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Posts published in “Watkins”

Am I next?


Last night we went to dinner with some friends; came home and relaxed a bit and then headed for bed – a pretty normal Saturday evening for many folks in the United States.

Except, instead of immediately going to sleep, I lay in bed thinking about the stark contrast between my evening, and the thousands – tens of thousands – of people in airports throughout this country who thought they'd be getting off of a plane and doing something very similar. Instead, some of them were waiting to find out if they would be allowed to ever leave the airports, and others lawyers and protesters doing everything they could to ensure the travelers would be allowed to enter or in many cases return home.

And I wondered: If this keeps up, when will I become a target of the racism and xenophobia that underlays the current situation?

A friend tells me I'm over-reacting; there's no way I could be mistaken for anything other than a shiny, white U.S. citizen. But I'm not so sure.

Growing up, I was flattered when classmates asked if I was Native American. When I visited Mexico, I was amused when North Americans (Canadians and U.S. citizens) assumed I was Mexican; and Mexicans assumed I was Italian. I know that I'm primarily of Scandinavian and Eastern European descent, but like most multi-generational U.S. citizens, there are a few other ethnic genes in my pool and most likely Native American is one of them. For some reason those are a bit more dominant so my skin is slightly darker, and during the summer that coloration is even more pronounced. So, dark hair, dark skin ... definitely more likely to be mistaken for something other than European descent.

And apparently, those are the first things some people see when they look at me – so, if the United States continues down the path our new “leader” and his neo-Nazi advisor are setting for us, how long will it be before I'm one of those being detained?

Right now, I live far from the action, in a small town that's not too involved in the current immigration situation. And right now, only immigrants from certain countries and a certain religion are the targets. But, I keep wondering: How long before the net widens?

My friend doesn't see it happening here. I'm guessing most of the folks who live here don't see it happening here. That's always the problem, isn't it? We always think it will happen to someone else, if it happens at all.

It's hard to live here in this small, quiet, friendly western Oregon town and recognize at the same time that I'm safe and warm and well-fed, there are people sitting in airports around the world whose lives have just been turned up-side-down. It's hard to comprehend that there are people being shot at, starving, murdered, raped, or jailed just for being who they are – in every country in the world.

I understand why my friend thinks I'm over-reacting, but we all need to understand that what's right now happening to “others” could easily, tomorrow or the next day, be happening to each of us. We could just as easily be targeted for one or two specific characteristics that make us different from another group.

So, what will they do if it does happen here? What if that executive order is expanded to include other races, and other nationalities or left-handed people; people with green eyes; or people with mental or physical disabilities? Because, I'm pretty sure that if we don't speak out loud and strong now that's exactly what will happen. And that does worry me, because every time I look in the mirror, I see someone who could easily be part of the next targeted group.

Who’s evolved?


Several years ago we had a small pet rat colony – four of them (all females BTW). As we observed this little group we noticed they had formed a little society: There was the “Lookout” rat who always sat where she could monitor the entire room and watch for any danger; the “Shopper” rat who was responsible for bringing back food and supplies to the main cage (we had a bit of a maze and left food in various areas); and there was the “Homemaker” rat who spent her days cleaning and rearranging the nests and food supply.

And last, there was the one we called the “Welfare” rat. We never actually saw her involved in any activity that added to the quality of life for this little group, but with zero reluctance or animosity the others shared with her the fruits of their labors. For whatever the reason, the other three seemed to have determined that she needed care and protection, and they gave it willingly.

This little society has been heavily on my mind the last few weeks – and especially the last few days as I've ended up in discussions about the funding and necessity of the social assistance programs in our country, and what's going to happen to them as we begin a new era of government.

I have two friends whose viewpoints regarding the Affordable Care Act and Medicare/Medicaid differ greatly from mine. As I listen to their arguments against these programs one attitude stands out: “I worked and paid for MY healthcare and I resent having to help subsidize anyone else. Let them go out and get their own job and pay for their own healthcare.”

Of course, both of these individuals seem to think that the only people in need of societal assistance and support are the drug addicts and alcoholics. They forget about some of the folks my friend who runs a soup kitchen tells me about: The couple from out of town who are trying to qualify for assistance for her cancer treatment. They are sleeping in their car because they have no money.

And there's the young guy my friend is helping to get surgery … he had a stroke which did some great mental damage and rendered him incapable of holding a normal job. He became homeless and the years of living rough have deteriorated his physical condition to the point where he now lives with chronic severe pain. There are surgeries that could help him, but he's not mentally capable of dealing with the bureaucracy that will get him help. So when he can get in to see a doctor, they just prescribe pain killers … addictive pain killers. And the addiction of course makes it that much more difficult for him to communicate or pursue a more permanent fix which in turn could enable him to hold down a job.

