Thinking Aloud: Preaching Politics

At church this Sunday, the priest used his homily to talk about voting pro-life. I’m not comfortable when politicking comes from the pulpit, but it happens regularly (and not just every four years). I’m not really crazy about singing “God Bless America” in church, but that happens regularly too. Heck, not two weeks ago, there was a voter registration drive outside the church I attended!

I’m not sure the priest would’ve summed up his homily the way I just did, and I can’t give you a run down of every thing he said, because I was in a very crowded cry room that was, as per advertised, very loud with teh cries.

But what I gleaned from what I did manage to hear was this: Voting pro-life (i.e. against abortion and euthanasia) was the single most important thing that you should do as a Catholic.

The priest did not specifically mention any candidate by name, nor did he explicitly endorse any candidate (which is something that is apparently happening in some Protestant churches this Sunday).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a single-issue voter, hence I don’t vote on abortion. If you were to put my vote in one of two piles (pro-choice or pro-life), it would end up in the pro-choice pile. And I’m resigned to that, if not wholly comfortable with it.

I think it’s easy for the Catholic church to take a pro-life stance that is consistent. The church has a variety of programs and initiatives in place that (in my opinion) make it a very pro-life organization. The church encourages and participates in social services, social justice, ministry to the poor, and stands against war, the death penalty, euthanasia, and abortion.

On the other hand, it’s hard for me to take the GOP seriously on the pro-life/family values platform they want to put forth. The Romney/Ryan budget is not, in my view, very friendly to anyone who is not rich, white, and/or male. Which, if those are your economic issues, that’s cool. Or if you do vote on abortion, gay marriage, or other social issues that are based on your religion, well have at it. The GOP may be more to your liking.

My economic interests include more than just me. I think the Democrat’s platform is more inclusive, and does more to help lift people up.

Additionally, most of the hatred that I see spewed regarding social issues seems to come from the right. I’m not saying that everyone who is conservative is hateful, and I don’t hate conservatives or Republicans. But, when the language turns negative — hateful, misogynist, racist, and so on — I’ve seen that more from the right than from liberals or Democrats. (If I’m off-base here, you can correct me.)

As a Catholic, I believe that God is love. I believe that our purpose here is to love one another — from the richest to the poorest, to a man, to a woman, to a child. Even if you don’t agree with me, I should show you love.

That’s what Jesus would do. That’s the answer to the question. Love one another.

I’ve gotten far afield here, but I think the message the priest was preaching was simplistic. My conscience leads me to vote like Catholics for Obama. If that’s not the type of pro-life Catholic my priest wants me to be, then I guess I’m doing it wrong. But it doesn’t feel like it to me.

Outrage

Dear Senior-Aged Lady on NPR,

When you say, about our President, “I don’t like him. Can’t stand to look at him” and about his wife Michelle, “It’s about time we get a First Lady in there that looks like a First Lady and acts like a First Lady,” you sound like a raging racist.

And I’m sick of it.

If you want to disagree with President Obama on his policies, I’m totally cool with that.

I’m not sure what’s to dislike about Michelle who for all intents and purposes is a stay-at-home mom with two kids who grows a garden in her back yard (granted on a larger stage than most SAHMs I know), but so be it. I’m not 100 percent sure what a First Lady is supposed to act like. They’ve been a wide range of personalities in my experience, starting with Nancy Reagan. (I don’t really have a sense of First Ladies before her.)

If you don’t like the Obamas because (and still!) because of the color of their skin, or because you think he’s a Muslim who wasn’t born in this country, you can go pound sand. That’s a load of crap. If you are outraged over his “destroying America”, you better be able to back that up, sister. There has never in my memory been a President so regularly and falsely maligned as Obama, and I don’t even mean in the media (mainstream or otherwise).

The latest whopper I heard? That Obama survived a botched abortion, and how could he be “pro death” even after that experience.

People, I didn’t even have the words.

So, I’ll repeat: If you don’t like Obama’s economic or foreign policies, go ahead and talk about that. Have some facts — there are plenty out there. But if all you can reach for is coded racist language or blatant hyperbole and lies, keep it to yourself. I’m sure you can find good, solid reasons to vote for the GOP ticket. I can’t, personally, but I’m willing to have the conversation as long as it doesn’t mention Obama’s birth certificate or allude, however obliquely, to the color of his skin. You’re just embarrassing yourself.

