Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bern or Bust!

I wanted to take a moment to talk about the Bern or Bust membership to talk about why I do not see Clinton as being the next best option to a Sanders Presidency. Some of this I have spoken about a handful of times, some of it I haven't. Honestly, it is not something I like discussing, its painful, it causes old wounds to ache. If I was an amnesic I wonder if I would want to seek out those memories, or if I would be all the better to not know. Why I am in the Bern or Bust crowd... I'm tired. I am a tired, angry, and frustrated liberal, who is only “a dirty socialist” because the whole nation went right on me. I actually started this little journey of mine as a moderate, who went slightly liberal before the insanity known as the tea party took over. On all those political spectrum tests, I now reside left and down of Gandhi... Basically a Social Libertarian (or liberal libertarian), who knew?

Back to the point, I watched my family farm go under, thanks to the dealings with “free trade,” importing tainted meats (BSE was the largest knife in the family businesses back), deregulation of the banking industry, and the like. The whole bootstrap deal took hold for a while before and after the farm started failing, so I spent the $400 took what is called a 40 hour class, which allowed me to become a miners apprentice on a surface mine in the state of West Virginia. Thats right, I would have been removing mountaintops to get coal, but a job is a job, am I right? I hate the practice in general, but personal needs sometimes dictate dealing with the devil. No fears, I became a lacky for the local coal company, Bluestone Energy, I didn't mine coal, but I was a security officer for a small business, paid minimum wage. I was that guy, the one you would encounter when you tried to take photographs of the damage done. I wasn't a hardass like my peers, I'd let you do your business, making sure that you were safe, because I knew those images needed to be shown to the public. I eventually became a Sergeant, a supervisor telling other lapdogs what to do when something happened. I was living the lowlife; low pay, long hours, chewing coal dust, with none of the benefits (yeah, if I developed Black Lung, I wouldn't get any benefits for it, and it wasn't like I got medical). The worst of it was spending days (up to a week at a time on the clock) away from home, from my family, taking a brand new F150 that I had paid cash for and literally driving it into the ground, all for $7.25 to $8.15 an hour, while helping to develop nasty chronic sinus problems. At one point, nearly half of my pay was going for gas, just to go to work and sit in my truck all night. If I listed all the problems that developed with my truck, you would swear that I picked up a lemon (it was, but the life it lead did it no favors). While all of that was happening, I had been laid off and recalled three times, and I decided that I needed to escape, college seemed to be that escape. The promise of being able to land a job that was comfortably middle class. That job cost me my independent living, I had managed to get a double-wide and was renting an acre from my parents. It wasn't totally independent, but it was on my own. And complaints to the board of labor about anything were automatically filed in the nearest trashcan. “Oh, there is a foot of mud on an otherwise washed out road that prevents fire/rescue from accessing the site? Well, I hope you don't ever need them.” and “I see, you are working at a job that requires you to sit in your vehicle in the winter? ~chuckles~ Well sir, my best advice is to crack a window when the car is running or bundle up so you don't freeze to death.” For minimum wage, people died, just to try and support a family. I'm sorry, but that shitty little paycheck was not worth finding a dead co-worker, a man I had just help put new brakes on his car two days before. Or talking a co-worker off the roof that he wanted to jump from because he was that despondent about life. I could write a full blown horror novel with nothing but facts and experiences in that job, in that state.

The farm went to a crooked lender, and I can live with it, as much as it hurts almost a decade later. We went in search of a place to live, and came into a small town, it allowed for me to keep my job, as jobs were hard to come by, and it was closer for my Dad and his job. You see, he had retired from paving, and then gone back to work, driving a coal truck. I will not lie, was because the retired life didn't suit the “Old Timer” (his nickname), I don't know if it was because he had worked since he was a little boy, or that he felt a man should work until he couldn't anymore.

