This blog post dedication goes out to a very special presidential candidate…and the way he’s changed my life.

As some of you may know, I work in the health insurance industry, for a local company which shall remain nameless.  Yes, it feels paradoxical to be working in that field when I’m a supporter of a single payer system, but that’s life for ya.  Working in insurance may seem like the most boring career path ever–I’m like Kafka without the brilliant novels–but over the years, I’ve enjoyed my job and found some good friends among my co-workers.  It’s been a nice stable paycheck, and I was hoping to keep working there for years to come.

And now the company I work for is imploding.  Why?  Well, there are multiple factors, but a major one stands out.

When insurance companies agreed to join the Obamacare exchange, the government promised them payments from something called a risk corridor program.  This was meant to compensate them for the fact that they would be taking on a large number of new customers who had been uninsured for a long time, and thus would be very sick and would need costly treatment.  This turned out to be true, and costs for the industry have been even higher than expected.  If anything, this is evidence for just how broken our healthcare system was previous to the Affordable Care Act.  All these newly insured Americans are now finally receiving care for medical conditions they were often forced to neglect because they couldn’t afford to have them treated.

I certainly do not expect sympathy for insurance companies in this scenario.  However, the risk corridor payments were supposed to make the transition to Obamacare smoother and keep the health care infrastructure from falling to pieces.  Supposed to.  But only 13% of the risk corridor money which was promised has been paid out.  And it’s all because of that one very special guy.  Yep, Marco Rubio.  Marco cut most of the risk corridor money out of the budget, and he’s very proud of it.  He brags about being the only conservative who has truly succeeded in damaging Obamacare.  Because it’s so much more important to stick it to the President than to allow Americans access to health care…

So now, insurance companies across the country are going out of business, employees are facing layoffs–and the truly frustrating thing is that Obamacare is getting the blame.  I’m hearing it myself around my own workplace.  It’s easy to think that it’s Obama’s fault, if you haven’t heard all the facts.  Rubio knew what he was doing.

Okay, so saying that I’m not voting for Marco for President is a bit of an empty threat–it’s not like I was going to vote for him before.  Still, I’m definitely never voting for him now. Not for dogcatcher.  I’d gladly vote for Bernie over him.  A shoe could be running against him and I would vote for the shoe.  Call it a personal grudge.

Say it with me, everyone:  elections have consequences.  Think there’s no difference between the candidates?  Think it’s not worth your time to vote?  Nope, nope, nope.  My future, and the future of almost 2,000 other workers, hangs in the balance right now because of the actions of one man.  Vote like the quality of your life depends on it… because it does!!!

Somewhere, in the darkest of night, Jeb and Hillary are curled up in a ball, having a panic attack.  If they were not avowed political adversaries, they would be hugging each other to ease the trauma.  I want to find out where they are.  I want to find out where they are, so I can curl up in the fetal position next to them, because I’m just as anxious about the primaries.

This is not going to be a good election year for moderates like me.  I can already tell.  This is not the year of the negotiating, calculating political animal.  I thought America during the early Obama years was not a place for middle of the road compromise, but now it’s even less so.

In a way, we’ve gotten what we deserve.  I remember joking about this with my family a couple of years back.  “Oh, 2016 is going to be so boring!  Bush vs. Clinton!  Yawn!”  Well, we wished for interesting and we certainly got it, did we ever.  We didn’t want another Bush, so instead we get the complete nutjob Trump.  We didn’t want Hillary again, so instead we get a democratic socialist calling for a revolution.

Revolution.  Funny word, that.  It’s a very exciting word to shout at rallies–I can say that from experience.  But when there’s a risk of it actually happening, my resolve starts to wane.  I do realize that Bernie is promising a political revolution, not a literal one with guillotines.  But the truth is, my family and I have built a good life for ourselves here in the States, and I’d rather avoid anything that would disrupt that too much or turn our lives upside down.

So besides the fact that I’ve turned out to be a bit of a fraud as far as my political activism goes, what are my options now?  Bernie’s too much for me, but people don’t seem to like Hillary.  Is Bloomberg really going to be a candidate?  Can we still somehow force Joe Biden to run?

What will most likely happen is quite simple.  If we end up with a Bernie vs. Trump match-up, the alternative of Trump in the White House will be unthinkable for me.  So I’ll hold my nose and vote for Bernie–and hope that someday, somewhere in the course of the election zodiac cycle, the Year of the Moderate will be back.