Sincerely,
rpm

Random Thoughts: The “Really, America??” Edition

1. Rick Santorum? Really? I mean, maybe it’ll make Obama’s landslide even more awesome in November.

I am equal parts mystified and terrified. The only coherent thought I’m having is, “Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?”

If you are a woman (and/or you are in any relationship with a woman — mother, sister, aunt, spouse, daughter), and you would like to vote for Santorum, please read that book. Thanks.

2. “Mommy Porn” should never ever have been a phrase entered into the English lexicon. It’s equal parts offensive, condescending, and silly. If you don’t know yet, that’s how the book 50 Shades of Grey is being described. The book is, apparently, an outgrowth of fan fiction from the Twilight saga (and this is how I feel about Twilight), and apparently very erotic, and apparently setting married women’s bedrooms on fire. (Not literally.)

Let me tell you what mommy porn would actually be. It would not be a book about sex (let alone BDSM sex, not that there’s anything wrong with that). (Dad, DO NOT google BDSM.) It would be a book about a husband who vacuumed and dusted *without being asked*. Or pictures of men washing dishes; having them be hot men with washboard abs and no shirts on is optional. I would get hotter watching my husband put his dirty socks in the hamper than reading a book about vaguely consensual BDSM sex between two pretty 20-somethings (one of whom starts the book as a virgin).

#justsayin

3. Adding “grief” as a diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (aka the DSM). This is less an outraged “REALLY?” and more an inquisitive “really? huh.” On one hand, grieving — even prolonged grieving — is pretty much to be expected after a significant loss (spouse/partner, parent, child, sibling, close friend). The fact that our culture doesn’t quite know what to do with a person experiencing profound grief doesn’t make the grieving person crazy. Grief, even prolonged grief, should not be patholigized (yeah, not really a word, I know).

However: If putting grief in the DSM helps someone get therapy to go through it, I would cautiously support that. (When I asked Dan about it, he said he usually classifies therapy with people experiencing profound grief as “adjustment therapy”, and he thinks putting grief in the DSM is unnecessary.) I got therapy after Gabriel died, and if nothing else, it gave me a safe place to cry uninterrupted for an hour. (It did more than that, but sometimes, that was part of what I really needed.)

4. Oh, Arizona. You crappy, crappy excuse for a state. I hope the progressives come out of the woodwork during your next election, and fire all your lawmakers.

What’s making you ask, “Really?” today?

Updated to add: 5. Pennsylvania, you better watch it. You’re going to be labeled Arizona (or Virginia maybe) North.

I am anti-abortion.

However, I am also pro-choice.

As a Catholic this is probably an untenable position. As a woman, I don’t think it is.

So.

They’re calling it the Women’s Right to Know Act.

How’s that for irony?

Here’s a petition, and here’s a link to a list of your Allegheny County representatives. You should be able to navigate around that site if you live outside of Allegheny County.

I’m going to get a really angry phone call from my parents.

Thinking Aloud: Being Catholic in America

Sometimes it’s really tough, and being a Catholic woman just adds to the fun.

Religious intolerance—as long as you are some form of Christian—is perfectly acceptable. The amount of snark I saw on Twitter yesterday about Lent was… I’ll use the word “impressive”. “Since Catholics give things up for Lent, I’m going to ADD something for 40 days.” “I’m going to develop a bad habit for the next 40 days.”

I, personally, blame Rick Santorum. He’s totally a sanctimonious twit, but I think that’s really more of a personality trait, and his Catholicism is just a convenient foil. Believe me, the Catholic church has no doctrinal position about pre-natal testing.

Actually, it’s not difficult for me to stay true to my Roman Catholic faith. What is difficult is to explain why I am still — in the face of a possible Santorum candidacy, in debates in Washington about birth control and what rights a woman has over her body, in the face of the painful child abuse crimes committed by priests and covered up by the hierarchy — a Roman Catholic.

