Editor's Note Reflections

One Rant and Two Screenshots that Capture the Day


There’s so much to celebrate today — it’s the feast day of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, it’s the first day of October, a generally lovely month. I had a great day at work and my handsome, smart, amazing husband keeps making me laugh and sending me lovely links to encourage my writerly aspirations.

And yet, there’s a burning anger in my heart.

The two pictures above illustrate the frustration many Americans feel. Some people will be upset about the picture on the left, some will be furious about the picture on the right, and just about everyone is disgusted with the state of politics and discourse our country. The country itself is pretty fine, I must say. We often forget how fortunate we are that we can even have fake filibusters and ridiculous Twitter fights (and flirts) about government funding. Our wonderful republic is so strong that every once in a while we act like a failed state just because we can. It’s great that a few legislators see the hypocrisy of the current situation and generously promise to donate their own salary to charity but most Americans actually need their paychecks, and federal employees can’t feed their kids with an IOU.

As someone who has been denied health insurance on the individual market, I understand the impetus behind the Affordable Care Act. It’s imperfect, but it’s the law. Viable alternatives have not been offered, and many people like certain aspects of it that have already gone into effect. Some people even think the crazy employer-based health care system we have will eventually fade away, just like rotary phones.

A lot of people don’t like the individual mandate because, well, it’s a mandate. We Americans will not be told what to do for any reason that does not involve a free T-shirt. We are just too special, too exceptional, and too proud. Any bossiness from the federal government is an infringement on our individual rights, except of course for those food safety rules, air traffic controllers and those other random essential services that save our lives.

tychay / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

In 2012, Republicans promised to repeal Obamacare if they won. They lost. Yet a number of politicians seem to have a problem with math. Perhaps their public schools were underfunded, or maybe they just believe it’s magic. Because that’s really the only way the 65,899,660 votes that Obama got could possibly be less than Romney’s 60,932,152.

Even in the House, Democrats won over one million more votes than Republicans, who maintained control due to the way districts are drawn. The word “control” might be a little strong for what actually happens in their caucus because no one seems to be able to restrain those members who still think Obamacare can be stopped after 42 failed repeal attempts and one Supreme Court ruling.

Apparently we now have a number of politicians who confuse making headlines with actually governing or counting votes. So the votes the American people do not count, and the votes of their own party also seem to vary depending on the day of the week. It’s easy to understand why so many people don’t believe in our government when the people running it send 800,000 people on furlough because they are afraid of a website.

Seriously. That’s what happened today. The health care exchanges opened, and the moon fell out of the sky. And NASA was closed so nobody can send a rocket to catch it before it crashed into earth, which is how you know that I’m writing this from an alternate universe.

I can joke now, but really, there’s a burning anger in my heart.

There’s a lot to be said about the benefits of checks and balances, but I don’t think this is a shining moment for democracy. The world is watching with confusion and bewilderment while the federal government shuts down even as one of our most famous and beautiful national parks celebrates its birthday. Yosemite must be closed not because it’s a luxury we can’t afford, but because health insurance became available, affordable, and mandatory for everyone.

I’m not usually prone to rant on this blog, but topic for day two of the Days of Deepening Friendship writing retreat is about emotion and that opened the floodgates. I definitely need to take note of the advice to utilize my support system and transition out of emotional intensity. Writing out what I feel helps a lot. I love this paragraph:

But here’s the grand part: emotions will help you tap such deep, wonderful stuff as you’re writing. If you’re going through an ordinary day and experience anger or sadness or bliss or curiosity—you can follow that emotion down through layers of your experience and memory and find all sorts of scenes, stories, and concepts attached to those emotions.

Earlier, Vinita Hampton Wright described the emotional work that artists do as spending time in the “cellar of the soul.” That’s the perfect image for how I feel right now; I know I will eventually write, walk and talk my way upstairs and into the light but for the moment I am down in the basement, sorting through the detritus of American stupidity and exceptionalism, letting this burning anger in my heart feed my thirst for justice.