Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

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BSyHpEiCQAA3aUkToday is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and hundreds of thousands of Americans assembled again today at the Lincoln Memorial to honor the occasion. President Obama, among many notable speakers, reflected on “out great unfinished business.”

For those who can’t watch clips online, I’ve included a full transcript below, but pay particular attention to the way in which the president intertwined social and economic justice.

The men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract idea.  They were there seeking jobs as well as justice. Not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. For what does it profit a man, King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal? This idea that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood that, the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security, this idea was not new.

It was a poignant reminder of the scope of the larger struggle, and the work that still must be done.

Here’s the transcript, by way of the White House:

To the King family, who have sacrificed and inspired so much; to President Clinton; President Carter; Vice President Biden and Jill; fellow Americans.

Five decades ago today, Americans came to this honored place to lay claim to a promise made at our founding: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In 1963, almost 200 years after those words were set to paper, a full century after a great war was fought and emancipation proclaimed, that promise — those truths — remained unmet. And so they came by the thousands from every corner of our country, men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others.

Across the land, congregations sent them off with food and with prayer. In the middle of the night, entire blocks of Harlem came out to wish them well. With the few dollars they scrimped from their labor, some bought tickets and boarded buses, even if they couldn’t always sit where they wanted to sit. Those with less money hitchhiked or walked. They were seamstresses and steelworkers, students and teachers, maids and Pullman porters. They shared simple meals and bunked together on floors. And then, on a hot summer day, they assembled here, in our nation’s capital, under the shadow of the Great Emancipator — to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress, and to awaken America’s long-slumbering conscience.

We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV. Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters. They lived in towns where they couldn’t vote and cities where their votes didn’t matter. They were couples in love who couldn’t marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home. They had seen loved ones beaten, and children fire-hosed, and they had every reason to lash out in anger, or resign themselves to a bitter fate.

And yet they chose a different path. In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in, with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us. They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglass once taught — that freedom is not given, it must be won, through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

That was the spirit they brought here that day. That was the spirit young people like John Lewis brought to that day. That was the spirit that they carried with them, like a torch, back to their cities and their neighborhoods. That steady flame of conscience and courage that would sustain them through the campaigns to come — through boycotts and voter registration drives and smaller marches far from the spotlight; through the loss of four little girls in Birmingham, and the carnage of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the agony of Dallas and California and Memphis. Through setbacks and heartbreaks and gnawing doubt, that flame of justice flickered; it never died.

And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, a Civil Rights law was passed. Because they marched, a Voting Rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes. (Applause.) Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed, and Congress changed, and, yes, eventually, the White House changed. (Applause.)

Because they marched, America became more free and more fair — not just for African Americans, but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans; for Catholics, Jews, and Muslims; for gays, for Americans with a disability. America changed for you and for me. and the entire world drew strength from that example, whether the young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid. (Applause.)

Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes. That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn’t have; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Applause.)

On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. (Applause.) Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain. (Applause.) Their victory was great.

But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance. (Applause.)

And we’ll suffer the occasional setback. But we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. (Applause.) People of goodwill, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents. (Applause.)

In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination — the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the March. For the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract ideal. They were there seeking jobs as well as justice — (applause) — not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. (Applause.)

For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal? This idea — that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood; that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security — this idea was not new. Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms — as a promise that in due time, “the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”

And Dr. King explained that the goals of African Americans were identical to working people of all races: “Decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.”

What King was describing has been the dream of every American. It’s what’s lured for centuries new arrivals to our shores. And it’s along this second dimension — of economic opportunity, the chance through honest toil to advance one’s station in life — where the goals of 50 years ago have fallen most short.

Yes, there have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half century ago. But as has already been noted, black unemployment has remained almost twice as high as white unemployment, Latino unemployment close behind. The gap in wealth between races has not lessened, it’s grown. And as President Clinton indicated, the position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive.

For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes. Inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder. In too many communities across this country, in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.

And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks of millionaires. It was whether this country would admit all people who are willing to work hard regardless of race into the ranks of a middle-class life. (Applause.)

The test was not, and never has been, whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many — for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call — this remains our great unfinished business.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves. The task will not be easy. Since 1963, the economy has changed. The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class — reduced the bargaining power of American workers. And our politics has suffered. Entrenched interests, those who benefit from an unjust status quo, resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal — marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools, that all these things violated sound economic principles. We’d be told that growing inequality was a price for a growing economy, a measure of this free market; that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

And then, there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth — that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity; that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.

