This is a really painful and personal topic for me in many ways. This will be rather disjointed and not my most eloquent writing. I trust you to read and hear me and not blow me off knowing where my decisions are. Please read with an open heart.
My big issues:
1. Religion and Politics: The very core of America's foundation was to get out of a place where a single religious power was bullying and forcing laws based on their religion; forcing those of other faiths to comply with the rules of a faith that were not their own and were sometimes contrary to their own. Forcing it even when the practices of the other faith did absolutely nothing to hurt anyone else. We're the land of religious freedom. It's who we are. How is it not utterly unbelievably appalling to every American that there is such an open, aggressive PUSH to create laws based on a minority subgroups' interpretation of some obscure bits in the Bible? What next? Constitutional amendments outlawing tattoos or calling those who have them (which in this case is un-debatably a choice) lesser citizens? What about those wearing mixed fibers? (hey, it's within just a few lines of the oh-so-popular Leviticus quotations). There is no War on Christianity or Christians and any claims that there is makes me want to force someone to watch hours of actual religious persecution footage. The Obama administration has not made it illegal, punishable, or even dangerous to gather for Christian worship, wear religious identifying items, or celebrate holidays. More importantly, they are working hard to make sure that this is also true for those celebrating different faiths. The fact that they are resisting a very vocal and aggressive minority group who want to bully their personal faith onto others is not persecuting or hurting anyone's religion, it is protecting everyone else's. Separation of church and state was intended first and foremost not to keep government out of religion but to keep religion out of government, but it really goes both ways.
Incidentally, the opposite of religious freedom is religious bullying in which one faith pushes its rules and beliefs onto others. Like if I was on a diet and therefore demanded that everyone else eats only cabbage soup, too. There is no war on Christians, but there are definitely Christian Bullies who want to force their beliefs onto the rest. Take, for a nice example, this endless mock outrage about the democratic platform not including the word "God." Naming the Creator as "God" is a Judeo-Christian term. The belief in a single all-mighty entity is also in other faiths, but under different names--think Allah. Would Christians get upset if a platform talked about our Allah-given rights? Or faith in Allah? Oh heck yes. The democratic platform mentioned faith and spirituality dozens of times. It does not, however, choose the language of one faith and impose it as the default. Do you know why I think there's so much panic that Obama could be a Muslim? Because they are afraid he'd then push that religion down everyone's thoughts the way Evangelical Christians and the noisy parts of the conservative party try to do with Christianity. I am a Christian--Catholic even--but I would have no problem with my President being Muslim or Hindu or Jewish or Buddhist or some sect of Christianity (Morman, Catholic, or otherwise) as long as people realize that point #1 up there has to hold. Separation of church and state means FREEDOM OF RELIGION and FREEDOM FROM RELIGION.
2. The economy. Sweet biscuits this one is overdone. The economy will be fine either way. Honestly, the economy is far too complex and interconnected to be controlled by one person. Both sides have a plan, both sides have lots of smart people who seem to really think their plan will work and that the other guy's plan will send us straight into a dystopian nightmare. Both plans will probably get mangled and blocked and watered down to a half-plan that can't really do anything but tick everyone off.
Obama's plan is doing ok or improving on every metric I can see. I know exactly no one who is out of work right now that isn't at least partially by choice. I have several friends that moved geographically or have quit their jobs (mostly educators, and that's an issue in itself) because they just didn't like them and don't know what they want next, but no one that is actively desperately seeking employment. And I see about 500 students graduate from our business school every spring and nearly every one of them has a job. If not, they're going on to grad school, military, volunteer work, or self-employment. Most are debating between several incredibly good options. I talk with hundreds of recruiters every fall and spring who are eager to get good talent, and I talk to students who are turning down $50K+ jobs because they don't care for the location (most want to end up near NYC so a job in the mid west is spurned). There are good jobs out there for people with the right skills. Those studies citing that 50% of 2012 college grads are out of jobs are a study of 444 graduates. What degrees do they have and from where? To quote:
That said, not all degrees are created equal. The AP reports that students who graduated out of the sciences or other technical fields, such as accounting, were much less likely to be jobless or underemployed than humanities and arts graduates. You know that old saw about how college is just about getting a fancy piece of paper? Not true. For an education to be worth anything these days, it needs to impart skills.Perhaps we've had an education bubble burst and degrees now have to mean something again? Not to say the highly skilled unemployed don't exist, of course. I'm sure they're out there, but I suspect their numbers are less dramatic. Other than the complex situations of people stuck with an un-sell-able house or family commitments in a jobless town while jobs are open elsewhere, there are jobs available. It's the same basic problem we have convincing bright young students to keep geographic options open but with an actually valid geographic constraint. And that mess--with housing markets and job locations and people commuting--that isn't captured in a 5-point plan.