I get reactions that range from genuine curiosity to outright scorn. I, obviously, have little patience for the latter. But I try to meet all the responses with equanimity. I guess I could keep my trap shut, and maybe people wish I would. It’s just that as a practicing Catholic woman, I feel like I have to defend my faith as well as my decision to be a part of that faith.

Let’s take the birth control debacle. The common misperception that I saw was twofold: Those dirty old men are trying to oppress women by not allowing them to have their birth control. And Catholic women obviously don’t give a fig about what those dirty old men think; 98 percent of them use birth control anyway!

I addressed the latter point a little bit, and Guttmacher issued a clarifying statement. Their “98 percent” stat referred to practicing Catholic women between the ages of 15 and 44 who had ever, even if just once, used a form of artificial birth control. It’s less Catholics Gone Wild than at a first glance.

As far as those old men trying to deny women or men or couples anything, and if you aren’t Catholic, you may not understand this, but: Our God is a God of Yes.

SECOND READING: 2 Corinthians 1: 18 – 22

18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.
19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, Silva’nus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes.
20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God.
21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us;
22 he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

I understand that on the face of things, it doesn’t look that way. But God didn’t just give us a list of stuff to NOT do. He (She, It, Turtle) instructed us in things to do: Love thy neighbor. Take care of the poor. Marry and be faithful. Be open to having children. Learn and educate.

Catholics understand we have free will, and that’s why plenty of couples will choose to use artificial birth control. In my opinion, the hardest prayer is the Our Father. The hardest thing God tells us to do: to have strong enough faith that HIS will be done. But that is what we are asked to do. How do we know God’s will? By reading the Bible and going to Mass. By praying and listening to the small, still voice.

I saw a couple of tweets last week about those dirty old men, as well, that invoked me to respond directly. Two people were very respectful about it; one person I had to block. That was a first. As far as pedophile priests go: It is a horrible crime that haunts the church to this day, and rightfully so. But the rate of pedophilia in the priesthood is lower than that in the general population. Men don’t become priests because they want to abuse young children — you may as well say that men have children so they can become pedophiles. So please don’t rant about old men who abuse children. That doesn’t define priests.

As far as the Catholic church changing its position on artificial birth control: I don’t expect that it will change. It relates directly to the idea that we should do God’s will, and that our actions (abstaining from artificial BC in this case) should reflect that. It’s not about the oppression of women, although I understand why it looks that way.

As a final note, I would like you to understand one last thing: I don’t want to make you Catholic. I don’t want to force my moral and religious choices on you, especially via the political realm. And I don’t want anyone else to do that either; and I don’t want people to force their moral imperatives on me. This, too, speaks directly to the idea of free will and religious freedom. It’s not about obeying the rules so you don’t go to hell. It’s about loving so much and so fully, that you want to do God’s will.

I could go on (and on) about my faith. It has sustained me through some very difficult times, and it has helped me to celebrate very joyful times. I cannot turn away from it or deny it — I can’t even be quiet about it because it fills me so. I’ll just leave you with two other things. One is my favorite prayer, and the other a video that a friend sent to me via Twitter. I was moved by it. “This is why I’m Catholic,” I thought. And I’m not afraid to let anyone know that.

The prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 

to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

“What makes this religion great is not errors of wars or inquisition.
It’s that broken men and women get to participate in his mission.”

Thinking Aloud: The Fight About Birth Control

It seems to me that the GOP is willing to wage a war over the bodies of women because of the complete absence of a sensible economic plan on their part. It’s the election-year “culture war” for 2012. (Next up, gay marriage! So 2008.)

Hey, yo, GOP: solve the economy. (You, too, Dems. And don’t bother engaging with the GOP on the birth control issue. Have better ideas for the economy. That’s going to win the election. Hint: Clintonomics.)

I was glad to see President Obama change tact on the birth control mandate for Catholic institutions. Unlike chocolate and peanut butter, politics and religion do not mix well.

People are going to do things with their bodies that other people are not going to agree with. They aren’t going to agree with others’ choices because of religion, aesthetics, moral and ethical reasons that have nothing to do with religion, and just because they find such things distasteful and/or icky.

Too bad. People can’t outlaw all the things that other people do with their bodies. Consensual sex between adults is legal. Artificial birth control is legal. Practicing religion is legal. Having big families, small families, and choosing to remain child-free are all legal. Tattoos are legal. Abortion — despite the fact that many, many people are anti- it — is legal. (Yes, I’m against abortion. I believe in my heart that it is murder. However it is legal.)

