Vote Like Your Life Depends on It

For anyone who thinks the major parties are the same, congressional elections aren’t important, or their vote doesn’t matter, please remember the government shutdown that happened last year and cost us $24,000,000,000. It happened because the Republican Speaker of the House chose not to vote on the federal budget in an attempt to undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” – which, by the way, is the reason I have health insurance and can afford the medication that seems to be helping me change my life.

One person should not have that much power, but for the time being we need to ensure that person isn’t in the pocket of right-wing extremists who exist to do the bidding of the ludicrously wealthy at the expense of everyone else. They would rather allow people to starve to death or commit suicide than risk losing a small portion of their profits. (Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Americans.)

The only way we can have a federal government that comes remotely close to representing us is to get a Democratic majority in the House, and the only way to do that is for those of us who can vote to do so – wisely.

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Here’s the relevant part of my post from last year about the shutdown:

I’ve been having a really hard time lately and there’s no end in sight. Sometimes I feel so hopeless, it’s painful to keep breathing.

This government shutdown orchestrated by a small handful of right-wing extremists who somehow managed to take control of the House is such a huge, overwhelming problem. I know one person who works for the government who has been extremely stressed out, and another person who just lost their job – I suspect at least partially due to the shutdown. I’m concerned for them, and for the hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and for the millions of people who won’t receive the assistance they need for Zek knows how long. The impact on the economy is devastating, and more importantly people could die as a result of this.

It completely and utterly infuriates me that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that they played a role in the shutdown, never mind taking responsibility. […] All we need is for the House to vote on one bill that’s been sitting on Boehner’s desk, but that he refuses to call a vote on. I don’t even understand how or why the Speaker of the House – one person – has that kind of power. I thought our government was set up to prevent one person from ever having that much power.

We can petition them all we want but it’s like they live in a different universe. […] I think the only solution is for the American people to somehow take direct control of the House – at the very least, force them to vote on the bill that would provide funding to the departments that have been shut down (without removing access to birth control or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare for a year, thanks). At least then we’d have some semblance of transparency, a record of who voted to keep this country afloat and who voted against us all.

So far I’ve learned of one way to bypass Boehner and force a vote on the clean funding bill: the discharge petition House Democrats have been pursuing. I encourage readers (especially those in the U.S.) to sign this petition urging House Republicans to join their colleagues in ending the shutdown. Also please consider contacting your representative directly (House.gov). I know I just wrote that petitioning them doesn’t do anything, but I don’t really see any other course of action. People know that the Republicans are responsible; there are several races for Republican seats in the House where polls show the Democrats to have an advantage.

(But only if the people who support them vote!)

And here’s part of another post I wrote around that time, Running Red:

I read an article that said the Tea Party is actually pleased with Boehner and that this shutdown is part of his career strategy. That’s right folks, starving mothers and babies, survivors of rape and domestic violence put out on the street, head start programs ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of people without work or pay, parks and monuments closed, a lapse in veterans’ benefits, etc. etc. etc. … merely the pawns in Boehner’s game of chess. If he’s winning, he’s not going to listen to our petitions – unless perhaps there is a massive outcry by the people in his district, who can vote for his opponent in the next (this!) election. Without their votes, all the support and campaign funds from his party will be nothing.

So please, please vote today, if you haven’t already. If you’re inclined to vote Republican, please look up what your candidate and other Republicans have been doing and think critically about whether they actually represent you, your needs, and the rest of us who aren’t bazillionaires in terms of the practical, this-world decisions they’ve made and the consequences of their actions (or inaction). If you’re inclined to vote Democrat, please stop reading this right now and go vote!

Additional Voter Resources at Vote411.org

Shut Down

I’ve been having a really hard time lately and there’s no end in sight. Sometimes I feel so hopeless, it’s painful to keep breathing.

This government shutdown orchestrated by a small handful of right-wing extremists who somehow managed to take control of the House is such a huge, overwhelming problem. I know one person who works for the government who has been extremely stressed out, and another person who just lost their job – I suspect at least partially due to the shutdown. I’m concerned for them, and for the hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and for the millions of people who won’t receive the assistance they need for Zek knows how long. The impact on the economy is devastating, and more importantly people could die as a result of this.

