No, Trump Protesters Aren’t Entitled Sore Losers in Need of Participation Trophies

solidarity-caroleshowWe are not pouting because your candidate won. We are not butthurt because our* candidate lost.

We are not entitled sore losers in need of participation trophies.

We haven’t been hired by George Soros or his minions. Many protests have been organized by everyday women of every age and from every walk of life from across the country. Intelligent, socially aware millennials are organizing as well. Dare I say that they’re more aware of how the world works than many people twice their age (BTW if you believe that millennials are uninformed slackers, you need to meet some of the ones I know! I’ll be happy to introduce you).

We aren’t protesting because we’re immature or afraid of losing free stuff.

We are protesting against abhorrent, un-American ideologies that your candidate boldly and enthusiastically espoused. Ideologies which were enthusiastically embraced (or excused, if that makes you feel better) by his supporters.

Bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and promises to strip certain citizens of their rights will not be tolerated. Ridiculing the disabled, insulting and attacking veterans and their families will not be justified. Sexual assault will not be normalized as *things guys say*. Trump’s words weren’t simply crass, they were boastful admissions of sexual assault. Those are just a few of the reasons we’re protesting.

If you take nothing else from this, please know that our protests are not frivolous nor are they, at their core, about a candidate.

Quite the contrary.

We are standing in UNITY with those who feel voiceless and legitimately frightened. We are UNITED against hate and for equal rights and justice for all. We are working to stem the pervasive ugliness – directly related to Trump’s words – that too many of our fellow citizens have experienced on Main Street, USA, especially in the days since the election.

In a country that constantly proclaims ALL LIVES MATTER, many citizens have been told in no uncertain terms that their lives DON’T matter. I hope I’m never able to *get over it*, *move on*, or be silent when I know of injustices against others – especially those who look or believe differently than I do.

I beseech ALL Trump supporters to publicly denounce the hatred being spewed in their name (the same way all Muslims are expected to denounce acts of terrorism).

I especially implore my Christian friends who support Trump to denounce the words and the behavior.

Please stop calling those who are legitimately frightened *whiners* and *wussies* because they feel they need safe spaces or allies. They aren’t weak, spoiled, or entitled. THEY BELIEVE THEIR LIVES ARE IN DANGER and that belief is proving itself to be true.

They feel unsafe because the man who will soon be the leader of OUR country spent 18 months fueling fear and hatred. Many have been treated horribly for years, but harassment and aggression toward them has grown exponentially in the last months and days. They feel unsafe because this election has empowered those who carry hatred in their hearts to openly and aggressively act upon it. Women feel unsafe because your candidate bragged about sexually assaulting women. His election has given entitled, abusive men license to do the same (and, no, they don’t have to be stars to believe they have the right to grab a p***y).

You say that’s not how you believe, that you condone none of those things.

Prove it.

That’s right. I challenge you to prove that you stand against the rhetoric and actions of your fellow Trump supporters and Trump himself.

Boldly and publicly condemn the hatred and bigotry that your candidate – and, by extension, your vote – has normalized and justified. I want to believe you when you say that you don’t condone those ideologies, but a large portion of Trump supporters live by them (and you know that!). Tell them that this is not what Trump supporters stand for . And Trump must emphatically do the same.

Like it or not, these people are speaking for you.

Silence is complicity. We need to hear your voices loud and clear.

We need to know that hatred or fear of *the others* wasn’t a motivating factor in your choice of candidate. We need you to look around, acknowledge what is happening, and join us in standing against it.

Ask yourself this question: If it were your sister or brother, daughter or son feeling fearful, would you respond with “Suck it up, buttercup!” or would you stand up against the hate to which they’re being subjected?

Show the world that ALL lives really do matter to YOU.

*Full Disclosure: I’m a former devout Hillary Clinton supporter, but she was not my candidate in this election. I have my issues with her, but nothing she’s done is any more egregious than every other president or secretary of state for at least the last 50 years. I couldn’t, in good conscience, support a man who is endorsed by the KKK, employs known white supremacists, and has said and done such frightening things. Yes, we need change desperately, but we can’t afford to normalize and sanction unabashed hatred.

Once you’ve denounced the hate and aggression, I sincerely want to hear which of Trump’s policies were so desirable that you could overlook his dangerous ideologies and self-admitted sexual assault. I don’t say that facetiously. I genuinely need to know.

Please feel free to leave a comment below.

And, by all means, feel free to denounce the hate in the comments below.

 

Obamacare Rising: Conservatives Are Gleeful Yet Outraged as Millions May Lose Healthcare Coverage

obamacareWe’ve now learned what was already obvious: Costs for health insurance policies purchased through the marketplace, and made possible by the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), will increase significantly in 2017. And there will be fewer options and likely less coverage.

Insurance companies say they’re raising costs and cutting options because there were more sick people than they’d expected. No kidding. What else could you expect when millions of people hadn’t been able to afford preventive care for years, some for decades?

I seriously doubt this was a surprise to the insurance companies. They knew how many people (and procedures) they’d excluded over the years. They knew how many uninsured/under-insured people there were. They also knew that those people would be the perfect scapegoats for raising rates, cutting options, and pulling out of marketplace policies. So they did.

Cue conservative glee…

Conservatives across the country are high-fiving each other over this news.

“I told you so!”

“It’s been a failure from the start!”

“I told you it was only a matter of time before it all fell apart!”

“All you liberal ACA supporters sure are quiet now that your boy’s plan has been proven a failure!”

“This proves that Obama and Obamacare are failures!”

Blah, blah, blah. Same song, 60th verse.

Well, congratulations, conservatives.

You win.

You got what you wanted.

How does it feel to win when winning means that millions of your fellow Americans may lose their healthcare coverage, including many whose policies didn’t come through the marketplace?

How does it feel to win when winning means that even you might find the cost of health insurance to be prohibitive before long?

I guess all that really matters is that you were right. Obama and his flagship policy are failures. And, more importantly, you predicted it. Give yourselves a big ol’ pat on the back, conservatives. Now we’re all going down in flames together.

But it’s not all high fives and hallelujahs, is it?

Let’s not forget the (misdirected) outrage…

Since the initial ACA rollout, conservatives have been up in arms about everything from website malfunctions to rising premiums and deductibles, and anything else they could point to as a failure of both the president and the ACA. Like all those “lazy” people, who surely don’t deserve it, getting insurance on MY dime (many don’t seem to realize that not everyone with marketplace policies get subsidies and everyone has to pay something, based on their income).

And you know whose fault it is?

Obama’s, of course.

In all the conversations I’ve had in person or on social media over the years there’s one thing I’ve yet to hear even ONE conservative say: Congress should’ve done something to make this better for all of us.

Literally, not one conservative I know, not one conservative pundit, not one conservative elected official has ever held Congress or insurance companies accountable for their part in this fiasco.

In every conversation the fault lies exclusively with Obama. Never once have I heard one of my conservative friends give a nanosecond’s consideration to the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress has done NOTHING to improve the ACA or even come up with a plan to replace it. Their sole goal has been to repeal it or watch it fail. All the money and time spent trying to repeal it could’ve been more productively spent working together (reaching across the aisle – gasp!) to create a different plan or improve what was already in place.

Don’t like what’s in this plan or the way it was instituted? Cool. Show us how you’d get 14 million people (or, better yet, every American) insured and attempt to make it affordable. Oh, you’re not sure how to do that? No worries. Just make suggestions (even just one would be super helpful!) as to what you’d change that would benefit ALL Americans.

THEY’VE. GOT. NOTHING.

And, why, after all these years do they still have nothing? Because conservatives preferred to focus on shortcomings of the ACA rather than demanding their elected officials come up with an alternative. Because Republican lawmakers convinced their supporters that the ONLY alternative was to repeal Obamacare and… Oh wait, there is no and. Once their supporters had their pitchforks out for Obamacare, Republicans were free to sit back and watch as those with marketplace policies were slowly but surely forced to give up their long-awaited, much-needed policies. If some stalwart conservatives should lose coverage, too? No biggie. They knew that their constituents wouldn’t blame them for doing nothing; they’d blame Obama for trying to do something.

Their constituents are nothing more than collateral damage to them. Congress still has their awesome, affordable coverage. Who cares if healthcare for all other Americans goes to hell in a handbasket? They can rest easy knowing they made Obama look like a failure.