3. Foreign Policy. Having seen the 3rd debate, there's almost no difference in their policies except the majority of other countries and leaders generally respect and like Obama and seem to think Romney is...well, not Obama. And while one may argue that there's no value to having other countries like and respect us, I'd disagree. Humans as a rule are more likely to listen to someone they like and respect and more likely to value their suggestions and approval. So, yes, I think having someone with diplomatic skills as our leader matters a lot.
4. Congressional affiliates, supreme court, and the vocal and pushy extremes that come with either party. You sleep with one, you sleep with them all. That is: Who I am and what I need. Who I want on the supreme court for the next few decades which will almost surely be decided in the next few years. These, right here, are the reasons I absolutely can not vote for any Republican. I may not agree with the super lefty-liberals, but I'll take their money wasting ANY DAY over the push to deny science, healthcare, and basic human rights that comes with the noisy parts of the right (who are increasingly becoming the only people we hear).
4.a. Science. Have you been watching this nonsense? Rob's a biologist and teaches so all this insanity about forcing science teachers to teach religion in their classrooms, refusing to believe that humans can and should influence the climate for the better, and refusing to stand up to big companies making genetically modified foods which have no way to really control them once introduced and may have serious health effects for humans and the larger environment; this is ALL dumped on my kitchen table. And our science committee legislators are these guys who think basic science theory and things agreed upon and supported by scientific evidence and proof are "lies from the pit of hell"!?
"The committee’s chair, Ralph Hall (R-Texas), lumps 'global freezing' together with global warming,which he doesn’t believe humans can significantly impact because 'I don’t think we can control what God controls.' Dana Rohrbacher (R-Huntington Beach) thinks cutting down trees reduces levels of greenhouse gases they absorb. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) still trots out the debunked notion that a scientific consensus existed in the 1970s on 'global cooling,' which he portrays as a scare concocted by scientists 'in order to generate funds for their pet projects.' " (SOURCE)No no no. Out with them. Along these lines, for all the total lie scare tactics about "death panels" and this fear of un-elected people making your health care decisions, this right here and what will follow is essentially already the worst case scenario of those claims. I have no power to vote these chuckle-heads in or out of office and no power to determine which of them are on the science committee or which appear on the health-care discussions regarding women's health (notably, that board was pretty much all white men and mostly conservatives).
4.b. Healthcare and the 47% (the two are too linked to break for me). I grew up in a family with modest means. I don't know what our finances looked like exactly, but we certainly weren't in anything close to what Romney seems to think is normal or what even qualifies as being non-parasitic victim-criers in his world. Those of us that went for college used FAFSA because without federal aid and some hefty academic scholarships, college would not have been an option. "Borrow the money from your parents"? Apparently education and the better opportunities that come with it is only an option for the rich. Thanks, Romney. I guess I should just know my place, and in your world that means no college for the majority of Americans.
After college I went to graduate school where I married my undergraduate sweetheart (and still sweetheart 12 lovely years later) Rob. We were both students working toward a big degree so our financial status was pathetic. Here's a little known fact: as doctoral students you get a letter that says something like "Your job for the next 4-7 years will include being a 24-hour-per-day, 12-months-per-year assistant to a faculty member or three at whose feet you will learn all the skills to eventually become them. For this honor we will pay you $50,000*." And that little * then points to a note that says that this amount, whatever it is, is pretty much tuition plus about $50 a week. And the better the school, the lower the additional money because they know highly qualified candidates will still eagerly sign up.
