What does it mean when CHIP funding stops?

One of many, many egregious things going on right now is the Congressional refusal to fund the CHIP program, which provides healthcare for low-income kids. As I have written about here and elsewhere, I have a personal connection to this issue, as my son and I were on the CHIP-funded state healthcare program in Ohio after he was born. Why? I was in school full-time–working as a graduate teaching assistant and also doing freelance writing and freelance proofreading as well as adjuncting at a second college–and I couldn’t find private health insurance that would cover us. I looked into buying coverage through my employer, Ohio State University, and found that that would have cost MORE than my entire paycheck. Private solutions were completely unaffordable, as in I couldn’t find one in the “healthcare market” that would cover us both, given the fact that I am female and have a uterus, and health insurance is more expensive for women. In this and so many other instances, the market analogy does not explain healthcare. Healthcare is not a market; there was no free-market product I could buy. Market failure.

CoverMeTinyMy kid got great healthcare, along with a few hiccups along the way that I write about in Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir. But I’m white, have two graduate degrees, and knew that I was going to escape poverty eventually.

Many are not so privileged. For many, CHIP is a necessity given the failure of the healthcare “market.” There is no affordable way to keep children healthy that is on offer. None. And so… kids without CHIP will suffer these consequences, beginning as soon as CHIP funding fails, which has already begun.

  1. Real human children will go without basic immunizations on their regular schedules. Without these immunizations, we put all children and communities at risk, given the way immunization works to address the health of the “herd.”
  2. A child without healthcare for a simple cold will have a cold turn into an ear infection or pneumonia that is not addressed until he or she visits an emergency room, at which point the child has a much higher chance of death or hearing damage or a thousand other complications. The parents of the child then also have an ER bill (very expensive) to deal with.
  3. Without regular healthcare, the child will not have a regular doctor to help parents make decisions about questions that arise in a child’s health: is that bump or rash normal? Chronic and serious issues will go untreated.
  4. Untreated illnesses lead to massive stress on an entire family, including more days missed of work, parental stress, pain for the child, threat of a parent losing a job.
  5. Untreated illnesses lead to stress on young immune systems, and there are so many advanced autoimmune and chronic, serious conditions that result from stress on immune systems already taxed by poverty and the environmental effects of living in a poor neighborhood which is likely to be more polluted due to environmental racism.
  6. Lack of insurance and regular doctors’ visits can lead to permanent life effects and disability when specialists are not able to offer timely diagnosis and intervention for learning disabilities and hearing issues among many other challenges.
  7. A child who suffers this kind of medical neglect–which is beyond the control of his or her parents–will have experienced more pain and therefore will have an increased potential of a revved up neural system with more chance of encountering chronic pain in the future.

I could go on, and I completely imagine that if you’ve reached this tiny blog, you already agree with me. But I had to say these things… stopping CHIP funding is not temporary. Every minute this program goes without funding affects real children, and the Republican-induced medical neglect will create a generational impact that these children’s bodies will carry far into the future.

Jack from the movie Nightmare before Christmas, with the movie's name below a round skull with a wide grin topped with a swoop of hair like Trump's with the presidential seal off to the side on a black background

Nightmare Before Xmas Raffle!

As you may know, the Republican “Tax” Plan has a million festering surprises in it, and none of them are good. In addition to making the rich richer and everyone else poorer, it contains elements that will further weaken the Affordable Care Act.

That is where you come in! I want to encourage people who live in states with Republican Senators to call them between now and when the bill is supposed to come to a vote in the Senate, which may be as early as the week after Thanksgiving.

Every time you make a call to a Senator, you can get entered in a drawing to get…. mystery prizes!!

Jack from the movie Nightmare before Christmas, with the movie's name below a round skull with a wide grin topped with a swoop of hair like Trump's with the presidential seal off to the side on a black background
This image is from this site: https://i.pinimg.com/236x/2c/b5/2c/2cb52c80613d8b45db1138401d5e4ccc–movie-nights-donald-trump.jpg

To enter, all you have to do is make your call and either leave a message or talk in person with your Senator’s aide about how much this tax bill is a flaming pile of crap. THEN email me at indigomission (at) gmail.com with the subject line NIGHTMAREBEFOREXMAS and in the body of the email who you called and your name and mailing address.