Where is the outrage toward Congress? Toward the insurance companies? Why is conservative outrage directed solely at the president?

And why is it more important to see Obamacare fail than it is to work to make it better? Or, if it can’t be salvaged, create a system that does work?

Is it better to be right than to do right?

I understand what motivates Congressmen/women to be obstructionists, but I don’t understand the motivations of people who applaud them for doing nothing, place all the blame on the president, and cheer the fact that millions of Americans will, once again, have no healthcare (and that their own policies will likely cost more!).

Trump promises to repeal Obamacare on Day 1. He’ll expand choice, freedom (oh brother), and affordability. How exactly? And when will the new plan take effect? I haven’t heard him say, but I’m sure it’ll be great (!). It’ll be the best plan ever! He would take office in ~3 months, but he can’t articulate his plan? And his supporters are okay with that? We’ll just let him figure it out after he throws 14 million Americans off the bus.

Talk about death panels.

Americans are quick to throw out the adage, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’, but do we truly grasp the depth of that concept? When one of us hurts, we all hurt. Or at least that’s how it should be (especially when this is supposed to be a “Christian nation”).

What happens when 14 million people are uninsured again? What happens when insurance companies can once again deny coverage for those of us with pre-existing conditions? What happens when insurance companies are no longer are mandated to spend 80% of premium dollars on claims and improving healthcare quality? What happens when it comes to your front door? Because you will be affected directly or indirectly.

We will all suffer.

More tax dollars paying for indigent patients. More people going bankrupt due to healthcare costs. More Americans dying from untreated illnesses. More people needing assistance in every way because of outrageous medical bills. Worse and more expensive coverage for everyone.

I wish I could understand how this is acceptable, but I can’t.

But seriously, congratulations, conservatives.

You win.

Or maybe we all lose.

Hillary and Bill Just Don’t Get It (Or Maybe They Just Don’t Care)

presidential-1311753_960_720I won’t go into all the reasons I support Bernie over Hillary; that would require much more than a blog post. Instead I’ll focus on why Hillary and her surrogates (especially Bill) are, themselves, doing more damage to her campaign than any Bernie supporters could hope to do.  The condescension, arrogance, and sense of entitlement are insulting to say the least. For instance, Bill recently laughed as he said to some hecklers that they should “have fun” because “they’ll be toast in November.” Really? That’s your idea of bringing us into the fold? And this is hardly the most dismissive thing anyone has said.

I supported Bernie before most outside of Vermont knew who he was. I supported the Clintons longer than that. Months ago, my feeling was that if Bernie didn’t get the nom, no worries…Hill was there. In spite of her baggage, she’d be my choice. Liberals were lucky to have two great candidates while conservatives had 243 bad ones. Regardless of how I now view Hillary, on the surface her platform was much closer to my worldview than any conservative candidate.

But then things began to get ugly.

Millions of women like me were essentially scolded by two feminist icons for daring to support a male candidate when there was a female alternative – especially when that alternative was Hillary Clinton. This is possibly the most anti-feminist message any feminist has ever espoused. And to condescend to and attempt guilt millions of women in such a way was disgraceful. It was that day that the arrogance and entitlement of the Clintons began to show itself so much that I, someone who’d supported them for decades, could no longer overlook it.

Then, state after state reported various, often multiple, forms of voter suppression and outright fraud and NO ONE on Hillary’s side spoke up. I began to wonder why. If she’s so certain she’s the winner, why not call for all questions to be answered? That’s what I expect from my candidate because, well…integrity.

When Bernie supporters questioned these irregularities, we were derided, told we were sore losers,  told this has happened election after election and we should get over it…that’s just the way things are. That’s the problem, people! This shouldn’t be the way things are. The fact that we’re so complacent to a system that we know isn’t working for us is baffling. We now look at voter suppression and fraud as just the way things are? Voting is supposed to be sacred to Americans. How did we let this happen to us?

Even Republicans, ever the guardians of voting integrity (so they say) were silent. Maybe they know that, for their purposes, Hillary is a better bet than Trump? After all, she isn’t calling for much to change and, because she’s Hillary Clinton, conservative constituents will not only applaud but demand that their elected officials deny anything she proposes. That’s okay, though, in the end, both the Democrat and Republican parties are working for the same interests (and shocker, those interests ain’t you and me!). They can all agree in the backroom to pretend to oppose each other while both parties convince us that they’re fighting for the little guys. And so it goes.

I digress.

It soon became crystal clear that Hillary and Bill and many of their supporters believe she is entitled to the presidency, as if it were a done deal before the campaign ever started. They are indignant that, once again, someone is attempting to usurp her inevitable rise to the Oval Office. She already had to let it go in 2008. She sure as hell isn’t doing that now. She’s worked for eight years to position herself for the win in 2016. With Obama out of the way and no other strong democrats in sight, it was in the bag. Sure there’d be a token candidate to debate but that would be a formality and she could refine her platform message in the process.

Then along came Bernie. He said exactly what millions of us have needed to hear. That it shouldn’t be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way. He gently shook us by the shoulders and reminded us that, in this country, the people are the power. Millions began to come out of their complacent slumber. We realized that together, we can make change happen.

And Hillary watched her in the bag win become less of a sure thing, but she didn’t understand why. She still doesn’t. She likely believes that simply because she’s moved closer and closer to Bernie’s platform that should’ve swayed some of his voters (or at least quelled the #BernieorBust movement), but it didn’t.

And it was obvious that she wasn’t happy.

For months, she and Bill (and their surrogates) have increasingly and derisively dismissed Bernie supporters as a mere nuisance standing between her and the White House. Pests. Flies to be swatted away. All the while demanding party unity! Reminding us at every turn that she is the only person who can prevent a complete collapse of the system. The problem is the system they’re fighting for is broken and she isn’t willing or able to fix it. And she doesn’t get it.

We’re constantly told that we’re dividing the party. We just need to sit down and shut up or we’ll be complicit in electing Trump. The downfall of our country will rest solely in the hands of Bernie supporters who dare not to pledge allegiance to Hillary.

Every time I’ve posted something on Facebook about the way I feel regarding Hillary and Bill’s treatment of Bernie supporters I’m told to stop attacking Hillary or reminded that I must vote for her no matter what. Can it really be considered attacking when I point out the truth? I haven’t railed against her policies (and believe me I’ve wanted to)! I’ve only voiced my anger and frustration over voter suppression and the Clinton attitude toward Bernie supporters. They don’t even speak about Trump supporters with as much disregard.

Hillary and her surrogates don’t seem to understand that their continued condescension, dismissal, and flagrant indignation toward Bernie supporters isn’t the way to win our votes and is certainly not going to inspire party loyalty. If anything, it makes us more determined than ever to fight for the man we believe in. Hillary doesn’t speak for us. She knows it and it shows. She doesn’t much care about our concerns. We are only numbers to her. Votes and delegates. It is beyond her comprehension that Bernie supporters won’t fall in line and vote for her just because. And I fear that the longer they project that attitude the more votes she could lose. And let’s face it, she needs us.

The funny thing is she’s crossed the nation pandering to women, Hispanics, African Americans, and young people yet she doesn’t even try to reach out, much less pander to Bernie supporters except to say that she’s confident we’ll support her once she is the nominee. But she doesn’t get it.

And last night (June 6) AP announced that Hillary is the presumptive nominee the evening before six states hold their primaries. Naturally all other MSM outlets followed suit. I know this isn’t the first time this has happened, but it’s irresponsible at best. Why irresponsible? Because the media – owned by large corporations – knows that the announcement could very well keep millions of people from voting on June 7. If I really thought there remained such a thing as a “free press” I wouldn’t be so angry about it. The fact is, there is no such entity amongst mainstream media any longer.

Hillary supporters like to say that Bernie supporters sound like Tea Partiers with our conspiracy theories (but ya still want our votes, don’t ya?). But there’s a huge difference: Our theories can be proven. We’re not talking Jade Helm, we’re talking about the powers that be not wanting to lose control.

And now it has begun in earnest. Hillary supporters already calling Bernie Sanders supporters fools, idiots, and sore losers because we won’t concede to the Queen before all votes are counted. All the while demanding party unity! So I end the way I began…is this really the best tactic to attempt to convince Bernie supporters to come to your side? Many never will, but some may still be swayed. I submit that your current tactics are not going to work for you.

