How My Government Helped Me

So I really dislike talking about politics. Not because I am not passionate about them, but more because I do not like alienating others through my beliefs. I prefer to discuss topics that can bring folks together, and I find that often with politics people have a very extreme opinion and are not always open to listening, hearing differing opinions, or even learning about a different viewpoint. So if I feel the conversation is negative, aggressive, and just not fun, I often make a choice to shut my mouth or walk away.

Last night, however, we were watching the Democratic National Convention. Bill Clinton somehow moved some emotions inside of me. I got teary at one moment and it made me go back to my childhood.

I grew up poor in the Midwest. My father was a contractor, and self-employed. My mother was a teacher (and had a master’s degree). From what I can remember my parents were Republicans. Most likely because of my father. He believed in as little government as possible. He almost was to the edge of conspiracy theory, and always felt someone was watching his every move. Back then when you paid for purchases with checks (when you actually had to have the money in the bank to pay for your purchases) the cashier would often ask for his social security number or driver’s license number. My dad would get aggressive and revolt telling the cashier those numbers were not their business. Sometimes walking out of the store without his purchase. I do not necessarily disagree with his logic. I am hardcore about the security of my personal information, have gone through identify theft (not an easy thing to fix), and am just overall very careful, as many are about their personal information. I am just not hardcore for the same reasons as my father.

I digress. I did not really want to talk about security or my father’s fear of big government. I really wanted to share my appreciation and nostalgia for what my country has done for me. Mind you I am not very old. My mother became ill and bedridden when I was 12. My parents were just divorced. My father was not paying for child support, and due to my mom’s condition we would have not survived without the support of government social service programs. My mom was not what many think of someone on government support. She was not a drug addict, or uneducated. She was not in any way trying to live off the system. She had one child that had turned 18 and left for college, one that was 12, and another that was 16. She had no income, and health care costs that continued to increase as her condition worsened.

You might ask: “Why are you grateful for all that depressing stuff, Tami?” I am not grateful to have been in that situation. What brings tears to my eyes is that we were given aid. We were given a specific dollar amount of food stamps each month. Our house had been foreclosed on, and we were able to move into government housing (as gross and depressing as it was, we were not living on the street). My mom’s medical costs were mostly covered by Medicaid. Since my mom had two children under the age of 18, she was given a small stipend (Aid for Dependent Children) for living expenses, which mostly covered the rent for the government housing. It was not fun. It was not ideal. However, looking back we could have been living on the street or at a shelter, yet we were taken care of by our government. Yes, you could say my parents paid into it with the taxes they paid over the years, and this is true. Yet, it could have been different.

What concerns me the most is if these types of programs are pulled! What other families might be in a similar situation and for whatever reason are not granted help? What if Medicaid goes away, or food stamps, or other government assistance programs? I cannot imagine how my life would have turned out without the assistance we received. Yes, there are more details to the story. My mom eventually passed on. I eventually turned 18. Life moved forward.

I hope that in the realm of politics, we can move forward as a country. We can remove the hatred between political parties. We can move towards change. We need to continue to take care of our neighbors, regardless of race, income, sex, or religion. I hope regardless of political passions, that we embrace the programs that support those going through a hardship. If we can just get away from the mentality of more, more, more and take care of each other. If we can do that, we will be as fierce and strong as ever.

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