Well, the winter season is here, and it feels like I’m snowed in at a horror movie ski cabin full of lunatics, idiots and psychopaths.  The door is blocked.  There is no way out.

Listen–it’s Trump’s Freedom Kids, singing their patriotic little hymn again.  Over here, USA!  Over there, USA!

Hillary is at the party too.  She is cackling at everyone’s jokes, wondering why nobody finds her likable.

Bernie and Trump are playing a game of I’ll do you one better.  “I’ll make America great again!”  “I’ll make America even better than America!  I’ll make it Sweden!”  “I’m gonna win!” Trump yells.  “I’m gonna win!” Bernie mumbles.

“Neither one of you is going to win!” I want to say, but there’s too much clatter just outside the living room door.  Out there, religious fanatics are beheading and shooting people, and blowing things up.  Great.  We’re going to have to bomb the kitchen and the pantry.

In the corner lurks the scariest person of them all, Ted Cruz.  “You know why all this is happening?  Because we’re weak,”  he whispers in that smooth telemarketer tone of voice.  “We need to become religious fanatics just like them, otherwise we’ll lose…”

I want to scream, I want to wake up from this nightmare, but I can’t, because this isn’t a dream.  I really am stuck, spinning around on a blue marble with these crazies, unable to get off.  When is the Mothership coming to pick me up?  When are the snows going to melt?  Please, let me out of here, preferably before my head explodes.

It happened just as I flopped down in my chair, ready to relax after a long day of work.  I had been looking forward to an hour or two of mindless social media scrolling.  My brain was in the process of shutting down already.

But then the phone rang.  I stared at the jangling beast angrily.  I never answered the phone anymore.  Who would be asking me for money now?

Going against my instincts, I picked it up.  “Hello?”

“Hey.”  It was a friend of mine.

“What’s up?”

“Why did you unfriend me?”

“What?”  What was she thinking asking me that question?  Didn’t she know that went against every rule of etiquette?

“I’m not an idiot.  I can see that you’re not on my friends list anymore.”

“It’s nothing personal!  It was a social score thing.”

“Oh, okay.  You’re right then, it wasn’t personal.”  Her tone was sarcastic.

“See, that’s the problem.  You’re way too sensitive about this stuff.  It’s only Facebook.  Jesus.”

“I don’t know.  You took it seriously enough to unfriend me.”

“Well, you keep posting political crap.  What’s the point of that anyway?  You know that arguing politics online is a waste of time.”

“Maybe…”  She hesitated.

“Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life.  It’s your own business if you don’t care about your social score, but you’re bringing everybody else’s score down, too, because they’re friends with you.  You can’t blame people if they want to back off from that.”

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to do that to you.”

“There are only a gazillion other topics you could post about…your cats, your favorite restaurants.  Things you’d love to buy.  Those kinds of posts would make your friends happy, and they’re approved by Facebook.”

“You know that I do try to post updates about my life.”

“And that’s the other problem.  You’re way too negative.  Negativity brings your score down, too.  The last couple of updates you made were whiny.”

“I got fired from my job.  I wasn’t feeling very happy.”

“Do I have to explain the basics to you?  Just make sure to add something positive to your post to balance it out.  You know, say something like I feel kinda sad today because I was fired, but I know a much better job is just around the corner!”

“But I don’t think there is a better job around the corner.”

“You don’t really have to believe it.  Just stick it in at the end.  Everyone will get what you’re trying to do.”

“Sure.”  She sounded defeated.  “I don’t understand why we have to be so obsessed with our social scores.”

“Well, maybe you don’t care about getting discounts on your expenses, but I do.  Not everyone can afford to pay full price for everything.  It helps me out when my score adds up.  If it goes up by 200 more points, I can get a bigger TV.”

“Okay.  Congrats.  I’m happy for you.  I guess I’ll keep my opinions to myself from now on.”

“Social media just isn’t the place for them.  You can tell people your opinions face to face.”

“But we never talk in person anymore.”

“Erm…”  I had no idea how to reply to that.  I squirmed in my chair, trying to come up with some pleasant but noncommittal answer.

But I didn’t need to.  There was only a disconnected beeping in my ear.  She had hung up on me–thank God.

Note:  This story is my attempt to imagine what an American version of the Sesame Credit program would look like.  Sesame Credit is a social media program which the Chinese government is in the process of implementing.  This article is a good basic breakdown of how it’s supposed to work.