Now, that's certainly a good deal and beats paying for school outright for sure, but...since tuition and books are then covered, getting a student loan is mostly ruled out and loans in general are out without a real income but a second job is also out because this is a 75+ hour per week commitment. (We still did, of course, because sleep has never been a real option.). We scraped by for 7 years at just $3-5K above the poverty line in a moderately expensive city with a bare-bones disasters-only type health insurance plan and no coverage for prescriptions, dental, vision (hello, I've had glasses since I was 12), or "women's health". I gave up my contacts when they ran out and wore old glasses and hoped my prescription didn't change. I didn't go to dentist for 7-8 years. I went to the doctor only if truly desperate (e.g. broken bone scares, a sinus infection I thought would kill me) and then didn't always fill a prescription because it would literally mean we couldn't buy groceries or get gas in the car or maybe pay the electric bill. Katie's no-drugs, 24-hour-stay-in-the-hospital, zero interventions or complications birth cost us nearly $10,000 out of our pockets. We just finished paying that off. I shudder to think what could have happened. These days we may have opted not to marry to stay on our parents' insurance plans (thanks Obamacare for that option!!) but then I would have had to wait to start my life with Rob. Choosing between financial solvency, our education, health care, and my marriage. That's what Romney thinks is an ideal situation? Isn't this the land of opportunity? Should affordable healthcare be determining whether we can get graduate degrees in this country or even get married?
I am so grateful for Planned Parenthood. I needed Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood kept me healthy, enabled my prescriptions until we could even fathom the financial and time requirements of having a child, and even served as a primary care option if I could attempt to pass off an ear ache as a women's health need. At the very least I could discuss with my doctor there what may be necessary regarding any other medical issues I had at the time. And I never felt entitled to have that care, but I was so so grateful to not have to trade-off my health for my budget or my long term career goals. I am proud to live in a country that values its people enough to protect the must financially vulnerable from devastation due to missed health diagnoses and/or the inability to pay for them.
Hearing people say "oh, just buy your own health insurance if your employer's is bad" or similar dismissive statements that imply the problem is so easy to fix and the solution so easy and obvious...they have no idea. I truly believe they just can't know what it's like to live in a world where it's not all just bundled up and provided as a matter of course. Here's your tuition money, sweetie. Enjoy college. Here's a job offer, complete with all the best benefits. I talked with a strongly conservative colleague a few weeks ago who said his opinion of helping the poor was fixing the economy so they could get jobs. That kind of myopic idea of what is wrong ensures that we can't expect to fix things. I know plenty of families with a single parent who works one or two jobs or two working parents with the best jobs they are skilled for who simply can not afford to live--or at least can't afford to get sick! Not to mention the ones with a working spouse and a sickly spouse or child. One bad cold for an adult may cost them their job completely or may mean they miss all or part of their take-home pay for a few weeks because they have few or no paid sick days and that throws off their entire budget for months, or may send them even deeper into debt if they have extra medical costs. There is no wiggle room in their budgets. There was none in ours.
