Every four years, I find myself beating my head against the wall (usually only figuratively, but not always) as I discover a number of my friends are voting Republican. It’s hard for me not to take it personally. The reason I react so viscerally is because I’m actually offended by their vote, especially so this time. This election is more personal than any other election has ever been for me. I have never been so completely invested in the outcome. One guy is promising me that my way of life will not be compromised and it will even be made better, if I have a little patience, and the other guy is pretty much promising to destroy my life as I know it. Maybe not everybody who’s voting for the other guy means me harm, and maybe some of them even want my way of life to be protected and preserved…but it’s a little more than slightly difficult for me to believe it right now. Most of the time I can ignore something like that and just shake my head sadly, but around the Presidential elections I find it nearly impossible to ignore, and even harder to keep my opinions to myself. The only way I can release the stress caused by this deep hurt is to passive aggressively post memes and articles online in the hopes that these people see the error of their ways and change their mind.
No, that’s not true…or is it??? Well, let’s examine my reasoning.
I have a lot of reasons to be voting Democrat this election. First and foremost, I want to marry a woman, and some of my friends also wish to have same-sex marriages. Obama is the ONLY president in American history to publicly approve of same-sex marriages. Romney supports a Constitutional ban against same-sex marriages. One could argue quite accurately that my future, my family, and the life of my dreams could very well rest upon who wins this next election. Sure, my fiancée and I can still live together, and set up a stack of legal documents to sorta-kinda simulate the rights and protections of marriage. But that’s not why people get married, is it? And I’ve already discussed at rather great length why I want to marry her, so I won’t get into it all over again. Needless to say, that issue right there would be enough to secure my vote. Still, it goes deeper.
Secondly, I’m on permanent disability. I don’t want to be. It wasn’t part of the plan when I left high school a year early. I got my high school diploma, Associates, and Bachelor’s degrees all inside of four years. Then I bummed around for a year working on a Master’s in Criminal Justice before having a massive change of heart and switching schools and majors to Education (turns out all of my classmates were extreme conservatives and I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for and surrounded by people like them). From there it was a cool ten months to my next degree, a Masters in Education, which I earned with honors. So when I tell you that I was driven, and that I really never intended to wind up on disability, unable to work, you really should believe me.
Regardless, whether or not you think I’m a lazy moocher leaching off the system and contributing to the downfall of this great nation, the fact remains that I cannot hold down a job. I am unreliable because of my condition. I am weak. I am prone to sudden spells of exhaustion during which I begin to tremble until I get some sleep. I have trouble focusing and am distracted by chronic, unrelenting pain and nausea. The Republicans plan on dismantling and privatizing things like Social Security, and goodness only knows what they’ll do for my taxes (apparently we’ll find out during the debates – which honestly does not instill a sense of trust or faith in me). Not that I can really live on the meager $1100 a month I get from SSDI (in one lump sum, no less), and it’s not like I’m on Medicare…because my doctors don’t accept it… but right now that pathetic handout is all I’ve got. That, and the charity of my generous mother, without whom I would be truly and righteously fucked.
Let’s not even discuss what might happen if the Affordable Healthcare Act were to be revoked and I were to say…lose my insurance for some reason. Maybe they raise my rates because of my pre-existing conditions or maybe I miss a payment, and then can’t get new insurance because of those same pre-existing conditions. Oh yeah, and by the way, in New Jersey many doctors, including most of mine, don’t allow you to pay out of pocket because of insurance laws. If I lose my insurance, I lose my ability to manage my illness. Plain as that.
Last, I’m a woman, and my intended spouse is a woman. As a part of the population with vaginas, we would like to remain in control of how those vaginas are used and treated medically. Should our vaginas, or the connected reproductive organs, be used in a way we don’t like, we want to be in control of what’s done from there. Without shame. Without fear. Without threat of subpar or back-alley medical treatment, or the burden of expenses heretofore borne by insurance companies or The State. That is all I’m going to say on that matter.
I could tick off each issue that interests me, such as funding for the arts, or how much I enjoy having reliable firefighters and police officers in my community, but I want to focus on the ones that offend me when I hear people are voting Republican. To recap, those are: Marriage Equality, Social Security, Healthcare, and Women’s Reproductive Rights.
Now, I am aware that different things motivate different people. For example, I know that some people value the future of the education system over marriage equality, and while I may not prioritize things that way, I can understand it. I can even understand people who vote based on their religious beliefs. While I may not “get it”, I can respect their reasoning; after all the first amendment does grant the freedom to practice any faith, and it doesn’t say anything about how much or little you have to believe it.
