When the Nightmare Is Real

I was having one of those dreams last night.  You know the kind.  They usually happen right before time to wake up, and are inspired by anxiety from the waking world leaking out of the subconscious.

I’ve had variations on this one hundreds of times. but this one took a turn.  Let me tell you about it.

I was in college, and I was late to class.  In fact, I think the class was almost over by the time I arrived.  As I tried to enter the room quietly, I saw that the desks were strewn about the room in no discernible arrangement.  People weren’t in their right seats, having abandoned their stuff at one desk to go sit elsewhere.  So it was hard to determine where I might sit, and I had to walk all the way across the room to find a spot.

The teacher was explaining an assignment, the details of which were pertinent and funny but which have sadly already slipped away from me.  I do remember that, naturally, I couldn’t find a pencil, or paper, or my textbook to help me.  As I settled down to finally start writing, I noticed that the guy next to me had decided to just write a poem instead.  The classroom was in complete chaos, with the teacher, who was sometimes at his desk glaring and other times completely absent from the room, alternately ignoring us and yelling that we would fail the class if we did the assignment wrong.

You probably saw this coming a mile off.  Here’s the teacher:

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Credit: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons

And then I woke up.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

 

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Lorelei and I had the opportunity this week to join in a local march in support of refugees and immigrants.  This peaceful and patriotic event began in Market Square–Knoxville’s downtown gathering spot–with a silent vigil.  Then all of us–over 1,100 people, in the middle of a weekday!–marched to the City-County Building for a brief rally before a delegation carried letters opposing the President’s Executive Order to the lawmakers within.

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As we made the 25-minute drive from our home to downtown Knoxville, I made sure Lorelei understood what we were marching about.  We talked about the signs she had made and what they meant.  We talked about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount.  I told her that when we turn away immigrants and refugees, we are turning away Christ.

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But we didn’t just talk about religion–we had a civics lesson too.  We talked about the principles our country is founded on, and how it isn’t unpatriotic to try to hold the country to those values.  We talked about the importance of letting our representatives know our position on this and other issues, and on how people coming together can bring about change.  I told her about Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee who found success here as a restaurateur and has made it a point to give back to his adopted community.  We talked about the message on the Statue of Liberty and about the American dream.

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This wasn’t Lorelei’s first protest–she has taken part in many a March for Life–but this is the first time she knew what she was protesting.  She’s 12 years old, with little patience for or experience with being silent, but she made me proud.  She remained quiet, paid attention, liked pointing out all the signs (she was our sign-maker), and enjoyed the chanting we did at the end of the march.

Lorelei carried this sign:

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It was inspired by the lyrics of the Marty Haugen song.  It’s slightly heretical for singing in church in my opinion, but some of the words seemed tailor-made for this occasion:

Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live . . .
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place . . . 
Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

My favorite part of the gathering happened almost at the end, when we recited The New Colossus together.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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I can’t recite that under the most ordinary of circumstances without crying, and those were not ordinary circumstances.

After that, much of the crowd dispersed, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” And it is.

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When Did Liberals Start Quoting Scripture?

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That’s what a Facebook friend of mine asked the other day.  It’s no secret that there are lots of liberal Christians but in recent years they’ve been loath to use the Bible to make political points.  The reasons are many, ranging from a strong belief in the separation of Church and State all the way to simply being on the side of an issue that Scripture doesn’t support (which is why faith should transcend party for Catholics, just saying).

But in the present heady moment the “liberals” have all the Scripture on their side, and pretty explicitly too.  Conservative Christians suddenly find themselves in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of being targeted by the very pointed words of Christ when they try to defend the recent Executive Order.

Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’  Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’” ~ Matthew 25:41-45

So perhaps it’s very natural that religious folks who lean liberal politically are excited to be able to demonstrate that they read the Bible too, and that they’ve taken these parts of it to heart.  Many American religious leaders have been quick to speak out against the Executive Order, which actually violates the religious freedom of American Christians who are called to welcome the stranger and are being prevented from doing so.

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Protest is Patriotism

Protesting is as American as the Boston Tea Party.  The First Amendment to our Constitution includes the rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to petition our government for redress of grievances.  That sounds like a pretty good description of a protest march like the Women’s March in Knoxville which I attended today.

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Dictionary.com defines patriotism as “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”  Today’s pre-march ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance.  Many marchers carried American flags.  (I heard one of them expressing concern about whether it was disrespectful that his flag was getting wet in the rain.)  

