This is going to be a non-knitting post. Hopefully we'll get back to the knitting after this. But I really need a place to purge what's been rattling around in my brain the last few weeks, and yes, it's the topic everyone's sick to death of hearing about. The election.
The 'hide' feature on Facebook is getting a ton of use on my feed these days. There seems to be so much misinformation and hatred that it's nauseating to me.
Apparently a lot of people think that Obama being elected means that half the country is going to be on public assistance. As someone who's been on Medicaid, WIC, and received grants to attend school, I'm telling you those programs are harder to qualify for than you think. My husband drew unemployment in the past because when the ground freezes in Indiana it's nearly impossible to lay asphalt. And when our daughter was brand new (and when I was on Medicaid and WIC) I actually went to apply for foodstamps and couldn't get them because we made too much. Even being on other forms of public assistance. Even with an unemployed spouse. Even with a tiny person depending on us to provide for her when we could barely make ends meet.
My point is this: The vast majority of people who receive assistance need it. They are living at or below the poverty line. There will always be abuses of the system, it's inevitable, but I don't understand the mentality of individuals who think we should completely do away with these programs.
When you've had to apply for these programs, when you've felt the needless shame and embarrassment from having to ask for help because you have committed the crime of being poor, then throw stones. I would have given anything to be able to afford to not need that assistance, but I couldn't. I would drive miles out of my way to use my WIC checks where I was sure I wouldn't bump into anyone I knew. It was mortifying for me. And it shouldn't have been. I've held a job since I was 16 years old, and at the time I was working and going to school. I just wasn't being paid a living wage and it wasn't my fault.
Poverty is not the fault of the poor. It's the fault of an incredibly broken, fucked up system.
And it blows my mind when people I know for a fact have used these programs, turn around and point fingers at people who need them now. If you've ever used a state/federal form of assistance, ever received a grant to go to school, ever claimed the Earned Income Credit on your taxes... How in good conscience can you have so much venom for those who use it now?
Part of what I think makes my country so wonderful is our willingness to help each other in times of need or distress. There's a huge economic disparity in this country. Roughly 75% of our nation's wealth is held by the top 10%. Unemployment is still high and housing prices are still low. People need help. And people are looking for a scapegoat, and unfortunately Obama seems to be the target of people's frustration and rage. But blaming one person for all the problems within our society won't solve anything.
For the first time in my life I voted Democrat this year. Normally I vote Green. But this year it felt like there was a lot riding on who got into the White House and I worried about voting for a third party candidate who had no chance of winning. And I know people won't agree with me, but I think President Obama is doing a pretty good job considering what he was handed when he entered office.
And Mitt Romney could have had an excellent plan for getting this country back on its feet. But he wanted to take away my rights in the process. My right to make decisions about my body and reproductive options. He wanted to prohibit people I love from being able to marry who they wanted. (In the words of my incredibly wise 8 year old "That's not very nice.") And like so many others in his party, he supported legislation to redefine rape. Redefining it with terms like "force-able" and "legitimate". And when you start talking like that, it doesn't matter what else you have to say, because there's no way in hell I'd ever vote for someone who wants to strip away my rights or peoples rights in general. And I still don't understand how giving the wealthy more tax breaks, and asking the middle class to foot the bill, is going to help me. I'm serious. If someone out there can explain it to me in a calm, rational, non-asshole way, I'd really like to understand how something like that works. Because simply saying "The wealthy are the job creators" doesn't convince me at all.
So I voted for social progress this year. I don't know if the economy of this country will improve in the next four years or not. I am a little nervous about it. But when I saw what happened in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington I felt relief like I haven't felt in weeks. I cried. Big happy tears.