I Am A Pre-Existing Condition

With all of the things going on in the United States these past few days, it can be tough to want to keep looking at the same daunting information. I know-really. Because a quick Google search for US news leads you to headlines about the healthcare bill, religious freedom bills, Penn State death, the GOP, the EPA, and a whole host more.

Searching Google, then, for the AHCA (aka: TrumpCare), you’d be compelled to scream. And I’ll be the first to admit, I reviewed all the information I could, watched the Rachel Maddow show to blow off some steam and then I ranted to my husband. A lot. Because, as I know a lot of you can empathize with, this felt like yet another attack on my identity. Not only that, it’s an attack on my education, my career, well, just about everything I suppose.

Here’s some important things to note:

-Go to your insurance manual/provider-look up all of the conditions they have the right to deny coverage for. Check off how many pertain to you (and your dependents). The greater the number, the more likely you’re going to be without insurance.

-Do you use Medicaid/Medicare? Cause that’s another tick in the “probably won’t have insurance/insurance I can afford” box.

-Do you use Planned Parenthood as a reproductive healthcare provider? Add some more ticks to those boxes.

Now, there is one small piece of hope. The Senate is much harder to get it to pass. And in order for it to be the ACA replacement-it HAS to pass the Senate. So that means we have time to call/fax/ResistBot all the Senators.

If you’re savvy with Twitter, you’ll have no doubt noticed the last couple of days have been filled with the hashtag: IAmAPreExistingCondition. That is in direct response to the House voting to approve this heinous bill. And that’s where the title of today’s post comes from.

Now I know-this post has been the Campbell’s Chicken Noodle of political posts (super condensed, no surprises) but the important things to take away are that activism is hard-but necessary and together, we will overcome.

As a White Woman, I’m tired.

I know-I’ve set myself up. But hear me out.

I’m tired of watching my friends with higher melanin counts be discriminated against. I’m tired of hearing stories of Muslim women getting their hijabs pulled. I’m tired of seeing violence against minorities. I’m tired of police instigated violence against those minorities. And I hear you, getting up in arms-I’m tired of police getting a bad rap for the crimes of the few bad apples too.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I’m tired of a few bad people ruining life for everyone else. I’m tired of ableist, sexist, racist, classist culture that tells people I love that their love isn’t good enough to count as the real thing. I’m tired of the people who decided that unless a person fits a certain mold, they aren’t worth anything.

I’m tired of people coming into fast food establishments on Sundays and looking down at the people working for being there on “God’s day”. Because if you didn’t come in, we wouldn’t have to be there either. And while we’re on the subject, I’m tired of being looked down on because it’s not a cross around my neck, it’s the symbol of my belief system.

I’m tired of people whitewashing. I’m tired of watching the political ideologies systematically remove the concerns of myself and the people who need to be heard so that those with the most money can continue to sweep us under the rug. I’m tired of our news outlets labeling every murderer and deviant as “mentally ill”-unless of course we’re talking about rape and the perp is a collegiate, white athlete.

I’m tired of listening to people apologize for their broken English because they’ve been trying, but it’s hard. I know it is. You’re trying-no need to apologize. And while we’re on the subject, I’m tired of seeing the fear in people’s eyes when they’re out and about. I know I’m not imposing that fear on them, but I belong to this culture and can’t help but feel it’s my fault in some way.

I’m tired of being caged in a rape schedule. I’m tired of living in a country where more than half of the people didn’t want DJT to be president, but because of a 200-years-outdated system, and laws which require fealty over logic, here we are. I’m tired of speaking with my international friends and hearing them talk about “Americans” with hesitation and an almost disgust-and completely understanding why. I’m tired of feeling like I belong to a country that hates diversity-because that’s the most awful thing a country could do. Apart from create refugees and then not take care of them.

I’m tired of being poor. And now, I know that comes with degrees-and I’ve heard the “it could be worse” speech-and that’s true. But I know what it’s like to go through a food pantry line and receive moldy, outdated food and have to make it work because that’s all you got. I know what it’s like to live on pizza rolls and peanut butter and jelly (all off brand of course) because that’s filling, but not really nutritious. I’m tired of being poor enough that it hurts, but not poor enough to qualify for help.