Can I rage for a second here?  Protesting is NOT whining, it’s NOT being a sore loser, and it’s certainly NOT unpatriotic.  People gather in peaceful protest BECAUSE they love this country, because they believe in its ideals, and because they want it to be better. (Our new President has spent the past two years talking about how terrible this country is and how we need him to make it great again.  Was that unpatriotic?)

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On January 27, 2017, pro-life marchers will gather in Washington to voice their disagreement with this country’s abortion laws.  These marchers want abortion legally banned.  They disagree with Federal, State, and local laws allowing abortion and deplore Supreme Court decisions which have upheld those laws.  They believe in the ideals of this great nation–the ones guaranteeing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–and that they should apply to everyone, born or unborn.  They think the United States of America can and should be better.

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I’ve participated in more local Marches for Life than I can recall.  I’ve slogged through rain and biting cold on behalf of the unborn.  (I’ve also marched against the death penalty, for what it’s worth.)  So I think that gives me the moral authority to tell you that the only difference between marching today and marching next weekend is what participants are protesting.

Women (and lots of men!) marched today to protest potential policies of the incoming administration, based upon the political promises of the President.  They marched for many reasons: for healthcare, for equal pay for equal work, for compassion toward immigrants and refugees.  And they also marched against things:  sexual assault, discrimination, prejudice, hatred.

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“Give him a chance,” people say.  “He hasn’t done anything yet.”  All the more reason for us to stand up now, before he has a chance to implement any policies, to assemble and use our right to speak freely and let him know how his proposals will grieve us!  Why wait to protest until after the fact?

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Woman Enough to March?

On November 2, 2016 I joined Pantsuit Nation, an online community of Hillary supporters.  The group, now almost four million strong, comprised people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, united by our support of Hillary and fear of a Trump presidency.

I posted an introduction after joining, which you can read here.  And I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the welcome I received.  Over 3,600 people liked my post, and there were 412 comments.  Many people asked for permission to share what I had said elsewhere.  I was showered with love and affirmation, not only from fellow pro-life Catholics but from people of every imaginable ideological stripe, including many, many pro-choice women.  After a year of feeling adrift and alone, it was a heady sensation.

Too bad it didn’t last.

It turned out that without Hillary to hold us together this great movement of women is breaking down along tired and predictable lines, and those of us who are both pro-life and progressive are left out in the cold once more.  The New Wave Feminists, erstwhile official partners of the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, are now officially NOT.  Pantsuit Nation now overflows with post after post of women sharing their positive experience with abortion.

I felt this backlash coming and it’s one reason I’ve mostly only lurked on the pages of the state and local offshoots of Pantsuit Nation.  I’m so tired of being marginalized for one reason or another.  I am sick at heart over the notion that there is only one kind of feminist–our pro-life feminist foremothers be damned!–that the right to unlimited abortion apparently trumps all and that some of us are not woman enough to participate in a Women’s March!  As I posted on Facebook, “It’s like you are not an actual woman if you are not pro-choice.”

Rebecca Bratton Weiss makes an excellent case for why the feminist movement needs to embrace pro-life feminists.  This resonated with me especially:  “We have risked personal and professional relationships in our staunch opposition to Donald Trump, our refusal to accept him as representative of anything remotely pro-life. I personally lost a business associate when I spoke out against his boasts of sexual assault, and the latent misogyny in those who dismissed this as ‘locker room talk.’ I’ve been spied on and screen-shotted by right-wingers who seem more interested in controlling women than in saving lives.

I, too, was attacked for my constant opposition to Donald Trump.  As I wrote days before the election:  “Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, said that abortion is “the ultimate exploitation of women.”  For pro-life feminists who risked a lot to vote for and publicly support Hillary, it’s adding insult to injury to not only end up with Trump as President but also to be sidelined by those who should accept us as allies.

Note:  I am happy to report that the Knoxville Women’s March has chosen not to officially adopt the national march’s platform and is aiming for an event that is unifying and non-partisan.

Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal ObamaCare

Dear Facebook Friends:

Next time you are tempted to gleefully post about how happy you are to see ObamaCare repealed, I want you to think about the people whose lives are going to be affected dramatically when that happens.  I want you to think about people who are terrified of losing their coverage, who went years uninsured,  who saw doctors only when in dire need, who went bankrupt due to medical bills, who visited the emergency room for care because they didn’t have the money a clinic would have demanded up front, who spent hours researching online and filling out forms and chasing down doctors for signatures to get prescription medication payment assistance, who figured out which of their medications they could forgo in a given month, who held their breath in the pharmacy drive-through line while they waited to hear the terrible total.