As to the Catholic church, and the Council of American Bishops (okay, I don’t know if it’s actually called that): Look, I understand that you are toeing the line regarding artificial birth control and abortion. For the record, I toe the line on those things, too.

However, you gotta work on your delivery. First of all don’t conflate artificial birth control and Plan B medication with abortion. It’s tempting to do, but the science just doesn’t bear you out. Quit doing it.

Second of all, you keep toeing that line, but try to demonstrate compassion and understanding for the Catholic couples who decide to go ahead and use artificial birth control to plan their families. Pray for them if you must. But try not to look like a bunch of paternalistic, condensing, “father knows best” bunch of dunderheads. Pray for every baby to be a wanted baby.

Third: get off Capitol Hill. Just walk away. You don’t want government in your religion? That’s cool. A lot of people, including religious people like me, don’t want religion in their politics. We don’t want a theocracy. A lot of us want a government that defends us, helps us educate our children, provides safe infrastructure, and (speaking for myself) looks out for the little guy/gal (i.e. provides a social safety net). If government leaves you — us! — in peace to practice our religion the way we want to, then I think we should let government do the things it does best, too. (Although, granted, some days I’m not 100% sure what that is.)

++

Minor asides:

First: Stop throwing around the 98% of Catholic women use BC stat. It’s inaccurate. About 68% of fertile Catholic women between the ages of 15 and 44 choose to use artificial birth control (that’s in the Guttmacher study, if the media had read it better and reported it accurately). Updated to add: Huh. I stand corrected. Thanks, Politifact.

Second: IT’S NOT JUST WOMEN USING BIRTH CONTROL. In best-case scenarios, women and men together in loving committed relationships have talked about their options and made their choices. M’kay? It’s not just a women’s issue. Sex, birth control, parenting, and abortion affect men, too. Updated to add: Men shouldn’t be the only people talking about it on Capitol Hill. *facepalm* Really, Congress?

Thinking Aloud: Equal Opportunity

As I mentioned recently, I follow politics. Usually to the detriment of my blood pressure.

And here’s the epiphany I had yesterday as I was driving home (I have a lot of drive-time epiphanies): I don’t really understand how Republicans expect — if they expect — to close the humongous gap between poor people and rich people. The middle class is shrinking, and I just don’t understand how Republicans propose to end that. If they even care.

Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure how the Democrats propose to close this gap decisively in the long-term either (or if *they* care). I am in the camp (is there a camp?) that firmly believes that government aid is an unsustainable solution in the long term.

Anyhoo, here’s where my mind went:

To Michael.

Let’s do a comparison of Michael and, say, two other babies born in America on December 1, 2010.

The other two babies are, for the purposes of this exercise, an African American boy and an Hispanic girl.

Michael is the son of two white, college educated, married people. We are in the still viable middle class, although, as much of the still-viable middle class, rather in debt. Some of the debt is good (i.e. a mortgage we can afford); some not so good (but shrinking — i.e. credit card debt). We are currently employed; we have employer-subsidized health care; we are sending our children to private school. Seems to me, Michael has some pretty good prospects ahead of him, due to no more than his situation at birth.

(I realize that this could all change, literally in a heartbeat, and the way we raise our son — so that he stays healthy, doesn’t choose to do drugs, doesn’t have a child out of wedlock, etc. — will all factor in as Michael gets older. That is, how our choices and Michael’s choices will factor into whether or not he continues to thrive, and even possibly becomes wealthy, is still a crap shoot. But the baseline is fairly solid, I’m thinking.)

Now, the other two babies in this hypothetical situation, by simple dint of their births, may not be on the middle class baseline. Maybe our African American boy is born to a single mother already living on social aid. Maybe she is working three jobs to provide for her child or children — at least so they can be fed and clothed. She’s not there to help with homework; she’s depending on the public school system to educate her child, etc., etc. Totally different situation from Michael’s.

And our girl. Maybe she’s the child of immigrants, illegal or otherwise. Maybe her parents are married, but live below the poverty line because of their immigrant status.