It completely and utterly infuriates me that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that they played a role in the shutdown, never mind taking responsibility. Their smug lies are difficult to tolerate on the best of days, now they might as well be physically tying my intestines in knots while force-feeding me spoiled milk. All we need is for the House to vote on one bill that’s been sitting on Boehner’s desk, but that he refuses to call a vote on. I don’t even understand how or why the Speaker of the House – one person – has that kind of power. I thought our government was set up to prevent one person from ever having that much power.

We can petition them all we want but it’s like they live in a different universe. I don’t think they’re capable of having an honest conversation anymore. The meaning of your words gets twisted in their minds before you’re even finished saying a single sentence; it’s almost like they can’t help dodging the question or spewing blatant lies because they’re not perceiving the words or the situation realistically. I think the only solution is for the American people to somehow take direct control of the House – at the very least, force them to vote on the bill that would provide funding to the departments that have been shut down (without removing women’s access to birth control or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare for a year, thanks). At least then we’d have some semblance of transparency, a record of who voted to keep this country afloat and who voted against us all.

So far I’ve learned of one way to bypass Boehner and force a vote on the clean funding bill: the discharge petition House Democrats have been pursuing. I encourage readers (especially those in the U.S.) to sign this petition urging House Republicans to join their colleagues in ending the shutdown. Also please consider contacting your representative directly (House.gov). I know I just wrote that petitioning them doesn’t do anything, but I don’t really see any other course of action. People know that the Republicans are responsible; there are several races for Republican seats in the house where polls show the Democrats to have an advantage. Maybe if we keep enough pressure on they’ll realize that the best thing to do – whether it’s to save their jobs or because deep down they actually do give a damn about this country – is to give up the Tea Party’s ridiculous demands and frelling fund the government. We only need about 18 of them to rejoin reality.

Anyways, it’s not just the shutdown that’s got me, well, down. I’m having my own financial crisis. I wiped out my checking account paying credit card bills (in full, on time), then received 2 very unwelcome pieces of mail. One was the bill from the animal hospital where we’d taken Schmoozer; they’re charging me an additional $400 on top of the $200 deposit. I was very angry when I first received it, but the vets and other staff worked hard and they do need to be paid. The financial cost just adds to the pain of losing him. The other offensive bit of mail was regarding my student loans: I need to contact them about repayment or deferment because I’m not at least a half-time student. I’m hoping I can defer repayment, but I’m dreading the call I’m almost guaranteed to have to make. Again, not at all unreasonable (or entirely unexpected), just horrible timing. I’d much rather disappear into a hole than deal with bureaucracy.

I managed to fill out most of the information to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act – which went into effect a week ago – but the site (HealthCare.gov) was “unable to verify my identity.” I haven’t been able to log on since to view the message that’s waiting for me; I hope it’s not time sensitive! I could call but I really feel a lot more comfortable with written communication, which allows me to ensure my own comprehension and make sure I’m clearly communicating my true intention. On the phone I feel pressured to agree with whomever I’m talking to; I might agree to something that’s not in my best interest.

I’m frustrated because I just want to see what plan(s) I’m eligible for and take some time to compare/evaluate them, but I can’t even log in. The more rational side of me is saying to wait a month or two. Then Fox and I can apply as a married couple, I can use my new legal name, and less people will be trying to access the site at once, so it should be a lot easier. But that doesn’t jive well with the part of me that feels an urgent need to Do Something Right Now to change my current status: unemployed and uninsured. Being unemployed and uninsured goes against the values I was raised with, the sense of identity I wanted. It’s hard to accept; it grates on my nerves. But it’s the truth and I want to do something about it. I hate that when I finally get up the guts and energy to try, then I can’t even log in to a website.

I’m also feeling a lot of pressure to get a job, but I find it difficult to get up, feed myself, and get dressed in the morning; my mind fills with doubts about whether I’d be able to be on time for the job, ever. The idea of going in for an interview paralyzes me with anxiety. Mom says I need to figure out what I’m doing with my life, and I agree. But I question whether I really want to and can continue on the career path I’ve already started out with; for the time being, at least, even role-playing a therapist is dangerous. I would love to write professionally (even though I lack a degree in English), but I’m not sure how likely I’d be to actually get paid; most of the jobs I’ve seen posted online would provide unstable income at best. I have the minimal degree I need to enter a career in music composition / arranging / orchestrating and I think I’d enjoy it a great deal … except that I have trouble getting myself to work on my own compositions for fun. Assuming I could even get anyone to pay me for my work, would I be able to stick with it consistently enough to finish commissioned works? Right now I’m full of doubt. I doubt I could be successful in any career.

