What Is Government

Up until I was around 20 years old, maybe even older, I didn’t really know very much about politics. I honestly wish I could go back to those simpler times. It feels like I had a lot less to worry about back then. It’s always easier not to know. My entire family are democrates, so that is about as far as my political awareness went. I was taught vaguely that poor/low-income people were democrates, rich people were republicans. A very simplified explanation of the two parties in America, but I still believe it holds up. At least that’s what you would expect.

As I got older I came to find that there are tons of poor people voting passionately against their own interests. A good portion of the republican base in fact. I was astounded even more when I became a social worker and got to listen to clients who could hardly survive on the small amount of government assistance they received simultaneously complain about “lazy, good-for-nothing” people taking advantage of the system and voting to cut social security benefits. They seemed totally disconnected from the fact that they were the people their beloved Fox News hosts were referring to when they condemn these societal moochers.

I guess they thought it couldn’t have been in reference to them, because they were good people. They hadn’t done anything wrong. They weren’t worthless, scheming, monsters taking advantage of other people. Yet they were still quick to jump on the bandwagon of hate, directing it at some imaginary, caricatures of people that were making it harder for people like them who really do need that help to be taken seriously. It always broke my heart to meet clients that continuously tried to justify their need and convince me that they weren’t just “some drug addict” or something.

What has been reminding me of all of this lately, is the controversy over the unemployment income many Americans have been relying on since this pandemic began over a year ago. Everyone is able to see the absurdity of going out to find work, when you would receive more money by staying on unemployment instead. It is the perception of this absurdity that varies. Conservatives cry: You can’t give everyone so much money or else they’ll never go back to work! While liberals and progressives insist: If these people were paid a living wage to begin with, this wouldn’t be a problem. We must raise the minimum wage so that these people have an incentive to return to work.

Obviously I agree with the latter. The government didn’t just arbitrarily decide on an amount to pay, they based it roughly on how much these people would need to survive. If working full-time isn’t allowing you to earn that measly amount, clearly THAT is the problem. Not that the government is giving you enough to live on. This seems so simple to me, but I know that nearly half of the country would disagree. These types of disheartening conflicts are the reason that after passionately throwing myself into politics for a few years, I’ve begun trying to ignore it all together again. It is just to painful. It seems so hopeless. I’m tired of fighting.

One of the main things I don’t understand though, is what other people think the government’s purpose is. I’m starting to think my idea of it has been misguided and idealistic. It seems like throughout school I was taught that the government, at least in America, was established “for the people, by the people.” I was under the impression that it’s only purpose was to organize our collective resources as a nation so that we could best serve the entire population. In my mind, government was just a way to work together as a society so that we could accomplish things we wouldn’t be able to as individual citizens. Not only that, I thought it’s purpose was to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable among us, to help people. Not only for moral reasons, but to the ultimate benefit of the whole. Having a system to take care of the less fortunate gives those people the opportunity to some day give back to society again. At the very least it would deter them from criminal activity, because they wouldn’t need to engage in that to survive.

I hear all the time that “it’s not the government’s job to support you.” But isn’t it though? Isn’t that why we have a government in the first place? To take care of our citizens? I’m often tempted to ask these people what they think the government’s job is, if not to protect us and support us. I’m trying to stay curious and not let the unsettling mindsets of so many people get to me too much. It’s just not worth the grief it causes me. And I’ve accepted that fighting about it won’t make a difference. All I can do is watch is stunned silence, or turn away.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Strange Times

This year feels like it hasn’t even happened. One day bled into the next until we found ourselves in September. Yet thinking back, New Years Eve seems so far away. And it’s as if my mind has discarded any memories of what happened in between then and now. I’ve just spent this year waiting. Waiting to feel like myself again. But I don’t really remember what that even feels like anymore.

When this pandemic first started, I was just happy to have a few months at home. But it seems like I’ve spiraled into a dangerous place since then. I kept telling myself that once things went back to normal, I would too. Now I wonder if things will ever be normal again.

It seems like a lot of people are struggling with their mental health right now. It’s easy to blame it on the pandemic and for some people I’m sure that is the main factor. For me however, I’m not sure. Am I just using that as an excuse? Nothing has really changed that much for me besides wearing a mask when I go out and not seeing my grandmother as frequently.

I’ve gone back to work and go about my business as usual for the most part. In rural Ohio, it seems like the majority of people don’t believe in this virus. That is a bizarre thing to witness in itself. Knowing so many people around you are completely immune to logic and simple facts. It is frightening when I really think about it.