So, it seems to me these other babies start off at a disadvantage.

What — if anything — equalizes those disadvantages? As much as I would love to believe the myth of “hard work” alone and “pulling oneself up by his/her bootstraps”, I have my doubts. Michael’s education, if we are able to continue to send him to private school in a safe neighborhood (knock on wood) is going to be better. (Feel free to argue this point, respectively of course — I’m not trying to assert anything, I’m really trying to explore the question.) By seeing the examples that we, his parents, provide for him, he is likely to be a hard worker, loving and respectful toward others, and, probably, religious.

There are other advantages, too, like those of genetics, those of environment. If Michael gets sick, we don’t have to worry about taking him to the doctor. I mean, we just consented to have ear tube surgery — right there, he’s got an advantage over a poor, Hispanic girl who also may be plagued with ear infections, but unable to get the treatment that will stop them and, in the long run, contribute to successful language development and learning.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea, right? How do these children end up in the middle class, or end up wealthy, as business owners for example? From where Michael starts, it seems like a not-difficult climb to me. But for these other two babies… I don’t know, I have my doubts about the obstacles they may have to face through no fault of their own.

I no more want a governmental nanny than I want anarchy. From where I am standing, Republican policies look cruel, and Democratic policies look naive (or idealistic). But neither set looks particularly helpful to those other two babies, and potentially none of them is good in the long run for all three.

Oh, Rick

If you follow politics at all (and I, unfortunately, do), you may have seen Rick Santorum come under fire for being a hypocrite.

The charge stems from the pro-choice left and pro-choice feminists who accuse Santorum of exercising a right for his wife (late term abortion) that he would take away from other women. He would, frankly, outlaw all abortions if he could, even in the cases of preserving the health or life of the mother.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like Rick Santorum. The term used in a conversation on Twitter was “theocratic neocon”, and I think that is spot on. Even as a Catholic, I don’t like that much religion in my politics. I’d like to see the end of social conservatism as it is practiced in American politics today. I don’t think government should be involved in personal, medical, or sexual decisions that adults make.

That Santorum, and by extension his wife Karen, is under fire for a medical decision — a choice — that he and his wife were facing when Karen was pregnant with their son Gabriel, distresses me mostly because of what is being overlooked. And that is the lost baby, and the bereaved parents.

I don’t need to go on and on about how awful, how absolutely devastating it is to lose a child. I’ve covered that pretty well here.

I am sorry the Santorums lost a baby. I am sorry that they faced a difficult medical decision (to induce labor so Karen could deliver her 20-week-old baby). Due to a number of circumstances (medical problems the baby had, fetal surgery, and a uterine infection), Karen was literally dying when these medical decisions had to be made. She went into pre-term labor, and Gabriel was delivered. He died two hours after his birth.

It’s a sad story that has been dragged out because of Santorum’s politics. That makes me sadder. Because those in the media who would use this to disparage Santorum’s politics, in my opinion, just look ugly. It’s a dead baby; it’s a woman who suffered more than I can imagine (and, hello!); it’s a husband and father who were facing not just the loss of his son, but the loss of his wife — his partner, his love, and mother to his other children.

No one should have to face that, or make the choice that Karen and Rick (almost) had to make. But it does happen, couples do have to face that — not often, but often enough — and, yes, Santorum should have no say in what other women and other couples decide.

Regardless, my heart goes out to the Santorums for the loss of their son. I do know how that feels. It’s the worst feeling in the world. And it can’t help that they have to revisit it now in the glare of the spotlight. I’m sad for them.

And, that is all.

[updated to add:]

So I went ahead and forgot about the part where certain people were also denigrating the Santorums for taking Gabriel home to show him to their children.

This was how Karen and Rick decided to help their children grieve the death of their brother.

It’s also not very much of anyone’s business.

Janet, at Love Is Blonde, wrote a very powerful post about her reaction to some of the media reaction, and their characterization of the Santorums’ actions as gross or creepy.

It made me remember holding my Gabriel. I should’ve held him longer too.

I remember my brother — who was still at the hospital at 2 a.m., when Gabriel was finally delivered, who was already a father two times over, most recently of a boy born a month before Gabriel — who came into the room, and took my son into his arms, and *rocked* him. Even though my son was dead, my brother held and rocked him just as he would’ve had Gabriel been alive.

