The health of many instead of the wealth of a few: #FeeltheBern

I’ve basically never complained about this to anyone who isn’t really close to me. Once, I posted something on Facebook but I took it down out of some kind of shame. But I’m not going to hide it now. Here’s the spiel:

I have a job that I love. I love it. Every day, I look forward to going to work.

But right now, I get paid on wage payroll. It’s hard to pay rent, car insurance, child support, student loan debt, electricity, food and have something fun for my kid to do and have a few beers and cups of coffee during the week. My retirement is gone and I’m 39. My paychecks are basically always taken to the end and sometimes I have to ask my mother for help.

I have no health insurance and am lucky that I’m healthy. I’m lucky to have so many good people around me who do me favors. People who support me by paying for my vacations or let me IOU bike repairs. I’m so lucky to be in an area that is rich in natural beauty and places because it keeps me pretty healthy and happy. I’m so much more fortunate to live where I live and be as loved and supported as I am than most everyone.

I am so much more grateful than I am despondent. But…But…

Like “Middle Class Blue Collar Man,” anyone who would call me lazy would be insane. You can’t tell me to get an education: I have a PhD, have won teaching awards, research awards, writing awards, and blah blah blah. I’m fortunate that my partner works at an organic farm and I can work there too by helping at the market and work in the fields (what was that about laziness?). We eat pretty healthy.

And do not…DO NOT try to tell me that shit’s hard and sometimes you have to rise to the challenge. I love challenges. I fear them sometimes…most of the time, but I will take them on because where fear lives you grow.

There are fair challenges and there are unfair challenges. I’ll take the fair challenges (self-mastery, doing more with less) but not unfair challenges. If the world we live in were more controlled by the Koch Brothers and their policy apparatchiks, I’d be screwed worse and my whole line of work would be eviscerated. It would be nothing but unfair challenges that make money for the rich and leave people like me with less and less. Oh I suppose we can be happy living in deep poverty. Lots of people in poor places are happy. Most of them haven’t been systematically pulled into an economic system of massive personal debt for your educations and debt that eats away at your soul.

I don’t want charity. I want fair shakes. I’m at the top of the ladder for people who have a hard time. My god. What would it be like if I were a woman with a kid, black, or Muslim in this country with my challenges? Or all three? Or disabled? People like me and in much more challenging circumstances–let me repeat that…much more challenging circumstances–have herculean struggles every day for reasons that are built into this country’s socioeconomic system by design.

Do you get that? By design. This nation’s economy has been designed FOR structural inequality to keep wealthy people wealthy and help them continue to accumulate more wealth at everyone else’s expense. They talk about income redistribution. What the hell do you call a fossil fuel subsidy? I’d call that corporate welfare that benefits Rex Tillerson and his stock holders at Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers. The wealthy fossil fuel magnates can become more magnanimous at everyone else’s expense. And they don’t even have to pay for their environmental damage or the health impacts of their business model. And they can have Exxon credit cards so that we can go into debt to them more personally, as if our tax dollars weren’t enough for them.

So it’s personal for me. The Republican hacks running for president talk about freedom and initiative and responsibility. Well sirs, walk in someone else’s shoes. Mine are the nicest fitting of the poor in this country. I really do live at poverty level now. It’s time you started paying attention to what people really need instead of being led by talking bags of money.

So this is why I’m with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders​. He understands and has committed himself to acting on economic, racial, social and environmental justice. He knows that they are all connected and that they have to be connected for the health of everyone instead of the wealth of a few.

Go Bernie.

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3 thoughts on “The health of many instead of the wealth of a few: #FeeltheBern

  1. Hi, Peter – your post showed up on my facebook page via a friend of a friend, and I’m glad I got to read it.

    I am actually that woman with a kid you mention up there. I don’t have a partner, with or without farm, and yes, I get robbed every day at work. Apart from the business of attacks simply for being a single mom and dealing, even at 47, with sexual harassment at work. I’ve always had health insurance because I figured I couldn’t afford to let medical debt swallow up our house, my retirement, my daughter’s college money. Overflow budget just went to credit cards.

    I am genuinely ambivalent about Bernie. Sure, I like that he’s his own guy, and as a native New York Jew myself, I know what he’s talking about. But that’s part of the problem: I know what he’s talking about. And he’s talking about men. Workingmen. I’ve been around long enough to know that long, long after things improve for the workingman, the working woman is still out there in the cold. And that truth be told the workingman doesn’t want the things that more often benefit the working woman — salaried part-time with benefits, subsidized childcare, etc. — because it makes it harder for him to take the fulltime-overtime hero role. I also live in Iowa and go to caucuses, so I feel I have some duty to go and read the bill texts, see what the candidates support. And what I see of Bernie’s record, when it comes to women, is that he’s a reliable supporter, but he really doesn’t know or actually care what goes on in our lives, how structural sexism affects us. He seems to believe that good for the workingman is somehow, magically, a solution to the problems caused by discrimination and bigotry. I looked around more and found a thesis written by a woman who’d interned for him in the ’80s, and it sounds like that was about the case — he was okay with having a women’s group in there to deal with women’s issues (like they were some fringe thing), but to get anywhere on the agenda they essentially had to threaten his status in office. The working relationship with them was not so good.

