This is why I am frightened. Actually, the word “terrified’ might be more accurate.
Although I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, I confess that I have paid more attention to this election and the events leading up to it than I have any other election in my life. The reason is simple. Ever since he entered the presidential race, Donald Trump has scared me. Significantly.
As a person with a disability, I have received benefits from several government programs for many years. Because I qualify for the programs, I get food stamps and help with my electric bill. My main source of income is Social Security Disability payments. I utilize these programs not because I want to, but rather because they are necessary.
There is a sentiment I have shared many times in the past, but it bears repeating.
When I was a little girl and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I never looked up at them with big brown eyes and said, “I want to live on government benefits for the rest of my life.”
The place where I am is not a place that many people aspire to. Certainly not me. On the contrary. I would love to be working full time and not have to receive any government assistance at all. Doing so would help me to feel like I was contributing in ways that I don’t always feel like I am now. At this point, my health has decided otherwise.
I do have a job. I have two in fact. Each is very part time. And I do some freelance writing as well. It’s important to me that I work as much as I can. It’s hard to live with the assumption that some people have. Some think that because I receive government benefits, I must be lazy. The reality is quite different. I am a self-proclaimed “workaholic wannabe.”
I am eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. Through my Medicaid coverage, I qualify for a program that pays for my caregivers. It is only with the assistance of caregivers that I can get dressed and shower and get from place to place. My cerebral palsy prevents me from driving. Given that my primary source of income is disability payments, there is absolutely no way I can pay for that kind of care out of my own pocket. I just can’t. And without this program in place, I just might be in a nursing home, instead of living in my own home and being part of my community. I am 48 years old and I happen to have a Master’s degree that I worked hard to attain. I belong in my community. In recent days I’ve heard that Mr. Trump plans to cut the Medicaid budget by at least 50%. That’s incredibly scary.
The thing about disability is that it has an open enrollment policy. Although I was born with my cerebral palsy, I have a brother who was paralyzed from the chest down as a result of a car accident many years ago. In a split second, his life was changed forever. Anybody in society is a stroke or a slip on the ice away from the same fate. The issues that scare me potentially should scare everyone around me as well.
A few months ago, I saw a video of Donald Trump mocking a reporter with a disability, and then he denied it ever happened. A few days ago, he forced a nonverbal young man with cerebral palsy and his mother to leave one of his rallies because he had programmed his speech device to say the word “Hillary” repeatedly.
I wholeheartedly believe we all have disabilities. Some just happen to be more visible than others. People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the country. So I am troubled about what having Donald Trump as president will mean in terms of the direct impact on my life, along with the lives of my brothers and sisters who are also affected by disability. I am worried that the life I have worked so hard to create, this life that I love, has the potential to simply fade away over the next four years because my life only works due to the fact that I have access to several forms of government benefits. And I need all their funding and policies to remain as they are today.
And I know that I am not the only one. I also fear what having Donald Trump leading the nation will mean for my friends of color, my friends in the LGBTQ community, my friends who are undocumented themselves or who have undocumented family members, and my friends who are Muslim. I find the fear of the last group to be ironic. This country was founded by people who wanted to escape religious persecution, after all.
I also believe in the American dream; that anyone in this country can decide what it is that they want, and work hard to make that happen. I have seen that come to pass. We just saw the first woman in history run for president. But Hillary Clinton would be the first one to say “It takes a village.” In my opinion, few goals are accomplished without the help of other people. In the future, I will do all I can to fight for my rights and the programs that support me. And I know I will not do that alone.
So as I sit with my fear today, I am going to give myself permission to grieve the ramifications of this election, for my life and the lives of many others in the months and years to come. Then, I am going to commit to practicing kindness with all people in my community. The more I talk to people from all walks of life, I have come to the conclusion that we are more the same than different.
And tonight I will lean on the support of the people in my closest circle of friends and I encourage other people who are feeling the same kinds of fear to do the same. We are all in this together. And finally, in the midst of my confusion, I will pray.
This country has always been one nation, under God, indivisible; with liberty and justice FOR ALL.
The last two words are important.
Love will ALWAYS trump hate…
God, please, bless America.