 

I didn’t suddenly wake up because I support Bernie Sanders. I’ve been on a learning journey for several years. Truth is, I support Bernie Sanders because I finally woke up.

Conservatives Have Opened My Liberal Eyes to the Evil Genius That is Bernie Sanders

bernie-sanders-Evil-geniusThank you, conservatives. I get it now. I finally see the flaws in my thinking about Bernie Sanders. For months I’ve rolled my eyes as I read articles positing that a Sanders presidency would be the end to democracy as we know it. You’ve warned that Sanders intends to turn America into a socialist, or worse, a communist country. There were quotes from Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and more, decrying the evils of socialism. I laughed smugly as I read every post and meme. Until today. Today, my liberal eyes were opened to the evil genius that is Bernie Sanders. Conservatives obviously saw something that I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see before.

Bernie has spent 40+ years working for the rights of the little guy – from civil rights to veterans’ rights, and everything in between. He’s worked to level the playing field for every American, first in his private life, then as an elected official. As a bleeding heart liberal, I bought into his image as an activist and statesman hook, line, and sinker. I believed that his record and integrity were beyond reproach. I believed that he was the only honest presidential candidate; a man who has always put the needs of the many above the wants of the few. How naïve I felt upon realizing that all these decades of do-gooding and decency were nothing more than a diabolical plot to lull the citizenry into believing that he truly cared about this country and its people. What a sham! What a devious, cunning opportunist this man is. And patient, too.

Clearly, he’s only been biding his time. Waiting…scheming…pretending to work for the good of the people so that when the time was right – when we let down our collective guard – he could swoop in and bring his evil plan to fruition. He knew four decades ago that idealistic, hopeful fools like me would be looking for precisely the type of change only he could offer. He foresaw that, one day, millions of liberals, displeased with the status quo, and ripe for brainwashing would crusade to elect him president. Once president, he’d (finally!) have the power to transform this great patriot nation of ours into the communist hellhole he’s likely dreamed of since childhood. Then and only then could he make us all slaves to the state. The good of the people? Who cares? Not Bernie! It was all an act. Our money and belongings (and most likely our guns!) will be confiscated and given to lazy moochers who want nothing but government freebies. Even worse, those of us who do work (if he doesn’t give all our jobs to immigrants and refugees) will be forced to wait months, maybe years, to see a doctor. Eventually, we’ll find ourselves in breadlines begging for crumbs that we can’t afford while society’s takers get an entire loaf – for free!

The man is obviously an evil genius to have fooled so many for so long. He’s spent his entire adult life conniving and deceiving everyone. Doing so much good for so many for the sole purpose of tricking the ignorant masses into believing he cares about the everyman. Ha! The veil has been lifted. I see quite clearly that he’s been lying in wait for the perfect time to put into action his diabolical, democracy-killing plan to drive our country to ruins.

Well played, Senator. Well played.

His wicked intentions can no longer be overlooked. Like conservatives before me, I now see his malevolent scheme for what it really is – a deep-rooted hatred of the American way and a desire to destroy the country.

Wake up, liberals! You’re being taken for fools! If you want to live under a communist regime, move to Cuba, China or North Korea! And take your beloved Bernie with you. Leave the rest of us freedom-loving patriots to live in gun-toting liberty, controlled only by Wall Street, big banks, special interest groups, and giant corporations. They – and only they – know what’s in the best interests of the American people.

Do Children Learn Respect for Authority by Physical Force? One (Former) Teacher’s Thoughts on the South Carolina School Incident

corporal punishmentThe videos of the (now former) South Carolina officer manhandling a teenage girl for being “disrespectful and belligerent” were truly disturbing. The words of those supporting the officer’s actions were bewildering, at best. The realization that so much of this support was from parents, teachers, and law enforcement officers saddened me beyond words.

Below are some of the most common sentiments expressed in support of the officer:

  • She deserved it!
  • Kids these days have no respect for authority!
  • She obviously has horrible parents who haven’t taught her how to behave properly!
  • She should’ve just complied and he wouldn’t have been forced to touch her!
  • If that were my kid I’d be thanking the officer and giving her more of the same when she got home.

My stomach turned as I read those and similar statements across the internet and in the media.

Let’s assume for a second that these people are correct…

What if she doesn’t have respect for authority and no one to teach her proper behavior? Is being thrown around a classroom by a cop, while two other adults stand by silently, going to teach her those lessons? Isn’t that the epitome of “do as I say, not as I do” mindset? Is throwing her in jail and potentially sending her careening down a disastrous path the answer? Is that really all we have to offer kids who are already suffering? If their families are indeed failing them, don’t we, as a society, have a responsibility to help them? Wouldn’t all of us benefit in the long run if we helped instead of heaping more hurt and anger upon them?

How did we get to a place where people cheer violence against any child? People love to talk about the sanctity of life, but are often more than willing to throw the kids who need us most by the wayside. If we’re so “pro-life”, shouldn’t that include being “pro-living-and-breathing-children”? No matter how tough or defiant their attitude, they are still children.

I don’t know of anyone on earth who’s learned respect by having it beaten into them (though I’m sure those who would “give her more of the same” would disagree). Children learn best by example. The actions of adults teach children what is expected of them. I wonder what lesson that young girl learned. I wonder how she feels about authority figures now. Was her trust in police – and adults, in general – strengthened?

In my experience with disrespectful, belligerent, and even violent kids (and parents), I’ve found that the worst attitudes and behavior can often be turned around by treating them with respect and dignity – even in the times that they don’t necessarily deserve it. If these kids come from homes where no one is teaching them to respect authority, wouldn’t a better method be to show them that authority figures deserve their respect? To show them that they also deserve respect? Did any of the adults in that South Carolina school bother to ask this child why she was refusing to put her phone away or leave the room?

If you support the officer’s actions you’re surely rolling your eyes about now, telling yourself that I’m just another pansy-ass liberal who has no idea what it’s like to be in a situation like the one the officer was faced with.

You’re partially right. I’m definitely a liberal, but I’m no pansy-ass. More importantly, I’ve experienced situations exactly like the officer faced (we called them school days) as well as some that were potentially life-threatening.

Let me give you the highlights of just one of countless stories from my classroom days…

Baby Gangsters

I was a teacher for 13 years. My first four years were in Title I elementary schools on Houston’s East End. Many of my 4th through 6th grade students were in gangs or being pressed to join. Many of their parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles – even a few grandparents – were gang members. All of them knew gang members and witnessed the effects of gang life on a daily basis.

One 6th grade class in particular was the toughest, most aggressive, out of control group of kids I’d ever met. So bad were they that the staff nicknamed them the Baby Gangsters (BGs). They had no respect for themselves or anyone else. Before Christmas break, they were on their third teacher. The first two had quit due to the stress of trying to maintain order in that classroom. These kids didn’t want to be at school; they wanted to be out in the streets. Since they were forced to be in school, it was common for them to cuss out, intimidate, and threaten teachers and administrators, hoping this behavior would get them suspended, or better yet, expelled. And it worked on all counts.

I taught music that year. I didn’t have a classroom, so I traveled with my music cart to each class. My days with the Baby Gangsters were often scary and always nerve-wracking. They were emboldened by the fact that they’d sent two teachers packing in four short months.

Stepping into that classroom, you never knew who was going to flip out, cuss you out, try to walk out, or fight it out. Needless to say music – or at least the music in our curriculum – wasn’t their favorite. Michael, Row the Boat Ashore wasn’t really their jam. I did eventually get permission from my principal to use some rock and rap, but that’s a story for another day.

One day, Anthony* (13 years old), announced that he’d had enough of my stupid class, and began to walk from the back of the room toward the door. Before he cleared the rows of student desks, I stepped in front of him to block his way. Standing there inches apart, I looked him in the eye and told him in my best teacher voice to sit down.

He puffed up and said, “Fuck you, bitch! Who’s gonna stop me?”

I wasn’t surprised, but I was intimidated. Knowing 24 of his friends were right there didn’t help matters. Given that Anthony was the de facto leader of the BGs, I knew that if he started something, the others would help him finish.

I mustered up my strongest, toughest voice and said, “I am. Sit down and stop cussing. NOW!”

He laughed.

