An Open Letter to Liberals and Conservatives: Find the Middle Ground and Agree on Something!
In the great debate between compassionate liberals and Ayn Randian conservatives, and the voracious acrimony it generates, you all lose sight of the "middle ground" There are many, many things compassionate liberals and Randian conservatives can agree upon.
I am 54, on SS Disability, Medicare and sometimes (when I can afford it) Medicaid. I was born with VACTERL Association in 1957, before the advent of modern medicine. The aging process is even more brutal when you are born with Vertebral and Anal anomalies. Not to make too many excuses to Objectivist readers, but that (in a nutshell) is why I am disabled. My SS lawyer wanted to add depression into the mix to prove my disability case but I told the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) point blank that if I didn't meet the criteria due to the birth defects, I didn't want to receive benefits based on a psychiatric disability. The ALJ was very cool and put in the decision that he did not find any of the psychiatric evidence submitted to be at all persuasive, basically calling it ‘rubbish.’ That is particularly cool, because if I ever do attempt to re-enter the job market, I’d rather not explain a psychiatric disability to a prospective employer.
I live in government housing, rubbing elbows with many psychiatrically disabled benefit recipients. Being the freak of nature I am, I have another birth defect, otosclerosis, which is totally unrelated to VACTERL. Because of it I am going slowly deaf and now require hearing aids. Those things are like $1,500 apiece. Medicaid no longer covers hearing aids or their maintenance.
Back to elbow rubbing. . . I know this guy who's schizophrenic; let's call him "Mack". Okay, so every couple of years "Mack" likes to go off his psychiatric medications, ending up in trouble with the law and shuffled straight into the psych ward every time. He stopped taking the meds again recently, but this time friends and relatives intervened and got him hospitalized before he acted out. Every time Mack is hospitalized, he burns through Medicaid and Medicare dollars to the tune of $1,000 a day. I think you can see where I am going with this; every three days a psychiatric recidivist spends in hospital care equals one pair of hearing aids. I've spoken with Mack about the ethical and moral ramifications of his refusal to take his medications (while he was lucid and still on his meds) with respect to its impact on the Medicaid budget and Medicaid's ability to provide hearing aid and eyeglass services to recipients. His eyes glazed as if listening to some boring lecture from the clear-eyes guy. He yawned, burped twice, scratched his underside and leaned around me to get a line of sight on a Tide commercial. Let me just characterize his response as defiant, contumacious and galling. He displayed a psychopathic disregard or concern for anyone else on the program. He even claims he's not mentally ill, despite his willingness to accept Social Security Disability benefits for being mentally ill. I know it doesn't make any sense. But trust me when I tell you Mack is someone who could appreciate the effects of his actions if he chose to. While conservatives may oppose altogether the benefit programs I participate in and liberals may endorse these same programs, certainly you can all agree that something should be done to address psychiatric recidivism and the economic harm it inflicts on social insurance programs. It goes without saying that psychiatric recidivism is a difficult and perhaps intractable issue but what is particularly disturbing is that you jump right over this issue and argue instead over the very existence of social programs.
I also live in the projects, in a Federally funded Section 8 Project, to be specific. I have lived here for 6 years now, waiting for a portable Section 8 voucher spot to open so I can move the hell out of here. I could write a book; it’s a circus act, only without the applause. Meth addicted embezzling managers (one married to a thuggish looking felon), a wave of meth addicted tenants running wild and shouting in the halls at 3 in the morning. Some of these bug eyed, enterprising tweakers damaged common areas (which resulted in the loss of the laundry facilities for the building I live in after they wrecked the machines to to steal the spare change inside) I spent almost a month cursing humanity after the sociopathic boyfriend of one of my neighbors climbed into my apartment, and helped himself to the best of what little I own (or owned, rather.) I've seen murderous drug thugs prey upon the mentally ill by moving in with them and destroying their housing. You Objectivist judgmental Randians might be surprised to know that even the poor disdain the poor.