You are entitled to your opinion and the ACA isn’t perfect, but it’s sure better than the nothing many people had before it was passed.  You can suggest changes and discuss drawbacks and talk policy without appearing to be enthusiastic about the fact that millions of Americans stand to lose their care and that some of them are going to die.

Consider, please, how it makes me (and others) feel when I see people who are supposed to be my friends celebrating the fact that my family may soon be without health insurance and thus effectively without care.  In my posts on this topic in the past I have always been careful to affirm my friends who told me that the implementation of the ACA had caused them difficulties like higher premiums and changes in doctors.  I was always sympathetic and willing to concede the imperfections in the ACA, as evidenced by my many honest posts  (which I will link at the end).  I agreed that improvement–although not repeal–was needed.

Remember that there are suffering people who see your Facebook posts, people who are frightened, for whom this isn’t about politics or partisanship or finances but about staying alive.  Remember that, and if you care about those people, watch the tone of your posts.

Your friend,

A Once and Possibly Future Uninsured American

My previous posts on ObamaCare:

The $64,000 Question, Answered

Who Are the Uninsured?

Uninsured No More

ObamaCare Update

ObamaCare Update 2

ObamaCare:  My Latest Update

ObamaCare Revisited

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare

It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update

Obamacare in Practice:  An Update

Good People?

My high school French teacher, Sister deLellis, had a favorite saying that popped into my head today: “Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

For the past year, many of my friends who termed themselves reluctant Trump supporters assured me repeatedly that all his flaws would not matter because once he was in office he would “surround himself with good people.”  Since the election, they keep saying, “Give him a chance.”

In the disorganized mess that is the Trump transition, rumors abound, each one worse than the last.  But I don’t deal in rumors.  So far Mr. Trump has made only a few official appointments that I am aware of.  Are they good people?  Let’s take a look at some of them:

Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor

If you haven’t already read more than your fill about Mr. Bannon and his alt-right associations, this opinion piece provides a fairly balanced view with links to more.

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General

Mr. Sessions was denied an appointment years ago to a federal judgeship for alleged racist remarks.  He has denied the remarks, but he can’t deny that he said he isn’t sure that grabbing a woman’s genitalia is sexual assault.

Mike Flynn, National Security Advisor

A retired general and a registered Democrat, Flynn is on record as having made extreme remarks against Islam–not just radical Islamic terrorism but the religion itself.  “Islam is a political ideology…it definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion,” Flynn said in a speech at the annual conference of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim grassroots organization in the US. “It’s like cancer…a malignant cancer in this case.”

Predictably, these picks have raised an outcry of rage from Democrats, but several prominent Republicans are not brimming over with enthusiasm over Bannon’s role in particular either.

But guess who does like Mr. Trump’s appointments?

Bannon, Flynn, Sessions — Great! Senate must demand that Sessions as AG stop the massive institutional race discrimination against whites!

Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are.  

We Didn’t Start the Fire . . .

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Tennessee is on fire and Donald Trump is the President-Elect.  The haze that hangs over Knoxville matches the haze in my head and my heart.  It’s hard to think and hard to breathe.

On Election Day  many of us headed off to the polls excited about a bright new world full of promise and possibility and without glass ceilings.

The next morning we awakened to an America we didn’t recognize, a country we used to love but feel that we don’t even know any more.

We are grieving and we are discouraged and the conservatives I know (translation: almost EVERYONE I know, here in red East Tennessee) think we are crybabies and want us to get over it.

In October, I cleared out our fire pit, planning for crisp November evenings.

The pit remains empty and cold.  My bonfire dreams are dead like so many other dreams seem to be. Most of East Tennessee is under a burn ban, and this will continue until just a few days before winter begins.  Tempers are flaring too, and those flames may be harder to dampen.

I am intimately aware of the destructive power of fire.

But fire, controlled, also warms and illumines.

I love candles and every evening before we sit down to watch our show I light several.  I wait for the moment when the flame from the lighter catches the wick and the candle begins to burn on its own, its flame swelling to life.

My family visited Mammoth Cave recently. After gathering us in a large room, our guide turned off every light and left us to wait in complete, impenetrable darkness.   Then he lit just one match and the entire cave was illuminated.  Our eyes can grow accustomed to the deepest darkness.  One small flame becomes enough to see by.