The room fell silent but for the sound of the other kids rustling in their seats in anticipation – and probably to get a better view. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. There was a call button on the wall by the door, but scared as I was, I held hope that I could talk Anthony down. Mostly, I knew that I had to maintain control of the situation or I’d never be able to walk back into that classroom again.

Suddenly he reached into his pants pocket. As he did, he yelled, “Get out of my way, bitch!”

I could see that there was something in his pocket. As his hand was coming out of the pocket, I saw a silver object. I had no idea what it was, but I assumed it wasn’t a gift.

Before he could pull his hand completely out of his pocket, I grabbed it just below the wrist, my thumb on the back of his hand, in an attempt to keep his hand and the object inside the pocket.

Looking him in the eye with my best bitch face, I said, “You do NOT want to do this. Trust me.”

Sarcastically, he fired back, “Who’s gonna stop me? You?”

He laughed, as did several others.

I said nothing as we glared at each other for what felt like hours. In reality, it was probably less than a minute. I could hear my heart beating and was sure they could, too, but I couldn’t back down.

As we stood there, our eyes locked, I used my thumb to put pressure between two bones in the back of his hand – not to hurt him, just enough to loosen his grip on the object. Keeping the pressure there, I pulled up to remove his hand from the pocket. As it came out, a small switchblade fell to the floor. He and another student who was sitting nearby quickly reached for the knife. Before they could get it, I managed to step on it. Both stopped and looked up at me, shocked (as was I ) that my foot had gotten there first.

“Sit down, Anthony. We’ll deal with this later.”

He glared at me, and said “Fuck you!”

My foot still on the knife, I said, “You and I will talk after class. Sit down!”

He stood up, glared at me, and went back to his seat. The room was silent as I picked up the knife and walked (backwards) to the front of the room. Thank God their teacher would be returning in 15 minutes.

I scanned the room and asked authoritatively, “Anyone else want to leave?”

A couple of the kids giggled and a few said, “No, Miss.”

Still shaking, I took some deep breaths and said, “OK, good. Where were we?”

I ignored Anthony as he glared at me for the remainder of the class. Finally, the teacher returned. I didn’t tell her what happened, but said I needed to speak with Anthony. Once we were in the hallway I asked him what was going on.

He said, “I don’t want to be here. This place is stupid.”

“Yeah, I get that. But were you planning to stab me in order to get out of here?”

Still puffed up he said, “Maybe.”

“I don’t think you would’ve. I know you’re tough, but you have a good heart. You’re a good person.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yeah, I think you are. You’re smart…and you’re a leader. Every one of those kids in there looks up to you. They follow your lead – good or bad.”

His attitude softened just a little and there was a faint sign of a smile.

I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I have to tell the principal what happened, so expect to see him later today.”

“I don’t care. He hates me.”

“No he doesn’t, Anthony. He’s concerned for you and your friends. We all are. You guys are making some really dangerous choices and we’re worried about the consequences.”

“Like taking my knife away? I can get another one easy.”

“If y’all keep making bad choices you’ll have a lot more to lose than a stupid knife. You’re too smart for this.”

He looked at the floor, but said nothing.

I sent him back into his class and asked him to take it easy on his teacher. He nodded and went to his seat.

It would’ve been easier to just throw the kid to the ground and hold him there until someone came and carted him away. Doing that would’ve only turned a bad situation into a violent and traumatizing situation for all of us. These kids already saw violence everywhere, every day. The last thing they needed was another adult showing them that violence is the way to command respect.

Anthony was suspended for 10 days. When he returned to school, he sought me out and apologized.

With tears in his eyes he told me that most of his family were gang members. His older brother was pressuring him to join, but he was reluctant. His brother had given him the knife the morning of our classroom incident and told him it was time to prove himself ready – and he thought he was. After the incident Anthony realized he wasn’t ready, and was worried that he’d eventually be forced to join.

He told me that no adult had ever responded to his bad behavior with anything other than anger. All he’d ever heard was that he was a bad person, a worthless punk, who would end up in jail or dead. He’d never been told that he had a good heart, that he was smart, or that he was a leader. He spent his suspension days thinking about what I’d said and the way I treated him after the incident. He wanted to make changes.

And change he did! His entire countenance was different. Instead of starting fights, he negotiated peaceful endings to his peers’ disputes. The fuck yous became yes ma’ams and no ma’ams. He discovered self-respect which allowed him to respect others. His grades soared, placing him on the Honor Roll for the first time in his life. He found the courage to stand up to his family and stay out of gang life – and encouraged his friends to do the same. That wasn’t easy and initially caused a lot of problems with the family, but in the end, they respected his decision.

His turnaround didn’t end in elementary school, either. When I saw Anthony a few years later he shared that he’d continued to excel in school and reject the gang life that he’d been so close to entering. He thanked me again for showing him there was a different way to live.

I can’t take credit for all the amazing ways his life changed, but I will take credit for showing this formerly belligerent, delinquent child what respect and compassion look like. I sincerely believe that if more adults took this approach rather than heaping more pain, disrespect, and even violence on already struggling children, we’d see more stories like Anthony’s.

There are times when physical force is warranted, but it should be the last resort, not the first. Physical force should only be used when there is a threat of assault or injury. It should not be used because an authority figure is displeased with a child’s attitude or words.

Might doesn’t always make right. In fact, it rarely does.
*Anthony is a pseudonym.

 

 

Gay Marriage, Bristol Palin, Christian Hypocrisy, and Living My Faith

gay marriage - christiansOne day after Christian abstinence advocate Bristol Palin announced her second out of wedlock pregnancy, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Predictably, conservatives are outraged over the SCOTUS decision…but not so much about Bristol’s pregnancy. These two events shine a bright, but not so beautiful, light onto conservatives’ (especially conservative Christians’) hypocrisy.

The gay-shaming, gay-marriage-hating, no-cake-for-gay-weddings-supporting conservative Christians will speak out in support of sweet, little Bristol. They will lash out at those who point to the irony of one who preaches abstinence while getting pregnant without the benefit of marriage. They will stand behind her and applaud her courage for keeping her baby (again). What an excellent example of a Christian girl! Yes she sinned, as we all do, but she turned that sin into a blessing by having her baby and raising it in a loving and stable (?) home.

I bet they’d even bake a cake for her baby shower.

This blatant double standard is why I, and millions of others, have such an issue with conservatives in general, and conservative Christians, in particular.

Are you honestly blind to your hypocrisy?

I’m not being facetious. I’m asking sincerely…can you not see the double standard you set forth?

You rely on a few cherry–picked scriptures to condemn homosexuals and gay marriage, yet ignore surrounding scriptures that would affect your own lives. You condemn and chastise those who disagree with your belief that being gay is a sin, yet accept and absolve people in your community, your church, and even your family who live together or get pregnant out of wedlock. Or get divorced. Or commit adultery. Or have multiple marriages under their belts. You have decided that being gay is the cardinal sin, yet have no problem embracing Bristol and those who commit other “sins of the flesh” – as long as they are heterosexual sins.

Every single day, for years, the loudest conservative Christian voices have screamed from the valleys to the mountaintops that homosexuality is a sin! Homosexuals, and those who support them, are dooming not only themselves to an eternity in Hell, but our nation! No, the entire world! The only people who are bound for Heaven, they say, are those who agree with them. The rest of us, including their brothers and sisters in Christ, are living outside of the Will of God and bringing His judgement and wrath upon the world because we refuse to condemn homosexuality. And thanks to our refusal and those wicked, sinning, gay people the Lord is going to bring His wrath upon us. In fact, they tell us it’s already happening. Floods, droughts, tornadoes, earthquakes. Every natural disaster is but another sign that the evil ways of gay people are bringing about the end times and the wrath of the Lord.

Yet Bristol Palin, whose mother is one of the loudest voices of hyperbolic fear- and hate-mongering, is given a pass for having two children out of wedlock by two different fathers. Her pregnancies are not only accepted, but are held up as the example of what a Christian girl should do if she finds herself “in trouble” (and they praise the Lord she didn’t choose abortion!). She and former Marine, Dakota Johnson, were lauded as a wonderful Christian couple despite living together and having sex without benefit of marriage.

How do you justify this? How do you tell yourself that it’s okay to condemn, discriminate, and even bully gays when you’re not equally indignant and judgmental towards Bristol’s – or other heterosexuals’ – actions and life choices?

