Restoring the Obliterated Victim

Brett Kavanaugh’s disquieting ascent to the Supreme Court has made me think a lot about what happened 40 years ago. Not to me, but to another young girl.

A 12-year-old in my town told her mother that her father was molesting her. The mother believed her daughter, and went to the police. The father was charged and entered a plea that qualified him for a diversion program instead of jail. The family was shattered, but it seemed possible that they might all be on the long and difficult road to healing because truth, belief in the girl, and her father’s willingness to atone for his actions emerged from the wreckage.

Then the father shot himself. He didn’t die right away, and the fragile circle of family and friends rallying around the girl regrouped instantly, taking up their posts at a death bed vigil. His daughter was among the many at his side. When he died a week later, the love and support diverted his way intensified as he was memorialized in the idealizing way that grief tends to bestow. It wasn’t exactly that the girl was blamed for her father’s death (she did a good enough job of that on her own). It was more that her experience was obliterated as all the attention shifted to his suffering. The blame set in a bit later. I imagine the girl wished she had never opened her mouth.

So it has gone with Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, though with a less intense level of trauma and in a setting to determine whether the latter deserved a lifetime Supreme Court appointment, not a criminal conviction for sexual assault. Like the girl in my town, Dr. Blasey Ford reluctantly came forward to tell what happened to her, risking upending her (and her abuser’s) life.  Nearly everyone who listened to Blasey Ford’s testimony, including the President and Fox News, found her credible. At least for a moment.

Then Kavanaugh and the Republicans, in a show of high dudgeon, erased Blasey Ford’s experience with their own aggrieved victimhood. The woman who had transfixed a nation into hoping that at last people might hear and believe what so many girls and women endure was not so much blamed at first as obliterated. The blame came later.

Forty years ago a father fired a shot that took his own life and devastated his daughter’s beyond the original trauma he perpetrated. He was no doubt driven by shame and desperation, but it was also one last hostile act against her. The Republicans’ latest shot across the bow devastates victims of assault with a similarly punishing rebuke. And we wonder why women stay silent.

The tragedy that unfolded 40 years ago in my town is over. The man who had the last word back then is dead. I don’t know what happened to his daughter, or his wife, but I know their lives continued one way or another. I hope they are well, able to integrate this trauma into lives that will always bear but also transcend the scars.

The Supreme Court hearings are also over for now; the Republicans have had the last word. At least for now. The mid-terms are coming on November 6. Channel your rage, fear, despair—and hope–into voting them out. We will continue, one way or another.

Make sure you and everyone you know is registered to vote and casts a ballot on or before November 6. Everything you need to know is at votesaveamerica.org:

O is for Obamacare

iheartobamacare_400pxFirst off, let me just say that I believe single payer is the way to go. No system is perfect, but single payer delivers quality healthcare more equitably, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

That said, I’m a huge fan of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Yes, its origins lie in conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, which promote market-based policies that privilege the profit motive. Obamacare does not go nearly far enough for many, including me.

Yet it’s what could get through a political system that is sclerotic, controlled by monied interests, and held hostage by a Republican Party practically unhinged in its hatred of President Obama.

It’s a profound success that more than 16 million Americans now have health insurance they couldn’t before afford or couldn’t get due to preexisting conditions. Obamacare is also slowing skyrocketing healthcare costs.

My family has been among Obamacare’s many beneficiaries:

For one thing, our kids have been covered under my husband’s employer-provided insurance until they turn 26. Since Emma aged out last year, she’s been fortunate to get healthcare she could not have otherwise afforded. Pieced-together, low-wage employment is common for young people now: Emma survives as an artist on part-time Russian translation work while also working in a restaurant.  Initially, Emma benefited from Medicaid expansion (again, she’s lucky to live in a state that opted into this provision of the law). Now that she’s a bit more stable economically, subsidies help her afford excellent health care through our state’s health exchange. When our younger daughter, Ally, moves back this summer from Spain (where she’s enjoyed the benefits of national health care) she, too, will be able to find affordable health insurance.

Of course, since Ally’s only 24, she could also still be covered under my husband’s plan. Except that he’s retiring in May! This, too, is something he never could have done before Obamacare. We’ve both had cancer, which involves ongoing monitoring. I am self-employed, and there is no way we could have gotten individual insurance because of our pre-existing conditions—a heinous denial of coverage that Obamacare outlaws.  Now my husband can pursue other interests free from the burden of remaining tethered to a job simply because we need health insurance we otherwise couldn’t get. And somebody else who needs and wants a job can have the position my husband will soon vacate.

Sure, we’ll pay a lot for coverage on our own. We’re too well off to qualify for subsidies, which is as it should be–they are designed to help those less fortunate. Of course, we’ll still benefit from annual out-of-pocket caps, free preventive services, and the knowledge that we and tens of millions of other Americans will no longer have to worry about the Russian roulette that used to be national policy.

Don’t get me wrong—I know that Obamacare is far from a panacea, and that for those who are healthy and whose incomes are a little but not a lot above the subsidized level, health insurance is far from affordable. For some it’s become more expensive. And because our system has engendered such a complicated law, tax season has become even more migraine-inducing than usual.

Yet we should be careful not to blame Obamacare for what had been happening for years anyway—premiums skyrocketing, people getting dropped, families going bankrupt due to lifetime caps, employers reducing hours to avoid providing benefits, or simply no longer offering health insurance at all.

