Hopelessly Embedded

The Postmodernists have it right: we are utterly, hopelessly embedded in our own perspective. Our upbringing, our socio-economic situation, our parents, our skin color, our past, our relationships, our experiences, our jobs.

This becomes increasingly obvious in political discussions.

I have spoken with someone who has relied heavily on government grants to attend University. He’s still in debt, a lot of debt, but without certain federal grants he wouldn’t have been able to pursue college because his family had essentially no money to put toward his education. Thus, he believes that college is a worthwhile cause for government investment. In this matter, he leans the way many would consider “left” and agrees with our current President’s view on the issue.

I have observed conversations where several young women have outwardly supported Planned Parenthood. Some of these girls are pro-life, but even though Planned Parenthood is known for providing abortions, they see other benefits of the organization which make the company worth fighting for. They would disagree with Mitt Romney’s desire to de-fund Planned Parenthood, because it has helped them. They have perhaps had a cancer screening there, or perhaps received counseling, or got tested for STDs – all confidentially and at little or no cost to them. It helped them, it encouraged them.

There are many women who vote on a candidate on how they stand on “women’s issues” (something I confess, I don’t think much about in day-to-day life). They think this way and vote this way because they have been trampled on, their rights abused, or they have been unable to reach their full potential because of their sex. Their experiences are real, valid. These women have bumped into the glass ceiling.

And here’s the honest, Me, part. I can’t say I’ve ever met the glass ceiling, which perhaps just means my life has been lucky or boring. I was never restricted or looked down on by my parents for being a girl. In fact, of my parents’ three children, I was the only one they pushed to get a college degree. Because they know me, and knew I would benefit from it. My other siblings are artistically and musically talented in ways I will never be, and they are walking other paths which don’t require four years at a University.

In my churches, in my classes, I never found a glass ceiling. (In fact, I’m fairly certain I was favoured with one professor who is notorious for disliking men, heh.) In my new job, though I am outnumbered by men on my team 2-to-1, I have never been treated with anything less than equality, respect, and friendship.

Perhaps that is why I forget to think about “women’s issues” and glass ceilings.

And it doesn’t stop there. My natural inclinations when it comes to politics, voting, governmental policies, etc, all stem from my own, narrow experiences. I recognize that.

My father came from a dirt poor community, and my mother’s father was a first generation German-American during WWII. They didn’t come from wealth or privilege. The most respectable occupation ANY of my grandparents held was that of school teacher (my mother’s mother taught elementary, my father’s mother taught high school). But my parents took their Baby-Boomer Spirit and Work Ethic and made something really cool out of their lives. My mom got her Master’s Degree in something she loved (wrote her thesis on Thomas Hardy) and taught at both high school and college level for 13 years until she decided she wanted to stay home with my brother. My father served in the Air force reserves for 20 years and is currently a highly-awarded, hard-working sales rep for a major security company. They went through tough times. My mom was the major breadwinner when they decided to start homeschooling, but they both wanted to. They took the risk, they had faith, they re-budgeted and worked hard. And they made do. My dad stayed with his company and worked toward promotions so they wouldn’t have to fear poverty or the turmoil of changing jobs.

So, naturally, my parents (who made their own choices, mistakes, and picked themselves up after falling) have opinions which reflect our family’s situation. My dad thinks it’s outrageous to expect the government pay for contraception. I suspect this might be because my mother was not a heavily fertile woman; she didn’t use birth control during their entire marriage and only got pregnant four times (one miscarried). My parents don’t believe that the government should be responsible for paying a child’s college education. After all, they worked their way up. My father’s education was paid for, I assume, in exchange for his military service.

I myself received no government money for my schooling. I chose to work my way through my first two years of gen eds, living at home and attending community college. I worked at a restaurant, and every bit of my tiny paychecks went to tuition and books. When my dad had a good quarter, when commission was high, or after they had set aside enough money, they would often pay me back. Because it was important to them that I went to school, and they wanted to help me as much as they were able. We made sacrifices to do this. We rented apartments for 5 years before we found the right house. We shared cars, bought used clothes. We’ve never lived extravagantly even during periods where we had “more.” That “more” went to something important, like tuition for me, photography equipment for my sister, or helping out my brother and his wife with their babies.

So, in my experience…..I didn’t have the option of government assistance for college. I didn’t get that privilege  It was hard. But I studied hard and got good grades and got a merit scholarship. I lived in the cheaper dorms on campus. I brought a bike instead of a car. I shopped smart and made my own food. I emptied my bank account when tuition was due and trusted my family to help me. And I graduated with 15k of debt. But I also scoured the internet for jobs during my senior semester, landed one, and have chipped that debt to 10k since starting work 4 months ago.

And I know my situation is only mine. Most college grads don’t immediately land a job, much less with benefits and vacation time. I have parents who feed me when I need it and want me to live with them until I get married in March so I can devote my paycheck to loans. Many people just don’t have that situation. It’s possible that when I get on my company’s insurance policy I may have to pay for a portion of my birth control, which I recently started. But you know what? I have confidence that I can budget for that, since that will be a priority. In my mind, that’s my responsibility. My David and I would like to wait on kids, so -since that choice is available- it seems logical that we might have to be willing to sacrifice to make that happen.

That’s the libertarian in me. I prefer to have few restrictions and barriers in my life. I want to take care of my family and live my life without interference from others – and without being forced to care for people not necessarily inside my family. On the flipside, that would mean being responsible (fiscally, physically, etc) and making sacrifices for the things I want.

But then I look into the eyes of a another girl who is engaged, like I am. She perhaps isn’t able to get on her parents’ insurance until she is married, and even if she was – perhaps they wouldn’t allow her to get a birth control prescription. Perhaps neither she nor her husband-to-be has a job with health care, and she might be forced to budget for $50-$100 dollars every month just to wait on having kids. Do I think that it’s still her responsibility? Yes. But I see and understand why she believes differently from me. I see and my heart breaks for the ways that her life has been different from mine.

Do I think that the harm of Planned Parenthood outweighs its good? I do. Issues surrounding abortion hold a painful, sensitive place in my heart. (Maybe it’s because my mother was 40 while she was pregnant with me, and the doctors didn’t think she should have been. I thank God for my mother’s feisty rejection of the opinion of doctors.) I won’t and can’t support such a huge abortion provider (in addition to other problems I have with PP).

But I see how women are helped and feel protected by the organization. I just feel so sad and horrible that their families, fathers, church – whoever- weren’t enough. Or that they are in desperate financial straits. Or whatever. It breaks my heart.

But it doesn’t change my own situation. My own perspective. All my own experiences.

When people talk about not being “able” to do something that I worked really hard to do, I have problems with that. Because I did a lot of stuff, a lot of hard stuff, to get where I am. I didn’t take your taxes to do it. I took loans and I’m paying interest on them.

I read recently a series of blogs by a woman who has, I think, 4 kids and doesn’t work and their total household income is $28,000 per year. And they survive, even though logistically that doesn’t make sense. She’s just amazing and works really hard. I just wish more people realized that it was possible. Sometimes I don’t think they know it.

We are creatures of such strength.

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