Let me pause for a moment and say that I couldn’t care less if Bristol has two or ten children out of wedlock or if she chooses to live with her next fifteen boyfriends. I also had a child out of wedlock, so I’m certainly in no position to judge. It’s none of my business. Her life, her choices, her sins are between her and God.

In the meantime, she’ll be cradled in the bosom of conservative Christians.

So forgive me, brothers and sisters, but someone has to say it. If you utter one word of support for Bristol Palin, you had better expect to be called a hypocrite. If you believe with your whole heart that homosexuality is a sin, that two people who truly love each other shouldn’t have the right to marry, then you should just as vehemently condemn Bristol, your friends, and those in your own family who commit “heterosexual sin”.

But you don’t.

And you won’t, will you?

Why?

IF you’re right and homosexuality is a sin, it is no worse a sin than adultery, living together, pre-marital sex, or having babies out of wedlock. All sins are equal. So how do you reconcile condemning one but not the others?

I say this to you with all due respect, brothers and sisters. I used to be one of you. I used to believe that homosexuality was a sin. I used to believe that the only way  gay people could live in the Will of God was to set aside their sexuality and deny that part of themselves. It pains me to admit that I believed that, but it’s what I was taught in church growing up. My pastors, men of God, told me it was wrong and I believed them. They pointed to scripture to prove their point. They were the authorities on how to live life as a follower of Christ, and surely they knew the Bible better than I. Who was I to question what they said?

Then something happened.

When my son and I were living in a small east Texas town, there was a teenager who came out to his family and his church. He was immediately excommunicated by his church, and kicked out of his parents’ house. I was shocked that a church would tell a child that he was no longer welcome in a place where he grew up, a place that was supposed to embody the love of Jesus. I was brokenhearted that his parents (people I knew) could completely and easily withdraw their love from their own child without a second thought. It made no sense. It especially made no sense when they claimed to do this in Jesus’ name.

It made even less sense when I looked at the individuals within the congregation. There were couples living together, unmarried. Teenage girls (and adult women) who got pregnant out of wedlock were fully accepted by both their families and their church (after the gossip stopped, that is). The church embraced members who were adulterers, wife swappers, and porn addicts. Even child molesters (and there were plenty of them) were extended forgiveness. Why weren’t these people excommunicated and run out of town on a rail? Why were they allowed to maintain their standing in the church and community? Why was their “sin” acceptable while a boy, who was still a virgin, was labeled an outcast and disowned by the very people who should’ve loved him NO MATTER WHAT (you know, the way Jesus loves us all)?

“Living in sin”, premarital sex, babies out of wedlock, adultery, wife-swapping, watching porn? All accepted. Loving someone who happens to be the same gender? Oh no, no, no! We want nothing to do with you, evil sinner!! Of course, we still “love” you, we just hate your sin! Because we believe your sin to be the worst possible sin in all of mankind, we must shame you and shun you in the name of the Lord. That’s what God expects of us and we wouldn’t be good Christians if we didn’t!

Really?

This ideology threw me into a major crisis of faith. Is this truly what the Lord expects of Christians? Of me? Am I supposed to condemn others who “sin” differently than me? And is it really a sin to desire a committed relationship with someone of the same sex? That’s what I’d been taught all my life and that’s what my fellow Christians were so completely certain was right.

But I kept coming back to the fact that it didn’t feel right in my heart. More importantly, it didn’t fit with Jesus’ teachings of love. And frankly, if God expected me to hate people simply because they were gay, I wasn’t sure this was a God I wanted to worship. I began to question everything I believed with my whole heart about Jesus and being a Christian.

Rather than turning my back on God, I turned to His word. I searched and searched for the scriptures where Jesus said that Christians were supposed to hate gays or that being gay was a sin. Guess what I found. Nothing. There was not one red letter verse where Jesus said, “Gays are bad and you should shun them.” In fact, over and over, Jesus said we should love everyone without question. Not one time did I find an asterisk that said *unless they’re gay.

But surely, if so many other Christians believed this to be God’s word, I must be missing something. So I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would show me the truth – and continue to do so. I prayed that the veils would be lifted from my own eyes and the eyes of others. I prayed over the Word. I prayed in the Spirit. I read and researched. The more I read, the more I researched the context around and translations of those few venomous scriptures the clearer it became. The Word of God is inerrant, but the translations and the motives of those doing the translating from the original text were not.

So, please, Christian brothers and sisters, please, I am begging you. Put down the pitchforks, stop being hypocrites, and live your life by Christ’s commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) Notice that there are periods at the end of each of those sentences. No asterisks. No disclaimers. No exceptions.

If you absolutely positively can’t let go of the idea that being gay is a sin, then the least you can do is condemn everyone equally, including Bristol Palin…and me. Many of you have already condemned me for my so-called radical beliefs. I couldn’t care less. You see, just like gay people, I don’t answer to you. I answer only to God, and ya know what? He loves me just as much as He loves you. In the end, your judgement means nothing to me. I wonder, though, what it means to Jesus?

When God judges this nation, I believe it will be for the hateful, often brutal, way we’ve treated and judged others. It will be because people turned their backs on others and spewed hate in His name. It will NOT be because our government allowed people who love each other to have a legally binding, committed relationship, and equal protections under the law.

If you can  open your heart to listening to another view of what the Bible says concerning homosexuality, please watch this video (or read the transcript). If you watch, I pray that you watch with an open mind and heart. This young man has done quite a bit of Biblical research on this very subject and explains it extremely well.

If I am to err, may I err on the side of love as my savior, Jesus Christ, commands.

 

 

Questions for My Fellow Christians on Establishing Christianity as Our National Religion

U.S.-Constitution-U.S.-Flag-Bible-Gavel1By now, you’ve probably seen the results of this recent poll by Public Policy Polling* making the rounds on the internet. The poll indicates that 57% of Republicans support establishing Christianity as the national religion in the US. While the sample was small (316 Republican primary voters) it reflects the opinions expressed by the vast majority of Republicans/conservative Christians who I know, and those of commenters on conservative blogs and social media posts.

I wasn’t surprised by the poll results but, as a Christian who is NOT a Republican, it raised a lot of questions for me. I’m not asking these questions facetiously; I sincerely want to know how this would work. Please feel free to share your thoughts, but refrain from political rhetoric, personal attacks and disrespect or your comment(s) will be deleted.

My Questions (bear with me, there are a lot of them):

  • For 6 years conservative politicians (and citizens) have lambasted President Obama for allegedly “dismantling the Constitution”. Wouldn’t establishing Christianity (or any religion, for that matter) as the national religion do just that? Why is it okay, then, for Conservatives to dismantle the very Constitution that they proclaim to love so much?
  • Conservatives are so fearful of Islamic Sharia law being instituted in the US that several states have preemptively banned it. The concern is that citizens would be forced to follow the laws of a religion they don’t believe in, and/or would be forced to convert to that religion. So if “Christian law” becomes the law of the land what would become of non-Christians? Would non-believers be forced to convert to Christianity? I’d think that’s the ultimate goal, right? Why go to the trouble of rewriting the Constitution if not to convert everyone to Christianity? If someone refuses to convert, what would be the consequences? Would they be deported (if so, how would we go about deporting legal citizens and where would they be sent)? If not deported, what would happen to them? Would they be jailed? Put to death? Aren’t those the very concerns conservatives express with regard to the enactment of Sharia law?
  • My biggest question is this: Whose interpretation of Christianity would become the law? It’s become very clear over the past 6 years that what I believe it means to follow Christ is very different from what most conservative Christians believe. Would I be forced to follow your interpretation or could I force you to follow mine? Who gets to decide?
  • Would we base our Christian laws on the old covenant or the new? If we are to follow the old covenant laws, will we pick and choose or follow them to the letter? If we pick and choose, who gets to decide which we’ll adhere to and which are okay to ignore? Below are just a few of the old testament laws that I have questions about:
    • Will we return to sacrifices and burnt offerings (Lev 1:1-17)?
    • Will we outlaw wearing mixed fabrics (Lev 19:19)?
    • What about eating shellfish, pork, fat, and mixing meat and dairy (Deut 14:9-10, Lev 3:17, Lev 11:7-8, Exodus 23:19)?
    • Will hog hunting be outlawed/butchers and grocery stores be banned from selling pork since touching a dead hog would be illegal (Deut 14:8)?
    • Will it be illegal for our gardens to have more than one type of plant (Lev 19:19)? And will we be forbidden from eating fruit from trees we plant for 5 years (Lev 19:23-25)?
    • Will commerce on the Sabbath be outlawed (Ex 20:10)?
    • Will tattoos and piercings be outlawed (Lev 19:28)?
    • Will adultery become illegal and punishable by death (Lev 20:10, Deut 22:25)?
    • If the sanctity of marriage is to be truly upheld, does that mean that only first marriages will be recognized and subsequent marriages be made illegal (Lev 21:13-15)? What about divorce? Will people who are in their second (or third, fourth, etc) become outlaws, or will they be given a pass? If not given a pass, what will their punishment be?
    • Will it be illegal for men to shave (Lev 19:27)?
    • Will all boys and men have to be circumcised (Gen 17:12-14)?
    • Will it be illegal for women to speak in church (1Cor 14:34-35)?
    • What about women wearing pants, will that be outlawed (Deut 22:5)?
    • If a young woman is raped, will she be forced to marry her rapist and remain married to him for life (Deut 22:29)?
    • Will the brother-in-law of a widow be forced to marry the widow, regardless of his marital status (Deut 25:5-10)? If so, does that mean that polygamy will also become the law of the land?
    • Will we do away with immigration laws and grant all immigrants full citizenship rights (Lev 19:33-34)?

