Politics and me: growing up at last

Politics used to be a dirty word to me.  I grew up with very politically left leaning parents, and there were arguments (ahem…discussions) at the dinner table growing up, and discussions (not always friendly) with friends and colleagues.  Since my Dad was an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, our house was always filled with ivory tower types, grad students, and other worldly adults.
The “discussions” made me sick, since I hated conflict, and always wanted to stand up for the underdog.  I even found ways to support Nixon!  So, my apolitical stance throughout the years was a reflection of that slice of growing up.
Later, when I married, my husband was somewhat forceful and controlling and he decreed that we would be Republican (he forgot his earlier degree years in the nature area) and wanted to concentrate on amassing his doctor’s fortune, and not being taxed.  Out with welfare – they were just lazy people lying around, having kids and contributing to the population problems.  Out with social services of any kind – we didn’t need them – let the states take care of their own, etc.
After our divorce, about 20 years later, I began to come to my senses, and form an opinion of my own – yes a revolutionary idea!  I discovered that I was a bleeding heart liberal.  I wanted to help the “unfortunates,” the homeless, the mentally ill, those without health insurance, and the environment (recycling became paramount), and I own now a “green” car as certified by the EPA.  Education became important as I watched my children become less and less educated in many subjects as the years passed.  I have a 14 yr old that can’t spell, or add simple strings of numbers to keep score in Scrabble!  At least she can read, and her science instruction has been well done.  It’s the social sciences, geography, world history, and english that suffers.  I am growing up, 50 years late.  But this election is critical for me, and the well-being of my single-parent family.
So, now the first election comes around after changes in my life where I’m really in tune with some of the issues.  Because of health problems of my own, and becoming disabled in my last year of law school so I couldn’t finish, I had to go on “welfare”.  So I am now one of the “unfortunates.”  I got Medicaid for myself and my daughters, and eventually got SSI, the low income disability from Social Security.  It causes dilemmas for me, as I get my $637 a month (yes, we’re supposed to live on that! – and that is with a COLA) , and my Medicaid that pays for  large bills in health costs (without it I couldn’t afford one doctor, let alone all the tests, specialists and medications I have now).  I can work up and make up to $800 a month (to supplement the meager amount of SSI) without losing my benefits, but if I go over, or work too much at low pay, I show that I can work, and lose my benefits, including the medical insurance.  So I’d have to be able to find a largepaying job instead, that had great health benefits, in order to make up for what I lost – a Catch-22 if you will.  I lose a lot if I don’t stay on disability (I don’t think I could work a full day, maybe not even a half-day at almost anything), but I don’t “make” enough to live on.  If I try to supplement, I risk losing it all, and then having to try and find something with much higher pay and benefits, so that I can have medical insurance to pay for my costs (and even then, it would cost quite a bit out-of-pocket due to co-pays).  But if I stay on disability and don’t work, as my body tells me too, I will have to live on $637 a month after my daughter reaches 18 and I lose my child support.  I made some grievous errors in my divorce – I tried for peace, instead of taking him to the cleaners – my settlement was law school, which turned out to be useless.  So no alimony.  I can go back and try and fight for it, but that’s a stretch.
So my issues for this election are healthcare, Medicaid changes, the world, the environment, and education.I looked at the candidates available, and the two Democratic front runners caught me eye: Clinton and Obama
Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton  Barak Obama
After Clintongate, I swore I’d never vote for Hillary.  I disliked her.  She seemed cold, and lied to protect her husband, when he was a scumbag (sorry, but in the White House!!! – keep it zipped).  So here I am faced with a choice of possibly going back on my sworn oath.
Obama seems a likely candidate, and he did just win Iowa in the caucus there, but although he is smoothly spoken, and personable, he’s young (so was JFK, but sorry, he’s no JFK), and untried in the arena of world politics, which will be a touchstone for this election.  Hillary Clinton tried before (under Bill Clinton) for a universal healthcare system,  so I know it’s a priority, and she is well versed in world politics, as I suspect she was the puppet behind Bill Clinton’s throne.
So, I believe that I will vote for Hillary Clinton, a woman!  What a wonderful choice – the Democrats might win based on the war and the wishes of the people to bring it down, and we could have either our first African-American, or female president.  What a glorious year this might be!
On a Yahoo group I belong to, I have seen political battles wage (and this is a book group!), and America comes out bloody – many on the group are international, and the image others have of America (excuse me, the U.S. – we’re not the only “americans”) is appalling.  I was surprised by the vitriol that comes out of many against the U.S. and what it stands for.  Many of these highly intelligent people can’t separate the country and it’s policies from the people.  They also see the U.S. as a land of “ganstas,” violence, and murder, and say they would be deathly afraid to live here.
Explanations that “Americans” are not their country fell on deaf ears – as did explanations that what you see on Law & Order or CSI and the movies is not real life – that most Americans live quiet, rather boring little lives, concerned with their jobs, their families, their communities and perhaps their churches.  That the KKK does not rule, that we are not all bigots, and we do not see ourselves as the rulers of the world.  To these people we are despots.  I had never seen such hatred before, and it startled me and made me think.  In past discussion groups back in the mid 90s, with international members, such topics rarely came up, and if they did, were generally mild.  I think this war has polarized the U.S. from much of the world, and it’s time to end it now!  Right now!  Before we end up with our reputation in the gutter (well, that may already be true), but perhaps we can drag ourselves out of it with a more inclusive global policy, rather than one that we basically rammed down the throats of the U.N. and the Europeans and South Americans, who are the ones that seem to feel the strongest (other than the Arab world, which is a different story – I’m talking about countries which are not directly involved in the war).
I believe Hillary Clinton to be that person who can guide us out of the pit we’ve dug, and do so with grace and style, and bring us into the global limelight with good PR.  If there’s anything Hillary understands, it’s the need for PR.  And the U.S. needs good PR badly right now.  We are on the cusp of a major paradigm shift in global political linkages and power if we don’t do something, in my opinion.  It may already me too late, but we can still salvage something, if the right person is at the helm.
So, will having a woman or ethnic minority president help us in the image market across the globe?  Yes, I believe it might.  America could lose it’s old boy political network feel, and look like it’s actually moving out of the 19th century and into the emerging 21st.  We will have skipped a century in politics.
I could go on more about their platforms, and probably will in coming months, but right now, I am merely basking in the idea that we might show that we are growing up.
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