Dark nights of the soul are steps along the journey to spiritual enlightenment.  By all means we SHOULD curse the darkness we see in the world around us right now.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t light candles.  We can burn. We can shine.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . .  (Ephesians 5:8)

 

ObamaCare in Practice: An Update

The first year we had health insurance via the ACA, I updated y’all frequently and promised to keep doing so.  I realize that’s a promise I didn’t keep.  Now that the law’s very existence is threatened, it seems like a good time to share how it’s been going for us in the almost two years since my last post.

I’m listing here for comparison some numbers I just crunched from the three years we have been covered thus far.

2014

  • Premiums paid:  $3,796.75
  • Physician Charges:  $41,191.17
  • Prescriptions:  $9,581.96
  • Our portion after insurance:  $5,454.47
  • Total health care costs: $9,251.22

2015

  • Premiums paid:  $7,558.68
  • Physician Charges:  $10,083.20
  • Prescriptions:  $7,603.03
  • Our portion after insurance:  $2,668.16
  • Total health care costs: $10,226.84

2016 (to date)

  • Premiums paid:  $7,239.24
  • Physician Charges:  $16,849.10
  • Prescriptions:  $6,492.23
  • Our portion after insurance:  $2,613.13
  • Total health care costs: $10,452.37

You will probably notice a couple of things:  Our premiums went UP, and our physician charges went DOWN.

Well, it’s no secret that premiums are going up across the land, which many people blame on ObamaCare.  Ours would be unaffordable by now if it weren’t for the generous government subsidy we receive thanks to the size of our family vs. the size of our income.

Our physician charges went down because for one thing we didn’t have a major medical issue as we did the first year when Jake required surgery for a severed tendon, and the first year we also all went to the doctor a lot to make up for years of not being able to do so.  One of the things that has been driving costs up has been exactly this–people who hadn’t been able to access care, some of them very sick as a result, finally getting the care they need.   Presumably some of that will improve as time goes on, as it has for us.

So our experience continues to be positive.  We love our doctors.  We love that we can still provide insurance for our two adult children who are not in school.  We love that whenever anyone is sick we don’t have to worry about paying for or accessing care.  We love having regular preventive care and psychological care too.  And we love the lack of sticker shock at the pharmacy.

None of that is to say that there aren’t problems that need to be fixed.  Because insurance companies now have to cover those who they used to be able to reject, they haven’t been able to make a profit for the past three years.  Premiums continue to rise.  And Blue Cross has pulled out of Knoxville so we have to find another plan for next year.  Any day now I will have to devote a couple of hours to the hell on earth otherwise known as Healthcare.gov–which has only improved marginally since the last time I was there.

Now that I’ve got you all caught up, count on seeing more–a LOT more–on this topic over the next few weeks.

 

And here’s the rest of our ObamaCare story:

The $64,000 Question, Answered

Who Are the Uninsured?

Uninsured No More

ObamaCare Update

ObamaCare Update 2

ObamaCare:  My Latest Update

ObamaCare Revisited

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare

It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update

Election Day! In (Mostly) Pictures

All I want to do right now is read the internet obsessively and get ready to watch election coverage.  But it’s NaBloPoMo, and I have to post something.  So I’ll do a quick Election Day photo essay!

Even though there was no school today, I got up relatively early, and got Lorelei and Emily up, hoping to get to the polls by ten.  We didn’t quite make that goal!  But at least we didn’t need to worry about crowds this time.  Unbeknownst to us, they split our precinct place and sent half the voters elsewhere (not our half, happily).  There was only a short line, although the workers said that it had been steady and was busy earlier with voters on the way to work.

Here are our happy post-voting pictures!

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Emily was away at college for the last election and didn’t get her absentee ballot in time, so this was her first vote for President.  Lorelei is still a bit young, but I let her push the button.

And here I am, rocking my “pantsuit.”

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I got the idea online to go on a field trip to the Women’s Suffrage Memorial, located downtown in Market Square.  We found a parking place and I even managed to parallel park!

Then we went to lunch at Pete’s (a downtown institution, where the girls had never been), and then to Krispy Kreme for our free doughnuts!

Since then I’ve been glued to my computer and I’m getting ready to be glued to the t.v.  We have snacks and pink champagne and we are going to have a little party. 🙂

And tomorrow, one way or another, life goes on, and maybe I will be able to concentrate on working again!