Mom says I should try to find a small office job or something local. The idea fills me with so much anxiety I have to end the conversation. But then I doubt myself again. Am I really suffering from a mental illness that makes it so I can’t even try to find work? Or am I just being lazy, making excuses? To what degree do I need to take responsibility? And to what degree do I desperately need support? Whose responsibility is it to make sure I get that support? I feel like I should know where to look, but I don’t. I’m lost.

Daily Prompt: Burning Down the House – What Cannot Be Replaced

Daily Prompt: Burning Down the House | The Daily Post.

Today, The Daily Post has set fire to my house! All the people and animals are safe and I have time to grab – and save – five items.

I glance around quickly at all the things that will be lost: my furniture, clothes, beloved books, countless nicknacks. My eyes tear up as they fall upon the bead curtain my friends and I have been working on since college. But all these things, as painful and expensive as it may be to lose them now, can be replaced. The air is filling with smoke; it’s getting harder to breathe. I must act quickly.

The very first thing I grab is my viola; if I’m lucky it is already packed, with its bow, in its case. My viola is not an inanimate object, it is a beautiful musical instrument with a unique personality and with which I have a very meaningful relationship. To lose it would be to lose a part of my soul.

Next I grab my guitar, also already packed in its case – which I can sling fairly easily over my shoulder. I knew this was My Guitar the moment I first strummed it. There is no way I could leave it behind.

Choking, I run over to my desk. I grab the external hard drive that houses the only copy of some of my older files, most notably music I composed in college.

Once that is secure, I unplug all the wires from the back of my desktop computer. This baby was custom-built three years ago and my only complaint about it is that my security software somehow manages to slow it down – nothing some extra RAM couldn’t fix. More importantly, it has the only copy of some irreplaceable files on it. There is no way I will willingly leave it behind.

Finally, I am torn as to what my last item should be. Do I try to wrangle the bead curtain? Grab my digital camera, which likely has some pictures on it I have yet to transfer to a computer? What about my sketchbook? It has my unique drawings in it … but the ones I care about most have been scanned.

I check my left hand – yes, I’m already wearing my engagement ring.

The air is thickening; I can barely see. My eyes fall on my laptop. It is one of the most valuable items I own, and it also has irreplaceable files on it. Though I’ve had the desktop longer, the laptop – because I can use it in bed, take it anywhere with me, etc. – feels more like I have a special relationship with it. I grab it and run for my life.

I escape just in time, running from ground zero as my home collapses behind me. Ashes, smoke, and flames billow into the air. Somewhere in the distance, sirens are sounding.

I am so relieved to join my loved ones in safety. We hug, we cry, we tremble, but we’re all here, safe. I think about all the stuff that I have lost … but it is precisely that: stuff. What I really need is what’s around me: Love.

*****

As a hoarder, especially a hoarder who is transitioning between spaces, I find it exceptionally useful to respond to this kind of prompt. It can be so hard to get rid of things. As crazy as the clutter drives me, it’s also comforting. Each item I get rid of is like throwing away a part of myself. It hurts.

But they’re just things! This prompt has me thinking about which of my things are really important, and which I could live without. Ultimately, the answer is that the items I need most enable me to express myself. My computer hard drives contain some of my most meaningful self-expressions.

Yes, I need things like clothes. Yes, I want to keep all my books and other media. But most of this stuff is just stuff. The emotions, the memories, they all live inside me. I can be whole without this stuff! And that means I can let some of it go …

BREAKING: Obama Starts Having The Grownup Conversation About Guns That The NRA Doesn’t Want To Have

BREAKING: Obama Starts Having The Grownup Conversation About Guns That The NRA Doesn’t Want To Have.

It’s so good to see the president taking real action to strengthen gun control, reduce violence, and protect the rights of all Americans to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. I especially appreciate that he acknowledged people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. It’s important for us to have powerful advocates. One of his measures is to improve access to mental health services, something people with mental illness desperately need.

But for the necessary changes to take place, everyone needs to act.

Please contact your senators and representative and urge them to support the changes President Obama has called for.