A quick story, back in the 90's he and three of his peers, three men of the same age, all sat down on a job site, and vowed that they would die with their boots on. Several months later, one of the men sat down on a curb to take a five minute break, and passed away. A year later, the second passed while driving home from work. The last was my father. It wasn't done because they were the working poor, it was to show us, a younger generation what it meant to not only support your family, but to continue supporting your family until the end.

The house was owned by a local church, and it was a disaster of biblical proportions. It was infested with snakes, rats, and toxic black mold. We were renting to own, but the preacher wanted to close sooner, not later, so he could retire. The home failed countless home inspections, and did not appraise for what he wanted. In the meantime, he had cornered my Dad, and talked him into making repairs to the home (nothing in writing of course), which totally sapped him of his retirements. From there, the court went in favor of the church, because you don't screw with a church in the coal belt. The week we got evicted my Dad got laid off, and at his age 69, you just aren't going to find much work. With no savings or retirement left, I had to go all in to try and bail him out, if I had known he was overextended by nearly $10,000 I would have let him clear it up and gotten us someplace else to live, but he didn't tell me the depth of it, he was ashamed to have gotten so badly ripped off. He also didn't want me to worry about his health. You see, we found out later that he had developed Rapid Onset Alzheimer's Disease. Yes, its just the same as regular Alzheimer's Disease, except that it moves quickly, very quickly. But with no savings, just what was left of his retirements and his Social Security, the best we could manage was a tent, and even that had to be gifted to me from a friend.

Eventually, my employer found out I was living in a tent at a state campground, and while she didn't fire me, I became a less than prime employee. When a co-worker with known mental health issues decided that the voices were right, and he didn't need to take his medications, I encountered a rather large problem. He came to believe that because we decided to stand up to a church with no love of “Dirty Kikes,” and “N***ers,” we were possessed by demons, and the only way to save our souls was to murder us. So, when he showed up at the campground with a loaded rifle, I had to bolt from work leaving the site unmanned, a taboo when working security. I had a great man who worked under me, and when I explained to him what happened he covered my backside, he never told our boss that I had left. But I did call her the next day to explain what happened, and while she was fairly understanding, she asked when I would be back. I told her I preferred to be transferred to a different site, with different hours. I practically begged her to transfer me elsewhere, someplace that was closer in than an hour, where I didn't have to go through a county I was told by a deputy sheriff to stay out of. I was promptly terminated from my employment. I went to collect unemployment insurance, and was declined because my termination was “no fault of my employer.”

For two and a half years we lived in a tent. We survived the “Frankenstorm” when it came through and buried half the state in countless inches of snow and ice. We survived a freak weather event that left the state in a state of emergency, with power being out in 46 of 48 counties, I weathered that under the shelter of a Sheetz gas station, I had barely made it there before giving out of gas. We weathered countless inches of snow in a tent, at one point reduced to working as slave labor at a campground because my parents couldn't afford rent, food and their medications. All that and I still graduated from college with honors, I still looked for work, marinading in deodorant sometimes, because the bathhouses were often locked. We urinated in cups, and used a bucket to defecate in, because at certain times of the year, bear and coyotes can be a major problem. Two and a half years of living like that, barely scraping by on whatever odd jobs we could find that did not conflict with the plans of our landlord. $400 a month rent, 30-40 hours a week cleaning bathrooms, and landscaping. But we escaped with the help of a friend, who watched this play out. It angered him to see all of this going on, and here was the landlord, playing friend, telling us all the “evil things he said about us.” Oddly enough, he found us an apartment to stay in, to give us the chance to find normalcy in life again.

After a few months of living in the apartment, my Dad said he wanted to go home, to the place where his family was. He said that while jobs were hard to find here, that family would win the day. We didn't know as we sat down for our last Thanksgiving dinner, as we traveled from that apartment to a hotel room, just how bad his health was. Within a week of arriving in his home town, he was admitted into the hospital, within the month he was on life support, and just after the new year, almost three years of being homeless, doing everything we could to simply survive, he passed after being in a coma for a week, with no medical hope of him ever recovering. That man, who worked 60+ hours a week paving roads, driving a coal truck, doing everything he could do to provide for his family, died a broken man, thinking himself a failure. Because he couldn't escape living in a tent, he couldn't get us out of that place. The only thing he failed to see was that his mind and body had failed him, his age denied him a chance to recover, and society ignored him, while throwing up its nose towards him.

