Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Romney and the 47%

The following post is not mine.  It is reprinted from here.  Click to see the original if you would like to view pictures.  Anne Robertson is a blogger and a preacher and a thinker who I have recently discovered. If you click on the link in order to read the original article, I suggest you read the comments as well.

I will post some thoughts of my own at the end of Anne's letter to Mitt Romney. 

It is personal now. You have insulted my family, and your policies embody an actual threat to my mother's life. Mitt Romney, meet my mother.

Dear Mr. Romney,

I watched your comments to those who paid $50,000 to have dinner with you. If you weren't a candidate for President, I would simply be disgusted and keep my peace. But you are trying to take the helm of my country--to shape policies that will affect my life and the lives of those I love. The video, taken when you thought no one was watching, reveals a frightening callousness that I can only pray never darkens the door of the Oval Office.

I'm sure you remember your words, as you have refused to disown or even moderate them, saying only that you somehow didn't say it just right. Au contraire, I find your words crystal clear:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax."

It is personal now. You have insulted my family, and your policies embody an actual threat to my mother's life. Mitt Romney, meet my mother. Yes, that's her in the picture. You'll note that she has such a sense of entitlement that my brother has to feed her. Shame on her. She won't even pick up a fork.

It's true. She pays no taxes. And it's true that she will not vote for you. Actually, she won't vote for anyone. In 2004 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I'm afraid at this stage she would be considered a "low-information voter." She does not speak and often doesn't remember how to swallow. A "good" visit is a day when she opens her eyes. My last meaningful conversation with her was almost a decade ago. She will not be voting.

You see her in this picture in the dining room of the nursing home that gives her excellent care. She is well-beyond the stage where anyone in our family could care for her. In her day, she was a shrewd money-manager, making the best of her pension as a public school teacher and the life insurance money she received when my father dropped dead at age 47. But, alas, it still was not enough.

Every scrap of savings and investment she once had are now gone, as my (Republican) stepfather did everything he could to avoid taking a dime of government money. But she has good genes. She has been in a care facility now for eight years. Her pension was enough to let her live a comfortable life in retirement, but her nursing home care is twice her monthly pension amount. We have just arranged to donate her body to science at her passing, since there will not even be funds to have a funeral.

It is now the Medicaid program that makes up the difference between her pension and the cost of her care. Mr. Romney, you haven't talked much about your running mate's proposal to cut 34% from the Medicaid program. You do realize, don't you, that 2/3 of the people on Medicaid are seniors in nursing homes like my mother? Nobody on Medicaid pays taxes. Do you care? Oh, I forgot, you addressed that with your donors:

"And-- and so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for for their lives."

What are we to do when you take away my irresponsible mother's Medicaid? Oh, yeah--you answered that, too. She should go to the Emergency Room. Are they prepared for her to live there?

Just as an aside, Mr. Romney, my parents were Republicans, embodying the best of the "compassionate conservatism" that once characterized the GOP. They were both public school teachers and guidance counselors who never did join the union, but who counted union members as lifelong friends and allies. When the teacher's union went on strike they did not cross the picket line. Instead they went and served coffee, while wincing at the misspelled signs of protesters who came to mock those on strike.

When times were tough in the seventies, my parents struggled. I remember my mother sitting down with me in those hard times and asking me about the silver service she had been given when she and my father were married. Was it something I would want one day? Times were getting tough and she was thinking of selling it, but she would find another way if I wanted it. The silver was sold. The RV that had taken our family on two cross-country camping trips was sold, as was much else. They did not ask for a handout, they made it work, even while maintaining their tithe to the Baptist church where they were officers and Sunday School teachers.

My parents took in students in crisis, fought for civil rights in our town, took out a second mortgage on our home to send me to college. And yes, they paid taxes. They did it the hard way. They gave of themselves to others in need, even when it didn't result in a tax deduction. They were people of faith, and they had no independent sources of income apart from their jobs.

My father served in the army and in the first years of their marriage they rented a small home to live in--but only during the winter. During the summer they lived in campgrounds near the California army base where my father was stationed. My mother was raised by her great-grandmother. My father's family lost their small business in the Depression. When they went to Brown University (Pembroke for my mother) as undergraduates, they could not ask their parents for a loan. They later scraped together more money to go to grad school. Both of them pulled their way up from poverty to the middle class through their own hard work and sacrifice.

Come to think of it, my mother actually might be just the teensiest bit "entitled" to help with a devastating illness in her senior years. She's been a good citizen of these United States. She has fulfilled civic duties, gave her life to public education, and did her best to embody Christ's command to love her neighbor as herself. And now, Mr. Romney, you would have her feel shame that she doesn't have $8,000 a month to pay for her care? Now that she is in need, your administration would view her as a parasite and it won't be your job as President to worry about her and people like her?

Like the Grinch, Mr. Romney, your heart appears to be at least two sizes too small. Since you have refused to articulate the details of your actual policies, I can only assume that they will reflect that too-small heart.

You have said quite plainly that your job is not to worry about people like my mother. In your estimation she sees herself as a "victim," and she feels "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it." Alzheimer's is an awful disease. But, Mr. Romney, I am so glad that my mother is not able to comprehend your words. I would not add your insult to her injury, even for all your millions.