So the 47%. We were them and just recently moved out of it thanks to all those years of very hard work and sacrifice. Rob and I didn't pay income taxes during that time (payroll, yes, income, no. We were far too low to owe any). And we relied on government programs to get us through. Not welfare or food stamps or medicaid, no, but we did take measures to avoid a pregnancy and I used Planned Parenthood for medical check-ups and prescriptive care. We had tax breaks because we were too poor to pay our part yet. None of that makes me a victim or a parasite or lacking in responsibility or initiative and they certainly didn't make me a "slut" or "whore" as certain media outlets would like to viciously paint every woman that uses birth control or planned parenthood. The vast majority--99% of women, 98% of Catholic women--use some kind of birth control at some point. These types of myopic hate-mongering and name-calling are sickening. All that fuss about "paying for some $@^+ to have fun..." Honestly? Do those comments have any basis in reality? The push for women's health is about women. Married women AND single women, mature or college-aged. We all need health care and options that we can afford. And any man who cares about a woman or daughter should care, too. [And, by the way, the argument Fluke was making was that her friend with an actual medical risk related to her ovary needed a drug that is commonly sold as a contraceptive. Georgetown's private insurance refused to cover her medical treatment because that drug is also sold as a contraceptive and they're Catholic and disagreed with that use. It would not have mattered if she was married or single. In fact, she was lesbian so it was not in any way being used for contraception! Her friend lost her ovary and suffered serious medical issues. This was not in any way about "using our tax dollars to help some $@#) have a lot of fun" as various irresponsible media outlets immediately spun it. This was about large companies deciding they didn't want to cover a woman's health issue when a similar issue or even far more trivial and more "fun" issue for a man would be covered. Death panels indeed. The only people with a legitimate complaint here would be Catholics being upset that the government may force a Catholic institution to spend Catholic church money on insurance that may be used for things that Catholics are supposed to disagree with. However, in my opinion, the Catholic church uses money for a lot of things I disagree with; providing adequate healthcare to women is not one of them. But this was not the argument spun out by the noisy part of the conservative party.]
5. Pay equality. I work in a career path that is 80% male. I look around my conferences and see 2-3 women in a room of 15-20 men. Do I worry about pay disparity? YES. Because it's a fact, it continues, and it is as much or more present in academia as anywhere else. Obama signed tougher pay equality laws, Romney consistently refuses to say he even supports the idea or believes in the need. He did note that he had a binder full of female applications and consulted it (eventually) and he even hired women (eventually), but we're not considering him for the job of human resources guy, we're considering his fitness for the job of President. Leading by example is not enough in this case. Actual policy is required, and he doesn't seem to think so. My pay is our primary wage for the household. I have several other family members where the woman is the primary wage earner. I have many friends where the woman (or a woman) in the couple is the primary wage earner. We are not accessories; we are not helpers; we are employees with very impressive credentials. Anything less than equal pay for equal work is unacceptable.
6. Human Trafficking. There are more people in slavery today than at any point in human history. Maybe it's because our family has adopted and done so internationally, but my heart can not distinguish between my own kids, a 12 year old neighbor kid, and a 12 year old child in Nepal forced into slave labor or sex trades. Obama has made his stance and goals clear. Romney has not mentioned it. Many conservatives do work hard on this issue, but I need to know the concern is real to my president. Not a word on it. More importantly, even though it does tend to be a common ground issue in terms of calling it a problem, the solutions tend to require global policies which the noisy parts of the right-wing generally fight. Furthermore, these policies often include issues on health care, death penalties, gay rights, and other issues that tend to get shut down by conservatives, effectively dooming the rest of the case. To quote:
...Human rights standards are established largely by international instruments, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (udhr), and enforced, to the extent to which they are “enforced” at all, by international institutions, such as the un Human Rights Council. Conservatives tend to resist subsuming American sovereignty to international regimens and to be suspicious of international institutions, in part because they include some member states lacking consent of the governed and basic liberties. As a consequence, the United States has ratified fewer key human rights treaties than the other g20 nations and, when it has ratified them, has tended to attach reservations asserting the preeminent authority of the U.S. Constitution.
7. Gay marriage. We have many couples who we know through our various networks at work, school, or other social events and among those friends are five gay couples. Some of them have children, some don't. But all of them are married, because New York State doesn't suck. If one of them gets sick, the other is assured the same hospital visitation rights as an opposite sex spouse would have and also is assured the same legal access to their spouse's healthcare benefits. If both are sick or hurt, married couples get to attempt to be hospitalized together or stay together in an emergency. "Domestic Partners" do not. If one dies, the other has inheritance rights and survivor benefits. If they choose to divorce, they have legal protections for their assets. I've ranted on this before, so I'll spare it here. But the idea that the Republican party wants to add an amendment to RESTRICT freedoms and rights for my friends is unbearable. This would be the first amendment to ever restrict personal freedoms other than prohibition which was overturned. This whole conversation blows my mind because of point #1 up there. Freedom from religion, freedom for all. Unbearable.
