need your martyrdom, they need your leadership.