What I can’t understand though, are people who put fiscal issues ahead of human and civil rights issues. I really can’t wrap my brain around people who say “I have friends who are gay, and I want them to be able to get married, but it’s a lot more important to me that my taxes aren’t raised.” While I know that the economy is in shambles right now, and that a lot of people are suffering, I want you to stop and consider what that says. It is literally saying, “I would rather you be oppressed than have to give up any of my comforts.” And I take offense to it. I really, really do. The same way I take offense to military spending and corporate welfare taking precedence over my wedding, livelihood, healthcare, or reproductive rights. Maybe that’s not the stance of all Republicans, but it IS the stance of the Romney campaign, and it’s not like when you go to the polls you get to say “this only goes for the budget, ok? I am TOTALLY liberal about everything else!”
I know some people are going to accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about. Or say that it’s easy for me to not care about finances because I’m already poor, so what do I have to lose. But let me tell you something. It’s kind of a secret, or at least it has been up until now…
I am not poor now. I have been poor. THIS is not poor; in fact I’m living in the lap of luxury compared to my childhood. You see, I have been very, very, VERY poor. My childhood was all low-income housing in New York, including a tenement run by a murdering drug lord in the East Village, and a dilapidated caretaker’s house in a graveyard of Staten Island. And that too was opulent in many ways compared to where things were headed. Between the years of 1988 and 1992, or the ages of 7 and 11 in my case, my family lived in a 1987 Dodge Ram van. All four of us, and as much of our possessions as we could fit, all crammed into that van and we toured the country for four years while my parents pursued their dream of becoming musicians.
Well, ok, that’s not entirely true. First my mom’s (now ex) husband lost his job, and then we were kicked out of the caretaker’s house. We wound up doing a six week cross-country mini tour, before camping out at the Sterling Renaissance Festival in New York, which we were also working. I say “we” because my brother and I were nearly as much a part of the act as the music. Twelve weeks became “one more gig” after another, and the next thing we knew, we were homeless, traveling around the country like some really weird version of The Partridge Family.
We had no public assistance for a number of reasons, most of which revolved around not having a permanent address, and besides, I don’t think my mom’s (now ex) husband would have allowed it. No, instead we quite literally relied on the kindness of strangers, and we learned how to be poor. All of us. Before I was 10 years old, I knew to order food at restaurants based on the right hand side of the page – the price. My brother knew to decide whether he was more hungry or thirsty, and to only ask for one item. I knew that my mom collected all the crackers and ketchup packets at dinners and that she made them into soup by mashing them up in a cup of hot water (although I didn’t fully understand until I was older that she would skip meals to make sure my brother and I had enough to eat). At one point, I didn’t own a proper pair of shoes and I was found out when I stepped in a puddle and left footprints in the shape of my foot, not the sole of my shoe. The soles had long since worn away and torn off the bottoms, you see. But shoes were expensive, and I knew that. I honestly don’t remember what happened when we got sick. I don’t remember seeing any doctors or dentists or any of those things during those four years… And all the things we had put in storage? Those were auctioned off when we couldn’t afford to keep up with the payments.
When my mom left her husband in 1992, we did get public assistance. We had food stamps and CHIP. My grandpa helped us get a tiny little townhouse all our own, with a real address. When we got sick, we went to the doctor and got medicine. My brother, 6 by then, saw a dentist for the first time. Our community had programs to help too, such as the local women’s shelter, which provided the BEST holidays me and my brother could remember with sacks of gently used and even new donated toys for us, and my middle school which loaded our car up with food drive boxes. One of those boxes had been in my at-the-time best friend’s class. Yes, she saw it sitting on my kitchen table.
Through the help of those programs, and later with government assistance in the form of student loans, my mom did finally realize her dreams and earned her PhD. She’s now earning a decent living, with a nice house in a good neighborhood with a big yard. Good thing too, since I wound up disabled, unable to work or support myself.
These are my reasons. This is why I am offended when people I hold dear to me tell me they’re voting Republican. It feels like they’re all banding together with all their Republican friends to do things that will hurt me and make my life infinitely more difficult. And I know that’s not true, I’m sure none of them ever stopped to think about how it might make me feel. Which is precisely why I wrote this. So they can know, and hopefully think.