And then, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us claiming to push for change lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways, as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support — as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.

All of that history is how progress stalled. That’s how hope was diverted. It’s how our country remained divided. But the good news is, just as was true in 1963, we now have a choice. We can continue down our current path, in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations; where politics is a zero-sum game where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie — that’s one path. Or we can have the courage to change.

The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history; that we are masters of our fate. But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.

And I believe that spirit is there, that truth force inside each of us. I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child. I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man. It’s there when the native-born recognizing that striving spirit of the new immigrant; when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who are discriminated against and understands it as their own.

That’s where courage comes from — when we turn not from each other, or on each other, but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That’s where courage comes from. (Applause.)

And with that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on Earth for every person. (Applause.) With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit, and prepares them for the world that awaits them. (Applause.)

With that courage, we can feed the hungry, and house the homeless, and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.

America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up. That’s how a movement happens. That’s how history bends. That’s how when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we’re marching. (Applause.)

There’s a reason why so many who marched that day, and in the days to come, were young — for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. They dared to dream differently, to imagine something better. And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose stirs in this generation.

We might not face the same dangers of 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains. We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling procession of that day so long ago — no one can match King’s brilliance — but the same flame that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains. (Applause.)

That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge — she’s marching. (Applause.)

That successful businessman who doesn’t have to but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con who is down on his luck — he’s marching. (Applause.)

The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same door as anybody’s son — she’s marching. (Applause.)

The father who realizes the most important job he’ll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn’t have a father — especially if he didn’t have a father at home — he’s marching. (Applause.)

The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again, and walk again, and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home — they are marching. (Applause.)

Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day — that change does not come from Washington, but to Washington; that change has always been built on our willingness, We The People, to take on the mantle of citizenship — you are marching. (Applause.)

And that’s the lesson of our past. That’s the promise of tomorrow — that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. That when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station, can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed, as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (Applause.)

Money in politics 2

From Addicting Info (author unknown)

images-179Take just 5 minutes. Imagine an America where only one religion dictates the law of the land like Rick Santorum suggests. Where things like the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay-style camps that enable no right to fair trial are created. LGBT Americans cannot only not serve in the military but have their children confiscated. Women cannot vote. Blacks cannot marry whites. You can be fired for being Hispanic. Muslims cannot worship freely. There are no Pell Grants to put your child through school. There is no Medicare for your parents. There is a government that spends twice as much on average ($60B vs. $35B) and creates half as many jobs (73.4MM vs 34.8MM). Imagine it… having trouble? It is called Iran. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Saudi Arabia. It is called America without Democratic Presidents and their legislation. Take away all what Democrats have achieved in last 100 years and you will get an America not too different from places you fear the most.

Each of the statements below reference factual numbers, actual legislation, or true data.  All of this can be easily validated.

1. Since 1932, Democratic Presidents have created 73.4 million new jobs, Republicans have created only 34.8 million. Thus, Democrats created more jobs lifting my standard of living. (Source: International Business Times | Bloomberg)

2. Democrats got my mother, sister, and all other women a right to vote by fighting the GOP for 7 years (Source: Woodrow Wilson 1912-1919). Even 100 years later, Democrats fight Republicans as they introduced a law in Wisconsin that would criminalize single mothers. (Source 1 | Forbes)

3. Land Grant Institution funding triggered under Great Society Programs lifted me and many of my friends from lower middle class to upper earning brackets through affordable college education. (Sources: Colorado University | US History | Wikipedia)

4. Democrats got me a right to get married to the person I love while GOP made constitutional bans for same-sex marriage in almost all GOP controlled states. (Source: HRC Housing | Employment | Hospital Visitation)

5. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Programs created “Work Study” which enabled me to work 20-hours a week in addition to lk081110dBP-500classes to pay towards my college tuition and make a life for myself. (Sources: Colorado University | US History | Wikipedia)

6. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Programs created Pell Grants, which helped me and millions of other people complete college education and go on to create new businesses and opportunities for ourselves and others. (Sources: Colorado University | US History | Wikipedia)

7. Democratic President Barack Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to empower me and other LGBT Americans to serve our country with self-respect and dignity, unifying our nation. (Source: White House)

8. While GOP governments have legislation in 12 states to ban Islamic faith called Sharia, Democrats created a nation where people of all faiths can freely practice under our first amendment right by never introducing legislation to ban an established faith. (Source: MSNBC)