And then after the bill is defeated or (nightmare… passes), I will send your address to your Nightmare Before Christmas Secret Evil Santa friend.






Here is a list of fabulous prizes you could win!

  1. Signed copy of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System by Sonya Huber
  2. Signed copy of Inner Bitch by Elizabeth Hilts
  3. A personalized 1st edition hardback of Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler
  4. A signed book by Susan Muaddi Darraj
  5. A signed book by Chelsea Biondolillo or another book from her shelf
  6. A signed book by Kathleen B. Jones
  7. A signed copy of Laurel Peterson’s mystery book Shadow Notes
  8. A copy of Sandra Lambert’s book The River’s Memory
  9. A book by Karen Craigo
  10. A book by Joelle Renstrom
  11. A book by Sarah Einstein!
  12. A book by Karen Babine!

And more to come!!

Artists and Writers, if you want to donate something to the raffle, email me!


If You Voted for Trump and Regret It, What Next?

Hi. Listen, I know you are feeling confused and maybe a little nauseous. I don’t know what your trigger was for realizing something was wrong, but I want to applaud the sense of independence in you that led you to pull back and reassess.
I wanted to first say that you are not a pariah. I don’t believe anyone should be if they are willing to examine their choices. And I believe there are many like you, and that you have an important role to play in the health and survival of everything we believe in about this country. You are going through something that’s profoundly disorienting, and I want you to know that you are not alone. The solution is not to avoid politics. Here are some things to consider and to do to help you take stock, and then to help you feel better and help other people:

