The Ugly American with Terribly Inconvenient Timing
I have something I have got to get off my chest.
Call it...a confession of sorts.
I'm 43 years old, a citizen of the United States of America. Since I turned 18 years old, in September of 1986, I have had the right to vote. Until last year, November 3rd, 2010, I had never, not a single, solitary time, exercised that right.
You heard me. I'll pause for a moment and let that sink in. As disgusting as it sounds, it is the truth.
I'm telling you that for the past 24 years, although I have lived in a free society, one that prides itself on those freedoms and one that purports to depend on the people who live here to actually have a voice in its government, I have sat back and done nothing when it comes to actually being a part of the political process.
I have lied to friends when asked about who I voted for because I was too embarrassed to tell them that I did not vote. I have lied to bosses who let me leave work to go vote, who INSISTED I leave to go vote, because I was too ashamed to tell them I was not registered to vote, so I would just get in the car and drive around a while or go get a Smoothie instead. I have lied to my wife, who would actually engage me in debates about who I did or did not 'vote' for.
I have lied to everybody, because the truth is, I never voted, not once. Ever.
And I would be lying now if I did not say that to admit this, publicly, is extremely embarrassing. I feel a great deal of shame with this admission, but I feel that it is necessary to do it because I think the message here is important to share just in case there is anyone out there who has ever felt the same way I did.
It really boils down to two questions that need to be answered...'Why not?' and 'Why now?'.
If you've followed this blog you know that Bennett's condition decimated all of us and really since it all began (Hell, maybe for longer than that even) I've been on a kind of journey of self-discovery. Though I think all of us in Lillyville are a part of the journey and going through our own 'thang', since I am the author of this blog naturally it tends to be slanted to those things that relate to my role in the adventure.
And I have never really felt that I mattered, to put it bluntly.
And as far as actual VOTING goes, there is some truth to that. The reality is that I don't. Not really. Not statistically. Not in OUR democratic system where you have an Electoral College. You should read this guy's article in Psychology Today...it's awesome. One of his lines, 'Disregarding for the moment the complexity of the electoral college system, it means that the probability that any one voter will influence the outcome of the 1960 election was 1/118,574 = .00000843355.'
But as far as not feeling like I matter BEYOND the voting stuff, that goes way back and digs deep. Digs back into childhood bullshit that I have not the time to go into much detail about here. Suffice it to say I felt that my voice was not important, that I did not count, that I was not important enough.
But that's esteem stuff that a lot of abused kids have to fight through. It's par for the course. Some do OK. Some don't.
For reasons as yet unknown to me, I had started to feel like maybe I actually DO matter, a little more than I used to, certainly to this fearsome foursome, and maybe the community that my experiences with Bennett has placed me into has taught me to look at myself and my role differently; especially when it comes to assigning myself 'value'.
So I voted.
I wanted change.
And I wanted to make sure that our local school levy passed. It did. And the new politicians that I wanted to see come into the picture got elected.
Of course, now I wish I'd never voted at all, so I would not have yet another steaming layer on my Guiltburger.
I have since come to wish that none of those people had EVER won their elections, and regretted every single vote I gave. Well, other than the vote for the levy. Which of course will be useless as they slash the school budgets even further so the school we hoped to re-open will NOT re-open after all and we STILL have to pay the levy. Joy.
Here in Ohio, I have often talked about how awesome it has been for Bennett as far as the benefits he receives when it comes to his disability. These newly elected officials are trying to change all of that. They are trying to re-structure a ton of shit involving Medicaid, the state-funded aspect of help that Bennett receives that covers things like his therapy, and this re-structuring will be massive.
If it actually is approved, it will affect thousands of disabled kids and the elderly, groups that cannot take care of themselves, and the effect on our lives, on Bennett's life, will be nothing short of devastating. His therapy hours could go from around 35 hours of direct 1 on 1 ABA Therapy a week.
Now...think about that. He is just now, after...what, how long has it been since the surgery, a year and a half? He is just now getting to the point where he can walk up to one of us and say 'Hi!' again...and I have digital video of him saying 'Hi Daddy!' and waving. And this is after over a year of intensive, 1 on 1 ABA Therapy of 35 hours a week, extra Speech Therapy each week and extra Occupational Therapy each week.
How much of his life will be taken away, how much potential, if all of that is removed because of budget cuts?
I guess I'd be cool with it, maybe, if I didn't see such incredible waste everywhere I look when it comes to the government, both state and federal, and how it spends its money. While I understand and appreciate that budgets have to be maintained and controlled, I do not understand elaborate dinners and state functions, expensive cars, exorbitant salaries and for that matter, maintaining three separate and expensive wars where we bomb the shit out of families who live halfway around the world.
Sometimes, I feel sick to be an American. Maybe that's why I never voted.
I shouldn't say that, even if I am angry. It's wrong.
I do love this country, and her freedom's. I love her men and women who serve in the military, I just hate seeing them used so recklessly, as cavalierly as the government spends its money, on giving scientific grants for actual studies that determine that good looking people are generally happier overall than ugly people.
NO FUCKING SHIT.
They could have sent ME a lot less than the couple of million they spent for that one and I could have answered that question in a half an hour.
And while I bitch about this, I have to admit that, yet again, I dropped the ball...as I always do. Bennett's school had several meetings about this budget stuff scheduled for parent's to attend. I had it sitting in a stack of papers here and I wanted to go to one of them and get involved.
Of course, I'm getting sidetracked by this, getting sidetracked by that. Trying to deal with this house issue we've had come up where we are looking at possibly a HUGE dollar amount of damage to the house with a possible denial in coverage from the insurance company, me so stressed out I'm cracking my teeth apart so I'm having dental work done, my Mom, yadda yadda...but is any of that anything other than me just making excuses?
I finally pull my head out of my ass and get RSVP'd to the last meeting that was available, which was Monday. Sure enough, Bennett is sick on Monday. Pink Eye. I can't go. So I asked for any and all written info I can get from someone from the school, and it turns out they had been suggesting to all the parents all along, via an e-mail chain that, of course, (my luck and all) I was not receiving and therefore did not know about, that we write letters to the politicians about our concerns with this budget thing (the very same people I voted for in November) and I get caught up on it.
Then...I am salivating...VERY COOL...I get a do-over, a chance to make good and maybe do something right for a change.
I spend the evening working out my letter, figuring out what picture of Bennett to send that will have the most impact, and researching all the names and addresses of all the people who I will be needing to send it to beyond the ones I got from their list. Next day I send in a note about something and am awaiting a reply to start my barrage.
The reply I got was later in the day which was a mass response to all parents saying no more letters were needed, but thanks to all who participated.
Story of my life, huh. I am always ONE. STEP. BEHIND. I never seem to be able to stay on top of anything, do I?
It just sucks. I'm not suggesting in any way that, like my voting experience, anything I would have said or written would have made any difference at all...I just wanted to feel like I was involved. Hell I wanted to BE involved. I just always seem to miss the target by an inch or two. Every time.
My priority, I suppose, is to try to figure out how to stop doing that.
Of course, if this Ohio budget thing actually goes through and is approved, we're all pretty much fucked anyway, so at that point I don't know what we'll do. We'll figure it out as we go I suppose. Surprisingly enough, we are not as panicked as you might think. As Jen says 'It's completely out of our control...why stress out about something you cannot possibly change?'
This family has had so many things thrown at it in the past two years that we're just sort of used to it now. It's when something really cool and great and wonderful happens that we are truly blown away.
The sad thing is that I am finding that same sentiment from more and more people, and that's a scary prospect.