I’m tired of seeing people on the news who served the country and are now homeless. I’m tired of seeing families on the street because life was hard on them in one way or another. I’m tired of abusive spouses or partners taking their anger out of others. I’m tired of the justice system that is “innocent until proven guilty” unless you’re talking about rape or domestic violence, because then it’s guilty until, well, always guilty in some way.

I’m tired of people being removed from their homes because they weren’t born here. I’m tired of seeing families broken apart by immigration officials, because their kids were born here but they came in hopes of a better life and now they’re getting that life ripped away from them. I’m tired of hearing the word “illegal aliens”-because it’s impossible to be an illegal human being. All humans are equal-because we’re all humans. And it’s beyond time for our social structures to catch up.

I’m tired of people getting denied healthcare because their bodies came a little frayed at the edges when they entered this life. I’m tired of people rising from the ashes who forget what it’s like to be at the mercy of the system.

I’m tired of abuse of our people. I’m tired of waiting for the corrupt government to tell me that instead of waging war on women’s rights to choice, they’re waging war on poverty, on neglecting human rights. That they’re going to provide healthcare to the people in Flint-because they’re owning up to what happened. I’m tired of wondering if those poor kids understand that the government fought for them to gestate nine months, but because they’ve been born, no one cares if they survive. I’m tired of staying up all night wondering if the heroin epidemic that took people I went to school with could just end if our education system didn’t cause so many mental health problems.

I’m tired of watching the injustices done against the First Nations. Since the first white people came to America, all we’ve done is pillage and murder and worse. And for what? Manifest Destiny? Since when does the white people’s god desire human blood to be spilled in order to gain redemption? And why are we still taking? Why is there so much greed for something that we’ve already taken by force? I’m tired of watching the government I have to pay taxes to use my money to wage war on the health and well being and sacred lands of the people who were here long before the ones who look like me.

I’m tired of being lumped in with the people of past generations who believe that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps-because so many of us don’t even have boots. I’m tired of people looking at my generation, the most diverse one yet and lumping us all together as lazy, ungrateful, entitled. Because maybe all we’re entitled to are the liberties denied us by those who want to use our own identities against us.

I’m tired of being made to feel ashamed because my sexuality doesn’t exist. I’m tired of being ashamed because my mental abilities aren’t neurotypical. I’m tired of being made to feel less than because my weight is “more than”. I’m tired that it’s 20-effing-17 and we still don’t have equality-even though it’s been fought for for much longer than I’ve been alive.

I’m tired that there are people who think human rights are negotiable. I’m tired that people are abducted from my neighborhood and sold into modern day slavery, with the promise of money to fix their poverty. I’m tired of explaining over and over again that feminism is equality-and it had better be intersectional or it’s not even feminism, it’s just a lie. I’m tired of fearing for my friends who are transgender, because the patriarchy is so ready to have them removed.

I’m tired.

I grew up with stories of having dreams, of independence, of resistance. My fourth grade teacher threw out the lesson plans and we spent all year learning about African American individuals who would largely go unnamed in history. My seventh grade teacher spent the year teaching us about the Holocaust and how when books were burned, it was work on progressive sexuality first. I grew up with a fondness for people like Thurgood Marshall, Sojourner Truth, Phillis Wheatley, Noor Inayat Khan, Cleopatra, W. E. B. DuBois, Amra binte Abdurrahman and Sayyida Nafisah. I was taught the stories of First Nations people-the story of the Great Turtle, Coyote and Iktomi, and the to-be-feared power of a woman during her cycle.

So yes. My skin is a pale tan. But my heart breaks for the suffering of people who bleed the same color as I do. And it is for these reasons that I have accepted my admissions offer to the 2017 Fall cycle of law school where I will focus on a combination of criminal law/trial advocacy and tribal law. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I can stop this cycle of being the white woman tired and start being the white woman trying.

All For One and One For All

Feel overwhelmed each time you turn on the news? It looks more and more like a scary world out there. And to some extent, that is true. It’s so frustratingly easy to get overwhelmed and afraid, being paralyzed by it. And I get asked the question a lot: how do I keep fighting even though I feel like I’m not making a difference? Here’s what I told someone.