The next morning, before we left the hospital, I asked to see Gabriel again. I undressed him, and cried some more over his small, still, perfect body. Maybe that strikes you as gross or morbid or creepy.

My son was a real baby. And I needed to see and touch him, so that I would never forget it. If I had had other children at the time, I think I would’ve wanted them to see Gabriel too. As it is, we visit his grave. Flora and Kate know he existed (Michael, obviously, is unaware as of yet).

I don’t think the Santorums did anything wrong.

There, I guess *that’s* all.

Random Thoughts: The Day After Edition

This makes me feel a little better: “In exit polls, 37 percent [of people voting] said the highest priority of Congress should be ‘spending to create jobs.’ The nearly equal priority was reducing the budget deficit, which 37 percent said was their No. 1 goal.”

Of course, there’s that “spend more, but reduce the deficit” contradiction that “we the people” keep saying we want. “More services, but smaller government!” When are “we” going to learn that we can’t have it both ways?

I sincerely hope the new majority hears this [emphasis mine]: “Repealing health care [reform] is not a priority. 48 percent want to repeal it, but almost the same number want to expand it or leave it the same. Still, it’s just not at the top of their lists. 62 percent said the economy was the most important issue facing the country. Only 18 percent said that of health care. Only 39 percent of the country believes Congress should expand the Bush tax cuts for everyone, another top GOP action item. John Boehner now has the task of pushing these tricky priorities with a caucus made up of many new members who came to Washington promising to be uncompromising.” Good luck with that, John.

See  the whole article here.

This worries me a little bit (from a different article at Slate.com):
“As to his own agenda, Boehner offered only the vaguest boilerplate: ‘cutting spending,’ ‘reducing the size of government,’ and ‘giving government back to the people.’ Instead of clarifying these terms, he repeatedly promised to ‘listen’ to voters and do their bidding. ‘The people’s priorities will be our priorities, and the people’s agenda will be our agenda,’ he said. ‘We are humbled by the trust that the American people have placed in us. And we recognize that with this trust comes the responsibility to listen, and listen we will.’”

EEK. Has Boehner been listening to the people? They’re incoherent!

Anyhoo, to sum up my own feelings about these here midterms:

1. I don’t think we gave President Obama or the Democratic congress enough time to right the wrongs of the previous administration.
2. I still really like our President. A lot.
3. He did, actually, get a lot of shit done. I like Mom-101′s take on it. To sum her up: “Policy over politics. Man, I wish we had more of that around here.” (And I also like Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson’s thoughtful article. I think it’s the thoughtfulness of it.)
4. If I hear one more person say, “They rammed health care reform through” after it took 18 months of crafting and compromise, Ima hurt something.
5. WHERE WERE ALL THE YOUNG’UNS who came out to vote in 2008? Maybe someone should have explained to them how important it was TO KEEP ON VOTING. (Okay, to be informed and keep on voting.) It’s not a one-time deal, or something they only have to do every four years in Presidential elections. Someone get on that, okay? Thanks.

Upshot: We now have a Congress that is going to have to work with the President. Or face the voters’ wrath over broken government all over again in two years. We now have a President who is going to focus on what the Republicans say they are interested in working on (smaller government, spending cuts, deficit reduction). They have claimed these issues; now let’s see how serious they are.

At least Boehner isn’t claiming a mandate, as Gingrich did in 1994. That gives me hope.

I also confess: I am already itching to vote Toomey out. I can’t believe I have to wait six years. Corbett I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Pennsylvania is the land of moderate governors, regardless of party (See: Tom Ridge, Bob Casey), so I’ll go with the flow on this one.

Health Care Reform Revisited

Yesterday, several pieces of the new health care reform law — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — went into effect. To wit:

  • The part where adult children can stay on their parent’s (or parents’) plan until they are 26;
  • The part where children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health care coverage;
  • The part where an insurer cannot cancel insurance when someone files a claim;
  • The part where there are no more caps on benefits a person can receive in a lifetime;
  • The part where insurers can’t charge for preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies;
  • The part where high-risk pools are created for people who have been denied coverage because they have pre-existing conditions.

