Follow the Money

Monday, October 15, 2018

Many years ago, when I was just starting my journey of lifelong learning, I took a political science course from the local college.

My professor for this course was something of a cynic, and after all these years, I've remembered one thing she told us in that class: In a representative democracy, the only way to determine the winners and losers in a political contest is to follow the money.

So over the years, my practice has become to find out who the major donors are for each candidate, each amendment, each local law. Once that research is complete, then I have to ask the question: Of these donors, whose interests most closely align with my own? Whose interests most closely align with the good of the people, and the good of the union?

The reason for the first question should be obvious - it's important to know and understand how candidates and legislature will affect your daily and long-term interests. This question is usually easily answered, because it's centered entirely on a narcissistic view of the world. Legislation that costs me money is bad. Candidates who don't care about my well-being are bad. Plus there's the whole "company you keep" truism *cough*Trump Supporters*cough*.

The second question is more difficult, and I would argue, more important. MUCH more important, because it speaks to the long-term health and well-being of our nation. It speaks to the moral necessities each individual holds dear. It speaks to our maturity, both as individuals and as a nation, that we would take the larger picture into account when making our choices.

The clearest example of this that affects me directly is health care. I've never been without healthcare. My kids have never been without health care. I've been incredibly fortunate that my employers have always offered affordable choices in this area, and I've been able to take advantage of this good fortune to the benefit of me and my family.

But not everyone is so lucky. In 2017, 29.3 million people were uninsured. The ACA brought my premiums up, and further expansion of benefits (such as Medicare for all) will likely cost me additional monies, either in the form of premiums, or taxes, or both. But I feel I have a personal responsibility to help ensure everyone in our country has access to basic medical care. Will it benefit me personally? No. Does that matter to me? No. I believe it's the right thing to do, so I do it. Others feel differently, or have valid concerns about sustainability, or object for other reasons. We all have an obligation to vote our conscience, and that's where that second question comes in.

I'm perfectly aware that many people never get past the first question. You can even make an argument that our current political shit-show is a direct result of this pattern of voting by the Baby Boomers. But I think we should all make an effort to do better in this regard.

So I'm going to follow the money on the current Colorado Amendments, and I may post some of my findings in this space. Not the "Lower Age Requirements for Members of the State Legislature from 25 to 21," because that kind of thing is really a matter of opinion based (largely) on the voter's age and experience. But the contentious stuff that is inundating my life every day through mailers, commercials, unsolicited opinions, and yard signs.

And once I've done my homework, it'll be time to vote my conscience. And I hope everyone else who is eligible to vote does the same.

The Men in my Life

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I have some wonderful, progressive men in my life. They care deeply about the women in their lives, and are aghast at the treatment sexual assault survivors have to endure when they try to do the right thing. They speak loudly, and publicly, about the need to believe survivors when they muster the courage to tell, and they have fury in their hearts for the entitled, amoral shits who would perpetrate such a crime. 

And yet. 

This story in the Washington Post reminded me that even the most sensitive of men, even the most progressive, the most supportive, still don't fully understand the scope of the problem that is sexual assault. 

The author of this piece points out that stories of harassment and assault have been pouring into her inbox daily, and many of the writers will not tell their fathers about their experiences. They have many reasons for this choice, but most boil down to an attempt to protect their fathers' feelings from the horror that was perpetrated on their child. These survivors are afraid. They're afraid their parent won't see them the same way. They're afraid their parent will subconsciously blame their kids for their suffering. They're afraid it will break their parent's heart. And they're afraid their parent will take some action that will land them in prison, or worse. 

When I was assigned at a Naval Training Station, I acted as a sexual assault victim advocate in a program that was the precursor to the DOD's SAPR Office. When a sailor on our base was sexually assaulted, a member of my team would be called out to act as a support system for that person. It was almost a given that the victim was without family in the area, and let's face it - dealing with such an event is hard even for the emotionally mature, let alone an 18 year old away from home for the first time who was attacked by someone they thought was their shipmate. These young adults needed help, and our team tried to provide it. 

And each of the individuals I advocated for, with only one exception, had one thing in common: They refused to tell their family about their experience. Their reasons were myriad, and not mine to share, but suffice it to say that the WashPo author gives a pretty good representative sample. 

Men with whom I would associate would never disbelieve a sexual assault survivor because they chose not to report the crime in a timely manner. They would advocate for these survivors, and do everything in their power to ensure the perpetrator was held accountable. Their hearts would break for the survivors, and I believe they have the emotional fortitude to manage this emotional burden. 

And yet, I wonder how many of them truly understand that in their own circles, among the women they know personally or professionally, those who are casual friends or acquaintances, one in six of those women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. They understand the statistic, to be sure - but have they looked at their circles and wondered, "Who among my friends and family have been through this horror?" I know I do, often, usually when I'm contemplating (again) what behavior will keep me safest in an unknown situation. 

I guarantee you, men - you know people who have been sexually assaulted. They won't tell you, for a variety of reasons, but it's true. The survivors are all around you, and you really have no idea who they are. Because, through no fault of your own, you have the luxury of not having to think about it.