  1. Know that you were duped by a news machine that extends into the community where you live. The 20th century notion of journalism is that news is “impartial” and “objective,” but it turns out that so much news is subtle propaganda–paid for and sometimes even published on news sites that have political agendas. That’s a scary thing to think about, but it’s true.
  2. Admit your feelings first to yourself and then to one other live person. This will help all of us. This will help you make amends to people you’ve never met. The ripple effect of thousands of Trump voters admitting this instead of hiding in shame or stuffing the feeling into denial will be very powerful. It’s a hard thing, but do it. The response you hear back may very well be, “Yeah, me too.”
  3. Find a group that is an unbiased protector of human rights. Some good ones include the Southern Poverty Law Center or the American Civil Liberties Union. I know, you have probably heard terrible things about one or the other. But all they do is to track infringement of rights and lobby for people to be treated fairly. Look through the sites and maybe give $20. Or give to some other place, whatever looks right. Just google “Human Rights.” This is for your sake. It will help you feel like you are doing something, and that will give you momentum and also help you feel better about yourself.
  4. The major undertaking for the next year is going to be a personal media cleanse. You might have been surrounded by Fox News. Literally, it is on wherever you go. Bar, restaurant, hair dresser, friend’s houses. The first thing to do is to turn it off in your own home. You can watch another channel, or even local network news. But not Fox. It does not present things in an unbiased way; it tends to whip up fear which then is channeled into anger against specific groups that are supposedly to “blame” for a problem.
  5. The next thing to do is to gather the strength to ask someone in a business like a bar if they would change the channel when Fox News is on. The reason for this is that it is seeping into not only your consciousness but the minds and hearts of everyone around you. You turn it off for even five minutes, and there’s five minutes of peace. I know this is a big deal, as I come from a place where Fox News is blaring all the time. Be proud of yourself if you do this, regardless of the effect.
  6. screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-8-53-08-amSubscribe to a major newspaper that is available in your area. USA Today is fine. Anything is fine. Read it.
  7. One of the scary trends that has been well-documented is the number of hate crimes that have taken place in the few weeks since the election. I know, I know–you’re not burning crosses on anyone’s lawn. You might consider racism to have multiple forms, as I’ve written about here. But even if you’re not yet ready for that, one simple thing you can do is that when you hear someone making a racist statement, just stand up. I mean literally just plant your feet on the ground, get up from your chair, and take a step toward that person. Just make eye contact and look at them. I think that’s enough as a first step. You don’t have to make a big confrontation until you are ready. Just move your body, and then walk away.
  8. Do a faith audit. How’s your pastor or priest? How’s your congregation, and were they part of the deciding factor in your choice to vote? Did you hear politics coming from the pulpit that equated Hillary with the devil or Trump with the way of the faithful? I know you might have been in this congregation since birth along with all of your friends. But there are a bunch of churches out there. You might just commit to visiting another church one Sunday a month. Keep going to your own if you’d like, but see what else is out there.
  9. Pray and reconnect with whatever spiritual values you have. If you haven’t actually read the text of your faith tradition in a while, go back to the source and delve in. It will give you sustenance. In some ways this is  a great spiritual journey that will make you a stronger person who is more connected to the tenets of your faith. If you are in an evangelical congregation, you can consider getting support by reading something by Jim Wallis or other progressive evangelicals. A magazine like Sojourners might be a good support. If you are Catholic, there are a number of progressive Catholic congregations and supports for progressive Catholics–including our current Pope. Check out Call to Action.
  10. When you see people getting angry at anyone who has been targeted as the “enemy”–liberals, disabled people, the poor, those who receive food stamps, professors, immigrants, Black people, Mexican people, Muslims, the population of the Middle East, women, Hillary, Hillary voters, socialists, union members–stop and just tell yourself that you are witnessing anger. Reflect and pray on where that anger might come from. This is a huge open spiritual question.
  11. The culture that supported Trump has pockets of violence that you might not have been exposed to, as they tend to target only those who disagree with them. But be prepared for the fact that once you admit what you are thinking, you will be targeted with scorn and the same condemnation they have reserved for all the other “out” groups. This will be profoundly unsettling, but know that you have many many allies–everyone else who has been targeted.
  12. Contact your local representatives to urge them to stand up for decency and democracy.
  13. Consider, during the next election, whether you should choose a candidate based on their stances about multiple issues rather than a “hot button” issue like abortion, which has been used for decades to manipulate people of faith into voting for unsavory candidates, and whether you might re-evaluate the criteria by which you vote.

People make mistakes. Your faith and my faith all teach that mistakes can be recovered and redressed, but action is important. We are happy to welcome you into the fold of people who want to protect and rebuild the country.

To Survive Trump, Ask an Abuse Survivor

For domestic abuse survivors or survivors of any kind of abuse, the experience of having a terrible & erratic man in our lives with a huge amount of power is scary & triggering. Hell, it’s scary for all of us.
A nice image of trees on either side of a path with blue sky above and water ahead. I’m not pasting in another picture of Hate-Cheeto.

Tonight, Trump let forth another outrageous tweet, one that actually is an insult both to reality and the basic democratic institutions of our country. He claimed that millions of votes were “illegal,” and that without those votes, he’d be ahead in the popular vote instead of behind by 2 million. The problems with this are huge and many and will be analyzed on every imaginable news outlet. The tweet implies that there are “illegals” out there infiltrating our democratic institutions–a cue for his racist fear-mongers–and that voting is somehow not already difficult enough for many.

