Man, I sure wish I had the comfort of a nice, clean, political ideology which answered all of my questions for me. Something which always provided THE TRUTH no matter what.
I guess having such a thing is how a lot of people sleep at night.
If you think the shutdown of the Federal Government isn’t hurting innocent people, then here are two stories to ponder. If you follow me on Facebook then yes, you’ve already read these.
First, we have my mother.
My mother is sixty-eight years old. She was married at eighteen to a man who would be drafted to serve in Vietnam, a war that many, including a fair number of present day Conservatives, managed to evade. For his two years of mandatory service, he was exposed to Agent Orange which eventually, by 2011, killed him.
The Primary Caregiver for my father was my mother. She cared for him for seventeen long years through multiple myeloma, prostate cancer and finally Stage Three Lung Cancer. She dealt with his mood swings, his anger, particularly the steroid fueled bouts of anger and she fought with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. She did this at a time when my younger brother was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, one who would never be functional.
My father was rated, finally toward the end of his life, as 100 percent permanently disabled. A rating which is nearly impossible to get. Because he died in a VA Hospital Bed while they were trying to find Hospice Care for him, and he was permanently disabled, my mother received a Survivor’s Benefit.
Due to the shutdown, she isn’t likely to receive her November Benefit from the VA, a benefit she EARNED. She didn’t scam her way to it, cheat her way to it or con her way to it. She EARNED IT as my father EARNED his.
This is one of many reasons why I have a problem with the shutdown.
One of the comments on Facebook cheerfully pointed out that only 17 percent of the government was actually shutdown. That will be cold comfort when my mother turns to me for help in paying the bills over the next few months.
Then there is the story of my younger brother.
If the shutdown goes on much longer, I wonder what we’re supposed to do with my younger brother, who is a non-functional schizophrenic? Government funds keep him in Truman’s Mental Health Ward where he can at least receive the level of care he needs. I suppose if the laissez-faire types had it their way, they’d say he doesn’t deserve anything and should spend the rest of his days in a cardboard box.
I guess I’m either supposed to let nature take her course or walk him into a field on a cold December day with a forty-five in my hand.
He isn’t my favorite person, but I’m not prepared to endorse a doctrine that would force me to make that type of choice.
So, worst case scenario? Let me outline it for you.
1. Mom will stop receiving her social security retirement AND her VA Survivor’s Benefit. Her income will drop to zero.
2. My brother, without a place to stay, will have to come home.
3. I will have to pay the bills with a monthly net of $1700 a month until the semester ends in December. After that, my net will drop because Adjunct Instructors of History aren’t paid very much. In fact, we’ll try to limp by on less than $600.00 a month if we are lucky.
4. Both my brother and the Woman I Love, will go without their medication. Federal programs provide funding for their meds. My brother will go from barely manageable to a potential security threat. The Woman I Love will have a relapse which will drive her quality of life down into the toilet.
5. With the lack of Federal Funding, it is possible that enrollment at my institution will drop even further, meaning there will be fewer classes and thus less need for adjunct instructors like myself. I may arrive in January without a job.
6. I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and go find other work, but I’ll be joining a force of furloughed workers along with the currently unemployed making the few jobs that are out there even harder to obtain.
The three people in my life who receive Federal Aid did not get it by scamming or lying to the government. My brother is truly diagnosed with schizophrenia and no amount of wishing otherwise will put him in a position to work as a sacker at the grocery store next to the guy furloughed guy from Lockheed Martin. The Woman I Love can’t pray her ailments away or deal with it by sheer willpower. Her demons will run her down and do her in without her assistance.
As for my mother, she earned every penny.
As for me? I’m a combat veteran, served during Operation Desert Storm and have a litany of health problems which, if I were persistent enough, could probably rate a disability. I don’t do that mainly because I’m too busy trying to make sure we have money to pay bills. If I lose my jobs, rest assured, I’ll start the process to see about that disability check while trying to find some other way to pay the bills.
We are not the enemy.
We are not parasites.
We are people who have done our best. In the case of my mom, she served her country by taking care of a veteran who gave his all. The Woman I Love contributed two of her children to the Marine Corps. I served six years and have spent the bulk of that time since working.
If you think we deserve what we got, if you think the shutdown isn’t a problem, then perhaps a reexamination of your own values is in order.
Meanwhile, we’ll be trying to manage what little income we have left.
Steven Francis Murphy
Author of The Limb Knitter and Tearing Down Tuesday
Kansas City, Missouri