What the Fuckers in Congress Want You to Forget: You Already Pay For the Healthcare of Others

Image by Thomas Breher

 

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

We met last year. Actually, our kids met and hit it off. But it wasn’t long before we did, too. She has a very calming presence about her that I like being around. We make each other laugh.

We were friends for a few weeks before I realized she was pregnant. I suspected it, but one does not ask a woman if she’s pregnant without first independently verifying she’s actually pregnant.

Unless you don’t really care to be friends.

The thing is, she’s so petite that it was hard to tell she was pregnant unless she wore a certain outfit.

Plus, she was so active.

Keeping up with her three daughters. Playing basketball with my two younger sons. Chasing my youngest and her youngest as she pretended to be a monster.

We talked about arranging their marriage so we could be family. Both of us agreeing nobody wants to deal with unpleasant in-laws.

I started teaching her to crochet. She found plans for a shawl she wanted to make and use as a nursing cover. I started making it for her baby shower.

We talked about names for her son.

Until just before Christmas, only 3 weeks shy of her due date, when she went into labor. She arrived at the hospital and they sent her across the street to her doctor. There they performed an ultrasound and informed her that her baby passed away.

She delivered her silent son later that day.

The new year began. After the holidays, spent explaining to her daughters what happened, and after the funeral, she did what any mother does in that situation.

She got up. She played with her girls, though there were less giggles. We didn’t laugh as much together. She seemed tired a lot of the time, but who could blame her? I couldn’t imagine the Herculean effort it took her, every single day, to just . . . rise.

But, as weeks turned into months, the low energy and sadness became pain.

Physical pain.

And I imagine in the beginning maybe she believed it just another symptom of grief. A tangible manifestation of the ache her heart felt for her son.

Until we all noticed.

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

Of how she went from chasing down preschoolers to shuffling along like a grandmother. In hospice.

She became hunched. She had trouble sitting down and standing back up. Days went by where she couldn’t get out of bed.

She held her arms crossed in front of her chest. Her hands curled in front of her shoulders.

She couldn’t use them anymore.

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

Especially the day she turned to me, stoic and quiet, and said, “I feel like I might die any day now. Because I’ve never felt so sick and I don’t know what’s wrong.”

We jumped to help her with the kids, even as we all, her friends, whispered behind her back.

What could we do?

Who could we call?

There had to be someone who could help.

She went to the hospital and they sent her home. She went to a doctor but they couldn’t track down the name of the doctor she’d seen in the hospital. She called another doctor and, after speaking with a nurse of her concerns, was told, “We don’t prescribe narcotics here.”

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

The way she cried because she didn’t want narcotics.

She wanted to know what was wrong with her.

But that’s what happens in America when your husband is unemployed and you’re uninsured and you’re black and you’re female and you’re sick . . . take your pick.

She’s all of that.

She’s also my friend and a mother and daughter and she went from being an energetic 29 year old to being an invalid in a matter of weeks. She started swelling. Her ankles and fingers and face. We made her sit and put her feet up and placed bags of frozen peas on her ankles.

All the while feeling as if our hands were also curled in on themselves. As if we were powerless.

A national spectacle unfolds before our eyes. Government representatives who don’t seem human. Not for the choices they make, but for the way they repeatedly set themselves apart from the very humans they swore to represent.

They don’t know us.

They don’t even see us.

As we fret and care for our loved ones, they don’t even know we’re there.

I once saw posts from a page on Facebook devoted to crochet about one of the page founders having a serious medical event that required him to be hospitalized in critical condition. Fans of the page clamored to ask if a fund had been set up yet to help out.

The man’s partner finally responded, informing everyone that they live in Canada.

Crowd funding not needed. At all.

But that’s how we do it here. We hear of medical catastrophe and everyone starts sending money. Whatever we can to those who need it most. To those we most love.

“You don’t have the right to spend my money on other people’s health care!” I hear people yelling. They forget, I guess, that they do it all the time. That they donate to friends and loved ones who suddenly fall ill.

Today, the House voted to pass a shit storm along to the American people.

