Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Real Stories and the 2012 Election


I have stories. I didn't ask for them or seek them out. I have stories that were given to me by people who often think they don't count. These were personal stories that people told me as they struggled with their lives.

After the first night of the 2012 DNC convention, I feel overwhelmed. The organizers have brilliantly focused on personal stories and how they have been changed. It made me think about how the banners and parades DO have an effect on people's lives. It made me remember all the people who have directly been effected by policy decisions made over the last 10 years.

1. I remember a woman I worked with in college in 2000. She was a single mother who had a laser-beam intense focus for her job. She was naturalized citizen raising a family on her own. Her dedication to her job was so extreme that she developed carpal tunnel syndrome. At first she wore a wrist brace. Then a more extensive brace. By the time graduation rolled around she was taking days off because her condition had degenerated so much. President Clinton passed a bill to ensure greater health care coverage for people with work-related injuries that would have covered her. When Bush got into office, he repealed this bill in his first 100 days. That's when I first became of the direct impact of policy on a person's health and ability to live and work.

2. One of my friends was diagnosed with a rare and insidious form of breast cancer last year in 2011. This was the kind of cancer that kills and she didn't have proper health care coverage. But because Obamacare she was able to get rare and expensive treatment at Bellevue Hospital. If it wasn't for new, expansive cancer programs funded by the government she would be dead. And yes, she works a job, pays her taxes, and deserves a chance.

3. Last month I met a man in Clifton, PA. He's in his 50s and worked a job in a warehouse while dealing with serious health issues. His job had safety violations that he reported to his boss. Since he wasn't in a union and had no recourse, the company fired him. His company fired him for reporting on a safety issue that was jeopardizing the lives of many workers because they wanted to keep a clean record with OSHA. I sat there as he made phone calls, desperately seeking another job. He's a warehouse worker in his 50s, with a daughter, a bad back, and no other experience.  I wonder what he's supposed to do, where is he supposed to go?

4. My Dad no longer has a donut hole in his Medicare coverage. He has suffered several strokes and has had to deal with ridiculous health care laws. Obamacare in under a year has changed his life. He no longer has to worry about coverage and paying thousands out of pocket on a technicality.

When his wheelchair broke, my mom spent weeks arguing on the phone with insurance companies. He depends on this wheelchair. But the insurance company deemed it 'not a necessity' on their calendar and schedule. A friend had to go out and find a broken wheelchair, repair it, fix it up for them, and bring it over.

5. I have a friend from school who lost his father. He died of a heart attack. His father went into the hospital for chest pains but the doctors told him how much it would cost to do the full set of exams. He was unemployed and unable to pay. Instead he went home to sleep it off. He died in his sleep from a preventable heart attack because he was scared of getting a huge medical bill.

6. My mom was sexually harassed and underpaid for most of her career at work. And at the threat of being fired, she had to keep quiet. Eventually she persevered but not without many nights of tears and prayers. No woman should have to be vulnerable and scared because of their gender. The pay gap is real. The inequality is real. Policy does matter.



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