Resist, persist, insist, enlist. The right path is not always the easy path, but it is always right. You bring so much kindness and spunk and thought to the world. And so I will share a story. When the votes were tallied and 45 became 45, a professor asked what she was supposed to tell of students-many of whom were voting in a presidential election for the first time. And here is what I told her: Tell us it is possible to lose a battle and still win the war.

Right now, we are winning some and losing others. It’s a fight which is taking every ounce of sanity we have. But we’re doing “it”. Not because it’s easy, but because it is right. We’re seeing good people step forward, perhaps for the first time. And that’s where I think you can help most. Kindness is contagious. If one person sees it, they spread it. We just need someone to start the chain. Each day, something small. You’ve been campaigning for the earth mother and for people for as long as I’ve known you, at least. Plant some flowers, give them away. Plant some kindness, watch it bloom. And whether you see it immediately or not, millions are right beside you, planting.

💙💙💙

But first thing’s first-self care. Remember to heal yourself before you take on the world.

_______________________________________________________

You see, what the world needs more of isn’t business, infrastructure or money. The world needs more kindness, acceptance and happiness. We need to treat other human beings as our equals, giving them the same love and attention that we ourselves need. But what about the earth? That’s something that needs our devotion too-but it’s much bigger than any one of us.

So here’s what we can do.

Start small. Be kind as often as you can, and start with being kind to yourself.

Dream big. If you want to change the world, you have to have a pretty big idea in mind.

Find your passion. If you feel really strongly about feeding the homeless, saving the bees, reducing polar ice loss, caring for the sick or fixing a broken social institution, pursue it. Now is the time to make those changes, to start movements.

Get involved. Find organizations that support what you do and see how you can help. Time is just as valuable as money.

_______________________________________________

It’s a hard fight we’re in for. To change the world requires nothing less. But to reiterate what I said above, nothing that is worth having comes easy.

And it is on that note, that I must impress upon you that what the world needs most is for you to realize that you have the power to be important. It does not matter what age you are, what ethnicity or gender or health status. It does not matter what religion, what political opinion, what country you belong to. It does not matter what your cultural heritage is, who you love, or what your socioeconomic status is. You have the power to be a positive force in the world.

I’ll wrap up with a story.

As I was helping some protests in my area concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline, several people were speaking about the reasons they were there. Many spoke of the injust treatment of the First Nations, many spoke of the need for clean water (I live just a few short hours from Flint, Michigan-another hotspot for water need). Some spoke of feeling “the call”-the feeling that they needed to be present. But no matter the reason, we all came together because it was something we felt needed to be done. Soon after, our governor recalled the police officers he’d sent to Standing Rock-because we were present.

As I was attending political conventions and rallies this last year, opinions and emotions ran high. There were central issues discussed, there were concerns presented and voices raised. We came because we were concerned, many of us were scared. We showed up. As I lobbied for better mental health laws, for human rights bills, for individual liberties and freedoms, thousands and millions of people were with me, marched with me, called with me, fought with me.

These big actions are not so different from the ones we take every day. Coping with depression, caring for a disabled loved one, sacrificing wants for needs, forgiving people who have wronged you, working hard to graduate or get a promotion or maybe even just getting a job in the first place. We use what we have to keep going.

That’s how you carry on. That’s how you win. You show up, be present. Keep fighting. Be kind.

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable.

SAAM 2017: Engaging New Voices

The theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Engaging New Voices. According to the NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), the targets for involvement are: Greek life members, Coaches, Fathers and Faith Leaders. It’s one of those occasions where I get to don my faith leader hat and use it to further an important cause.

I’m Pagan. Those words are already a turn off to a lot of people, and I know that. All it means is that I find the divine in nature. I think that’s pretty amicable grounds-Chrsitians often cite nature as a way to prove their beliefs. Islam’s holy book is filled with depictions of nature. It’s universal because it surrounds us. But I’m bringing this up for a different reason.

A LOT of mythologies contain depictions of assault. Native stories about Coyote have them, Celtic stories, Norse stories, Greek and Roman traditions, even Slavic ones. And there are mentions of it in Judeo-Christian texts as well. It would seem, from the beginning of the written word (at least), sexual assault has occured. I think though, the most well-known story about it is Medusa. This story is one that I hold dear-but for a little different reasons. I’ve told other people, but I think it’s a really good lesson for others as well, plus it fits with the current climate.


