Tag Archives: politics

Do I Love My Country?

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when people are supposed to celebrate their love of the United States of America.

I can tell you, I definitely love Boston. I love Massachusetts. But do I love the US as a whole?

…Eh. It’s okay.

It’s kind of like that old, cranky, racist relative whose presence you don’t enjoy but whom you can’t bring yourself to disinvite from Thanksgiving. Or the apartment that has bad water pressure and a terrible landlord and no air conditioning and heat that barely works, but that you don’t move out of because it’s cheap and convenient.

Speaking of moving, if you’re thinking that if I don’t love it, I should leave, chill. I didn’t say I hate it. But love is a strong word, and while I tolerate America enough that I’m not actively trying to leave, I wouldn’t say I love it.

And if you’re indignantly thinking that people have fought and died for the right for me to say that I don’t love this country, I agree that freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. In fact, so do several other countries. It obviously doesn’t exist anywhere, but it does exist in just about every other developed country. Same for freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It’s great that we’re not, say, North Korea or Syria, but why are we comparing ourselves down instead of up? Why not compare ourselves to Canada or New Zealand, which have all those great freedoms but also have universal health care, guaranteed maternity leave, and less gun violence?

It’s hard to love a country that’s so full of stupid people—or, if I’m being generous, willfully ignorant people. In any case, no one who voted for Trump is smart. I do think that’s a pretty fair statement. Take a look at this Facebook group, which I sometimes read when I want to see how the other side thinks. Or, rather, doesn’t think. Seeing the things that Trump voters believe written out in their own words make it impossible for me to have even the slightest bit of empathy for them.

We are a country that finds value in ignorance and inexperience—hence, the election of Trump, the denigration of educated people as “out of touch” when they’re the ones with more information, the clinging to beliefs in things that are easily disproven—“alternative facts,” if you will.

We are a country that disregards an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is man-made and that our county is the biggest perpetrator of the pollution that causes it, all because people don’t want to make sacrifices and work for the well-being of the world.

We are a country that clings to the Second Amendment—which refers to a “well-regulated militia” rather than the individual right to bear arms, and which was written when it was impossible to perpetuate mass shootings with the types of weapons that existed then—despite overwhelming evidence that there is less gun violence in countries with stricter gun laws, all because people are too selfish and fearful to pass any laws that would make it even slightly harder to possess a weapon that’s much more likely to hurt you or a family member than to be used in any sort of self-defense.

We are a country that regards life-saving health care as a privilege rather than a right, a country where many people would consign their fellow citizens to medical bankruptcy or death because they’re afraid that they might have to pay a bit more in taxes to prevent that from happening.

We are one of only three countries TOTAL that does not guarantee paid maternity leave to new mothers.

We are a country where cops are constantly getting away with unjustified shootings of innocent black people.

We are a country with an alarming tendency to disregard inconvenient history in the name of patriotism. It’s true that every country has shameful things in its past, but we have people who take pride in having ancestors who fought for the Confederacy—ancestors who were traitors to their country out of a desire to preserve slavery and white supremacy—and defend public Confederate monuments. We have people who whitewash the horrors of slavery, people who defend horrific things in our history like Japanese internment, people descended from immigrants who were discriminated against who nevertheless would reject refugees fighting for their lives because they’re not from the right country or don’t follow the right religion.

It’s funny how things have changed in the seventy-odd years since World War II, when we fought against a genocidal German regime. Now Germany, which has sheltered many of the refugees we’ve been rejecting, is a moral leader for the world.

And us?

We’re the bad guys now.

So I’m very grateful to live where I do, a place that’s less ignorant than most places in the US. But until the attitudes of much of the rest of the country change, until we acknowledge and reject the worst parts of our history while embracing the best parts, like our welcoming of immigrants from all over the world looking for a better life, I can’t say I love this country as a whole.

Brief Inauguration Post

Washington monument

Eight years ago, the company I was working for had just moved to a new office. There was no cable, so we were trying to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama online. A bunch of us had gathered in a conference room to try to stream it, but it wasn’t working. After a bunch of unsuccessful attempts, someone finally said, “Okay, we’re going to Amrhein’s.” Word spread fast, and just like that, everyone got up, grabbed their coats, and headed to Amrhein’s, the restaurant down the street. It seemed like most of the office was there. We all cheered after he was sworn in, and it remains to this day one of my favorite memories of working there.

Now I’m at a new workplace, and a little over two months ago, I was sure that I’d be at work to see the first black president succeeded by the first female president. And while there is an endless list of reasons to be sad about Trump’s inauguration tomorrow, I just want to focus on one: Hillary Rodham Clinton not being the one leading us for the next four or eight years.