Some people may be able to shrug this off as more of Trump being Trump. Not me. In fact, I find myself on high alert, PTSD symptoms making me super edgy and irritable, adrenaline flooding every cell, senses sharpened. I’m emotional. I’m not going to pretend this isn’t happening. I’m not going to “man up” and hide this. Nor am I going to worry anymore about whether the world will think less of me. I’m sick of those horrible sexist assumptions about abuse victims and their reliability or objectivity.
Yes, I know to take breaks and take care of myself.  I did that today. I stayed away from the Internet all day–did Christmas shopping, errands, grocery shopping. I meditated, I exercised, I ate well. I took my vitamins and spent time with my family. I made phone calls to friends. I wrote. (Wow–I actually did all that! Cool.) Too bad all of that can get wiped away with one tweet.
The answer here is not “step away from the Internet” because, of course, I am a citizen, and I have to be engaged and vigilant and aware. And right now Donald Trump is our president-elect. And we are stuck in a verbally abusive relationship with lots of threats that could very well become physical the moment he is given power to affect our lives.
What I want to say is to myself and to everyone who is triggered right now by the outright lies and the fear that this man may wreck your future or the future of your children:
1. You are not wrong to be scared. You are not imagining things. The only normal response to this situation is to be triggered.
2. If you are triggered, I believe you; we will get through this; you are not alone; this is not the “new normal” and you are not “too sensitive”; this is danger and your gut instinct is tuned right.
3. We are being triggered on purpose. Abuse survivors know that this torrent of lies is designed not only to disorient us but also to trigger every other trauma we might have experienced in order to make us easier to control. An abuser targets those who have been through trauma in order to use that old pain against them. This, too, is a violation. I am not ok with this. I am angry about it.
4. If you need help, find a local abuse survivor’s support group. You can also call RAINN, which has a 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
5. Our country does not deserve an abuser in power. None of us deserve this.
6. Being “triggered” doesn’t mean that we are useless in the fight against him. What it means is that we need to preserve our strength, but also that people need to listen to abuse survivors to understand why it is and how it is that we are all being manipulated.
7. In situations of abuse, it’s very common to believe that we can reason our way out of the abuse by mulling over a perfect response, engaging in a new way, understanding the abuser better, etc. We know none of this works. We are weeks away from a horrible dilemma: a situation where it will be a waste of our precious energy to allow ourselves to be roped in to the abuse and lies, but at the same time we must remain vigilant and engaged. It’s a tough and exhausting dilemma. There’s no way out besides removing him from power, which will happen with a lot of people’s help.
8. Luckily and terribly, abuse survivors know how to focus in these situations, and how to get through difficult days. We have survived, and we will survive this.
We know. We have been there. We got out–or else maybe we’re in the long process of getting out. And we’ll get out again. If you need help in coping, ask an abuse survivor. She or he will tell you the thousand tricks we use, and then we will all have to recover from this together.

I belong to the culture of labor

I belong to the culture of labor.

What does that mean? Well, it’s understandable if you don’t know there is a labor culture, both in this country and around the world. This culture is not shown on sitcoms, cable networks, or in most movies–or if it is, it is portrayed as a depressing sliver: working-class people getting screwed, being poor, being depressed, using drugs, and being conservative and isolated.

That is a two-dimensional and offensive portrayal of working-class culture.

I love labor culture not because I should, but because it helps to keep me sane. I receive so many messages from mass culture that say that the only way to live is a very polished wealthy lifestyle, that everything I do is not good enough, that I work too hard, that where I come from is primitive, backward, whatever. Labor culture turns all that on its head and says: work is good. Workers are honorable, and workers can have power. The idea of workers being able to have a say in their own working conditions leads to brainstorming about what change can be possible.

I could tangent off here into economic theories about social change, Marx, etc. but I’m actually not qualified to do that. What’s great is that you can be a part of worker culture and social change without having read all the books about such things. You can read, or you can read articles about those great writers, and whether you do or not you still count as a worker and as someone who can be connected to other workers. You can read great books like this new one about organizing in your workplace. Even people who don’t currently have jobs have organized. People who work in the home and who take care of kids have organized. People who don’t have workplaces and are considered freelancers have joined together in organizations like the National Writers’ Union. Disability access includes the right to get access to the things that make work possible. There are so so so many ways to be a labor activist. Anytime you look at your own work and think about how to support yourself and others, you are doing labor activism.

There is a labor culture, a labor history, and it is glorious and inspiring. This does not mean it is not filled with losses and disappointments.

To me, being a part of the culture of labor means that I have been taught to celebrate work as honorable. I understand that being working class includes manual labor but also often labor at various changing forms of work, including at a keyboard or on a phone or with a circuitboard.