9. In last 70 years GDP rose 12.6% under Democrats versus a GOP increase of 10.7%. From 1960 to 2012 the gross domestic product measured in dollars rose an average of $165 billion a year under Republican presidents and $212 billion a year under Democrats. Thus, Democrats made this nation more prosperous. (Source: Washington Post)

images-18110. The Bayh-Dole Act, passed by a Democratic House and Senate and signed by Jimmy Carter, has created 5000 companies including Google. It created millions of jobs for me and my fellow citizens. (Source: Act | Wiki Information)

11. Democrats in 1967 legalized interracial marriage across the US, giving me and my friends a chance to find and marry the best person for us irrespective of race. The GOP opposed it. (Source: Wikipedia)

12. Democrats created anti-discrimination laws under Great Society Programs that protect me, and millions of other Americans from being denied housing, jobs, or other services on the grounds of race. The GOP opposed it. (Sources: Colorado University | US History | Wikipedia)

13. Lyndon Johnson enacted a massive expansion of Social Security (also created by a democratic, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Medicare so older Americans that have worked hard and spent their lives making this nation great are not left alone in the dark. One day, I will also take advantage of such programs. (Sources: Colorado University | US History | Wikipedia)

14. Democrats created Medicaid under Great Society Programs to help enhance healthcare access for men, women, and images-180children who otherwise couldn’t afford it. The GOP still wants to dissolve it. (Sources: Colorado University | US History | Wikipedia)

15. Democratic Presidents hold the record for all of the following:

  • Greatest gross domestic product (GDP) growth: Clinton
  • Biggest jobs increase: Truman
  • Best after-tax personal disposable income rise: Carter
  • Highest industrial production growth: Johnson
  • The lowest Misery Index, which is inflation plus unemployment: Kennedy
  • The lowest inflation: Truman
  • The largest federal budget deficit reduction: Clinton

Each one of the above made this country a stronger and larger economy to make all Americans more prosperous. (Source: Washington Post)

16. Democrats spend far less; spending breaks down as $35 billion a year under Democratic presidents and $60 billion under Republicans on average. If you assume that it takes a year for a president’s policies to take effect, Democrats have raised spending by $40 billion a year and Republicans by $55 billion. Thus, the GOP is more responsible for the debt that we have amassed, lowering our credit rating. (Source: Washington Post)

17. While giving people of faith a full free choice to do what they deem fit, Democrats made access to birth control available to all women so those suffering from PCOS, ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, and hormonal disorders can save their lives by using it. The GOP still fights that. This made lives of people close to me better. (Source: Detailed Affordable Care Act | Graphic | Related Blog)

GOP-Alternative-Policies18. Democrats have created anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT individuals from being denied housing or jobs based on their sexual orientation which is similar to providing protection for people who choose to affiliate with a certain religion of their choice. This has created an America where my friends and I can thrive based on our work not our race, religion, or sexual orientation. 31 GOP states have still refused to follow this trend enacted in 19 liberal states to protect LGBT Americans in a diversity bucket. (Source: HRC Housing | Employment | Hospital Visitation | State Laws |Interactive)

19. Out of 18 states that produce more wealth than what they take in from the Federal Government, 16 are liberal, one swing (FL), and only one Republican (TX). On the other hand, of 32 states that take in more money than what they produce, aka welfare states, 4 (MD, ME, HI, VT) are liberal, one swing (PA), and an astonishing 27 are full-out conservative. (Link) Thus Democratic legislature and fiscal policies have created a better living environment for me, conservative legislatures have failed to do the same for its loyal base. (Source: Tax Foundation)

20. A Democratic legislature and President Obama in 2010 enacted HealthCare Reform that eliminates discrimination for insurance against people with preexisting conditions, prevents women from being charged twice as much, makes preventative care available, enables young adults to stay on their parents plan till 26, and removes lifetime caps to make sure that children born with serious conditions are not left out to die. The beauty of this was that the reform is not a government takeover, relies on private insurance, and expands coverage for all my fellow citizens making all of our lives better. (Source: Lifetime Caps | Women Pay More | Detailed Affordable Care Act |Graphic)

America, wake up. Facts are staring right at you. 

When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts turn to the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it.  And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it?

The popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology. We are living in a time of la-tot-cartoons-pg-ocean-acidification-killing-sea-life-we-are-culpritscrisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind … Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’

Pope Francis to the crowds of pilgrims and visitors to St. Peter’s Square this week

He went on to stress what has become a recurrent theme for him: the contrast between how culture views the well-being of the financial world with the well-being and needs of the poor and the homeless.

If you break a computer it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, here nearby in Via Ottaviano, for example, a person dies, that is not news. If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that’s not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.  Our grandparents used to make a point of not throwing away leftover food. Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting food daily and we are unable to see its real value.  Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hunger.

Since taking office in March, Pope Francis has said he wants the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic Church to defend the poor and to practice greater austerity itself. He has also made several calls for global financial reform.  Around 1.3 billion tons of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted every year, according to the United Nations’ food agency.

If more Christians thought this way, the world would be a different place.

So, what do you think?  Why the correlation?  This goes beyond this graphic, but why are the most religious states also the states with the highest teen pregnancy rates, and the poorest states, and the most politically conservative states, and the states receiving the most in welfare and other government aid?  What is the connection?

Could it be that abstinence-only education leads to more pregnancy?  Or that religious guilt as a way of dealing with sexuality doesn’t equip young people to deal with their sexuality in a healthy way?

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I’ve heard from so many former Republicans who, like the author of this article, feel that their party has left them.  Thanks to my friend Bill Rogers for bringing this article to our attention.  Although I don’t share the same experiences as this writer, I too feel that I had to leave the Grand Ol’ Party – or rather that it left me.  (I voted for Reagan!)

images-117When I began writing this I was overwhelmed with the desire to hit something…or vomit. Over the coming weeks that desire has lessened to a slow simmer of absolute disgust and dismay at what has become of the party that I used to love and support. I was once a Republican living in a red state. Today I’m a registered Democrat living in a blue state. This is my story and why I left the Republican Party.

It all started in 2007. I was a 27 year-old divorced woman with no children. I was a survivor of severe domestic abuse. I was single with no money, no home and no plan other than to try and be something more than what I was. I had a car, my clothes and hope.

After moving to a new state with the help of friends, I found a very cheap apartment in a part of town that I still cringe over. My 2 jobs at minimum wage didn’t bring home enough for luxuries like choosing where to live and what to eat. There were days that I had to decide whether I was going to put gas in my car so I could get to work or eat. I always chose work. At least at one of my jobs I would get breakfast and lunch 2 days a week. I could make a $3.99 pizza with 8 slices last for 7 days. I could eat on a can of beans and a pack of crackers for even longer.

I applied to the local university in my town and went back to school while images-116maintaining my two jobs. I took between 15-18 credit hours each semester while working. All of this was possible because of government loans and scholarships.

I went to counseling 2 times a week to work through my PTSD that was caused by the domestic violence I experienced. The church that the counselor worked out of paid for my appointments because I was too poor to pay for them and my counselor said I wouldn’t improve mentally without them.

The biggest fear during this time was that I might get physically sick and need to go to the doctor. When you’re poor, healthcare is something that you dream about. It’s something that you pray you won’t need. It’s the anxiety of “what if” that keeps you awake at night. I went to work sick. I took finals while running a 104 fever. I ruptured 3 discs in my back and couldn’t walk for a week. I wasn’t able to get it treated for 3 years. I lost one of my jobs. I found another minimum wage job. It didn’t offer health insurance.

incredible-shrinking-republican-partyBasic healthcare is not a luxury. It is not just for those that “deserve” it. In the country of abundance that we live in, healthcare should be affordable for every citizen. It’s reprehensible that I can buy a DVD player for less than what it would cost me to go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. Here in the United States we have some of the best medical technology and doctors in the world. Why do we think that only a few of our citizens should be entitled access to them? Why didn’t my Republican party see that? I was left with no answers.

The day I went to sign up for food stamps opened my eyes and changed everything. I had grown up in an upper middle class family. We were traditional, conservative and religious.

I need to break here for a moment and ask that as you read the “religious” part; that you would not confuse it with faith. These are 2 vastly different concepts. What some hold as religion is not the God of the Bible.

My family believed one pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and never asked for help. It was a family that held firm to a Republican ideology that those on food stamps or “government handouts” were poor, uneducated and lazy individuals that just wanted to stay home and watch tv. These types of people were of the lowest kind. They were to be distrusted and almost hated. However, as I sat in the overcrowded room I looked around and saw people from all walks of life. You could see the desperation on their faces and the worry in every word. “I need help now. What do I do? Please help me.” There was something else that was there too…something so tangible it was overwhelming. It was shame. That oppressive shame of having to say, “I can’t do this on my own.”