But...he's an addict, so why do we want to share our hard-earned money to help him?

And I think of a friend who at least has a family and support network in place, but who suffered a brain aneurysm several years ago. She can no longer work and their family went from being comfortable middle class to moving back in with parents and struggling to keep the bills paid.

Of the 20 million people who now have some health coverage thanks to Obamacare; and of the millions more on Medicare and Medicaid, these stories are the far more common. And yet, my one friend tells me that for people living in states that have turned down the Obamacare assistance – it's not a problem. People with chronic issues can still get help; they can just go to the emergency room.

Apparently she doesn't get that someone in need of surgery is not likely to get it from an emergency room visit; someone with a chronic, debilitating condition such as – say, kidney failure – cannot show up at the emergency room for a regular dialysis treatment. And never mind that ultimately all of us do pay for those emergency room visits which are passed on in higher charges for the patients who do have insurance; and higher county and state indigency subsidies which come out of our taxes.

Of course, we don't have to worry about them for long because they do die off a lot sooner.

Now, my friend actually does have a degenerative nerve disease and she has refused to give in to the relentless progression. She continues to work and to drive herself … and stay out of a wheelchair. I admire and honor her courage and her determination to keep going and to care for herself. But I also know that very few of us are that determined and that strong nor do we all end up with some of the resources that she had and was able to exploit when her condition was first diagnosed.

When last I spoke with her, she was, in fact delivering turkeys to a local food bank because, “Even poor people have a right to a turkey on Thanksgiving.” But, apparently, they don't have a right to medical care if they can't pay for it.

My other friend just feels that she and her husband worked hard and paid for everything they got; and she resents now having to again pay for Medicare when the money she paid in when she was working just got dumped into the General Fund – at least that's what she was told by the folks at Medicare – and by golly, if you didn't work to pay for your Medicare, why should she help you out?

Which makes me think of my neighbor who was a stay-at-home mom; she raised her children – and then she raised foster children – a bunch of them! – and so she never had a job with a paycheck that had Medicare or Social Security deducted. She can barely make ends meet with what little pension she gets from her deceased husband's retirement; rent, utilities and food pretty well eat that up.

And yet, she performed a pretty valuable service to our society. Don't we owe her something? At a minimum decent health care? According to my friend, we don't.

I think of both of my friends as loving, caring – good people. They attend church. They donate to various causes. But, they seem to have a blind spot when it comes to who “deserves” medical care: not someone who didn't work and earn it; not drug addicts; not the homeless or jobless; not immigrants; not the mentally or physically disabled. Nobody, it seems other than people like themselves. The rest? Well, they'll just have to live in pain and misery because nobody should be asked to share their resources with those who don't have any.

So, I think about our little rat colony, and I have to ask myself: Which of us is actually the more evolved species?

Why the furor


So, I've been mulling over this latest Trump debacle – and of course the question that keeps coming up is: Why, after all that he's said and done – and especially his history of denigrating comments about women – is this particular bit of slime creating so much furor among Republicans?

In the past months we've been subjected to multiple Trumpisms, any of which coming from a normal person would have caused even the most craven of of his own party to speak out, and would have likely effectively ended the campaign. But not so with this sack of garbage. The Republicans have continued to suck it up, make excuses and let his comments slide.

But this time, for some reason, Trump's comments have not only created a firestorm within the party, you have Republicans announcing they will not vote for him, disinviting him to campaign events, calling for him to step down from the election, and actually saying his comments were beyond acceptable; “disgusting, vile, sickening” are a few of the adjectives used.

Which brings me back to my original question: Why this time? It's certainly not his first foray into “deplorable” territory – his comments are well-documented, I'm not going to attempt to repeat them all here. But through it all the Republican organization has stood by why is this finally the straw that broke the camel's back?

My theory? & yes – I know this is not going to sit well with some, and I'm usually the last person to cry misogyny or racism … but, here it is:

In ALL of his prior repulsive comments, Trump has always targeted: non-whites, “foreigners,” Democrats that Republicans already hate (ie: Hillary Clinton), women that don't meet the GOP standards of attractive (Rosie O'Donnell; even Carly Fiorina), and individuals or groups that basically have some weakness already – even Heidi Cruz, whose main issue is that she is married to Ted Cruz who nobody (Republican or Democrat) seems to like.

In classic “Bullying 101” fashion he's always attacked someone who is already weak, and already viewed with disdain by the Republican bullies as being out of the mainstream.

