and what do YOU think?

the last couple of weeks have been kind of exhausting for me, and not just because i’m blogging every day. see, in Minnesota, there’s this program called General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), which funds health insurance for the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick in our state. these are folks making less than $8,000 a year, who’ve fallen on hard luck, who’ve grown up in poverty, who have mental illnesses, are veterans, are homeless and/or are desperately sick. i’ve been working on this a lot, like last week, for example, when i organized that vigil.

last spring, our Governor line-item vetoed this program, to help balance our state’s budget. i’m not going to get in the politics of why; let’s just leave it as he vetoed it. it’s gone, by the stroke of one person’s pen.

over the past nine months, grassroots efforts have shone a light on the Governor’s veto, which effectively balances the state’s budget on the backs of the poor. a logical, money-saving bill was written, passed in both the State House and Senate, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way. and then it was vetoed. again.

i guess what has been making these past few weeks so difficult is that i honesty CANNOT wrap my brain around the argument against GAMC. it fundamentally shakes me, makes me so angry, to read comments like this:

Greed is when you demand others pay for services you consume. Greed is the result of envy for things you don’t have and are too lazy to earn. Those on GAMC who are “vulnerable, dependent and needy” are that way because Democrats encourage them to be.

i’ve been stewing on this, mostly because it appears to be so straightforward. it is SUCH a common sense argument. but then why does it make my skin feel all crawly, my neck feel like it needs to be cracked, my eyeballs like i want to pull them out of their sockets?

are there really people who exist who feel that they are immune to poverty, immune to the chance that someday, s/he might be the one in need of a service s/he can’t pay for? do they think homeless people deserve to be homeless, don’t care that they’re homeless, don’t want a stable life? i don’t understand. i firmly believe that each person currently on GAMC IS ALSO every one of the rest of us, in another life, or a few years ago, or perhaps a few years from now. how can one person be so arrogant as to believe that s/he earned everything s/he has, all by himself? how can one person be so shortsighted? what IS this arrogance that infects us? what is this PREJUDICE that we hold so close to our hearts? when it comes down to the sacrifice of money, versus the sacrifice of bodies… shouldn’t bodies win out?

this is what GAMC is all about. without medications, without appropriate health care, people WILL die. i know it sounds extreme. i know it because i hate writing it, because i typically shy away from anything too extreme. but it’s the ugly reality that no one wants to hear: without prescriptions, a person with diabetes (cancer, PTSD, heart disease, anxiety issues, depression…) will inevitably die, in all likelihood because they weren’t taking the meds they need.

i don’t know. i’m STRUGGLING with this. that “other perspective” is neither logical nor compassionate, two places i most often go to when making decisions about what i believe.

my strength, academically, has usually been the ability to understand other people’s perspectives. it’s what makes my spiritual life so undefined, because i can so clearly see the rationale for other religions, and other modes of (un)belief. but this way of thinking, the kind that is based on the refusal to acknowledge where another person is coming from… it escapes me.

someone comment, yah? help me figure this out. what do you think?


what’s a little vigil gonna do?

tea with Abby

welp. i’m still tired/emotionally drained from this whole learning-to-be-a-grown-up thing. (i don’t know exactly what i mean by that… perhaps something along the lines of rolling with the punches?)

i’ve been thinking a lot this week about the whole action vs. language thing that first i, then morgan and leslie, and finally atom weighed in upon. all three have really interesting, thoughtful, heartfelt responses to things that i’ve been haphazardly (exhaustedly) throwing up on my blog because of my whole blog-every-day-in-february thing. it’s funny: when i imagined myself blogging, prior to starting this blog, i don’t think i expected to receive the kind of support and pushback that i would get from my friends who follow along with me here. if i blow off steam in a way that’s less-than-mature, self-mocking, or illogical… y’all are calling me on it. i really appreciate that generous support that also challenges me to be more than who i feel like being at some particular moment.

i do think words–in the form of a vigil or not–contribute an action that is valuable and necessary, especially in a democracy. and, i’m proud of the words that i wrote, and that the group spoke them in our vigil. our voice overcame the buzz of the crowd and echoed up into the rotunda of the capitol building, as minnesota veterans, legislators, citizens, and advocates filed past us. yes, we were preaching to the choir, as leslie pointed out, but more than that: we were making a public, faith-centric statement about the value of human life and the government’s responsibility to protect human dignity when no one else will. THIS IS what i went to seminary for: to speak justice to improper power, to name indignity, and to challenge the world and people (and myself!) to live more responsibly, more respectfully of one another. i feel lucky to do this in the state where i grew up, and to do it on a local level, where change feels more concrete, and problems are on a smaller, more seemingly-manageable scale.

did the vigil help? cynicism about one’s ability to make change is rampant among those who fail to act in our massive democracy. my experience of going to d.c. to protest the probability of an iraq war in 2003 illustrated what i thought i learned: that the people’s voices are often ignored; that those in power will do what they want either way. but morgan pointed out that making our voices heard, or engaging in debate, does not always have the end goal of changing the other’s mind. registering one’s position is important. the u.s. may have invaded iraq regardless, but history will not forget that our population was divided on whether or not it was a good idea.

did the vigil help? was one person changed walking away from that experience? actually, i can answer that question: YES. i was changed. i found that having the courage to speak words of faith and of vision in the capitol rotunda changed the way i see myself as a citizen and as a person of faith. speaking out loud, in a small community of like-minded people, amidst a larger community amongst and around us, recommitted me to doing this work that i might now be claiming as my vocation. who knows, maybe someday soon i will actually gear up the courage to call it a CALL. (that’s very god-y language, there, folks. let’s get comfortable with the uncomfortable. oy.)

did the vigil help? was anyone BESIDES me moved by it, forward, in a direction that upholds the dignity of all people? god. how can i answer that question? what i can say is that it was part of a larger movement, and was a piece of a whole, in that one-body-many-parts kind of way. any one piece of a movement, apart from the others, might not amount to much. but put together? that can amount to real change.

Save GAMC protest in front of the Governor's Mansion, St. Paul (see if you can find my awesome mom!)

so what contribution does a vigil have to real, meaningful social change? i’m thankful for my friend abby, with whom i spoke about this today over tea. when i told her what that crazy mean person emailed me about the civil war, slavery and “little vigils”, abby laughed, looked at me and said, “What! Has that person never heard of the Civil Rights Movement?!”

How did I not think of that?

escape (or, tpaw made me cry)

this is what i want to escape.

here is how i’m trying to do it. (johnny weir, what would i do without you and lady gaga?! you so got robbed last night. i’m sorry.)

in the meantime, y’all are so sweet regarding my not-so-thoughtful and ranty post of a few days ago. hopefully, over the weekend, i will pony up some energy and write something interesting and well-constructed once again. stay tuned.

in the meantime, if anyone at all wants to be in solidarity with those in Minnesota who risk losing their health care (GAMC), please join me tomorrow at 2:00 pm in front of the Governor’s Mansion in St Paul.

PS: Here’s an interesting tidbit about the state of the GOP today.
PPS: text from that vigil i was talking about. you know, the one that didn’t help anything. [edit: i think i meant: “the one that didn’t help anything.” meaning, intentionally/ironically quoting the crazy mean woman from the other night. thanks to atom for the kind and encouraging words!]
PPPS: also, thank god for my cat and for B, who fielded my crazies this morning.