By Michele Gabriel
Perception – the way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
I start with defining perception because I believe the value of perception is underestimated. Trying to make sense of how our country got to this divided state of angry, name-calling judgers is maddening. You see, I know a lot of Trump supporters. They’re related to me. They went to my high school. Some of them are my beloved friends.
Personally, I don’t see the attraction. I find his behavior abhorrent. I can’t seem to discern a single policy to be good for our country. I don’t base my opinion of him on what the news tells me, so please don’t attribute my disdain to fake news. I base my opinion on the words he uses. The body language he exhibits. I base my opinion of him on his twitter account, which is full of distraction, disdain, projection, and, frankly, garbage. To me, he is the worst our country has to offer. The very worst of every evil thought in each of our collective heads.
To be honest, I really believe most of you feel the same way. I think you are, at the very least, appalled by his misogyny, racism, and general lack of respect for others. But I also suspect you disagree with me on his policy. And this is where I struggle. I struggle with perception because so many of the other people I know think you’re all racist for supporting him and I see you as people who were fed up with what you perceived to be happening in the government and you rebelled by electing someone who told you he was different. I also believe that what you perceived to be happening was skewed by a dangerous far-right agenda, but that is for another day.
I grew up watching people scam the system, lying about their living status to obtain government benefits. I watched them use their EBT cards for soda and chips and then blow $200 on a tattoo. I saw them at the gym benching 400 pounds right after they cashed their disability check – the one they got because they can’t work due to a bad back. Yes, it happens. And yes it is disheartening to work your butt off all day and see that go down day in and day out. It is maddening.
I, too, work hard and then wonder how a full 43% of my paycheck is paying for taxes and health insurance. I’ve paid my bills on time and spent the month broke while watching people using the welfare system dine out and have fun.
Like you, I heard the promises made to drain the swamp and end these programs that take your hard earned tax dollars and hand them to people who “don’t deserve it”. I used to be the person who said that the government gives no incentive for hard work.
So how did I become a snowflake? How and why did I turn my back on the GOP? What makes me different from you? Why do I disagree with the President’s policies? Why am I not happy about his tax cut? Why do I want to see assault weapons and 30 clip magazines banned? Why do I think we should be thinking about universal healthcare and taking care of the poor? Why do I think we should focus our attention on education for everyone?
I’m not a liberal prick who wants to take your guns. I’m not a snowflake who is offended and sensitive. I am a survivor. And as a survivor, I am wired to notice and root for other survivors. My perspective has shifted from treating people the way I want to be treated right now, to treating people the way I want to be treated in my darkest moments because that is when it matters. Those moments are what shape us and how we’re treated in those moments often determine whether we survive and grow stronger or simply whither and put bitterness into the world.
My husband and I had an infant son eight years ago. I was hospitalized at 19 weeks. He was born at 23 weeks, after an emergency c-section that nearly killed me. Though he fought hard for nearly 30 hours, his little body could not overcome the challenges of being born 17 weeks too soon. I nearly died during his birth and was pretty sure I wanted to afterwards.
I don’t tell you this so that you feel sympathy for me. I tell you this because this is the kind of situation that can bankrupt hard-working people who have done everything right. I was in the hospital for 4 weeks. I had major surgery. My son needed significant care in the NICU. My terrified, bereaved husband was compelled to spend a lot of time at the hospital and then time planning a funeral. I had a surgery complication that resulted in 5 more days in the hospital after the funeral. I had significant complicated grief issues as a result. PTSD is a common result of child loss.
To say we were in rough shape would be a gross understatement. Any number of the facts above could have destroyed our financial stability. Ask yourself if you’d survive financially in you were in this situation?
Do you have adequate health insurance? All in, my hospital stays cost insurance companies $300,000 (the uninsured would have been charged more without any contract negotiations). Grief counseling was $320 an hour.
Any idea how much a funeral costs? A tiny casket? Cemetery plot? Headstone?
Lost work hours – short term disability typically pays 60% – 80% of your pay, if you have short term disability insurance. Would your spouse be able to be there with you at the hospital day in and day out for roughly 5 weeks?
Even with very good, very expensive insurance, we had a pretty big out of pocket medical expense. The grief counseling was out of network, and therefore, most of that was out of pocket.
Here’s the good in the world…my husband’s employer was flexible and he was able to work from my hospital room a lot. He was also able to take a great deal of PTO time when emergencies arose. They’re a great place to work and care about their employees. I was paid the short term disability amount from my employer. A local funeral home donated the funeral for our son.
We leaned on friends and family. We learned who we could count on and who we couldn’t and we survived and became strong, but what if my husband was employed somewhere without flexibility? What if I didn’t have short term disability? What if our health insurance was inadequate?
Think about your life and then think about the worst possible thing that can happen in it? If your child was suddenly terminally ill, would you want to choose between going to your job to keep that child insured or being by that child’s side during the last months of his / her life? If your spouse suddenly had a debilitating accident, how would your life change?
If any of these situations would find you needing outside financial help to cover your necessities, you might want to give more thought to cutting Medicaid, CHiP, Medicare, disability, SNAP, low-income housing because someday you may be the one in need.
The large majority of the people using these programs actually do work. They work for large companies who, despite the tax cut they’re now going to enjoy, offer them 30 hours of work so they don’t have to offer health insurance or significant PTO. Many pay a lower hourly wage for part-time employees so they’re getting paid less, they’re getting less paid time off, and they’re getting no health benefits. Then some of them have to work another part time job to survive and have no time for their kids, then we blame their kids for perpetuating the cycle. These large companies keep the poor in poverty and then blame the poor for being poor.
I get it, you want to get ahead and you keep falling behind, but there is more than one way to get ahead. Maybe instead of stepping on those beneath you, you should think about pulling on those above you, because from my perspective they’re the real reason you aren’t getting anywhere.