My apartment is now heavily infested with roaches after management allowed a woman to live in filth and squalor and raise a super colony of roaches in the apartment below mine. It's like a horror movie. Two years ago (January 2009) Joy Lynn Adams, killed Adolph Neal, an elderly disabled man who lived in the complex by stabbing him in the throat and then preventing him from using his cell phone to contact emergency services. Joy Lynn Adams looked like a fucking Klingon and scared the shit out of me. (See Deseret News: "Man Found Dead in Salt Lake Stabbing" Jan 27, 2009) I apologize to any offended Klingons out there. The manager from those days, "Holly", (last name withheld as she was not charged in connection with the case) used to hang out with this particular crowd. I see her emaciated, ghostly form floating around here from time to time, probably looking to hook up with one of our tenants. A year or two ago, a tenant named Shelly piled kitty litter directly on her carpeted front room floor. This practice went on for months. Once, when she opened the door to her apartment I ran from the building to retch on the front lawn. On another occasion, so did another resident who made the mistake of carrying groceries to her apartment for her. It was hilarious and disturbing at the same time. Eventually, the smell became so overwhelming that my friend who lived below her asked for my assistance and we both contacted animal control services. When the animal control officers arrived at my friend's door, the odor was so strong in my friend's apartment the officers initially thought that my friend had the pet and was the source of the odor. It took a little explaining to convince the two animal control officers that the source of the odor was the apartment directly above my friend's apartment. Even so, management allowed "Shelly" to continue to live like that for years, right up until the day Shelly was led away by hospice workers by the hand out to a large white van. Shelly was NEVER equipped to live independently.
There is a circle of hell Dante left out called "public housing". So, here's an idea; instead of reducing housing regulations, why not increase them, dealing with these issues head on while saving a ton of money. We could rescue future damaged housing units, destroyed blighted housing communities and the ensuing fallout from them, while saving the government and private contractors both, a ton of money.. There are plenty of public housing residents who are willing to fight for their communities, who are willing to join the fight to reduce the cost of Federal Housing by combating the blight that afflicts their apartment communities at the whim of one shitty, incompetent, drug addicted housing manager who couldn't pass a background check to land a job at Wendy's.
I live in Utah. Did I mention I live in Utah? Home of the LDS Church, famous for their Word of Wisdom, that whole thing against smoking and drinking, you know. The tenant across from me is some creepy mental ward reject who spends all day chain smoking in his apartment and never even cracks a window. Let me explain how I know he never cracks a window. Both of our apartments are at the front of the building and our windows face out the front of the building. His front room window is open about 4 inches to allow for the insertion of a board that has a two-and-a-half to three inch diameter tube protruding out from a hole in the board. This is his ventilation. In the entire six years I have lived here, I have never seen his window open once. The walls of his apartment ooze with nicotine, his blinds are bright yellow. When his door opens for any amount of time a horrid odor wafts out into the hallway and this is a constant issue. I'm a non-smoker with atelectasis and some kind of COPD they haven't quite diagnosed yet. Who knows, probably another undiscovered birth defect. (To give you an idea how weird it is, I am one of 500 people in a nation of 300 million who have Tarsal Coalition (in both ankles) and VACTERL, both of which are unrelated congenital conditions. Add in Congenital Otosclerosis and the number gets really weird. I'm lucky in a very unlucky way.) So, I figured, living in Utah and all, it would be no problem to get management, the State Legislature, the Feds, the City, someone, to get on board with me in converting the four buildings in this project, or at least three of them, into non-smoking buildings. I began this effort over a year ago. Needless to say, we're still a smoking building. So, here's an initiative that would save management and the owner money from not having to raze or detoxify the unit before renting it out again, protect the health of myself and every other non-smoking tenant in the complex, save the Medicaid and Medicare program oodles of money from not having to treat non-smoking recipients who live in public housing. And it conforms with the Word of Wisdom! And no one, not the building owner, not the management, not Senator Hatch, not Congressman Matheson, not the Mayor, not the State Senator and Legislator for my district, not even the LDS Church could help me. In fact when I called the LDS Church headquarters here in SLC, the main switchboard operator and then the operator in the LDS Public Relations office told me that they didn't get involved with political issues. I pointed out that they got involved in Proposition 8 in California and that I knew they had influence with the Utah State Legislature and that they could get involved in this issue because it was consistent with their Word of Wisdom. The Public Relations operator replied that "the Church doesn't get involved in causes". Why is it always "the Church" with these people anyways? Needless to say, I ended up talking to "Tom", a "non quotable source" who declined to repeat his last name but told me that if the LDS Church leadership decides to get involved in Proposition 8 and not smoking in public housing then that's what they decide. This was after I confronted him with the cognitive dissonance of getting involved in one "political issue", Proposition 8, but not the other, smoking in public housing. I kid you not…
Now, tell me...anyone of you tell me!!! Tell me there's no room for agreement among Randian conservatives and leftests! Want to talk fiscal responsibility, why not start at this level? Why not agree to address the things you agree upon instead of focusing where you disagree. Why don't you solve problems instead of engaging in endless acrimonious political and philosophical debate?
Tell me there's no common ground… because while you all fight about what to do with us, we're dying out here! Our hope, our health, our dignity, our community… it's all dying; constantly dying...the ashes of death are everywhere.