(Cellini, 1554)

The version that is spread around in academic settings, and even in pop culture is the following.

Enter Medusa, an incredibly beautiful woman who devoted herself to her beliefs. She worshipped the goddess Athena, who was a virginal goddess-meaning her followers would also be virgins. Poseidon, god of the sea, seeing that Medusa was beautiful, came to visit her and try to woo her. Medusa was devout and refused his advances, returning inside the temple to pray. Poseidon followed after her and raped her. Athena, then angry, cursed Medusa to live as a Gorgon-a winged snake woman with snakes for hair and eyes that turned men to stone. Medusa is then killed by Perseus and her head was removed and used later. Perseus is hailed a hero, having vanquished a foe, with the help of other gods.

But that’s not the version I know. Here’s the version I learned.

Medusa, an incredibly beautiful and intelligent woman, lived her life devoted to her faith. She worshipped the goddess Athena, known for her wisdom and strategy, as well as being a virginal goddess. Her followers, then, chose to remain chaste as well. Poseidon, god of the sea and enemy of Athena, saw that Medusa was beautiful and came to visit her, to try to woo her and make her one of his followers instead. Medusa refused his advances, returning to the temple to pray in safety. Poseidon, angry at her rejection, followed her and raped her, then left. Athena returned to her temple to find Medusa, no longer a virgin, crying. Athena told Medusa that she could no longer be a servant in the temple, but that Athena would like to help her. When asked what she needed, Medusa told Athena that she needed a way to protect herself from all who would harm her. Athena then turned Medusa into a Gorgon, giving her the power to stop anyone who came to harm her in her tracks.

The first version is told from a male perspective. Perseus conquers the monster and sets everything back in balance. The thing I couldn’t ever get past was Athena punishing Medusa for being raped. That wasn’t her fault. Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. And for the longest time, I felt like mythology had made a giant mistake. Until I came across the version I know. Instead of punishing someone who was already punished, the victim became a survivor. And that’s why I share that story.

Sexual Assault and Rape and Domestic Violence is not the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, the clothing, the drinks, the location.  That’s why SAAM is important. 

Rape culture isn’t a new concept. It’s not a myth. 

Reminders from the Universe

I think it’s really easy to get caught up in life, in the way it makes you feel or overwhelms you. And I’ll be honest, I have those pestering thoughts about where I’m taking my life. I worry that I burn so brightly that I’ll burn out and be of no help to anybody. And I thought about what I might do if I walked away from everything-from justice, from law, from my home and just started over some way. I think that you think about that a lot when you have depression or anxiety or whatever. Just starting over. Taking the knowledge you had and using it to make better choices. But to that effect, I offer a quote:

“But then I wondered how I’d feel… Would I feel relieved or would I feel sad? And then I realized how many stupid times a day I use the word “I”. And Probably all I ever do is think about myself. And how lame is that when there’s like seven billion other people out there on the planet…But then I thought, if I cared about the other seven billion out there, instead of just me, that’s probably a much better use of my time.” -Mia Thermopolis, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.

And in the grogg of all that, a news story came across my FB feed. Now, before you roll your eyes, let me just say that I don’t take things at face (lol pun!) value-I investigate. So when I saw the article, I left Facebook and began my search. It was like getting punched in the face. 

If you search “16 year old received no jail time”, there comes a list of stories that aren’t for the faint hearted. They range from racial bias to toddlers to every manner of monster available. And that was when I stopped thinking about myself for a minute. I detached as much as I could and just thought. No amount of me feeling sorry for myself or scared of what the future holds makes any difference. I know that what I want is difficult and scary and it means that I need to be able to hold my own at all times-even in the worst of my bad days. Why?

Because if I don’t keep burning brightly, how will these problems be illuminated? If I don’t keep speaking up, who will speak for the children who can’t, for the people who are scared? They deserve their justice, their safety-just as much as I do. And if no one will help them, I will.

I force myself to read each news story that comes across my feeds. I read them and I burn a little brighter, a little stronger. I don’t know if that’s good or bad-but as far as I can tell, it’s how it has to be. Why? Because this cannot be. There are judges across the country who aren’t holding up the law. They’re letting criminals of the worst kind fall between the cracks. I can’t sit by, in my fear and worry while the last stronghold of justice fails.