Maybe more than anything directly changing in my life, this pandemic has changed the way I think and see the world. While once I was so passionate about veganism and politics, now I’ve resigned myself to looking away. I can’t bear to face the reality of where the world is right now. It is simply too painful and terrifying. It’s so much easier to numb myself to it.

I used to feel that even though it may be painful, it was my duty to change things. Now I hold no delusions about being able to change a damn thing. Therefore I can find no reason to keep watching everything unfold. It makes me feel helpless, angry, sad, desperate. I’ve chosen to turn that off and feel nothing instead.

I had a foggy memory of a dream from last night as I wrote that last part. There were two girls. One was explaining to the other how to just turn a switch on the heart so you don’t feel anything anymore. The girl seemed glad at the idea, but with an empty smile, the other girl warned her that it does get harder to turn it back on every time. Aren’t dreams fascinating? We can learn a lot about ourselves from our dreams. And reaffirm the things we already knew deep down.

I’m sorry this post has mostly been rambling. But part of me feels like that is an accurate reflection of what this year has felt like. Wandering aimlessly within our own heads, disconnected from everything. If things don’t change once 2021 arrives, I am making a promise to myself here and now that I will finally start therapy. Feel free to hold me accountable for that promise. Here’s hoping things begin to look up for us all.

Reproductive Rights

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In the recent political climate, I have started to become increasingly anxious about my access to reproductive healthcare and my rights in this country as a woman in general. Despite the progress we have made in the last few decades regarding gender equality, it seems like things are beginning to slip backwards as the conservative sects and corruption in this country push back against these improvements.

While the religious right may think that women view abortions like going to the dentist, I (and I’m sure most other women) have always been terrified of the idea. However, this was always a less terrifying alternative than having a child if by some unfortunate mistake I became pregnant. Although I never wanted to have to abort a pregnancy, the knowledge that that option was there for me if I needed it was always a comfort.

In the last few months, I have seen the state governments of Ohio and West Virginia start to chip away at that right. West Virginian’s voted that the state has no obligation to make sure a woman has access to this right. Ohio recently passed their “heart-beat” abortion bill that will prevent a woman from having rights over her own body as soon as a fetus has a detectable heart-beat. This can be as early at three weeks after conception, before most women are even aware that they are pregnant.

It sickens me to see our society telling women that they don’t have autonomy, that they don’t have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies. Even worse, to say more children must be born into this world to parents that do not want them or cannot afford to care for them, while there are already so many waiting to be adopted or living out their lives in the foster care system. I didn’t plan on waiting around for a terrible fate to befall me because of my gender. I’ve never wanted to have children, so I decided it was about time to make sure that I wasn’t able to anymore.

In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be lucky enough to find a gynecologist that would be willing to sterilize a woman as young as myself, who is unmarried, with no children. I decided I may as well start asking around though. To my surprise, the gynecologist I only recently switched to last year agreed to help me!

I simply could not control the smile that spread across my face when she said that I was an adult and had the right to make decisions about my own body. “After all,” she said, “women don’t have to have children.” I could have cried with joy to know that this woman respected me and was giving me control over my own life. Better yet, she told me that my insurance would likely cover the costs of the surgery.

After reading about the simple procedure and contacting my insurance company to discover that they would cover 90% of the costs (leaving only around $400 for me), I scheduled my laparoscopic tubal ligation. The surgery took place one week before Thanksgiving. Never before had I had something to be so thankful for on that day. It was an outpatient surgery that took only around 15 minutes to complete. There were no complications and I recovered in record time, no scarring, no pain meds. After four days I was back to doing my hour-long H.I.I.T. workouts and advanced yoga practice daily.

I no longer have to poison my body with hormonal birth control pills. I don’t ever have to feel fearful after having a sexual encounter. I have never felt so joyous and free in my entire life. I hope so fervently that any other woman that wants to have this procedure done decides to ask her primary care physician or gynecologist. I hope that all doctors would be willing to respect a woman’s decision about her own body and reproductive health. I am eternally grateful to my doctor for giving me my freedom and my body back.

I wanted to share my story so that other women would know that it’s possible to make the same decision for themselves. There are so many good reasons not to have a child. I hope that other women that don’t want to have children will find reassurance in my story and know that they are not “heartless” for not wanting a baby. They don’t have to stand being belittled with the infamous “you’ll change your mind.” We are not objects to be used by men or humanity as a whole. My body is mine and mine alone.

Stay strong, sisters.