I really, really wanted her to be president, and that would have been true regardless of who ran against her. There’s much more I’m thinking and much more I could say- but for now, I’ll leave it at this. I’m still with her, and I am deeply sad at the loss of the chance to live in a country led by President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Song of the Moment: Everybody Knows

I don’t want to write too much about the election just yet. I’m still too angry and upset. Maybe at a later date.

The first Saturday Night Live after the election had this opening that made me cry: the amazing Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton singing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, who had just passed away.

 

(One of the minor tragedies of this election is that we won’t get to see Kate’s Hillary Clinton as much. She’s brilliant.)

 

“Hallelujah” is one of my favorite songs ever. It’s my go-to shower-singing song. But the Leonard Cohen song I’ve thought sums up the situation in our country the best right now is actually “Everybody Knows.”

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

 

Sounds about right to me. This song has been covered a lot, and I remember this cover by Elizabeth and the Catapult was on Damages.

 

 

Where Was I?

(Note: Consider this the make-up post for the three election posts that I didn’t make in November. This will not be the most interesting or the most insightful thing you read about the inauguration of Barack Obama, but I can’t let the day pass without writing something.)

I was at Amrhein’s with a bunch of co-workers. Like most people, I had to work today, and I was a little nervous, since I didn’t want to have to tell my grandchildren, “Uh, when Obama was sworn into office, I was importing a test bank into ExamView.” (If you don’t work with me, you probably have no idea what that means, and neither will my grandchildren. Trust me, the inauguration was more interesting.) Then an email went around about all of us watching it in a conference room with a computer hooked up to a projector, but when that wasn’t working, and we confirmed that we didn’t have cable in the building, there was instead a mass exodus to Amrhein’s, a restaurant near our office, where the inauguration was playing on several screens. (Unfortunately, I ran out so fast that I forgot to grab my purse so that I could buy lunch.) And together we all cheered, burst into applause, and maybe got a little teary-eyed as we watched Barack Obama become President of the United States. (Side note: neither Barack nor Obama is recognized by spell check? Seriously?)

I voted for Obama. I think he’s smart, has a lot of good ideas, and understands where the American people are at. It’s not a coincidence that people in my age bracket were a big force in helping to elect him. On election night back in November, I remember hearing someone on CNN say that he thought one reason that young people are so supportive of Obama was that they see him as kind of a cool guy who “gets them.” It was a very condescending way of phrasing it, but I think he kind of had a point. I do think Obama “gets us.” The McCain campaign trashed him for being “the biggest celebrity in the world,” but why was that supposed to be a bad thing? He attracts crowds because he gets people excited. Because he gives people hope. Because people feel like he “gets them.”

The country has changed a lot in four years, and there’s a lot we can learn from this campaign and election. For one thing, I’m encouraged by the backlash against Sarah Palin. Maybe enduring the Bush presidency has taught Americans to recognize, and not vote for, politicians lacking in intelligence. And now that we’ve rejected Palin and Hillary Clinton is going to be Secretary of State, maybe young girls will see that it’s possible for women to succeed using their brains, and that trying to charm your way through serious questions to make up for your lack of experience won’t get you anywhere.

Seeing as I’m white and was born in 1984, I don’t feel qualified to write about the racial implications of this election. But it is pretty incredible that segregation was outlawed three years after Obama was born—and now, at age 47, he’s leading a country that would have sent him to the back of the bus less than half a century ago.

But of course, there was one truly ugly thing that came out of this election season—Proposition 8. I am glad to hear that if no one over 65 voted, Proposition 8 would have failed—people over 65 have fewer elections left. And while I can kind of excuse older adults for their votes for Prop 8, I think that for someone of my generation, being for Proposition 8 and being a good person are mutually exclusive. I don’t care whom I just offended by writing that. Do you think someone who goes up to a person who’s never done him any harm and says, “I don’t want you to be happy,” is a good person? Because that’s what the people who voted yes on 8 did to gay couples all over California.

But today makes me wonder—if our outlook and priorities can change so drastically in the four years since the last election, and if we can go from a segregated nation to one with an African-American president in less than five decades, in 50 years, will we be electing a married, openly gay president? Will we be standing here in eight years, no longer ruefully starting sentences with, “Well, in this economy…”? Will we be able to open the paper without reading about another soldier killed in Iraq? Will we be able to seek medical treatment without a single thought about what our insurance will charge us?

Maybe we won’t. Obama’s not a miracle worker, after all, and he made one mistake before he was even done with the oath of office.

But maybe we will. At the very least, we hope so, and it doesn’t seem silly to hope so. And that’s why we elected Obama. Because in a way unlike any other politician I can remember, he gives us hope.

Local Politics Rant

I don’t often discuss politics in my blog, but this is one local issue that I can’t get off my mind lately, so excuse me while I vent.

I grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, which is about forty-five minutes north of Boston. One of the reasons my parents chose to live there was because of its good school system, and I agree that for the most part, I had a great experience in the Chelmsford public schools. I had some amazing teachers, and I feel that I was so well-prepared for college that college actually seemed easy to me. I majored in English, and none of the English classes I took at BC were as rigorous as the English classes I took at Chelmsford High. I had a terrific calculus teacher who made things so easy to understand that I wondered why anyone thought calculus was hard. I had some wonderful teachers in elementary school and middle school, too, and some of my fondest memories of high school involve extracurriculars: swim team, musical theater, treble choir, yearbook, etc.

I don’t live in Chelmsford anymore, so I don’t really follow the local news there, but this week, I read in the Globe that voters had failed to approve a property tax override that would have prevented several budget cuts. I was sad to hear that, but I had to give the voters the benefit of the doubt, since I’ve never had to pay property taxes myself. Nobody likes tax increases, and I thought that if the override had failed so decisively (3 to 2), it must have been a significant increase.

Then I found out more facts about it. Because this override failed, an elementary school will have to be closed permanently, when the schools are already getting overcrowded. Students will have to be redistricted yet again. There’ll be a $200 bus fee per child, when previously, buses were completely covered. Student activity fees will be significantly increased, which means that some kids might not be able to afford to participate in the extracurriculars I was involved in. 35 school employees will be laid off. A fire station will be closed permanently. Police officers and firefighters will be laid off. Libraries will have to cut their hours.

These are not small things. These are life-changing, property-value-diminishing, educational-quality-decreasing, threat-to-public-safety changes. The people of Chelmsford decided, through the democratic process, that several people should lose their jobs, residents should be more vulnerable to crime, homes should be more likely to be destroyed by fire, and that the town should no longer have a high-quality, enviable school system that makes people want to raise a family there. That override must have been for a hell of a lot of money, I thought.

Then I found out exactly how much. This document explains that the taxes on a home valued $370,000, which is slightly above the town average, would increase by about $200 a year.

Whoa.

Back up there.

$200 a year? $200 a year! Not a month! A year. A YEAR! $200! Not $2,000. $200! Two zeroes! Two!

Now, you all know that I have no money. The first word of my blog title is “struggling.” I recently joined a Facebook group called “I work in publishing and I’m underpaid.” Taking a vacation is a dream of mine, and God only knows when I’ll be able to afford a house. But when I can, I will most definitely be willing to spend $200 a year to help schools and town services. I’d be willing to pay that now, for God’s sake, as little money as I have!

I just don’t understand this way of thinking at all. Not wanting a tax increase when you don’t know where your tax dollars are going is one thing, but how can you see these very specific things that are going to be cut and think, “Oh, we don’t need good schools! Screw the fire department and police, I’ll take the risk and save myself $200 a year!” I get that a lot of the people voting against it are senior citizens on fixed incomes, but most of them had children in the school system in the past. How can they look at the kids in their neighborhood and feel okay about decreasing the quality of their education so that they can save $200 a year? How are that many people so selfish?

The last override in town happened seventeen years ago. I actually vaguely remember it—I was in first grade, and my parents, along with many, many others, had a bumper sticker on their car and a sign on their lawn urging people to vote yes. I was only six and had no idea what taxes were, but I remember thinking, “Well, of course people should support the schools. Why wouldn’t you?”

Seventeen years later, my thinking hasn’t changed at all. Maybe someday I’ll look back at this and think, “Oh, you stupid, idealistic twenty-three-year-old. You have no idea how the world works,” but I really don’t think so. Last year, Chelmsford was named the 21st-best place to live in America by Money magazine. Somehow, I doubt that it will happen again. And I used to think that once I was married with kids, I’d like to live there and have my kids go through the Chelmsford public schools. Unless something major changes between now and then, that’s most definitely not an option anymore.

I believe strongly in public school education. In college, I was amazed to meet so many people who had gone to private schools, since I barely knew anyone who did growing up, and I’ve never quite understood the school choice position because it doesn’t address the problem of how to fix failing schools. Education is a right, not a privilege, and the people of Chelmsford, who, according to the PowerPoint presentation on this page, spend $2,000 less per student than the state average, aren’t asking for anything extravagant. They just want a school system in the town they live in with good teachers, small class sizes, available transportation, and affordable extracurriculars. I thought most people in Chelmsford felt the same way.

But apparently, by a 3 to 2 margin, they don’t.

What I Did on My Lunch Break Today

You know what’s cool about working in the Back Bay?

You can swing by the gubernatorial inauguration on your lunch break.

I haven’t been voting very long, but my vote for Deval Patrick was the first time I ever really voted for someone, rather than against someone else. So even though I could neither stay very long nor see very well, I was very happy to be part of this historic occasion.