The “state of our union” has me profoundly distraught. I don’t say this lightly. Every morning I read through the current news articles and every morning my faith in humanity lessens a bit more than the day before. There are so many things that I don’t understand why and/or how they could be happening. There are things that I vehemently oppose. And sometimes, albeit rarely, there are things that make my heart smile. I wish there more of those. The biggest issue that I struggle with is my inability to make a difference. I want to help change things. I want to make the world a better, fairer, more accepting, understanding, tolerable world – and I simply don’t have the platform from which to do it. So I write.
*Spoiler Alert* I’m going to write my opinion on some issues….some of which are very sensitive. If you are offended, feel free to stop reading. I will not apologize for my opinions. Likewise, I will not attempt to force them on you. But I will state them with the hopes that readers are intelligent persons capable of understanding the method of healthy debate. Differing opinions are both normal and constructive – disrespect for someone’s opinions is in contrast both unproductive and destructive. So here we go……
Issue #1: Should welfare and/or unemployment recipients be drug tested?
Yes I believe so BUT not for many of the reasons that have been offered. Basically I think it comes down to a simple comparison – if a potential employee has to be drug tested to go to work then likewise a person receiving unemployment benefits should have the same standards. If you can not pass a drug test to go to work then you have effectively taken yourself out of the potential employment pool. I think it’s difficult to justify benefits going to someone in that instance. Welfare recipients are a bit trickier. While I still have a core belief that there is nothing inherently wrong or invasive about being drug tested to receive government assistance I do think we need to be careful and not stereotype welfare recipients as substance abusers. Being poor does not equate being a substance abuser.With all of that said, I also believe that if a person is in need of government assistance and is indeed a substance abuser, then that person needs assistance just of an alternative type. If we ignore those in need who are also addicts then what does that accomplish? They are no less human because they suffer from addiction. The cycle won’t be broken without some help.
Issue #2: Should ex-cons lose the benefit of a clean slate upon release?
No no no. How can we ever expect ex-convicts to succeed with things the way they are?? We set them up to fail and then shake our heads and wonder why recidivism rates are high. Let’s think about this. What is expected of someone – anyone really – to be considered successful? Not wealthy – successful. 1.) A place to live 2.) Transportation 3.) Appropriate clothing 4.) Employment 5.) Child care 6.) Education (although this is debatable) Ok, now let’s pretend for just a minute that we are being released from prison. It doesn’t matter what the crime was, it only matters that we’ve been in prison. Now, we walk out the prison gates and we immediately begin searching for housing. We can’t rent a place because we have to check the box that denotes a criminal past. So, we decide that for at least the time being we will move in with an aunt/sister/cousin etc.. But, after she says “of course” she finds out that we can’t stay there because again, no ex-cons are allowed to reside in the building. We have no money so we can’t buy a vehicle. We have no job so we can’t get a loan for a vehicle. We have no job so we can’t get a loan for a home. We have no money so we aren’t appropriately dressed for job interviews. If we do manage to get an interview, we have to check the criminal box which makes us more or less unemployable. We can’t get a job. We can’t afford child care…we don’t have a job. We can’t afford to go back to school….whether it is for a GED or for a college education….because we don’t have a job. This is a vicious cycle – every single thing that is required to be successful is roadblocked for a person released from prison. Where do we think this will cause them to end up? Will they eventually re-offend? Oftentimes yes. Not always, some are lucky…… And yet we (the governmental “we”) can’t understand why anyone would re-offend and write them off to being “bad eggs.” This thinking is ridiculous. When all avenues for success are blocked we are setting them up to fail.
Issue #3: Should women receive equal pay for equal work?
Um…it saddens me that this must be discussed. So as of today, on average, women make .77 cents for every $1 made by men in the same position. In my state the average is a little lower and other states are lower still. But this is the average. How is this still an issue? Research by the US Census Bureau shows that there are roughly 5 million more women than men in the US. The median annual earnings for women who worked year-round full-time in 2010 was $36,931 which showed no change from 2009. More women have high school diplomas (including equivalents), associates, bachelors and masters degrees than do men. Men are ahead in the professional and doctoral degrees (US Census Bureau, 2012). So, there are more women, and the women are generally more educated yet the men still make more money. BUT let me add this: the WHITE men make more money. While sex is a major factor it is not the only one. Race is just as important to this discussion. Here’s a breakdown of the 2010 median annual earnings from the same research: White Men = $44,200, White Women = $35,568. Black Men = $32,916, Black Women = $30,784. Hispanic Men = $29,129, Hispanic Women = $26, 416. So while generally speaking women are earning less than men, in reality anyone who is not a white man is earning less – in the same position having the same or more education. How is this acceptable? Yet somehow, white men are still being overwhelming elected to political offices. And no, I’m not a minority. Well….I AM a woman, but I’m white. Sex and Race have no business factoring in to wages. Equal pay for equal work. End of story.
