Lies they tell: lazy leeches and welfare queens

 

When the media tells your story, you have to be prepared for the negative responses… 

You have to be prepared for the backlash…

for the targeting…

for the trolls…

for the downright hatred.

You have to be prepared for the hurt…  

for it to get personal (really, really personal).

You have to be prepared for it to go the exact opposite way you desire it to.

But most of all, you have to be prepared to take control of the narrative and to continue to shape it and speak it.

Here was my go-to response to negative comments (as you can see the beginning in most of these screenshots). I find it very necessary to make sure that I am in control of what is being said about me. I knew today was coming, I knew the comments that would be made, I knew how my story could have been spun, so I was ready to take the time to try to have conversations about it. This is what I want everyone to know that the video didn’t speak on when it comes to my life…

“Everyone commenting will be happy to know that I do, in fact, have a job and am a contributing member to society as well as a tax payer. When I first qualified for Medicaid expansion, I was doing marketing for Chick fil A and was a freelance writer who focused on the important issues in south Louisiana like government and non-profit partnerships, education, disability rights, and religion (one of my articles was even given to the Pope himself and many of the conservative leaders, including Bill Cassidy since I wrote about his wife’s charter school, have praised my work).

Now, I own a community advocacy organization that pours every cent into community development. During the flood here in BR last summer I helped over 1,000 families get OTC medication, first aid treatment, prescriptions from an RN, food, hygiene supplies, bedding, clothing, cleaning supplies, school supplies, etc. I also supplied many of the distribution centers with the items they handed out to their communities. I also worked in the shelters, bringing awareness to policies that were not providing for those who had been displaced that were struggling in shelter environments due to autism and those who were deaf or hard of hearing who needed services like interpreters, as well as bringing awareness to issues for pet owners and the treatment of pets in the shelters.

I’ve worked closely in the community regarding police reform starting with human trafficking several years ago (with specific training regarding human trafficking now being required for every officer and Louisiana leading the country in new policies in that regard), and now currently with issues of race and the shooting of Alton Sterling and now the shooting of DeJuan Guillory. In fact, when it actually flooded in my home city, I was in NYC doing a 4 day police ride-along to understand some of the policies they have in place regarding protest and community outreach.

I keep the public aware of bills that are going up for the current legislative sessions and what that means for our citizens, families, and children. And I attend as many school board meetings, metro council meetings, legislative sessions, and community outreach meetings as possible, as well as organize for others to be involved. I also help register people to vote, make them aware of who their representatives are, and help them learn their rights as citizens.

I am in the process of raising funds to open a community outreach center focusing on emotional support, family development, and community involvement. Providing nearly free groups and services when these areas are not being addressed in our community as a whole on a regular basis. And the five year goal is to also open an alternative education center and affordable housing complex for single mothers.

Medicaid has allowed me the opportunity to do the things I do because I am not dependent on receiving healthcare benefits from an employer that pays minimum and eats up 100% of my time. I also am able to take the money I save for my healthcare and my children’s healthcare each month and put that directly back into products and services for the community.

I was raised conservative republican and understand 100% the talking points and the fears. One of the clips is from a meeting with healthcare leaders, representatives from the Dept of Health and Hospitals, and community advocates. I’ve also attended meetings with the Governor and Mayors from around the state and heard the positive that has come to our state from Medicaid expansion. How it has SAVED our state money, how it has saved LIVES, and how it has helped businesses just like mine.

So, hopefully, that sheds a little light to my story. You can view my company Compassion Louisiana LLC on FB.”

One thing that I fully wanted to get across with my healthcare message is that it truly is hardworking citizens who use these benefits, and that we need to shift our mindset as a whole to recognizing the ways that government programs can help create a stronger community. When you’re working 3 jobs and still rely on benefits like a lot of the single moms in my community, only to consistently hear the rhetoric that you are lazy, a mooch, unworthy, a welfare queen, etc. it doesn’t create a sense of hopefulness for your future. However, when you receive benefits and are being uplifted and told that you can accomplish that vision you have in your head of your ideal career, it makes you do and be better.

I included the FB comments that I did because these are not just rogue, random trolls. This is the mindset that revolves around the discussion. I included them because when you know my story, when you know my family, when you know the work I do in the community, you know that those simply do not apply in any way. Like I said in the video, this is not a religious or political ideology. This is about humanity and compassion. In a meeting I sat through earlier this week, we discussed how the ITEP (industrial tax exemption plan) has robbed Louisiana of $842.6 million in revenue since 2000 (imagine if the study had gone all the way back to 1936 when this plan began), with $28.8 million being robbed from our school system and $71 million being robbed from our public entities as a whole last year alone, it hurts that I as an individual, as a business owner, as a tax payer, and as an advocate for our community am vilified as the epitome of what is wrong with our country and why our state is in the position it is in.

My story doesn’t have the tear-jerking, heart-tugging narrative that the families who have had their children’s lives saved because of Medicaid expansion and the ACA. My story doesn’t seem as urgent as the individual who needs the ACA for treatment of a deadly disease. In fact, at one press conference regarding health care reform I sat at a table with those who had these stories, and I actually caught a woman as she collapsed from her illness in the middle of the interview. Some may wonder why I believe my story should even be told in comparison. I believe my story is important because my story speaks to healthcare for society as a whole beyond just the medical aspect. I believe my story speaks to the revolutionary power of an affordable, accessible, universal program. 

