This blog took a sharp turn into the TMI Zone over the weekend, and I ended up putting out more information about myself than I have ever told anyone other than close friends – and my therapist. It occurred to me to wonder why I did it. Why did I tell hundreds — well, TENS — of complete strangers some of my deepest secrets?
Well, the little rock that started this avalanche of personal revelations started rolling down the hill with all the nasty responses I got when I tweeted that I would rather see a guilty person go free than an innocent person put to death or imprisoned. More pebbles rolled when I saw the enraged faces of the people on the news calling for Casey Anthony to be put to death or imprisoned for life, and heard the over-the-top rhetoric (the “devil is dancing tonight” hyperbole comes to mind) from the media and from the nasty responders on Twitter.
All that made me think about how the whole thing could have happened and why some people saw the defense’s theory as so completely implausible. The nugget I found was that it was possible that Casey Anthony was abused as a child, which led me to think of my own childhood and my overwhelming desire and urgent need to be invisible, to not cause trouble, to not outgrow my shoes because that got me in trouble. But I covered all that in my previous post.
Today I had a discussion with a conservative – let’s call him Joe – about Planned Parenthood and how much money is “wasted” taking care of women, providing screenings and pre-natal care. His big thing was complaining about the cost of providing free or low-cost birth control pills – and how it’s a shame that people “couldn’t take care of themselves.” (This same conservative thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to spend around a million or so dollars on military bands as opposed to food assistance because they “make people feel patriotic.”)
That made me angry. (A lot of things seem to be making me angry lately. I think I’ve been angry now for almost a decade.) Joe has told me a few things about himself, that he doesn’t have a problem with CEO’s getting a median pay raise of 23%, because he himself got a sizable raise last year and that he has a very good paying, secure job. And as everyone knows, those kind of jobs come with great bennies – Joe probably doesn’t have to spend a dime on co-pays and prescriptions and he can probably go see his doctor whenever he needs to without having to jump through endless hoops and cut through endless freaking red tape to get the care he and his family need.
Joe has probably never gone without anything in his life. He doesn’t have a clue that when you’re 17, it’s 1972, and you’re on your own because your parents were too awful to live with, Planned Parenthood is a lifeline. When you’ve got a job making $2 an hour (yes, that’s what my very first job paid per hour), a $10 prescription for birth control pills is a hardship.
Nowadays, the price for birth control pills ranges anywhere from $25 to $100 per month or more if you want to use an IUD or another method like depo-provera or the NuvaRing. I have a decent job now, but another $100 bucks a month for birth control pills would be out of the question. I can barely afford the two prescriptions I have (for which I pay about $150 for a 3 month supply). And with today’s economy, there are lots and lots and lots of women out there, single mothers and married women whose husbands are either working at a crappy job at the local 7-11, who got laid off and can’t find a job at all, and the working poor who generally have no insurance, for whom an extra $100 or more per month would mean making a choice between buying a growing child a new pair of shoes, buying groceries or even paying the rent.
When I was a kid, my mother and my stepfather rummaged for vegetables, ostensibly for the goats, in the big rolling garbage bins at the back of our local grocery store. We did get a lot of lettuce and cabbage trimmings for the goats, but we also got a lot of …tired… fruits and vegetables that ended up on our plates. The rotten spots could be cut away, you know? I grew up thinking it was normal to dumpster-dive for food and that all clothing came from the Salvation Army Thrift Store. I never had an allowance or lunch money and new underwear always came from Santa. (Thank you, Santa.)
I told you the story about my brush with death – where my parents ignored my appendicitis for a full week before I finally was taken to the doctor. I broke my leg when I was 13; I slipped and fell in the corridor at school, and I couldn’t get up. My stepfather, still grumbling about having to make a special trip (all of 3 miles to the high school to pick me up), was going to just let me hop out to his truck and we’d go home. My leg would get better, no problem, eh, it was just a little bruised, that’s all, no need to spend the money for a doctor.
By this time, I was a little older and a whole lot wiser (13 going on 40), so I put my foot (the good one) down. I refused to be a good girl and hop out to the truck. I told my stepfather point-blank that either he was going to take me to the hospital emergency room – or I was going to hop across the (4 lane) highway by myself. I meant every word. I couldn’t walk, my ankle had swollen to the size of a cantaloupe, it was turning several lovely shades of purple and it hurt like holy hell – there was no way I was just going to get in the truck and go home. Surprisingly, my stepfather agreed. He took me to the ER, where, with an X-ray, they found that I had broken both bones in my left leg just above my ankle. I ended up in a cast up to mid-thigh.
So all this is more from the TMI Zone, I guess.
But this conversation I had with my conservative friend started another couple of rocks rolling down the hill, and from there, I started thinking about the essential nature of my being a liberal. Joe, from his vantage point of safety and security, thinks that rich people are being “punished” by having to pay taxes, and he wonders why people are so lazy or shiftless that they can’t take care of themselves. Hell, Joe “takes care of himself” – why can’t everyone else? Planned Parenthood, to Joe, is a waste of money. Unemployment benefits are a waste of money. Medicare is a waste of money. He’s perfectly OK with the fact that, if the Republicans succeed in shutting down the federal government, our troops – most of whom live from paycheck to paycheck – won’t get paid at all.
Well, I have a problem with those things. Maybe because I’ve been there. I’ve done without. I’ve eaten garbage. I wore other peoples’ castoff clothing. I nearly died from a lack of medical care and because my parents neglected me. I lived by myself at the age of 17, when Joe was probably still living at home, deciding which college his parents should send him to, while I was working at J.C. Penney’s for $2 an hour earning my living.
And I don’t think that’s right. No child should have to eat garbage. These days, Salvation Army clothing is considered “vintage” so, yeah, I guess I’m OK with that. I’m not OK with remembering every new store-bought dress I ever got from 8th grade until I graduated from high school (3 dresses); I don’t want other kids to have to live like I did. I don’t want other kids to grow up and not be able to go to college because they’re too busy trying to earn a living so they don’t end up on the street like I did. No child should die because they have abusive parents, nor should a child die because children whose parents love them can’t afford to take them to the doctor.
And if that means some rich guy coughs up a few thousand dollars extra a year in taxes – hey, I’m really, really fine with that. They can afford it.