Labor history is almost never taught in schools. Wherever you are, there is a hidden history of labor beneath your feet, struggles that are suppressed or simply not told. If you google “labor history” and your town or state you can find some very cool stuff.

Here are some cool posters and images from the labor movement and labor artists. Labor has its own history of songs around the world. In many places, labor just is a part of the culture. Labor is our culture, all of us. Our cultures have been made by hand, by the hard work of people who came before us.

I was raised in a culture of labor through hard-working people, but I fell into the explicit culture of labor activism and then was educated by other activists. What I learned was that labor culture offers a way to support fellow workers–that if there are struggles going on across the globe, there are things we can do locally to support those workers right here. I learned in the culture of labor that our struggles are all connected.

To me, a culture of labor means that I don’t see working-class manners of speech, dress, movement, cooking, decorating, etc. etc. as “rough edges” to shave off. I see them as legitimate and meaningful expressions of a worldview and way of life. Labor culture includes wisdom and philosophy. Labor culture has helped me understand my family, my body, my habits, even my mind and way of seeing the world. I am a busy, capable person, and I am grateful that being raised by hard-working people has made me that way.

Labor culture includes the generations of history about struggles at work. I had to uncover my own connection to those struggles, and I am very proud that I am a great-grand-daughter of a man who organized coal miners in Germany and the grand-daughter of a man who worked to make sure that labor’s voice was included in the rebuilding of Germany after World War II. I come from socialists who believed that working culture–and the right of workers to have a voice in steering society–was fundamental. This is why my book Opa Nobody is about, everything from the revolutions and Soviet republics in Germany between World War I and World War II to my own labor activism experience.  Labor culture was what organized militias to try to oppose the rise of the Nazis. Labor culture means understanding that workers coming together have power.

Huber final cover
My grandparents are the two people at the center. My grandmother Friedchen has her arm around my grandfather Heina’s neck.

Being a part of labor culture does not mean romanticizing labor solidarity as the easy answer. It grants a way of analyzing problems to see where one’s power lies in connections to other through where we work together. Labor culture means that I can criticize an individual union’s practices, or its leadership, without making the silly assumption that the Labor Movement as a whole is a terrible thing. The labor movement is a wonderful thing.

Being part of a culture of labor means gathering with other people to see that the things I feel bad about and take personally–debt, stress at work, instability–are actually structures imposed on us that we can change, not things we need to take on as personal failings. Labor culture means thinking about the source of our anxiety problems and knowing that our stress comes from the way work and wealth and healthcare are structured.

To me, a culture of labor is a culture of hope. I have not often been an actual union member, but I have been a labor activist for the majority of my days. This means that I support other workers where I work, I try to organize at work, and I try to connect with organizations that support workers and that make labor culture visible.

Being part of a culture of labor means I see that so many of us are not free to say what we think. We are watched by our employers, and expressing our feelings on or off the clock can result in negative consequences and even job loss.

Being part of labor culture means I know that one of the traditional slogans in European and American labor work was “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will.” That means that we should work, and we should sleep, and we should have down-time to connect to each other, to make art, to recharge, to take walks and cook and chill out. Labor culture means fighting hard not to be worked to death. Labor means fighting for healthcare and childcare and pensions and all the other things that workers need to be safe, healthy, and free.

If you want to learn about the culture of labor, you can turn to your own life and think about the working people you come from and what you learned from them. You can also subscribe to Labor Notes, which is a wonderful magazine about current workers’ issues.

I am proud to be a worker, a workplace organizer. And Labor Day is May 1 around the world but it got moved here in the U.S. to disrupt ties to workers’ movements. So today I am puttering around the house thinking about my grandfather, and my great-grandfather, and thinking about all the great union organizers and activists I have known, and humming “Solidarity Forever” under my breath. And I am grateful to be part of this rich legacy.

A Memoirist’s Manifesto

These are scary times–if extreme right-wing semi-fascist rhetoric scares you. It scares me, so I’ve found myself huddling, a little depressed, a little beaten down. I’m not talking about your religion or your political orientation. I’m talking about the extremes that many of my Christian and Republican friends are appalled by.