I could go on, but you get my drift. From the outside (of current conservatism) looking in, it seems to me that conservative Christians only champion enacting the specific old testament laws that they themselves want to follow, yet conveniently neglect the other 500+ laws outlined there. Likewise, when considering laws, many conservative Christians seem willing to blatantly disregard new testament scripture and Jesus’ teachings, such as:

  • Love for our fellow man, especially our enemies (Matt 5:43-48)
  • Not trying to remove the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own (Matt 7:3-5)
  • Treating the least among us as we would treat Him (Matt 25:34-46).

My Thoughts

Acceptance of Christ as Savior comes from the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, not from our laws. We cannot compel a person’s heart to turn to Christ by legislation or force. Salvation comes from faith alone (Eph 2:8-10). In fact, shouldn’t we stand firmly against that very thing lest we be out of line with God’s will? The Bible I study tells me that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ…because by the works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:16). Enacting laws and calling ourselves a Christian nation will not – can not – make us a nation of Christians.

Perhaps, Christian brothers and sisters, our time on earth would be better spent by living our lives in service to Christ; thereby demonstrating, through our actions and words, the glory and grace of our savior. Our lives, by example, are what will bring hearts to the Lord. Attempting to force Christianity on non-believers through legislation and judgment is not winning hearts for Christ; rather it is turning hearts away from Christ on a daily basis.

Believers will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ to give account for our own actions, not those of others. While I fall short every day (as we all do), I pray that He will say that I will have lived a life free of judgment or contempt for my brothers and sisters, without putting stumbling blocks or obstacles in their way, and that I didn’t destroy anyone for whom Christ died (Rom 14:10-15). I pray that my life is an example of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, so that it will be pleasing to God, leading to peace and mutual edification (Rom 14:17-19). Let us all remember that we are blessed when we do not condemn ourselves by what we approve (Rom 14:22).

As I said above, I sincerely want to hear your thoughts on these issues sans political rhetoric, personal attacks, or disrespect. Please leave your comment(s) here on the blog or on my Facebook page.

*Here’s a link to the Public Policy Polling write up with a link to the above PDF at the bottom of their article.

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

blonde-covering-her-mouthAll week I’ve been trying to write about Ferguson and its larger implications, as well as other issues our country is facing. I’ve also been trying to work on the next chapter of my book (which is what I should be focusing on, rather than worrying about how I can save the world), yet words weren’t flowing.

At first I attributed this lack of flow to the fact that I had 2 billion thoughts and questions running through my head about Ferguson (which I do), making it difficult to sort them out and write coherently. So I put that to the side and tried to work on my book. I stared at a blank document for quite a while, wrote a couple of crap paragraphs, then finally gave up on that, too.

I couldn’t understand. Lately I’ve been productive with my writing. I was finally finding my voice. I was ready to share it with the world, knowing that some would agree and some wouldn’t, and being okay with either. I felt compelled to speak my truth, doing lots of research to support my positions, challenging others to think from a different perspective, while having my own perspectives challenged.

Now all of a sudden I can barely write a paragraph about anything of substance without questioning how it will affect the sensibilities of every individual who may read it.

How did this happen? Wasn’t I the girl who recently proclaimed that she didn’t care what anyone else thought about her opinions? This is me, these are my opinions, take ’em or leave ’em…I’ll be okay either way.

Today the timing of my self-imposed silence became clear. Earlier this week I made a Facebook post about being surprised to find a particular conservative friend had unfriended me. There were 40+ comments on that post. All were supportive, but for one.

One negative comment from someone who, until a couple of years ago, I considered a very close friend, a BFF, if you will. Someone I’ve known since I was 14 years old. She said that my writing style is offensive and too ‘in your face’, that I discount others’ opinions, and make generalizations about people. She wrote that “making more noise doesn’t make you right, more educated or more caring for the less fortunate”[sic].

I’ll be honest. That stung. A lot. It stung more than it should have since this person made it clear over a year ago that she thinks I’m a horrible, cold-hearted person. I hadn’t spoken to her since that time and had no desire to ever speak to her again, yet we remained Facebook friends. I don’t know why neither of us cut the Facebook ties back then as it was obvious that our friendship was way past over. Since we never interacted on Facebook, I no longer saw her posts and assumed she didn’t see mine. I didn’t really care one way or the other.

Then, out of nowhere, she felt the need to tell me again how much I suck; this time in a very public forum. I wanted nothing more than to respond in kind and let her know, in no uncertain terms, that the feeling is mutual. Instead I chose not to respond directly to her comment. I posted a general response saying that I felt no need to stifle my voice, while reiterating that my intention is never to offend or discount anyone else’s opinion. This is me. Take it or leave it. If you don’t like it, hit the unfriend button. Then I saved her the trouble by unfriending and blocking her and everyone related to her (I felt bad blocking the others since they didn’t do anything to me, but I’m quite sure they feel the same way about me and will consider it no great loss). Part of me regrets not showing her just how offensive I can be, but didn’t see the point in doing so.

HOWEVER…

Since that day, I’ve been unable to write what I feel. I find myself trying to straddle both sides of the fence so as not to ruffle any feathers. I’ve questioned every word I’ve written, basically strangling myself into silent submission. Am I right? Am I off the mark? Will this make someone angry? Will I offend someone? Does it matter? Who gives a damn what I think anyway? Maybe I should just shut up.

Truth is I almost allowed her to silence me. But, why? Her opinion of me hasn’t mattered for quite a while. Why did I allow that one negative comment to override the 40 others that were supportive? Of that, I’m not sure. As of this moment what I am sure of is that I won’t shut up.

For whatever reason, I can’t shut up. Even if my opinions offend someone. Even if people think I’m a rude, loudmouthed, know-it-all. Even if everyone I know unfriends me on social media or in real life because of what I say. It doesn’t matter. I read things every day that offend me, but they also make me think. They allow me to see the world from a perspective other than mine. I think that’s a good thing. Maybe my words will make someone else think. Maybe they won’t. Who cares?

The real question isn’t whether anyone cares about what I have to say. The question is do I have the courage of my convictions? The answer is yes. I hope I never again allow someone else’s opinion to silence my own. Hopefully getting this off my chest will allow my words to flow again.

Paraphrasing the immortal words of Taylor Swift… Haters gonna hate. I’m just gonna shake it off.

Thanks, Taylor. I’m gonna dance around the living room, shake it off, then sit down in front of my computer and just write something.

Don’t let anyone silence your voice, friend. Speak your truth. Silence isn’t always golden.

Putting a Face on Obamacare

face-of-obamacareI’ve debated for quite some time about whether or not to tell this story publicly as it is a very personal one. With the mid-term elections less than 24-hours away, the decision is now clear. If only one person reads this story and it changes his/her perception of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and its importance, then sharing the story will be worthwhile.

My objective is not to try to sway your vote. I hope to present a different perspective as you consider campaign promises and candidates’ plans for the future of Obamacare and the eight million people currently enrolled in the program.

Who Wants Obamacare Anyway?