And that’s why no matter how scared I am, no matter how frustrated and tired I will become, I have to keep fighting. If not for me, for the people who need me and for the future. So stay tuned for a blog in the future where I tell you which law school I will be attending.

Religious Tolerance

You sneeze: what do people say to you?

It’s the holiday season: what do people say to you?

It’s your birthday: what do people say to you?

Something terrible has happened to you: what do people say to you?

A loved one has passed on: what do people say to you?

Something great might happen: what do people say to you?

All of these have one really strikingly gorgeous thing in common: well-wishing. Now, the specifics may not be the same, but the idea behind it very much is. And yet, we have some issues accepting it, don’t we?


If someone came up to you and blessed you because you sneezed (and no, it doesn’t matter if it’s in German), you’d say thank you. It wouldn’t matter if you believed that God was going to bless you, or if you were atheist-you’d just say thank you. Or at least you should, becuase that’s just good manners.

If you were going into the hospital, you’d want to come out of it again, right? And you’d want comfort if a loved one or friend died, right?

You’d want to celebrate when good things happen, take solace in community when bad things occur. That’s just human nature-right?

My point here is that if I were Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Pagan or Buddhist or what-have-you, the concept of well-wishing is universal. I did a post during Ramadan (last year?!) about how much I learned about the graciousness of the Muslim Americans that I met. I have a Jewish friend who is the happiest, most accepting person I may ever know. I have a Catholic friend with a heart of gold, who accepts me for my differences and loves me just the same. I have very Christian friends who are a delight to be around-and allow me to explore who I am while they do the same, and even some who give me their time and share their food with me (I’m always down with food and coffee dates-you know, when my schedule permits).  I have atheist and agnostic friends who respect my choice to believe in something bigger than myself. I have pagan friends who delight in my successes, lift me up in my sorrows and support me throughout. And I know that’s just my story. I get that.

But the larger picture is what I’m getting at. 

Tolerance is something that doesn’t seem to be big around my country these days. I see a collective out and about, trying to make sure everyone knows they are valid and matter and valued-and I love that. I try to do so as well, because that’s what we all need. In the end, it doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, if someone is wishing you well-becuase it means they care enough to say something nice to you.

Look, I don’t expect everyone to know that next week is Ostara, the celebration of the Spring Equinox, a time of great fertility and happiness. Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious day, but is celebrated by more people than just the ones who honor him as a saint. Lent is happening right now, in preparation for Easter. Purim and Holi are coming up soon as well. Ramadan starts in a couple months. And you thought December was the only packed holiday month!

My point is simple, really, and I feel like it’s almost absurd to have to say it. When someone tells you:

Happy Easter, Happy Ostara, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Friday, Blessed Purim, Blessed Lent, Blessed Holi, and more, they are not saying “you have to subscribe to my religion”. They are wishing you well. 

And in this day and age, isn’t that something we all need?

Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.

 

An offer to make the world better.

If you are afraid:

-to enter a restroom because your gender doesn’t match your biology

-to pray in public

-to speak your native language

-because you came from a different country

-because you wear a headscarf

-because your skin color is not white

-because your religion is not Judeo-Christian

-because your religion IS Judeo-Christian

-to hold hands with your loved one in public

-to be yourself

-because the government doesn’t see you as valid

-to discuss your disability, or admit to having one

-to walk alone

-because you feel triggered

-because you just are

 

 

Then I will:

-walk with you

-support you

-encourage you

-learn about your culture

-respect your decision, maybe even ask questions to learn more

-stand beside you as an ally 

-respect your beliefs, and stand up for your right to have them

-respect your beliefs, and stand up for your right to have them

-delight with you that your found love-and respect your relationship

-tell you that you are irreplaceable because of your individuality

-tell you that you are valid, and that a government can’t take that away

-help you take pride in your uniqueness

-I will walk with you

-understand that you have every right to feel that way, and I can’t invalidate you

-fight for you, so that you can live in freedom

What is there to know?

So many things to speak of. On a quick side note, if you’re still trying to fight the fight, some interesting “trackers” are out there so you can get the Campbell soup (condensed) version of what’s going on. I HIGHLY recommend looking at primary sources and coming to your own conclusions instead of relying on third parties. If you need to know where to start, and want it made a little plainer so you can get started there are two places.