I left in tears never returning. My Republican roots and their mantra echoing in my ears…”Lazy, poor, ignorant….Shame!” I told myself I would rather starve.

Throughout this time I had been listening to the candidates’ speeches in preparation for the 2008 election. I came from a very politically active family and there hasn’t been a single election that I haven’t known about and had an “opinion” on (even if it was only given to me by my parents) since I was 8 years-old and my father ran for his first public office as a Republican.

397087_10150519003533521_591238520_8690956_86137725_n_thumb[1]This election was different though. Not just because we potentially had our first African-American candidate, but because we had a candidate that spoke to the people about the everyday issues. We for once had a candidate who said not everyone can pull themselves up without a hand reaching out. I heard words of the civil obligation we have to each other, words of encouragement and of hope.

I went back and listened to every speech I could find that Senator Obama had made. I listened with new ears and a new heart. I was no longer the girl that had lived “easy”. I knew what hard was and I wanted a candidate that did too. I reevaluated what my own personal political beliefs were and I knew that I could no longer support the Republican platform.

In 2008 I watched as President Obama was elected. I clapped and shouted with fellow democrats at the headquarters’ watch party. It was my first election that I ever voted Democrat in. Everything had changed.

In 2009 I graduated from college with a degree in Political Science and History. I was able to get a better paying job and move into a slightly nicer part of town.

My feelings toward the Republican Party have not changed. They really are no longer Republicans. There are some moderates left, but the narrow, fear mongering voice of the party that has taken over drowns out all of those that speak truth. They have traded in a Christian belief of loving your neighbor for one that champions big business, the wealthy, and those that have no idea what struggle looks like.

Over the past few months alone we have seen how far gone the Republicans really are. 160 voted against The Violence Against Women’s Act. My party that I once loved deserted me. Not just as a woman, but as a citizen of this country. We even have a Republican, New Hampshire state Rep. Mark Warden saying “Some people like abusive relationships.” My response to him;

“I can answer truthfully that no, I didn’t like having my jaw broken or the bones in my face shattered. I didn’t like being dragged by my hair or strangled. I didn’t like the bruises, busted lips or black eyes. I didn’t like the mental and physical scars it left me with. And that’s why I left with nothing. I didn’t like having to choose between my life and my livelihood, even when your party makes it so hard for women to be on their own. I did. Now, can you please walk in my shoes for a while? My feet are awfully tired.”

When it comes to food stamps I have seen many of my Republican friends say how it’s so great that we have drug tests for food stamps and yet they’ve never given out food to the homeless or the poor. And they don’t care that the testing will cost Florida millions of dollars and thus far has only saved them $60,000. 98% of those tested have passed. It’s still the idea that everyone that needs help must be lazy and on drugs. Another lie that the Republicans would have us believe. I’m sure that there are some that fall into that category, but not all. Just like I know that not all Republicans are right-wing, gun-toting, women hating nut jobs…just some of them are.

There’s another issue that I’ve decided to add in here. I debated long and hard on it, but it needs to be talked about. It’s the issue of guns. On September 4, 1962 my grandmother was shot and killed with a .45 caliber automatic pistol. It was a gun that was obtained legally from our own US government actually. Because of this I have very strong views on gun control. Yes, I had them even as a Republican. I just kept them to myself back then. I don’t care what nationality, race, religion or party affiliation you are. When you believe that your right to own a gun is greater than another human being’s right to live, you have serious problems. I am at a loss for words as to how the very same people who wear the name of Christian are also the loudest opponents of gun control. “Jesus loves you, but please don’t take this deadly weapon from me.”

My grandmother was a model and an artist. She left behind 3 small children. One of them was my mother. How different her life would have been if our country had strong gun control laws.

People love to ask me, “How could you ever be a Democrat?” My response is always the same; “Because I know what it’s like to not be a corporation that has the ear of a well-connected Senator. I know what it feels like to not have a lobbyist organization to speak for me. I know what it’s like to be a second class citizen in a country that claims to protect the weak. I have been the woman in need of food stamps, the woman that the Violence Against Women’s Act protects. Obamacare was written for me and the millions of others just like me. I went to school on government ‘handouts.’ I want to live in a nation that values life above the cost of a bullet.“

My friends, I didn’t leave the Republican Party. They abandoned me years ago.