Daily I hear anti-Obama/Obamacare folks, candidates and citizens alike, talking about “those” people…the takers of society. “They” only voted for Obama to get free insurance and free everything-else-under-the-sun. “They” are lazy, don’t work, and, frankly, should’ve done better for themselves so “they” wouldn’t need us to pay for their insurance! “They” want to destroy and bankrupt our country and “they” will succeed unless we, the taxpayers, do something to stop this insanity!

But who are these people, anyway? The “theys”. Have you ever wondered? Surely “they” are not like us. “They” aren’t our neighbors, friends, or relatives; certainly no one we know and love. Or are they?

Let me introduce you to just one of the 8 million faces of Obamacare…

It’s me. That’s right; I’m one of “them”.

I am one of the 8 million people who’ve been able to get healthcare thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Healthcare that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to me.

How I Became a “They”

I’ve had health insurance the majority of my life. It was something I took for granted. Growing up, I was covered on my parents’ group policies through their employers. As an adult, it was a given that my employers would offer group health insurance to employees.

Having a pre-existing condition wasn’t a concern either. There was never a question as to whether a pre-existing condition might exclude me from healthcare eligibility. There was often a waiting period, but coverage would come. During a waiting period the remaining benefits were already in effect. So what if you had to wait a couple of months to resume treatment of a pre-existing issue? No big deal.

I turned 56-years-old in September. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master’s in Human Services. I’ve had quite a varied professional career. I’ve worked in several facets of the entertainment industry, taught elementary school, and was a program specialist and trainer in emergency preparedness and response for a non-profit post-Hurricane Ike. After my contract with the non-profit ended, I started a social media consulting agency. It was the first time I’d been self-employed and therefore the first time a job didn’t provide healthcare benefits.

There are many scary things about being self-employed, chief among them is not having access to healthcare. Let me rephrase that: it’s possible to get individual health coverage; that is, if you can afford the premiums and can overlook the crappy benefits provided through individual policies. Then there’s the issue of those of us with pre-existing conditions. Most insurance companies won’t offer an individual policy for someone with pre-existing conditions (even if the condition is no longer ongoing). If it’s in your medical records, they can, and do, deny coverage. If you find coverage, the premiums and out-of-pockets are astronomical and to say the benefits are lacking would be a gross understatement.

For that reason, many self-employed professionals opt to take their chances, so to speak. I can tell you from experience that you pray every day that you don’t slip in the shower or get sick with anything more serious than a cold that can be treated with over-the-counter meds or natural remedies. But the fear is always there in the back of your mind: if something serious happens to me it could bankrupt me and my entire family.

I know, at this point, some of you are thinking that I’m just another liberal cry baby. Healthcare is available to everyone! All you have to do is go to an emergency room and they, by law, must treat you regardless of your insurance status. And you’re right. Emergency rooms do have to treat patients without insurance coverage, but that doesn’t mean there are no bills that come later. And those bills can (and do) drive people into bankruptcy. And what about chronic conditions that require continued care? Guess what. You’re SOL. Most private practices won’t even set an appointment with someone who has no insurance. Sure, you can go to clinics, but the waiting list is long and, while there are some great doctors at clinics, you don’t have access to the best of care. Then there’s still the matter of those pesky expenses.

When the ACA came along I was excited. Finally! I might just be able to get coverage. The enrollment process and website had issues aplenty, but once I was able to navigate through I found a plethora of policies at every price range with varying premiums, co-pays and out-of-pocket caps. Most importantly, most policies included really great coverage, all from the most well-known insurance providers, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, Aetna, and more. Please take note of that last sentence…these policies are written by INSURANCE PROVDERS, NOT the government.

The policy I chose had LOWER premiums, LOWER deductibles, and LOWER out-of-pocket caps than any group policies I’d had via employers in the past 15 years. These lower costs DO NOT include government subsidies. To top that off, the benefits far exceeded what I’d had through the aforementioned group policies. FAR EXCEEDED them.

What a relief! I’d been blessed that I hadn’t gotten sick or had any injuries while uninsured and now I no longer had to worry. With the payment of that first premium, I knew that IF something happened, I could seek quality medical attention without fear of drowning in medical bills for the rest of my life – or worse.

I received my coverage through Blue Cross/Blue Shield in April. I soon went in for a well-woman exam and mammogram (100% paid by insurance). I hadn’t had a mammogram for three years. For a woman my age, these are incredibly important. Thankfully, all of my results came back fine. Another sigh of relief. Thank You, Lord!

Wait. I’m Not Healthy After All?

Then it happened. In late May I began to have severe stomach pains. Out of the blue, my stomach started hurting and didn’t stop for four solid weeks. I’m talking doubled over in pain 24/7. I went to my GP who ran some blood tests. When those didn’t give us answers, she sent me to a gastroenterologist who immediately ordered more blood testing, an abdominal ultrasound, and a colonoscopy. Costs for the blood testing totaled well over $3,000. My co-pays just over $100. The ultrasound was 100% covered. I haven’t had the colonoscopy yet because the blood tests revealed that I had a previously undiagnosed chronic illness which could be cured if it were treated immediately.

Ironically, the newly diagnosed issue was not what caused the stomach pains. Had I not had insurance, though, I’d have suffered through the stomach pains until they went away or forced me to the emergency room. This illness wouldn’t have been diagnosed and likely wouldn’t have been detected until major damage had been done and it most likely wouldn’t have been curable.

When my doctor wrote the prescriptions for the medications that will CURE my chronic illness, he told me that we would most likely “have a fight on our hands with the insurance company” because the meds are very expensive, but he assured me it would eventually get approved. To my delight, the pharmacy called a few days later to tell me that the meds had been approved by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I mentioned that the doctor had anticipated a fight for approval. The pharmacist said that typically there is some back and forth, but my prescriptions had been approved. What a blessing! Thank You, Jesus! And, yes, thank you, President Obama for the ACA.

Here comes the real shocker. There are two meds needed to treat my condition. The treatment protocol lasts three months. One of the meds is almost $1,000 per month. The other is over $28,000 per month (that’s NOT a typo). That’s $29,000 each month for three months. It is obscene that a month’s supply of medication would ever cost as much as a small car (that’s a story for a different day)! I wonder how many of us could afford that treatment without insurance? I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically have a spare $29,000 lying around each month.

To date Blue Cross/Blue Shield (NOT the taxpayers) have paid over $70,000 to my providers on my behalf (and yes, I have contributed via premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket expenses). What I’m dealing with isn’t cancer or some other life-threatening illness. It is a chronic illness that can be cured if treated, but otherwise could (and most likely would) become life-threatening down the road. In fact, I most likely wouldn’t have known about it until it became a life-threatening situation when I ended up in a “charity” hospital. And, IF it were still treatable, my family and I would be bankrupted just trying to save whatever life I had left.

What Do My Doctors Think of Obamacare?

Thanks to this coverage I have access to the best doctors. I’ve asked each of them their feelings about Obamacare. I’ve asked about the rumors that health care providers are pulling out of Obamacare coverage because the reimbursements are slow. I’ve asked if they view it as a fiasco. All three of my doctors (two of them specialists) scoffed at those suggestions and said that, while they were unsure at first, they’ve found the ACA policies work very well for both patients and providers. Not only that, they’re encouraging their colleagues to come on board as well. Wow. That’s not what we hear from some current candidates, is it?

On the issue of reimbursement, I’ve noticed that claims with doctors, labs, and pharmacies (even for $29 grand) have been paid within two weeks, often sooner. I recall from past group policies that it often took a month or more for claims to be settled – especially expensive ones.

My point is this: If the candidate you’re voting for has no other plan to help Americans get healthcare and, rather than working to make the ACA better, their only plan is to repeal it, please stop for a minute and think.

Think about me. I am a “they”. Think about the other 8 million “theys” who may lose critical or even life-saving care if the ACA is repealed. Consider what you would want for your family, your friends, your neighbors. Consider what you’d want for yourself if you were without a group policy and unable to get an individual plan. Would it be acceptable if you or your loved ones a) had nowhere to turn for medical help but the emergency room, b) had no access to the best possible doctors, or c) were bankrupted or put into overwhelming debt just to stay alive? Most of all consider that “they” are our fellow Americans. Living, breathing human beings, not just numbers on a chart. Some of them may just people you know and care about.