    At 47 I’m hella tired of scratching someone else’s back only to watch him walk off and then act offended if asked when he’s going to return the favor. I really, really wish Hillary were more like Bernie in so many ways. I’m also not yet decided. But I suspect that if elected, she’ll protect my interests and my daughter’s better and much more aggressively than Bernie will.

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  2. Thanks for sharing. I think your experience is, sadly, too common. And I’m glad that you have not neglected your health insurance. Maybe writing this post will prompt me to do some reconfiguring and be as wise as you are.

    I feel a diatribe on male-dominated, profit-at-all-costs, megalomaniacal economic structures coming on but I’ll save most of it. We clearly have a major problem with the sexualization of women in every sector of our society and how men treat them, I wish things were different, know that in too many places they are not (like the places you work) and that we have to work to change them through peer pressure and policy. I am really lucky to work in an institute staffed by 2/3 women and 1/3 men and our executive director is a woman and a scientist. My pay issues aside, I hope the world becomes more like our office.

    Finally, maybe Hillary Clinton would aggressively pursue yours and your daughter’s interests as women. As a woman, it would stand to reason. But I’m not convinced that identity is destiny. People learn. As you say, Bernie’s record on women’s issue is good. He co-sponsored a Constitutional amendment for the equality of men and women.

    Cheers.

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  3. Well, for sure not all women have the problems and interests of women in mind. Carly Fiorina’s only one of many examples. I see Hillary as being not only willing but able to fight for my interests and my daughter’s because she really has made it her life’s work to do the homework on these issues and fight about them: she knows what matters, can do more than produce sympathy and well-meant rhetoric, and knows which levers are both powerful and accessible to those in office. I think she’d be an exceedingly practical president in that regard, pushing through small boring-sounding measure after small boring-sounding measure that in sum made very substantial differences in women’s lives and left us in a far more equitable position. Bernie doesn’t have that kind of background and frankly doesn’t care enough to make those kinds of unexciting but important measures a priority. He is very good at the sort of splashy “I care about women” statements that, unfortunately, don’t have legs.

    I work with women scientists in a department that is unusual in its discipline for having women as nearly 1/3 of its faculty. Nearly all of them are junior faculty, mostly assistant profs. The environment is not good for women. Relentless campaigning by the women, who’ve earned themselves a rep as insane bulgy-eyeballed feminists, has led to a senior male faculty member musing that hey, actually they don’t treat the women the same as the men. Change has not come from this revelation, as far as I can make out, and we are still having problems with male faculty preying on female graduate students.

    Identity is destiny in the sense that structural sexism sorts you and funnels you into a kind of life despite yourself. I did not ask to be a single mother in a society in which workplaces are allowed to do their best not to acknowledge realities of childrearing, which fall mainly to mothers, meaning the best that I could do for many years was to work freelance at effective wages of $15-20/hr., up all night to meet tight deadlines, getting my daughter ready for school and driving her there after yet another all-nighter. Nor did I ask to go around looking female in a society in which men hold most of the powerful jobs and give each other a pass on sexual harassment, so that if I want to keep my ridiculously poorly-paid job, I have to pretend to find harassment cute and flattering. The women scientists in my department did not ask to be in an environment in which they’re undercut and told they’re incapable and should try sleeping their way up. These things have an effect on a life, on a trajectory. You cannot simply “man up” and make lemonade. The fact that those women are on faculty at all is testament to how much lemonade they can squeeze out of lemons. But the damage — to career, to self — is still there.

    What I’m also not much interested in anymore is political situations in which people really do see such things, mean well, and say, “Gosh, that’s a shame,” but then have change so far down on their priority list that in fact nothing happens. Which is how I came to be a one-issue voter. I’ve realized that the men are not, by and large, inclined to put it up far enough on the agenda in a meaningful way to make anything change. And it matters because these things have controlled my life and look set to control my daughter’s. If she has no choice about when or whether she becomes a mother, if she’s shut out of education and labor markets by virtue of being a mother who has a poor single mother for a mom, if she’s harassed and bullied throughout her life because she’s female, then honestly idgaf about much else: it doesn’t matter how prosperous the middle class is if you aren’t free and a whole person within it.

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