When I say that I will fight for equality in our healthcare system, I don’t simply mean for low income individuals, single parent homes, small business owners, or special needs families. I don’t mean I will fight specifically for any “label” that could apply to myself personally. I mean that I will fight for us as a nation to reform our system to benefit the citizens rather than the large corporations. I mean that I will fight for all of us. I will fight for it so that my children don’t have to. I will fight for it so that the basic needs of future generations can be taken care of and our system can move on to other issues.

We are truly standing in a moment of History where future generations will look back on us. I know where I stand. I stand on a side that I was not originally on, but have moved to as I have had to experience this first hand. It is truly disheartening that as a nation we can’t understand until something happens to us. I share my story in hopes that some may begin to understand without having to live the experience. I will continue to stand strongly, and I ask that you stand with me.

 

Disability Rights: What today’s protest teaches us

We always say we are only as strong as our weakest link, if I were to apply that to American society and disabilities “weakest” would simply mean most physically vulnerable. It would certainly not mean lacking in strength or force or influence, because if there is anything I have learned from persons with disabilities it is how to fight. In fact, they’re literally the ones who taught me how to fight. Like most, I didn’t realize the issues surrounding special needs and disabilities until it became my own reality with the diagnosis of my oldest child with autism. That was what truly spurred my activist heart into motion. And my training came from online forums where I was introduced to real life warriors.

One thing that certainly didn’t shock me by this protest was the fierceness of the protestors. Make no mistake, their bodies may seem fragile, but their spirits and voices soar. While many watching may have been caught off guard that such a physically vulnerable group would put themselves at risk, I was not. This is the way it works in activism. Those privileged enough to not have to fight frequently don’t, leaving the vulnerable exposed as they fight for their very lives. And, with a sense of pride, I cheered them on as they were dragged from their chairs and continued to shout. “SHOW THEM HOW STRONG YOU REALLY ARE!” I hope and pray that their fight did not go in vain as too many fights do.


(This certainly was not the first time there have been protests and arrests of persons with disabilities. This story is from March.)

Today, as I watched footage of protestors with disabilities being removed from Mitch McConnell’s office my heart broke. Not because I felt any more emotion for persons of disabilities than I do for other protestors, but because the way they were handled showed a complete and utter lack of respect for personhood and a complete lack, yet again, of respect for protest. A few points may have been lost and may seem like sympathy for “weaker” persons. Make no mistake this is not what this is. Just because a person has a wheelchair or an oxygen mask makes them no less able to utilize their rights of free speech and protest. This is not about sympathy, this is about the overarching treatment of all protestors.

This is about the fact that a wheelchair (or a cane or any other type of medical equipment) is an extension of a person. Remember the story of this school that tried to take away the cane of a blind student as punishment? They, essentially, removed his eyes. His cane was not just an accessory, it was how he was able to see. Equally, the officers removing persons from wheelchairs and carrying them off is akin to cutting off the legs of an able-bodied protestor so they will be easier to handle. It is unacceptable. Yes, even able-bodied protestors are carried out, and that is a dehumanizing enough act, but what did they do with these persons once they were removed into police custody and were robbed of their ability to sit or stand?


Were these protestors simply lined up on the ground with no caregivers and no ability to move themselves? Were their vitals monitored? Did they receive proper services like interpreters for the deaf or hard of hearing? Were they immediately given access to lawyers (knowing many may have had mental disabilities) or were they questioned and left to legally hang themselves? We know that the most vulnerable among us is rarely cared for properly, we know that even able-bodied protestors are frequently treated worst of all (being locked in dog cages, being denied feminine hygiene products, etc.) so none of these questions fall beyond the scope of reason. Were they handled properly by the police?

But the most disturbing thing of all was that they were treated in such a way over speaking out about healthcare. How is it that when they were there to have their voices heard over being treated fairly in regards to their health, to remain protected and safe, that they were removed in such a manner? Is there something so threatening about a group of people in a hallway holding signs and chanting? This was an order that the Senate Majority Leader made in response to his constituents. Is there a way for us to really have our voices heard or will we consistently be dragged (literally) for trying? It truly makes no sense that those obviously in need of healthcare and most impacted would be shut down by those making the decision.


I mean, call me an idealist, but wouldn’t they be invited in to the table of those supposedly representing them?

But so far we haven’t been able to address education (in Louisiana, Cassidy specifically ignored letters, petitions, phone calls, and those gathering in his office) and people were even villainized for using their voices at townhalls after being ignored for so long. So far, gatherings about the Bayou Bridge pipeline (including our crawfishing industry, homeowners, scientists, and flood victims) have been ignored in all decisions regarding the project. And we all know that there has yet to be a true space devoted to the community speaking out about Alton Sterling or desires for police reform. When do we say enough is enough and community participation MUST be protected? Are we going to let them arrest everyone?

It’s easy to look at a group of protestors with disabilities and feel a lot of shock and sympathy and rage and fear over their treatment. But let’s not forget that this is how protestors (and citizens simply using their rights to assembly and free speech) are treated in America. This is how Native Americans are treated when their lands are targeted for unwanted pipelines. This is how African Americans are treated when they stand up for justice for the dead men and women in their community. This is how the LGBTQ community is treated when they stand up and speak for marriage and bathroom rights. This is how the Muslim community is treated when they want to travel. It is always the vulnerable among us treated in such a way.