It’s NO Secret I’m Not a Fan of the GOTea Party

Obamacare is but one part of the reason for my disdain toward them, but let me stay on track… Republican and Tea Party politicians love to talk about the horrors or Obamacare. Most candidates are running on the promise of repealing it (STILL!). They’ve spent most of the last six years doing nothing more than talking about why they loathe it and how they’ll get rid of it, yet never providing an alternative solution to our health care crisis.

They say it will bankrupt the country! They talk about “those” people needing the government to pay for their healthcare and how “we”, the taxpayers, can’t afford to pay for “those” people (in spite of the fact that if “those” people had some sort of coverage, our costs will be lower in the long run)! As my story illustrates, not all of “them” are looking for free handouts from the government. We are taxpayers, just like you, who simply want access to healthcare – both preventive and ongoing. Candidates talk about rising insurance premiums because of Obamacare (in spite of the fact that premiums have been skyrocketing for decades, while coverage and benefits have dwindled)! They tell us that doctors and healthcare providers are going bankrupt and leaving Obamacare in droves because they aren’t getting reimbursed by the government (in spite of the fact that the government subsidies don’t go to the providers, they’re paid to the insurance companies, and the claims are being paid)!

They talk only about repealing Obamacare while providing no alternative or ever mentioning what would become of the 8 million Americans now covered under the program. Republican governors have chosen not to expand Medicaid coverage in their states, thus ensuring that those living in poverty will NOT have access to healthcare aside from emergency situations. Because, you know, “those” people don’t deserve access to preventive care or to be healthy! Not on “our” dollar, by golly! Never mind that “we” are already paying for their emergency care and federal dollars would’ve alleviated some of that burden on our state resources. And let’s definitely not consider that preventive care lowers healthcare costs for everyone!

So please, friends, I ask that you give some thought to the fact that the solution may be in improving the ACA rather than abolishing it. I ask you to consider the “theys” and what might happen to “them”. I ask you to consider just who the “theys” truly are. Is it possible that you could one day find yourself in the unenviable position of a “they”?

At the very least, ask your candidates what their plan is beyond doing away with Obamacare. What do they foresee for the 8 million of us who will lose vital coverage if they manage to repeal the ACA?

After careful consideration, research, and asking questions…vote as your heart tells you to.

Alleged ISIS Threats Against US Military Prompts Facebook Kerfuffle…and Lots of Research

kerfuffleLast night I had a bit of a FB kerfuffle with some folks. At issue was comment I made on a friend’s post. The post was concerning a report that the Army has warned that ISIS is planning to kill US military personnel and their families by finding their home addresses via FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

I have several friends who are veterans or current military, whose service I respect and honor. Because of my respect for them, I don’t want them to be fall victim to sensationalized media reports which I believed this report to be. However, if the threat is real I would obviously want them to be aware and take precautions to protect themselves and their families (as we all should). The kerfuffle caused me to do quite a bit of research into these threats and just how imminent they are.

How “It” Began…

My assertion on my friend’s post was that home addresses are not found on social media platforms and that this was likely another trumped up conspiracy theory. This prompted a woman I don’t know to search my name online to prove that I was wrong. She found my business address (which is public info because…well, duh, it’s a business). She believed she’d found my home address and phone number – she was wrong. Hopefully she won’t call or visit that Carol (no e) Billingsley; I’d certainly hate for her to be subjected to any wrath that was intended for me. I jest, of course. This woman meant no harm, she was just trying to educate me on the workings of the internet. Thanks, stranger! I’ve never been on the internet before. Oh wait! My business is dependent on my knowledge of how the internet and social media work.

I was also blasted by a “friend” for having an attitude.  She cautioned the stranger (her friend, apparently) that my attitude would  increase if the stranger tried to “pursue proving a known fact”. She told me I was biased because I’m “unaccepting (sic) of any opinion differing from [mine]” (hello pot?…kettle calling!). Evidently she’s also keenly aware of my motivations, but she’ll “hold her tongue” on what they are. And she certainly meant no disrespect in any of her 4 insulting comments, the funniest of which was that I’m “PRO Obama” (apparently that’s a horrible insult!). haha

Whatevs. 

Trust me, I’d love nothing more than to read something posted by the right-wing media and NOT be able to debunk it in a matter of minutes. Please, SHOW ME SOMETHING that comes from them that is honest and doesn’t involve fear- or hate-mongering and I’ll post it up and shout it from the rooftops! For the record, there are articles posted by left-wing media that can also be quickly debunked, but those typically refer to something a politician has said/done as opposed to grandiose, vitriolic conspiracy theories.

Back to the ISIS Issue…

Another of my military friends posted this article which is where my research began (the friend mentioned above didn’t post an article, just a statement): http://bit.ly/1vG3uqE

I read several other articles with similar headlines and they all basically copied and pasted from the above article (some omitting the parts listed below that debunk or, at the very least, deescalate the ominousness of the threat).

Here’s what I found:

(Please note that, ironically, all of the information below was found via Fox News…buried within various articles with salacious headlines and bold/highlighted text or by searching for names, documents, etc mentioned within).

  1. The threat is based on ONE tweet in June (I’ve been unable to locate a screen shot of this tweet, but it’s referenced in each of the articles linked here)
  2. Buried in the 7th paragraph of the Infowars article is this: “…there is no intelligence to corroborate this most recent threat.” (http://bit.ly/1vG3uqE)
  3. The Army said in a written statement that protection levels at installations “have not changed.” (http://fxn.ws/1xMMMcg)
  4. In September, a DHS spokesman told Fox News that “[T]here is no credible intelligence at this time to suggest that there is an active plot by (ISIS) to carry out an attack in the United States. Public postings by people claiming to be (ISIS) supporters on social media threatening to carry out attacks against the United States and our allies have been made, and we are aware of them,” [Peter] Boogaard said in a statement. “The product referenced is based on such open source social media reports from earlier this summer and is not considered to reference specific, credible evidence of a plot against the homeland.” (http://fxn.ws/Z33KV8)
  5. I checked the Army Threat Integration Center’s website (referenced as the source of the warning) and see nothing noted about this threat. I found 1 document (on another website) that is purported to be the “official” warning, but I can’t verify its authenticity as the sources listed are all media outlets (no governmental or military organizations) and the site on which it is housed appears to be a civilian-owned site that accepts documents and donations from anyone.  Document here: (https://info.publicintelligence.net/ARTIC-HomelandThreatsISIL.pdf)
  6. State Department recommendations on precautions to take (referenced as a source in document from #5) for ALL US citizens. There’s nothing specific to military personnel: http://1.usa.gov/1vGqPZl

What DO we know?

Does ISIS want to do harm to Americans? Absolutely! Are military personnel (and journalists) prime targets? Yes! They are terrorists, after all, and their goal is  to do harm, intimidate, and impose fear into the hearts and minds of Americans, and anyone who opposes them. Should we all be vigilant about what/how much personal information we share on the internet? Most certainly! We should be vigilant regardless of ISIS or any terrorist organization because there are millions of crazy people in the world! Is it in our best interest for American media outlets to capitalize on fear in an effort to gain clicks, viewer shares, or opposition to our current administration? I’d have to say that’s a big fat NO! We have enough to be concerned about without having more fear and xenophobia heaped upon us on an hourly basis for the sake of ratings.

We Must Do Our Due Diligence

Articles such as this are intended to thrust people into a state of panic and fear as they’re led to believe that an attack is imminent (much the same way that terrorist organizations operate). While we ALL must be concerned about our online activities and be aware of our surroundings, we must also be diligent about verifying sources and the accuracy of information we consume. Many media outlets (on both sides) write sensational headlines in order to get clicks and shares and they count on the fact that most people will not read the article in its entirety OR do any further research to verify information contained therein.

At a time when there is limitless information at our fingertips, don’t we owe it to ourselves – and each other – to dig a little deeper into what we see and hear on social media, radio, and TV? Rather than the knee-jerk reaction of sharing something because of the headline, take time to read the article, click the links (you’ll often be surprised where they lead), do some Google searches. Look for source documents. Yes, it takes a little more time, but we’ll all be better informed, and therefore, better off, if we do.
If we all take this approach perhaps we’ll be able to find our way back to the middle, where most of us can agree. At the very least, our eyes will be opened to the ways we’re manipulated by media outlets.

WE can make it stop, but only if we educate ourselves. The more we know, the less we can be manipulated by propaganda.