  1. Trump Tracker This website allows for a quick, efficient examination of election promises and the progress therein.
  2. WTF Just Happened Today? This one gives a play-by-play of what happened politically, with updates as needed.

And of note, two issues near and dear to my heart. LGBT (SAGA) protections and water rights. I’m a member of the LGBT community, albeit one of the later letters. I have friends who belong to the beginning ones, friends that are just delightful people. And I worry so much about them. Especially now that “T” is coming under fire. The battle isn’t beginning, they’re setting fire to the soldiers.

The water. I didn’t appreciate water as a kid. I loved soda. Now, I pray for rain with the hope of a thousand prayers. And rain is only available because of the water cycle, which draws water from the earth to the sky, where it falls to the earth once more. My favorite smell is petrichor. And all the ones I pray to are in the rain. Water is where I feel at home. And it is the one place we’re destroying so fast. You can’t drink oil. And I’m discouraged that businesses and corporations (and governments) do not see that.

When you feel overwhelmed, you’re not doing enough. -Mark Ruffalo

Get involved. Be active. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter if we’re divided or unified: we will all fall as one.

But in happier news:

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are necessary. You are vital. You matter. You are enough.

Helpless? Hopeless? Hapless?

It is time, good people, for a rant. The source of this rant is?

The oppression of the poor, through the lenses of college students.

It’s something I know quite a bit about, and I think more people are going to need to get an idea soon-especially with the political situation.

There’s a food bank set up for the students at my university.

Each semester, I spend about $300 on textbooks as a social science student. My husband spends $400-$600. And there’s some math coming up, but no worries, I’ll help. I have insurance through my dad, but let’s assume it’s negligent here-because I have to pay more out of pocket than they cover. I have student loans (gasp!). And we’re going to get personal about that too. I work at the university, with work study money. That means I can work UP TO 20 hours a week-so long as my total amount of work study money is more than I have worked. I get $3000 a year, which equals roughly 9 hours a week available. I typically work throughout the summer at whatever job will hire me, but obviously it’s part time.

A little word though, before we begin. I cannot speak for everybody. These experiences are my own. I know that some people will take a different path here-and that’s OKAY. I just want you to get a rough idea of how a midwestern student with decent grades faces the realities of the financial aid system. I’m doing this in response to Betsy DeVos, and her unawareness at how it works. I’m going to break different areas up by header and then wrap it all up in a summary-I find that to be a little more helpful than just assaulting you with information.

Books

I started college officially January 2012. That was back when OSU was on quarters (meaning 3 regular sessions per year) and now we’re on semesters (meaning 2 regular sessions a year). That means I’ve had 12 sessions (I believe). Each of those sessions, as I mentioned, I pay roughly $300 in books. 300*12=$3600 in books. For my husband, it’s 500*12=$6000 (I just took the average cost. So together, we have paid almost $10,000 in books (and yes, we shop around for deals). PLUS-you have to pay for online access codes to your homework. Per course, that’s $60-$130.

To give you an idea of what the problem with that is, I have a recent event for you. We (Ben and I) were looking to make a little money to cover some purchases for the apartment. The only thing we have in large quantities are books. So we packaged up everything we had. This includes text books, books I picked up at the bookstore for pleasure reading, books we had from forever. Everything we could (minus the ones we need for this semester) was loaded into boxes. I looked at what Amazon would give me and then we hauled everything down to Half Price Books. Let me emphasize this. We took something like $8500 of merchandise to a resale place. And what do you think we got in payment?

$230. (And yes, that’s about what Amazon wanted to pay us.)

For the readers who are blown away by this, 230 dollars is approximately 2.7% of 8500. And that’s the most we could get. So we took it and made do-because what else are we gonna do?

Student Loan Payments

Ah student loans. The bane of so many people’s existence. I have 2 kinds: Sallie Mae and Federal. My Sallie Mae payment will be $670 a month and my federal will be $455 a month (according to http://www.aie.org-I’ll let you know what they really are when I start making the payments after law school). And that brings up a good point-these numbers are ONLY for my undergraduate degree, under the assumption that it will take me 10 years to pay everything off. So I will need to put aside almost $1200 per month just for student loan payments. Yikes!