People they don’t see. People they don’t care about in any sense of the word, no matter what steaming pile of bullshit falls from their mouths.

And I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

Discharged yesterday, after a week in the hospital. Because her husband finally took her there when things got bad. Because someone there finally took the time to see her and said, “You’re not leaving until we get some answers.”

Once again, she came home with empty arms and a broken heart.

Along with a lifelong, debilitating disease that will require extensive physical therapy, medications, and specialists.

Those in power don’t see her.

But I do.

I’m sure we’ll crowd fund at some point. It doesn’t matter what fucked up political party you pledge your misguided allegiance to, you still pay for the healthcare of others.

Some of us do it gladly.

Because she’s my friend.

And I can’t stop thinking about her.

You’ll do the same for yours.

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I’ll Be Brave On the Page 

Photo credit Chris Wightman

I am the quintessential Trump supporter.

I am a white, middle-aged, cisgender, straight woman.

My husband is a white, middle-aged, cisgender, straight male.

We live in a rural area. I attended college but do not hold a degree. My husband completed high school.

We are both descended from blue collar workers for as long as back as we can trace, with the exception of my paternal grandfather who had a college degree and was employed as a social worker.

The two of us are worse off than our parents were at our ages. They were worse off than their parents were before them.

My husband faced a serious injury that threatened his livelihood, required several surgeries, and left him unemployed and relying on workers compensation for years. He took advantage of a training program offered to him through workers comp to get certified in a new field since it would be difficult, if not impossible, for him to work in his former field.

It pays thousands of dollars less than his potential to earn had been prior to the injury.

I have been unable to find a job since we moved to a more affordable state three years ago. I also have untreated mental illness.

We earn too much to qualify for any assistance aside from a Medicaid sponsored, state administered, health insurance plan for our children, yet too little to be able to get by without fear. The two of us have gone without health insurance for over three years. We cannot afford the insurance offered through his employer. In fact, were we to sign up for it, he would end up owing his employer money each pay period.

Over a year ago my husband’s employer gave him another $.75 per hour. That raise, which barely registered as a blip in his paycheck, but for which we are thankful nonetheless, made our children no longer eligible for free lunch at school. So that extra $6 per day, less taxes of course, was immediately spent already to feed the kids.

We play a monthly utility game, juggling electric, water, and gas. We don’t have cable, only internet, which we need because I can sometimes earn money helping people with their websites or writing. Unfortunately, that work is sporadic since most area businesses are small and don’t really see the value in paying someone to help with social media and other new-fangled crap their parents never had to deal with.

Sometimes, our gambling with the bills pays off. Other times, nothing seems to align, and something gets shut off.

This week, it was our water.

If our car breaks down, we face homelessness.

If our landlord gets sick of us always paying our rent late, we face homelessness.

If something happens to my husband and he can’t work, we face homelessness.

If one of us gets ill or injured and requires medical care, we face homelessness.

None of those statements are exaggerations. We have no savings. No cushion.

We operate, perpetually, in the red.

I go to a food pantry once per month to feed my children. I find I can’t look them in the eye when one or more of them says, “I’m hungry,” . . . and my hands are empty.

I once bragged to my mother, with genuine pride, that I managed to go food shopping and purchase everything I needed to feed our family of five for two whole weeks after meticulous meal planning, and spent just $88.

Next to a definition of Trump Supporter in the dictionary, should be my image.

However, my husband and I are NOT Trump supporters. In fact, his 100 day plan, the only concrete policy plan I’ve seen from him (but feel free to correct me if I’ve missed some other comprehensive plan), stands to directly impact my family in negative ways which I won’t enumerate here.

I already feel shaky revealing all of this.  At this point, I think I’d rather delete all of this and post a picture of my vagina.

But I will say this . . .

The biggest reason I am not a Trump supporter . . .

I do not feel that bettering myself and my family should come at the expense of so many others. Nor do I feel that it is necessary.

If he wants to create energy jobs, do it through improving renewable energy sources rather than destroying the earth through coal (seriously wtf are we in the 1800’s again?), fracking, and other dangerous practices.