The language of hate and exclusion creeps into society like a cancer, a fungus. When the solution to a problem is framed in terms of “Who should we get rid of?” the intolerance poisons not just relations between those in control and the targets, but among all people within the community. Trust is universally lowered. Polarizing rhetoric sets an electric charge in the air; who is the next “us” against the next “them”? Everyone gets defensive and edgier. Anyone could be the next target. The chilling effect of threatened repression is what tempts people to draw back into themselves and to seek whatever form of safety they might imagine. I’ve been feeling it.

One important solution to political repression is to tell your story: memoir, memoir, and more memoir. I believe in memoir not just as entertainment but as a solution that reveals how complicated and intertwined our lives all are.

Me, as one example: if you want to kick out the Buddhist democratic-socialist labor activists, be sure to put my name on the list. Seriously. My mama didn’t know her baby would grow up to be an activist memoirist, but she’s survived it. I’ve been in so many activist groups and coalitions that I’ve lost count of all the acronyms. Is that scary? It shouldn’t be. I didn’t plan to be this way; that’s just where I’m drawn–and all that activity is completely allowed in a democracy. Yep, I’m a patriot working hard to make this country better. And I write about it–I write memoir that often involves politics, not to preach but to explore (although I sometimes editorialize).

But I also love a lot of people who are described as hopelessly Trump-loving white rural working-class and lower-middle-class Midwestern, people who like guns and the right to bear arms. Complicated. I love the complexity, and I won’t give any of it up. My mom is an immigrant, as are my dad’s parents. My mom’s dad and grandfather were socialist anti-Nazi activists before World War II. My mom’s parents lived through the Hitler regime in Germany; the threat of fascism isn’t an academic black-and-white photo. It’s been a haunting consuming fog, mulling over this country’s foolish flirtation with extreme ideas as a stand-in for adult problem-solving.

Sometimes I have worried that so much of my political life is online and/or in my writing. I have chiefly worried that my politics would lead to discrimination and block employment opportunities. But my family’s history–and my own study of that history–has made me realize that trying to burrow into safety and anonymity might be a personal privilege, but one that is dangerous to the body politic.

In other words, the act of “memoiring” into family stories has changed my story and my relationship to my past.

If you’re feeling unmoored, I suggest that you read a memoir about this great diverse country. We are anxious about the truth because there is so little to go around; the lack of oxygen is suffocating.

It’s funny that those with little power are excoriated for speaking about their memories—so “domestic,” so “quiet,” so “self-centered” —while massive dehumanizing lies and radical acts of inattention are issued from governing bodies. I don’t think these two threads are disconnected. Some would prefer that we wake up and remember nothing. They would prefer the fantasy that we believe what we are fed.

We are told that writing our own accounts is “selfish.” This the desperate attempt to shame us into silence.

I believe that every single scrap of memory—every smell, every can of soup, every turn of flesh—is a victory against the void and the prefabricated, the false statistics and sound bites filled with hate or oversimplification and erasure.

I believe that remembering is never selfish and that individual experience opens spaces where complex and real political solutions among diverse people can be found. Memoir is not selfish, but massaging the truth and shaping it for profit and corporate gain is the ultimate act of self-centered egomania.

Crafting beauty from a rescued photo is resistance. Individual fondnesses in the face of global threats is the point.

Raising questions, making tenuous connections—these are our work and they are a route to salvage our humanity and reorient our compasses. We have to remember that in our real stories, we are all complicated, and our stories are all entwined together.


Health “Benefits” and Violence

A long looonnng long time ago in a galaxy far far faaaar away, I was elected to serve on a committee at a workplace that discussed employee compensation and benefits. I deferred for a year because I didn’t think my health could withstand it. Then I said to myself, Ok, everyone should put in their time, so I went onto the committee. I put in two years of my time, and I thought I would learn something. I also thought I could contribute something, because I have written about health benefits and had enough trouble with them that I understand some of the pulleys and levers.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.06.31 AMI knew it would be grueling. What I learned, however, was more than details. I learned that the conversations about health insurance in this country are not meant to be logical. They are often really about blatant control and submerged violence.