From there we managed to get into a very unhealthy house, which resulted in my Mom getting a severe lung infection, my sinus issues redeveloped, and all the while, medical bills mounted, we were evicted when we started kicking up a fuss about the state of the house. Thanks to encountering a local landlord who was having some major life problems, we managed to get into a small bungalow on the wrong side of the tracks, where we cannot afford to even have basic cable or internet. This post is brought to you courtesy of the local hospital, and their free Wi-Fi for visitors because the local library closes at 5 pm during the week and 1 pm on Saturday.

He went to his grave thanking Bill Clinton for everything he had done, I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was Bill Clinton who helped sign his death warrant. In my eyes, these are the very same policies that Hillary Clinton has advocated for, and is only now changing her view to seem more likable. These GOP-lite policies that will continue to damn us all, even if many cannot see it. It will damn people who fall through the cracks of society, they make too much to get aid, but too little to live a life worth having. I am a Bern or Bust advocate because of people who were sold a bad bill of goods starting with Reagan, and ending with Obama (who I do believe really tried to help). The mantra is, go to college, get skills, get a job in a new field... Go into debt to do these things if you must... Housing, who needs housing when you know how to winter-proof a tent... Welfare, forget that, too much household income. Unemployment insurance, screw you, it wasn't your bosses fault she hired a Paranoid Schizophrenic who was further twisted by religion, or whatever reason you might have ever been declined for. Want a job, go work for minimum wage, and twenty hours a week, cause bootstrap yourself out of a personal hell. Great health care you have there, oh, you can't afford it, just die already, but before you do pay this tax penalty. I want a chance damn it... I want a chance to work a full 40 hours, I want a chance to make my way in this world, to be able to do something as mundane as watching television and drinking a beer after cutting my grass in my own front yard without having to risk being shot (by a gang member or a cop). I want to be able to take my own mother out to dinner on her birthday, Mother's Day, or whenever the hell I take a notion to it, without fearing that I will be short on this bill or that bill. Hell, I'd setting for being able to be out of debt, to earn enough to start and raise a family, to ensure that my family is well tended. I want to dream, a realistic dream, that I have a realistic chance to achieve. I want to be free of 35 years worth of Voodoo Economics, deregulation, and neo-liberal third way democrats. I see Obama as the starting point, with Sanders being the next step in the progression towards that vision of America. People say Clinton can be that step, some people believe she is that step, but I do not. I see her as the anti-progressive, dressed in the linens of progressive. I see the harm she will do to woman's rights, gay rights, the elderly, the young, and everyone in-between, except those who already have more than they will ever use, just like the GOP will do and has done for the past thirty-five years. Will she be as bad as the GOP, no. But she will set back progressive ideas thirty years or more because people will believe incorrectly that she really is a champion of progressive values, and if we are going to suffer a stunning setback, maybe its time for us to use the nuclear option of the vote. I am the living damned, and if I am going to be damned, I want to pick my own poison. But I see a glimmer of hope in Sanders, and in the back of my mind, I want to grasp it, and hold it. I want to see its flames grow and spread into the lives of all people. My voice must be heard, and Sanders supporters, the Bern or Bust crowd, they want to be heard as well. We always take the hit from the home team, we bite our tongues, hold back the vomit in our mouths so often when we vote. We don't vote for the greater good, our choices are often this simple. On one side we have a man loading a gun, on the other side we have a spike pit. Both are going to hurt, both are going to leave serious damage that may never heal. This time, I am going to fight for Sanders, the man holding a hand out to help pull us up. If Sanders is not an option, I am voting for the man with a gun. I'd rather die outright than continue this trend of self inflicted wounds.