I don’t feel the jobs I’m vying for are being taken by immigrants, legal or otherwise.

I don’t agree that things like prohibiting women from getting abortions, or forcing children to pray in school. or forcing people to salute a symbolic piece of cloth will do anything to better me or my family.

These are the things I hear from a lot of his supporters though. That there’s a breakdown in society that is somehow causing them to not be able to find work that allows them to support their families. That somehow, if two dudes are banging their penises together in their bedroom somewhere, or a person born a woman identifies instead as a man, this means that an invisible, omnipotent force shall smite thee and thee shall ne’er find work again.

I read plenty of articles about his supporters that feel marginalized and I agree with helping these people to feel heard and supported. I do hear them and support them in terms of sympathizing with the disappearing middle class. America doesn’t manufacture anymore. We, collectively, decided that things like fair wages, safe work conditions, and our children getting educations rather than toiling the day away in factories, mattered to all of us. So companies take advantage of less expensive manufacturing in countries that don’t care about those same things.

I understand how frustrating it is to feel always at the mercy of luck. To feel always as if some hammer is about to drop and everything you’ve been juggling will crash down on you.

But I draw the line once I hear those people, people like me in so very many ways, start blaming others. Especially since the others all tend to be people from other countries, with different skin colors, with a different sexuality, with differing genders, with a different (or no) religion, etc.

That is why I don’t identify with many of his supporters. Because I draw a hard fucking line. It’s not in the sand. It’s un-erasable. In fucking Sharpie marker.

There is a way to make things better without oppressing others.

You won’t ever get me to bend on that.

I’ll even go a step further.

As upset as I am by the election results, (I’ve been crying for two days now and really need to get a grip) I still recognize that as shitty as my position is . . . it’s better than others.

Because I’m still a white, middle-aged, cisgender, straight woman married to a white, middle-aged, cisgender, straight male.

I absolutely recognize the privilege all of that allows us.

I have my children who love me in ways I cannot put into words. The love I feel from them, unconditional and pure and beautiful, keeps me aloft no matter how low I sink.

So I’ve cried for two days and I’m genuinely concerned about what this presidency means for me and my precious family who I feel I disappoint and fail almost every day but for whom I keep struggling because it has to get better some day.

But I’m even more concerned about what it means for YOU.

I had a stranger reach out to me yesterday and tell me a heartbreaking, uplifting story of such peril it absolutely floored me. It involved another country, a child-bride, a child-mother, escape from peril, and ultimately a love story forged here in America.

This stranger now lives with a deep, genuine fear of the way she’s being treated despite living here for over twenty years, having raised children who are successful and contribute to our country in deeply meaningful ways, and having mostly, in the past, felt the respect of those in her community.

I wept as I read what she shared with me:

Rabindranath Tagore was the first man who won Noble Literature prize outside of Europe in 1905. After Jallianwala Bagh massacre he returned his British knighthood. Tagore dedicated a poem to Gandhi. I am passing it to you.

If they answer not to thy call walk alone,

If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,

O thou of evil luck,

open thy mind and speak out alone.

If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,

O thou of evil luck,

trample the thorns under thy tread,

and along the blood-lined track travel alone.

If they do not hold up the light

when the night is troubled with storm,

O thou of evil luck,

with the thunder flame of pain ignite thine own heart

and let it burn alone.

I don’t consider myself a brave person. Except here.

And by here I don’t mean WordPress, or even the internet.

I feel brave on the page. I feel confident here on the page. I do this writing thing fairly well, and I enjoy doing it.

I don’t know if I can make a difference. But I can certainly fucking write.

So that’s what I’ll do.

I’ll write your story. I have my voice, but maybe you don’t.

You can message me at authorallisonbedford@gmail.com. You can keep yourself anonymous or reveal yourself. That’s your choice and I will always respect it.

If you feel afraid, or marginalized, or want to share your story, or work for a non-profit that needs highlighting. If you want to fight against oppression. If you want someone to listen.

If you just want for something you can’t put into words.

Feel free to message me and we’ll discuss making your voice heard. 

I’m holding space for you at my blog.

And in my heart.