Issue #4: Does government belong in the bodies of women?
This for me is an infuriating issue. How dare a government official, a legislature, a politician, a lobbyist etc. tell me what I can and cannot do with my body!!! I had a “Facebook discussion” today with someone who is of a member of the anti-choice side of the debate. It was an interesting discussion. I will say here, as I said to him that I believe a person can be both anti-abortion and pro-choice at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. If woman “A” makes the personal choice to never have an abortion no matter what the circumstances that does not mean that woman “B” should not be afforded the opportunity to make her own decision. In other words, just because you wouldn’t ever have an abortion doesn’t mean that you should be allowed to tell someone else that they can’t. PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT advocating for abortion. I AM advocating for choice. What is the right choice for one is not necessarily the right choice for another. In the same vein it is completely inappropriate for a government to regulate whether or not a woman has access to birth control. Just this week Mississippi governor Phil Bryant is covertly slipping in legislation through the “backdoor” that will ban birth control, infertility treatments and all abortions without exception. So, by his standards since the time I was 11 years old (when I began menstruating) I was fair game to give birth. Yes, I know that’s extreme….but….let’s just say for the sake of argument that when I was 12 I had been raped and from that rape I became pregnant. According to Governor Bryant’s legislation I would be required to go through with the pregnancy – at 12. Of course, I guess it could be even more dramatic….if the same thing happened and I had lived in Georgia and by some twist of fate I miscarried….well then I could be prosecuted as a murderer. Yes that’s right….legislation in Georgia is currently working toward miscarriage as murder. Not abortion….miscarriage…… One particular instance was reported: A pregnant woman was told that her baby was going to be born with severe handicaps that most likely would not be overcome and that the mortality chance of the baby was extremely low. Her doctor advised her to abort the pregnancy. She and her husband chose to proceed with the pregnancy anyway. She gave birth and shortly thereafter, sadly the baby did pass away. Six months later police arrived at the couple’s home and arrested the woman, the charges were unclear as to murder or manslaughter, but she was being charged in the death of her child. So a couple who chose to complete a pregnancy and most likely were hoping against all odds that their baby would survive, not only must grieve the loss of their child but the mother must now face criminal prosecution. Does anyone else see the plethora of problems here?
Decisions regarding a woman’s health should be left to the woman and her physician. What’s next….the government legislating whether I can get a tattoo or not??
Issue #5: Should we blame the President for the bad things happening in our country?
Absolutely not. And I say this regardless of who the president is and regardless of what political party they herald from. When it comes right down to it, the president doesn’t have that much power. It’s the House and Senate who control things. The president can’t get anything done without their support. God himself would have trouble passing a bill through the House and Senate. It’s easy to blame the president but it’s not an accurate accusation. Each president inherits the problems from the past. Blame cannot be laid at the feet of one individual.
Something has to change. Our lawmakers don’t listen to what the people want. They vote the way they want; whether that be because of lobbyist urgings or personal agenda. They have been elected to represent us! Yet, they do not. I have a very specific example of this: I signed a petition for my township to my representative stating that we wanted treatment for Autism to be covered by insurance. The petition had overwhelming support. After the election, I received an email from my representative telling me how much he appreciated and valued my opinion but that he had chosen to not support the legislation. And yes, I realize that I’m only one….but I wasn’t only one in this instance….I was one of many. The legislation indeed passed….with no help from the representative of my township.
Our laws need serious review. New laws should be introduced in a single fashion. No doubling or tripling up. Vote on one item at a time. Too often are laws put in place or conversely voted down because of an addendum to the bill that frequently has nothing to do with the main issue. But, voting yes for one would mean voting yes for something else, or vice versa. Vote on one thing at a time. These representatives are being paid healthy salaries to represent and vote. Yes….it may take a little longer to vote on everything. So what? Get over it. You signed up for the job – now do it.
Likewise, let’s get all of these old supremely out-dated laws off the books. Here are some interesting laws still on the books in my state of Michigan:
1. A woman isn’t allowed to cut her hair without her husband’s permission.
2. It is legal for a robber to file a law suit if he/she got hurt in your house.
3. Any person over the age of 12 may have a license for a handgun as long as they have no felony convictions. 12???
4. It is illegal for a man to scowl at this wife on Sunday.
*sigh* Do you see my point here? There are so many outdated ridiculous laws that are still on the books that if someone really wanted to use them, they could.
I don’t pretend to have the answers to all of these issues. But, I do know that something needs to happen. We can no longer sit by and do nothing. Regardless of our biological makeup or the color of our skin or our religious backgrounds we all deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. Our opinions matter. We pay taxes, we vote, we deserve better than this.
We deserve better.