(I like this graphic from the New York Times that will keep tabs on and grade the progress of health care reform. It’s simple, straightforward, and clear.)

Democrats up for election in November are running away from this law. “I didn’t vote for it. Nope, not me.”

Republicans are vowing to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (not that they call it that; they call it Obamacare — just so their constituents aren’t mislead). John Boehner of Ohio says the law ruins the “best health care system in the world.”

Really, Rep. Boehner? The system that leaves sick people out, that leaves up to 36 million people without coverage, that raises prices every year? The system that makes small businesses agonize over being profitable or insuring their workers? The system that puts seniors — who arguably use the most healthcare and prescription drugs of any other demographic — into a “donut hole” wherein they have to decide to buy their medicines or food until they get out of the hole? That “best system in the world”?

I wonder what parts of the law opponents want to repeal the most. The six elements listed above? If I were the parent of a recent college graduate (not yet I’m not!) or the parent of a chronically ill child (knock on wood that I’m not), I’d be pretty steamed about that. If I were a person with a pre-existing condition without insurance, I’d be pretty happy to throw my hat into a high-risk pool and buy some insurance knowing I couldn’t be denied. And angry if someone wanted to continue to deny me good health.

(Technically, since I’m pregnant, if I had to switch coverage or buy coverage now, I would count as someone with a pre-existing condition. And I could instantly and easily be denied. Because I’m PREGNANT. Which is the party of “family values” again?)

As you can probably sense from the tone of this post, I could just scream.

I know that jobs are still lacking. Poverty rates are high. I know that the economy still sucks. I thank God every day that my husband and I are both working; that we have health insurance, the majority of which my employer pays. Technically speaking, we’ve come out of the recession (that started in 2007), but it doesn’t look like it from the trenches. I get it; I do — the anger against the administration (the fear and vitriol, I don’t get), the (perennial) calls for change in Washington.

But I just don’t understand how going backwards will help us going forward. The Bush tax cuts haven’t worked to cut the deficit or create jobs for the past 10 years. How would extending them cut the deficit or create jobs in the next ten years? (And don’t get me wrong, I like me some tax cuts. Is it wrong to hope they just let the tax cuts for the rich expire?) How does the Republican’s Pledge to America fix anything? (Answer: it doesn’t.)

In conversations I have been having, both virtually and IRL, a number of people have expressed frustration regarding the upcoming midterms. Their frustrations are similar to mine, and among them are: Why can’t the Democrats win? Why do they give every appearance of being stymied and ineffective?

My answer: Because Dems are independent thinkers (good) who want to hold onto their jobs (not necessarily good). The Republicans will work together (with each other) to block, stymie, filibuster, and otherwise say NO to any idea of the administration. They will, to a man or woman, use inflammatory language, a conservative social agenda, scare tactics, and misleading statements/statistics to justify their position. They walk in lockstep to stay in power. And it works. (The Tea Party may disrupt this trend; we’ll see.)

Plus, Nancy Pelosi is really not that likable.

I haven’t given up on the Democrats in November. But we have to go vote. HAVE to. We cannot sit at home and let our country, our economy, our future, go backwards. I know the recovery has been slow. My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck, just like so many of you.

Don’t give up and don’t stop watching the news. Educate yourself and educate others —  don’t fight with them, educate them. If they won’t listen, there’s not much you can to, it’s true. But don’t fight; don’t add to the nastiness.

An ‘R’ vote in November (or a Tea Party vote) for so many of us would be voting against our economic self interest.

I wish everyone could see that. I do.

My Naivete is Probably Showing

Here’s the thing.

I’ve read and watched a lot about this rally Glenn Beck had last Saturday, mostly because I’m curious. People are fascinated by Beck (or repulsed by him, take your pick). As with so many figures in public life today, he seems to be incredibly polarizing.

My FIL loves Beck. He watches him religiously. We talked briefly about the “Restoring Honor” rally that took place over the weekend.

“He’s the real deal,” my FIL said.

“But the real deal of what?” I asked. “He’s really a successful TV and radio commentator. He’s good at his job. Beyond that, I don’t know what his motivations are.” And I didn’t say it to be argumentative. Beck, much like conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, has a fanatical following — which is fine. Each to their own and all.