I am also appalled at the use of the idea that people "choose" to be gay. Try thinking of it like being left or right handed. And this is a good analogy, really. Because up until a few decades ago people thought left-handed people were doing it to be deviant, to get attention, or just to be difficult. Teachers encouraged parents to force their left-handed kids to use their right hands. Finally we reached a point where we realized it was just the way that person's brain/body worked and that forcing them to be something they weren't was hurting their ability to succeed and be happy to their fullest. No one chooses to be right handed, it's just that the majority of people are. No one chooses to be gay, it's just that a minority of people are. Let's please stop the myth of choice on this issue.
8. (Trigger warning)
And the big one of late: Rape and women's rights. I have been wrestling with this for weeks. Every single time the news covers another conservative man spouting off about rape I feel physically ill. Let me paint this picture: 13% of women (one out of eight. Think about that. Think of eight women you know. One out of eight) will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. One out of eight. You may not know it happened to her, but I can almost guarantee that at least one woman you cherish as a friend or relative has also been a victim of sexual assault. Very conservative estimates are that 54% of rapes never get reported; I've also seen it reported as up to 84% will be unreported. So any statistics about the percentage of women that end up pregnant from rape are skewed or at best a well-calculated estimate, but it certainly does happen. Low estimates are 3-5% of rapes result in pregnancy, meaning together that one out of every 300 or so women end up with a pregnancy after a sexual assault.
Either way, if she reports or not, the woman spends the next few weeks or months coping with the emotional and physical fall-out, feeling shut down and de-humanized. If she reports, she is also dealing with police, questions, accusations, interviews, and fear of the attacker and of the news "getting out". If she doesn't, she wonders who she can talk to, who will let her really talk and not even seem to judge her, who will get down on the floor and cry with her and not try to gloss it over or fix it or just back out of the room?
When a woman is attacked, she has lost her right to say NO in one of the most important ways a person gets to say yes or no. The ability to say "no" in general, as any parent with a toddler can attest, is a most basic level of asserting our independence and person-hood. Having your NO ignored--and instead having a violent physical intrusion on your own body--not only physically hurts and leaves you wrecked and angry and scared and vulnerable and all the other negative self-projections that can come with it. It feels like someone cut your legs off. Cut your voice out. Stopped being able to see you. If you can't count on your own right to say NO to something so intrusive, what are you? Do you even count? It's a fundamental smack-down that takes your breath away.
Now, let's say 3-4 weeks have passed and the woman finds out she's pregnant. What are her options?
Well, if the current conservative talking points continue, nearly none. If she decides--in consultation with her trusted support network of spouse or friends or whoever she turns to and then based on her own philosophical and religious beliefs and not someone else's--that she can not support this pregnancy she can seek medical intervention. But based on this complete BS %@!!%@!%%@ talk about what is or is not "legitimate" rape and whether abortions can be allowed in those cases or not, here's what happens next.
She goes to her medical provider. They ask her to prove it was a legitimate rape: where is the police report? Is it being contested? After all, as Republican legislator Rivard said, "some girls rape so easy". Oh, it was never reported?
Where do you think this goes from here? He-said/she-said to take back her right to say "NO." More invasive procedures being legislated to which she has no right to say "NO." Weeks or months passing before a conclusive decision and at that point, if it is determined that it was a "legitimate" rape, is it even still an option? Or maybe we see the development of back-alley networks of options? Self-procedures? An increase in the already high rate of post-rape suicides? She has lost her right to say "no" and everyone refuses to give it back. What's left?
I still have the right to say NO and I'm certainly not willing to vote away someone else's precious rights for the dubious promise of a few dollars in my taxes.