Postscript from me:

I'm relatively conservative.  Not as much as my very conservative spouse, but I lean to the right, most times.  Not always.

This is a presidential election, like others I have known, where I am very unhappy with the choice I have. I don't usually post political stuff. I have very dear friends who are passionate Republicans, and other equally dear friends who are passionate Democrats. But Romney's gaffe struck a very discordant note, brought tears to my eyes, and made me think of my own mother, pictured to the left.  She died a few years ago, but she had many similarities to Anne's mother.  She was very thrifty, absolutely refused government aid for which she would have qualified in her later years, was a lifelong conservative, a giver to church and charity, and a very proud woman. 

She saved and went without so that she could gain a bit of a nest egg.  That nest egg disappeared about one year after she entered a nursing home.  She lived two more years.  She never knew that she was on Medicaid, because she had dementia.  If she had known, she would have been deeply ashamed.

I also live with someone who made some bad life choices which result in him being a recipient of services that come from your tax dollars.  I am sad about that, for many reasons.  But...the fact is that Ken and I could not afford to get him the services he needs in order to live.  Sometimes, even with his medical bills covered, it is a stretch for us to have him in our home.  I wonder, sometimes, if my conservative friends realize that it is often the families of the "47%" who would struggle along with their loved one. 

Just something to ponder...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The OASIS Begins

If you read the fragment posted earlier, my apologies.  I hadn't finished and it was supposed to be saved as a draft.

We have held two gatherings of "The OASIS" at the former Salvatorian Center/JFK Prep School near St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. This is for those who have asked for an update.

We met in a corner of the former gym. Much of the area contains items for the thrift store that is located downstairs.  The space is illuminated by old halogen lights that were probably state-of-the-art 40 years ago.   One corner has a cross, area rugs, chairs, a little sound board, and a podium.  There is an electric piano and a drum kit--and the obligatory silk version of ficus trees.  (Does anyone know why it is always ficus trees?)  Kathy, a new friend, played the electric piano for us.  Thirty -two people attended, and we needed to find a couple of extra chairs.  I wrote a litany for the occasion, we sang (a bit awkwardly) a lovely traditional Catholic hymn and a couple of newer songs.  We shared communion.  I answered some FAQs about this new gathering.

I read Ezekiel 37:1-14.  Here is is:

The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”

Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’”  So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’

Something amusing and remarkable happened.  I shared that I had no sermon, no "study" but that I  believed the Holy Spirit had led me to share the "dry bones" passage.  "And," I added, "I started singing, 'Dem Bones' and have been singing it for two days now.  Does anyone know the song I mean?"  Kathy, behind me at the piano, started playing it.  I glanced back and she had an odd look on her face. 

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
(repeated 3 times)
Now hear the word of the Lord...

I asked, though I knew the answer, "Did I tell you I was going to read this passage?"   Then Kathy shook her head "no" and said something like this: "I had to search for a piano book from my teaching days, because I think I was 'told' I would be playing this...I practiced it last week.  And then getting ready to come tonight, I felt I should bring it with me...that I was going to play it."    She pointed to the book on the piano rack.  She smiled. I stared at her, and then I laughed, as did several of those gathered.

Can you imagine what she was thinking as I began to read that strange passage from Ezekiel?

We shared communion while Kathy softly played "Dem Bones" in the background.  That may be a first in all of Christendom.  We closed with the Lord's Prayer. 

Afterwards, we drank coffee and ate my homemade chocolate chip bars. People stayed and talked for a long time.  Except for the "Dem Bones" incident, the evening was not exciting or remarkable in any particular way.  But it was a beginning.

On our second week, there were 33 of us, including several people who were not present last week.  Chris (a different person from the Kris I've mentioned), one of the staff, rang the bell as we gathered in the candlelit church (there is no electricity)  to share acapella songs of praise.  Kathy, who also plays violin and harp, brought her violin and played "Alleluia" as we shared the bread and the cup. 

We sang several songs together--to me these were moving and holy moments.  As I had assumed after the previous time of singing in the old sanctuary, the sound of our voices filled the space and it would have been impossible to tell if there were 10 or 100 of us.  The sound in that church is just amazing.  Several people told me later that they were in tears.  The time there seemed both holy and peaceful.  Someone said to me this past week, "I could see the devastation of the beautiful old church, of course, but even in sadness I had such a sense of hope."

I briefly read, once again, from Ezekiel.   It was getting dark at that point, so we moved across the drive to the gym.  Jim and Linda and Kris shared a bit of history about Father Oshwald and others who had been part of the site in years past, discussed the current state of the property, and shared some of their hopes.  We finished with a time of extemporaneous prayer for them and others on the staff.

Once again, people stayed and chatted and munched cookies for a long time.  It seems we need to make room for that!  A visiting couple from Michigan played guitar for us and sang as the rest of us talked and drank coffee.  He told me they had spent the day with Jim and Linda Frasch and thought they might be moving nearby, that they wanted to help, and that we would likely see them again.

Next week, unless it is too cold, we will be meeting outside around a fire pit that is located to the side of the gym.  I'm thinking I might make chili.  No pattern to what is happening, as of yet!  I think this is a good thing.