Acceptance fees/loans for law school

Wherever I end up going to law school, I will need to pay a seat deposit (acceptance fee) of at least $250. That’s something I have planned for, and am well aware of. But when I enter law school, I will also have to pay money to take out my loans, and campus fees on top of my tuition. I also am aware of that. But it does not chance the fact that I will have to pay my own way to move to law school and then pay them to allow me to pay them (yes, you read that right) so I can go there. One of my schools has a fee of $910.

And since we’re talking about law school-let me fill you in on the application process. In order to apply for law school, you have to take the LSAT. It costs $17 per time you take it. And then, you have to order your college transcripts ($20). You also have to purchase the system they use to compile your application ($180). Then you have to pay for them to assemble your application per school ($30) and you have to pay an application fee per school ($30-$110). And this is true if you apply to one school or a hundred. I applied for the fee waiver (thankfully) so my costs were slightly different. But none of this includes test prep, which can be very expensive very fast.

working

As I said, I work part time. I use the money to add to my very small reserve of uh-oh money. I can make up to $1500 a semester. And that’s grand-my job is awesome, I enjoy it a lot. It’s just not a bunch of money. So there’s that. And yes, I am fully capable of getting a job. But I don’t live on campus and my husband has class 5 days a week, and we have a dog at home. So I could, yes, work over the weekend-this is true. But none of this accounts for homework time. As I mentioned above, I totally work during summer. That’s a no brainer. This summer will be tricky becuase of moving to law school, but we’ll see.

Oh-and I’m not allowed to work the first year of law school. It’s a law school thing.

apartment

My apartment is what it is. I pay gobs of money to live in a place where crime is low. I pay for safety and I know that. What I also pay for is a private electric company that charges me way too much for electric ($200 a month) and a door that sticks, gaps in the door that let cold air in, leaky outlets and a fridge that doesn’t stay closed. Also, they sent out an email saying that they wouldn’t salt the parking areas until it got really bad becuase they “like to watch it accumulate”. 

health care/insurance

As I mentioned, I have health insurance through my dad. That is all thanks to the ACA. And I know that. If I am hardcore screwed, I have options. It may take everything I have to pay that money, but I have options-ish. For example, last fall I went to the urgent care because of an ear infection which burst my eardrum. I paid $200 after insurance for the visit and another $100 for the medication. If the ACA is taken away, so is my insurance. As of right now, I go to the doctor if I have nothing else I can do. Because my health is a luxury I cannot afford. I have not been to the gyno in 3 years. I have not gotten my booster shots. I have not been able to go to the dentist in a great many years. I had to pay out of pocket for my glasses ($300 for exam and frames).

conclusion: What poor actually looks like

So there’s been a lot of disjointed information that’s come at you today. Let me provide a little structure for you.

I’m a first gen college student. My parents are hardworking farmers/pressman. I didn’t have my education paid for by my family (apart from $1000 my dad saved up and I am so grateful for). I pay $25,539 per year for my education. I’ve been in school for 5 years. Do some multiplication-you’ll see why I’m concerned about student loans. My apartment situation is paid for (in part) by the loans my husband and I take out. What we can cover with summer work is obviously done that way to alleviate needing to take out more loans. I have a credit card that I use for emergencies only and pay it off as soon as I get it. This is where I put my health care expenses, if I have any. And trust me, I try not to. Bills are still going to be there when I graduate from law school. And the $1700 a month we pay for everything, in addition to the $2000 a month for both my and my husband’s student loans terrifies me. It really does.

Not being able to afford regular doctor’s visits because of money is something that weighs on your brain a little. It makes you feel a little less than human. Being forced to choose between access to your homework and fresh food does things to your brain, makes you feel unvalued.

So when I said there’s a food bank on campus that’s for students, are you really so surprised? Because it’s not just food that we need. It’s so much more than that.

And that is why I cannot stand by and accept that our country’s education might be left in the hands of someone who has never even interacted with the financial aid system. I’ve only hit the big points-and not even all of them. Because none of this included the daily struggles, the weighing of options, the constant demands of time management, social and academic obligations, extra curricular activities or other facets. But maybe you see the reason why so many people with college degrees feel a little jilted at the system that was supposed to help us.