Beck has said himself that he’s in entertainment, not politics. The tenor of the Restoring Honor rally seems to back that up.

The point of the rally seems to be that Glenn Beck wants to bring religion “back” to this country.

Theoretically, I have no problem with this. In practice though, I don’t know 1) that religion needs to be brought back to this country and 2) what that looks like.

Let’s take, for example, prayer in schools, which one of the attendees mentions in this video from the rally. (Some people seem pretty reasonable here, and some scare the poop out of me, but, again, to each his own.)

Okay, so we all decide we want “prayer back in school.” Well, most of us want that. A vocal minority of parents of children in public schools do not want prayer in public schools because they themselves are atheists or agnostics or — I don’t know — Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons (like Glenn Beck!).

Since I like the idea of prayer in school, I have actually elected to send my girls to a private, Catholic school, so they can learn about our religion alongside of computer, science, English, math, and Spanish. I don’t know how we reconcile prayer in public school. I think kids who want to pray or have a Bible club/class should have that option. (I find it hard to believe that kids raised in religious households don’t say some silent prayers before pop quizzes or lunch periods they share with bullies, public school or no.) It’s true, though, that I don’t think prayer should be imposed on anyone. I have distinct memories of the one or two non-Catholic students in my high school being excused from school masses without any fuss on anyone’s part (as far as I knew).

Also, the idea that we have to “get this country back to the principles on which it was founded”? Good in theory, maybe not so much in practice. Our country was founded by landed white men, many of whom owned slaves and didn’t think women should have rights outside of the home, and they were very particular about separating church from state — primarily because they didn’t want the STATE to suppress the practice of RELIGION. Freedom OF religion is what’s in the Constitution, not freedom FROM religion. That’s been quite taken out of context lately — I don’t really know when that started, taking prayer out of public school or the realm of government in general, but this brings me back to the fact that I have the choice to send my children to a school where they are not only free to practice the religion I am raising them in, but encouraged to do so. And beyond that I can vote for whom I choose and practice whatever religion I choose. Those two things are not in any way contingent upon each other.

Finally, America rebelled against England because they protested the idea of “taxation without representation”. Well, for good or ill, we have representation out the wa-hoo now. Every year brings us some type of election or another, from local school boards to state governorships to our national leaders in Congress and the White House.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, I truly don’t. But it’s been making my  head hurt for the better part of two days now, thinking about it. My FIL doesn’t like the direction in which this country is moving, and I read and see a lot of fear about America becoming a “socialist” country, and of course, there are people who STILL think Obama is a Muslim — and they are not just backwater racist people; guys, there is a higher percentage of independent voters who now believe Obama is a Muslim than when he was running in 2008. (He’s not, by the way. Has everyone forgotten the brou-haha over Rev. Jeremiah White?) And don’t get me started on the Islamic center in Manhattan, which will have a mosque in it. Just don’t.

I voted for Barack Obama, and I am not sorry I did. I think he’s doing the best he can with what he has. He’s inherited a mess, and he’s trying to get this country out of it. It’s true that it’s not going so well so far, and on top of he economic crisis he was handed, he’s had an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that is siphoning a lot of resources away from his administration. He’s gotten combat troops out of Iraq, and he’s still working on the war in Afghanistan. He knows that al-Queda — not Islam — is the enemy. I still have the highest respect for him because I think he is smart and because I think he wants the best for ALL of America.

People truly believe he and his administration are ruining this country ON PURPOSE. And I don’t get that at all. I don’t understand the Tea Party and Mama Grizzlies, or for that matter, liberals who don’t think Obama’s doing enough. What more do you want him to do? Really? He’s not a super hero; he’s just a really smart guy who’s (again) doing the best with what he’s got.

See? No idea where I’m going. I don’t understand political discourse in this country any more. Or what passes for “discourse”. I don’t know how to fix what’s broken; that is why I vote for the leaders I do. That’s their job. I truly pick the people I think can do the best job. We don’t have a great political system, but we have the best political system in the world. I wish it weren’t two-party because I think that truly limits “we the people” and our voices.

Anyway, I’m going to publish this in all its incoherent glory. If you have something to say, go for it.