I really do hope everyone is having a great holiday season, actually.  But as we get ready for 2016, another terror warning has gone out, with ISIS expected to strike again somewhere in Europe before New Year’s Eve.

We are being advised–by security experts, naturally–that it will not be safe to join any large gatherings.  But really, who knows?  It might not be safe to join any small gatherings, either.  In fact, it might be safest not to go out at all.

So don’t mind me.  I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve in the blanket fort in my bedroom.  I’ll barricade myself in and will play Donald Trump speeches on a loop, the ones in which he assures us that when he becomes President, he will ban anyone who looks different and scary.  That should solve the problem.  What’s that…what if I end up being too different and have to go?  Who said I was thinking that far ahead?

Or…that’s what I would be doing if I wanted to live in fear.  But I can’t give up celebrating my favorite holiday, even if the world is about to end.  In case Daesh cares, my friends and I are going to be at some Portland bar tomorrow night, doing decadent, impure things.  As one does on New Year’s Eve.  Have an amazing 2016, everyone!

When I was younger, I used to daydream about Prince.  I would imagine what it would be like to be at one of the legendary parties at his mansion.  These were your typical lame-ass young girl fantasies.  Prince would come trotting out in his stilettos like the sexy little satyr that he was and he would play guitar for us.  Perhaps our eyes would meet for one magical moment.

But then I grew up, and I got a newsflash courtesy of Cold Hard Reality:  I would never actually go to one of Prince’s parties.  It just wouldn’t happen, in the same way that I would never date that old school crush or become a good dancer.  It wasn’t a painful realization, as by then my life had turned out to be far more unpredictable and meaningful than any celebrity fantasy could be.

The problem is, I live in a nation which still believes it’s going to get invited to the party.  Too many of my fellow Americans suffer from the mansion party syndrome.  They genuinely believe that one day they will be friends with Donald Trump.  One day, they too will be winners.  They will find a way to get rich.  Maybe they will make some brilliant investment, or their singing talents will be discovered on Youtube.  Or maybe they will win a million dollars on a reality show.

Here’s the thing–you won’t.  Your chances of joining that club are tiny to slim.  And that’s fine.  But please, don’t vote based on the delusion that your membership in that club is possible.  Stop voting against your own best interests.  You keep thinking that the oligarchs would love to be BFFs with you.  You’re waiting on the curb with that sad little bouquet, but your prom date isn’t coming to pick you up.  Wealthy and powerful America isn’t going to make out with you in the back of the limo.  They don’t care about you.

So don’t vote for the mansion.  Vote for who you are, for your little house or apartment, if you still have it, because even that is slipping through your fingers already.  There’s no shame in being a regular working person–you’re the one building this country, not Trump.  You deserve to have a glamorous party thrown in your honor for all the blood and sweat you put in every day.  Since that will never happen, at least stand up for yourself, and when Donald or Ted ask you out to the dance, turn them down.

Fading in and out, I wait for the bird of sleep to come and take me away with it.  I twist my head on the pillow and turn the radio up slightly, a murmur in the dark.

 

Finally, the bird swoops in and I glide away on its back.  Into the fog at first, then we circle over a lush green valley.  It’s beautiful.  In this valley, the woman found her husband and baby, their bellies carved open.  I look around, is that why this place is so empty?  Yes, the kidnapped girls were never found…there’s not a trace of them….

 

Oh, no!  I say.  What can we do about this?  The bird’s eyes are big and sad.  We have to understand, it says, that we cannot bomb our way out of this situation.  So in that case…?  The bird bows its head and weeps as it says, perhaps, economic sanctions….

 

The clouds are purple and red underneath us.  Once again, we swoop in for a landing, this time on a gleaming beach.  I find a giant shell and kneel down next to it in the sand.  The sapphire waves roll in.  What a perfect day!  There’s a history of discrimination here, whispers a voice inside the shell.  What’s that?  I want to look for treasure!  Years of oppression cannot be reversed in five minutes, you know.  Whoever’s living inside that shell is ruining my dream.

 

Take me somewhere else, bird of dreams.  But it’s too late.  The bird’s wings are drooping.  It’s tired.  I tried to pull my family out of the rubble, but I wasn’t able to.  Everything was on fire their bodies were bloodied charred my eyes fly open.

 

And that is why I stopped listening to the BBC World Service at night.

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