But lo and behold! What people heard on that Access Hollywood video was Trump attacking THEM! He was denigrating “beautiful” white women! Women that Republicans see as respectable, successful, and attractive, and most importantly – part of their “tribe.”

Women who could actually be Mitch McConnell's or Jeb Bush's daughters. Trump just jumped the fence and came into their yards!

All of a sudden his comments got personal. And notice the way they've responded? Not with outrage that he's once again shown his lack of respect for any human who's not him, but that he's talking about women who could be “their” women … their property. “MY daughters, MY sisters.”

“I have a wife. I have a daughter. I have a mother, and I have five sisters all of whom I love dearly,” [Sen. Mike] Lee said. “It's occurred to me on countless occasions today that if anyone spoke to my wife, my daughter, my mother or any of my five sisters the way Mr. Trump has spoken to women, I wouldn't hire that person. I wouldn't hire that person, wouldn't want to be associated with that person...”

“I am sickened by what I heard today,” [House Speaker Paul] Ryan said. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”

“As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape,” [Sen. Mitch McConnell] said late Friday.

“Today!” We've all been hearing Trump speak that way about all women for decades – even his own wives and at least one daughter … but only with this tape did it suddenly dawn on the Republicans that it could be their own women that Trump was speaking to or about.

I don't have to repeat here the names and women he's attempted to shame over the decades, let alone the last several months; you've heard them often enough, but as I think about it, with very few exceptions every one of those women has been … not a “WASP.” They've mostly been non-white, or from another country, or successful in occupations traditionally dominated by white men, or not conforming with an Aryan profile of attractive, and most importantly they've not been “owned” by white Republican men.

For the Republicans this isn't about Trump's lack of respect for people in general, or even for women in general. It's about the fact that it's maybe – finally – sinking in that he's “coming for them,” and maybe – finally – they're starting to understand that they too need to be afraid.

Defense is over


Since the Democratic convention, I've been defending Bernie Sanders supporters from the characterization as entitled, spoiled brats. I too was very unhappy with the way the DNC & the media handled Sanders' campaign, and I too believe that had they approached it without bias we'd have seen a very different result.

But life being what it is, the result is that Hillary Clinton got the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie conceded – with a great deal of class and humility I have to say – and life goes on. As Sanders has said, our job now is to ensure that Donald Trump does not become our next president. And while I'm not Clinton's biggest fan, reason dictates that I support her in this election because there is simply no other good option.

And that's what I've tried to convey to the Bernie supporters that I have contact with. To support either of the minor party candidates, or to withhold your vote completely is a step toward nuclear war...because if Trump becomes president I have no doubt we're going to see one.

I believed, and hoped, that the vast majority of the Sanders supporters would eventually suck it up and come to the party.

But the lackluster support being given to Our Revolution (the framwork organization that will continue to support and promote Sanders' progressive agenda) – both by the media and by Sanders supporters has given me some real cause for concern.

Apparently Bernie's best line out of the entire campaign failed to sink in: “Real change does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up. Our Revolution is our chance to begin the groundwork for change. But it appears that many of the folks who were so excited about Bernie Sanders weren't looking for real change – they were looking for someone to make the changes for them. From Baby Boomers to Millenials – a portion of every age group that supported Sanders seems to have seen him as their grandpa who would come in, give “mom and dad,” (aka: the current elected government) Hell, and straighten things out.

Unfortunately, that's not how life works and that's especially not how government works. And now, those folks who wanted everything handed to them on a silver platter are pouting because they didn't get it. So instead they're turning to people like the Green Party's Jill Stein (whose sincerity about making changes has been proven by participating in the vandalization of construction company equipment at the Dakota Pipeline site) and the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson – who at least has some governing experience, but...have they really read the Libertarian platform??

Why? Because both Stein and Johnson are promising change without work. Like Trump, they promise to change everything if they get elected...but they don't bother to mention how that's going to happen.

One of the (I believe) significant reasons Sanders didn't win the primary was because many of his supporters simply didn't understand the voting process in their states. They didn't understand that every state is slightly different, that caucuses are an esoteric, complicated process, and that you can't just walk in there en mass and expect everyone to hand you the keys to the White House. They weren't willing to educate themselves or do the work in order to get the results they wanted.

So, I've reached the point where I'm done defending – or attempting to persuade – those holdouts. And I am sad to admit that yes, there appears to be a significant portion who are feeling entitled; who think that the system that they couldn't be bothered to understand has failed them. All of those kids whose parents' cars were plastered with “MY KID WAS STUDENT OF THE MONTH” bumper stickers are learning a hard lesson: In real life, “student of the month” doesn't count for much. You have to actually know how the system works.