The first year was survivable. We negotiated some benefits changes that were difficult, but they were not draconian or arbitrary. We were reasonable, and we practiced the dance that people living in the United States are forced to do: “Yes, because of (Cruelty that Will Not Be Named), we will agree to cut into our own bottom lines for the sake of the well-being of those profiting from healthcare.”

In the second year, we tried to figure out reasonable responses to these escalating costs and to contain them; we asked for a little padding for the handcuffs. Those reasonable solutions were met with a stone wall which revealed a little bit too much of the underlying agenda: this was not even about accumulating money for the very rich and for the stockholders of the for-profit healthcare system. No, this was about power over bodies.

We bent over backwards and forwards (with all the implications intended) to propose ways these cuts might be made a little less painfully, and that was met with a rigid refusal. I do believe that some of the people who were sitting in the room did not necessarily think their orders were reasonable, but their own salaries and benefits and therefore the well-being of their very bodies depending on carrying out those orders.

I understand that healthcare costs are escalating. I am not an idiot, although the subtext of our outrage over cuts was always that shame: You are children. You do not understand the real world. They laughed at us, that bureaucratic head-shaking laugh.

There was a pretend-reasonableness to these discussions, but beneath the charts and the agendas was a violence, and that violence says: the people who are in charge—some of whom you might never actually see face to face, and some of whom loathe you because you oppose their agendas—can do what they want with your bodies.

The idea of employer-sponsored healthcare is the worst thing. The idea that employers who buy our labor and by and large set the terms for much of our waking lives also get control over how we might get access to treatment and pain relief and options for our bodies to function is tyranny.

Every week after the meetings I came away in a fog of depression and exhaustion that took the whole day to lift, and the substance of that depression was the non-reality of this imperative: You want too much. You are crazy as a group to want safety or even to want to do better than you did five years ago because 1) you are educators, and education is not a priority in this country and 2) health insurance has the nation in such an unquestionable stranglehold that it threatens every single person’s economic security except the rich and those with two stable middle-class incomes.

Our individual workplaces are not the source of healthcare madness in this country, of course. The CFOs and CEOs are enacting the cruelty of a privatized for-profit system in which insurance is necessary in order to protect a person’s body from the violence of denial of healthcare, and that violence threatens from every turn.

At one point during this extended adventure, the committee met with the board of trustees, and I contributed and played the game and was reasonable and made points. I took from that meeting a few notes and a fancy metal pen. Afterward I was in bed on and off for five days, emotionally exhausted, sore from chronic conditions that make the issue of healthcare a very serious issue, an issue I cannot turn away from for a second. You say “healthcare” and it is not abstract for me. I need it to function on a daily basis.

I am on a specific healthcare hair-trigger: in not having access to healthcare and having healthcare debt at various points in my life, I go into a rage at the inhumanity of having one’s physical and mental health used as a pawn of control. It makes my heart ache. I am also on a hair trigger regarding the general issue of men making decisions about my body, shaking their heads in condescension, laughing at me, implying that I am a foolish child, and telling me that what I see and know is not real. And then making me say how “lucky” I am to be in this situation when so many others have it worse, forcing me to acknowledge that this is the world we live in, a world where cruelty and denial of care sets the terms for how we live in our bodies.

We all live with this as if there were no other options. There are other options. When you shake your head at me and say, “Oh little girl, you don’t understand the market…” I say, “It’s amazing how many levels of condescension and control are going on here to get into my head and make me feel worthless so I don’t have the energy to fight you.”

And then I quote the Pope, who said on May 7, 2016: “Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege.” This is the true thing, no matter what layers of shame are wrapped around our bodies. We are mortal and breakable, and that should not be a sin or a shame. That is the glorious fragile human condition.

Check out more of the Pope’s stuff here: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2016/05/19/3779838/pope-francis-health-care-leeches/