So now the time has come to answer the $64 million dollar (inflation has been a bit steep of late) question: at the end of all this thinking, listening, and empathizing…where do you stand?
While it would be difficult to create a comprehensive laundry list of my position on every single issue — and acknowledging that some of my perspectives are still evolving — here are a few places where my point of view has been affected in the last year.
There was a point in time when I thought that our healthcare system was pretty good and only needed a few tweaks or a little updating in order to make it work for everybody. After having been the care-giver and bill-payer for a chronically ill woman for the past nine years I can say definitively that the system is not working for anybody but those who are independently wealthy, inordinately healthy, or have taxpayers footing the bill. The middle class is only one major illness away from a choice between bankruptcy and death — or at least wishing they were dead. Costs are out of control. Insurance is a nightmare.
I also think that in general the Afordable Care Act is doomed to failure as a means to helping people who are now in trouble. The reasons for this are many but the tl;dr version is that our current political system of pitched battles and posturing will prevent Washington from coming up with a decent solution of any kind in the foreseeable future.
I still stand where I did when I asked my seven questions allowing same-sex couples the same privileges in our secular society as any other couple. The sooner conservatives can stop fighting this completely losing political battle the sooner they’ll be able to start talking about things that most of the country actually cares about.
I’m still pro-life. I still believe that abortion is a great tragedy and I believe that it’s an outcome nobody wishes for. I grieve for those who have felt compelled to make this heartbreaking choice. I grieve for them and I do not hate them nor do I judge them or want them prosecuted. Life is hard. Sometimes we find ourselves in unthinkable positions.
I still believe, however, that if we could simply tone down the political rhetoric surrounding abortion that both sides have plenty of common ground that they can find on reducing the number of abortions. If the goal is really to save life then lets save it by whatever means we can both in and out of the womb.
Here is probably the most unpopular position I’m going to take in this entire list. I believe that as a country we are guilty of exploiting our working poor for profit in ways that would make any robber baron or sweatshop owner proud. Consuming has become our national religion. Being wealthy is the greatest sign of devoutness, poverty is a sure sign of sin.
Most people when starting this conversation throw out this exception clause: “…not that it’s wrong to have things…” But I’m here to tell you that sometimes it is wrong. Sometimes we’re literally robbing other people of their lives in order to have the things we do. But unless we can somehow decide as a nation that a never-ending supply of cheap goods is not our birthright then this will never change.
The reality is that we as a country cannot sustain our comfortable and opulent lifestyle without standing on the backs of many, many people who do the uncomfortable, back-breaking, and mind-numbing tasks required to make it possible. Somebody has to make the hotel beds and clean the bathrooms. Somebody has to serve food and pour drinks. Somebody has to make our change at the register and put our groceries in a bag. And if you look closely you’ll realize that these aren’t all the teenagers of myth who are just making some extra cash while living at home with mom and dad. The person behind the cash register or in the maid’s uniform is mom or dad. Or grandpa and grandma. The mythology of the working poor just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
This isn’t about socialism or communism. This is about the greatest rule of all: do unto others. If you wouldn’t want to work in horrible conditions for little pay then don’t express disgust that others don’t like it either. The natural human condition is to want to do and be rewarded for meaningful work. Simple empathy goes a long way.
On a personal level I still like him. On a political level he has turned out to be more or less a politician like every other politician. This should surprise nobody.
The Political Process
I now firmly believe that our country is in trouble. Common sense compromises exist on just about any issue I have talked about here and many of the ones I have not but those compromises cannot happen in a system where scoring political points is always more important to our leaders than actually doing the business of the people. Both sides are guilty. The right and left are nothing more than the two arms of the same gluttonous giant that exists only to serve itself.
So I’ve decided to quit. I’ll watch. I’ll consider. From time to time I may even comment. But for now I’ll owe no allegiance to any major player in this theater of politics. Perhaps sacrificing a label will help somehow to save my soul.
I’m registering as an Independent. And so ends My Obama Year.