Saturday, July 16, 2011

What Have You Got Against Conservatives?

Not every person has had an overwhelming trauma. If you haven't, you may not relate to the years of aftershocks that come with trying to recuperate from one. If you have been through an extraordinary life event or several, you may relate to the hardship of psychic anniversaries. The only thing that makes them worse is when the circumstances that created the trauma to begin with are still there... and rampantly harming people.

This year represents the 30th anniversary of my family being torn apart by a combination of unemployment, poverty, and a conservative cutting of the social safety net. Nothing was ever the same after my parents were laid off in late 1979. They went through their savings. We had more than one Christmas where the presents were cans of food, and the stockings were stuffed with apples.

They did odd jobs. They approached more than one church asking for a loan to get through until the economy picked up and new jobs acquired. They were turned away, even from the Lutheran church for which my mother had done a two-year mission to New Guinea. Our family could no longer afford the rent on our tiny apartment, so we desperately moved to my grandpa's abandoned farmhouse. We planted three huge gardens and tried to live off the land. Still there were things that required money, so the family charged a Conoco gas card for supplies we could glean from a convenience mart.

Since my parents were conservative Christians, they eschewed help from the government. But eventually with all other options exhausted, my mom and dad signed up for a welfare program for two-parent families. It was our last hope. Nearly as quickly as our family started the program, conservatives led by Ronald Reagan had it cut so that they could give tax cuts to wealthy people. The last hope for the family was cut off, and by December 18, 1981, the State would find our family living in the farmhouse with a temperature of 32F in the house, scarce food, and conditions deemed insufficient to raise children.

Just before Christmas 1981, two of my brothers and I went to one foster home, and my youngest brother and sister went to another foster home. The money that was paid to the two foster families was 3x greater than the amount paid in the welfare program that could have kept our family together. They paid $1250 a month to the two families for the foster care, whereas the welfare check to my parents had been $400 a month.

Eventually, my parents were able to regain custody, but not before everyone involved was deeply traumatized. They went to the media with their story, and the Des Moines Register published an article in 1982 about a "Jobless Pair Fear Children Will Be Snatched Again."Losing their children led my parents to rapidly de-compensate into paranoid, mentally unwell people. My parents soon divorced and the family was broken and poverty-stricken from that time on. My brother would eventually commit suicide after years of depression and continuous reference to the foster care trauma.

Flash forward 30 years and again we are in a recession with unemployed people suffering. Conservatives all over the country are falling all over themselves to protect tax cuts for wealthy people who are living the good life. Meanwhile, there are families out there like my own, on the brink, ready to fall apart and the help they are counting on is being cut.

Today, a holier-than-thou conservative asked me why I wouldn't want to have a mutually respectful conservation with someone from their perspective. The answer begins with a trauma...

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