Normally when I write about something other than food or farm weddings, it’s about something I have found amusing or curious. So this is your fair warning — I’m going to be serious. This Tuesday, I went to my first town hall –ever! I went to express my concerns to Iowa Senator Grassley about a number of things, but mostly about the dangers of repealing the ACA without an adequate and quick replacement. Who knew that before the end of the day I would have people sending me clips of me on Greta and in the morning I’d wake up and see myself on Morning Joe — Wow — that was surreal !!! And boy I am glad I managed to comb my hair, put on a little lipstick and throw on a clean sweater.
Upfront I want to say “I AM NOT A PAID ACTIVIST”. I don’t even know how you could get a paid gig and dang, if I was going to do it for money, I sure would try to do it in a warmer location than Iowa. I love living on our century family farm in Iowa, but I think I would lobby for somewhere with white sand and beaches.
I may not be a paid activist, but I have discovered my activist roots. I was recently reminded of several stories about my maternal grandmother, Mame. During the depression she was the first woman Democratic Chairperson for our county. I find this pretty amazing since it was only about 15 years earlier women got the vote. Oh, ok, there were only five Democrats in a sea of Republican farm families — but it was still cool. It was also told that she had what was called a “marked” house. Hobos and homeless men out of work who were walking through the area in search for jobs, marked her house to let the next to come know they would be fed if they stopped. Growing up in this household helped my mom develop a strong sense of doing what you could to help people. She was an Irish Democrat her entire life, despite being married to my Eisenhower Republican dad for more than fifty years. Mom worked the polls every election that she was able, watched every minute of the Watergate hearings and raised twelve children with strong independent minds and a sense of doing the right thing. The women in my life were unpaid activists in their own ways, I see now.
I have done some flirting with activism in the past. I did have bit of a rough start voting for Nixon in 1972, but I’ve recovered. When my brother ran for County Attorney, I helped out by baking, what seems like thousands of cookies, for campaign coffees where voters get to know the candidates, mailed letters, walked in parades and helped build a garage in a day to raise money. I’ve also knocked on some doors for an election or two and even made some phone calls. But it took the election of Donald J. Trump to convert me to a real activist. Rather than just posting every political Facebook post that came my way, I decided I’d create my own Facebook group of family and friends who are learning with me to find ways to fight for our causes. I was also feeling like I was bombarding my non-political friends with things they just didn’t want to see. We are mostly all inexperienced, not affiliated with a specific group and just trying to do simple things, like write letters, make phone calls and now go to town hall meetings. We are definitely not organized! Attending Grassley’s town hall was very empowering — I highly recommend attending one even if you just watch from the corner.
Healthcare has been my cause for years before Obamacare was even a thought. I’m sure it started in the 90’s when I applied to put my newly laid off husband on my work insurance — they denied him because he had a pre-existing condition, high blood pressure and of course he needed the most expensive medications for his condition. I was angry, shocked and we were in a precarious financial position with his layoff. Despite my pleading he wouldn’t spend the money on his pills in lieu of feeding our family. I was concerned because his family had a history of heart attacks, he had lost his brother who was 39 just a few years before. Two year later at 49 he died of a massive heart attack. I was 42 with a 12 year old and 16 year old to raise and put through college. So when they talk about death panels, I think about insurance companies.
Long story short — oops too late for that — I am passionate that no one should have to make those choices in life. I see my daughter, who has a college education, works three jobs, of which none provide an opportunity to even buy insurance. She is a Library Director for a small Iowa town 30 hours a week, a children’s librarian at another library 10 hours a week and works with families to provide respite care in her spare time. Until the ACA, she had no affordable, good options to purchase health insurance, putting her at a bigger risk with her paternal family’s heart issues.
And now suddenly I am faced with my own insurance challenges. I was fortunate to teach college technology courses for 20 years, but state budget cuts hit and BANG my program was cut and me too. I landed in a local software company, where I thought I’d ride out my time until I retired. However, to my surprise, one morning I walked in to find out the company had been sold and half of the employees laid off. At almost 62, insurance was my biggest concern, the job market was swamped with Information Technology professionals, and chances were I probably would not find a position with full-time benefits. My backup plan– stay on COBRA as long as necessary, move to the ACA when COBRA ran out, get to 65 and I’d have Medicare.
I was not concerned until the election in November when it hit me — I probably was not going to be able to purchase from the ACA exchange when my COBRA expired. Worse yet, if the ACA was repealed without a replacement I may not even be able to purchase insurance at any price due to my pre-existing diabetes. This isn’t just about me, there are many more heart wrenching stories out there of people making very difficult choices. When I read the portion of the Declaration of Independence below, it confirms my belief that the government helping us all have safe, healthy lives with affordable, accessible healthcare is a right.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
So, no I’m not a paid activist — my neighbors, friends, and family are not paid, but like a sleeping bear, we’ve been poked. We are passionate about what we believe in and getting ready for the fights of our lives.