I have avoided talking about politics for most of my life. The primary reason is that the topic simply has never really interested me. I’m guessing it’s because by the time I was old enough to understand the topic we were already in America, my father was already dead, and my mother was too busy working in a sweatshop in Chinatown and trying to learn English to school me on the differences between Democrats and Republicans. So I grew up blissfully unaware and, rightly or wrongly, disinterested in politics.
But here is what I was aware of growing up.
My parents left everything and everyone behind for a shot at the American Dream. Getting us here cost them their life savings. Their degrees and training were worthless. In every way, they were starting over. Little money, no English, few contacts. But all of the determination and hope that immigrants have carried with them for centuries.
They took any job they could get. And when my father became too sick to work, my mother went out and got a second job.
Because they had to leave everything behind they qualified for low-income housing in one of the best school districts in Boston. It was a small one bedroom, but to us it was a palace.
A year after we got here, my father died. My mother wasn’t yet making enough money to pay for rent and food, so she was able to qualify for food stamps. Because our apartment building was in an affluent part of town I was able to walk home from elementary school by myself without my mom having to worry about my safety – so she was able to continue to work two jobs.
The free English and bookkeeping classes my mother was able to get at the community center allowed her to eventually get an entry-level job at a large insurance company, where she worked for thirty years. She’s retired now. Her pension and savings cover most of her bills. Social Security covers the rest and pays for all of the things that make retirement fun. Dinner with friends. Movies. An occasional splurge on a new dress. Dance class.
Because of where our low-income apartment building was located I was able to go to one of the best high schools in Boston. College and grad school were made possible by loans, grants, and access to a good state university.
Today, I’m a one percenter. A result of hard work, yes, but made possible by lots of government and community assistance when it mattered most. Because my mother was able to get the help she needed, I am now in a position where I will be able to take care of her when her savings run out. I’ll be able to afford the best care available should she ever need it, and she will be able to live out the rest of her life never having to worry about putting food on the table. And that’s the America I believe in. One where we help each other, and take care of each other. And where we don’t look down on people who need our help, and don’t shut doors behind us once we’ve made it through. An America where we pay it forward. So my vote will always go to the people who believe in those same things.
Categories: Rants and Raves