It is a reform in process, but its benefits far outweigh whatever drawbacks exist.

What saddens and outrages me the most, though, is how much energy has been put into destroying rather than improving Obamacare. And I’m not even talking about the lies (remember death panels?) designed to thwart it from the get-go. The Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, leaving millions of poor Americans who live in 23 (mostly Republican-controlled) states uncovered yet unable to afford healthcare on the exchanges.

Now even the federally managed exchanges (set up because so many of these same states refused to take responsibility for their own residents, and passed the buck to the Feds they deplore) are at risk as the Supreme Court considers King v. Burwell. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in a case that is based on what most see as the political exploitation of a semantic glitch, it will likely prove Obamacare’s unraveling. Which is exactly what its scorched-earth opponents want.

What do I want? It’s simple, really. I want a law that has helped tens of millions of Americans already, and which promises to benefit many more in the future. I’m grateful to President Obama for achieving what no other president had been able to accomplish.

Please—hands off our Obamacare!

Like Everybody Else

I wrote this just after my friends Ann and Joan got married  in 2008, during the brief window before California’s Proposition 8 was passed. In honor of enduring love, and of Proposition 8’s demise this week, I’m running it again. What has the Supreme Court’s historic rulings on marriage equality meant for you?

Hands in MarriageAnn and Joan got married recently. The brides were radiant in their silk tunics, silvery hair, and sensible shoes. After waiting 17 years to walk down the aisle, they’d earned their comfort.

Like any couple getting married, Ann and Joan vowed to love, honor, and cherish each other until parted by death. They could pledge this with more certainty than the average newlyweds, having already lived through so many years of for better or for worse.

Ann vowed to try not to throw things away. Joan promised she would try to throw things away. That’s what comes from being forced to wait nearly two decades for marriage. You know one another’s foibles so well that what used to drive you crazy now deepens your love. You know it’s precisely your differences that bring balance. You know it’s the trying that counts.

The brides spoke in honor of their dead parents. When Ann first revealed she was gay, her mother responded, “It’s about time you figured it out.” Ann quipped that her father would have loved to give her away to Joan, if she were the type to let herself be given away to anyone.

Joan’s family was less embracing. Her mother died when Joan was 24, fearful that her daughter would suffer terribly from a hostile culture. Joan knew her mother would be delighted that her fears had not come true, and that her life was rich with love and happiness.

Guests were invited to place a rose in a silver vase and share what this wedding meant to them. There was an outpouring of hope and gratitude and joy. By the end, the vase was crammed with roses of every hue.

I grew up dreaming of bridal bouquets and my bridesmaids’ matching sashes. I didn’t know what blooms would be in season when I married, or whether my color scheme would be driven by the daffodils of spring or the chrysanthemums of fall. But as a straight woman, I knew I could count on having a season.

Now there is a season for everyone.

Opponents to same-sex marriage argue that gay people shouldn’t be granted special rights. But what is so special about wanting to be treated like everybody else? It’s not just gays who benefit—it’s all of us. My joy in realizing my childhood dreams is enhanced because Ann and Joan are no longer excluded from having such dreams.

I also cannot imagine how, as some claim, same-sex weddings threaten marriage between men and women. My feelings for my husband deepened as I listened to the readings about love, friendship, and commitment that Ann and Joan chose for their wedding. A marriage that draws its strength from discrimination is not a marriage at all.

Surely Ann and Joan don’t really need the state to affirm their love and commitment. At 60-something, they can buy all the bath towels and appliances and flowers they want. They can even buy a lawyer’s time to secure most of the rights that straight couples take for granted. But without the state’s sanction, something is missing.

Now we all have what money can’t buy: Inclusion and equality.

At the end of the ceremony, Joan and Ann grinned through their tears while we all cheered and wept like crazy.

“This is something we never dreamed would happen,” Joan said. “We never imagined that we could get dishtowels and kitchen gadgets, like everybody else,”

At last they can.

And at last we can give them.

 

A Week to Remember

Janine, my writing friend and guiding light of Write On, Mamas, keeps us inspired and productive by providing a constant stream of encouragement, writing opportunities, and writing prompts. This week’s was to write at least 100 words on Things I’d Like to Remember from this Week. Here’s mine–what would you like to remember?

Rainbow flag

I want to remember that this was a great week for Marriage Equality, with a conservative-dominated Supreme Court overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act and allowing same-sex wedding bells to resume ringing in California. Supreme Court Building

I want to forget that those bells are still not allowed to ring in 37 states, and that the same Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act just the day before.

I want to remember that wanting to forget is no solution. Neither is opting out through demoralization. But I will probably resort to both.

Chimney emissionsI want to remember that this week President Obama took steps to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, and that he will probably disappoint me by approving the Keystone Pipeline in a few months.

I want to remember that staying committed through disappointment is a hallmark of maturity, and an absolute necessity for marriage, parenthood, friendship, and good citizenship.

I want to remember Wendy Davis in her pink sneakers preventing for a brief moment the erosion of women’s reproductive rights in Texas.

Wendy Davis's pink tennis shoes

I want to remember the miracle of Nelson Mandela, and that a good life comes not so much from miracles as from character and hard work.

Nelson Mandela

I want to remember that progress is a process of lurching back and forth.