Sunday, December 20, 2015

'Privilege' and What I Want the Government to Do

I'm a white, Christian male living in America. According to many on the left I have been the beneficiary of special privileges and whatever I have accomplished in my life is primarily a result of that privilege. They also hold that if you're not a white, Christian male, you have lacked privilege and whatever troubles may have befallen you were caused by that deficit and you're blameless.

Let's examine my life and that of my family. 

Me in the 5th Grade.

My mother grew up in poverty along with six other siblings. My grandmother married more than once and never had a college education. My mom and siblings had friends who didn't even have electricity, and my mom and siblings often went hungry. 

She married my brother's father at a young age but they ended up divorcing. She remarried the man who became my father and he deserted us when I was two years old. Like her mother, my mother didn't have a college education. I grew up poor, there were times when a full three meals a day was in question, there were times when the ability to pay electric, phone, and mortgage payments were also in doubt.

We moved around several times and I changed schools several times too. Some of this was due to the moves but others were due to bullying. In the end it was decided that I be home schooled, but my mother had to work too. I largely taught myself. I wanted to go to college early but the only way I could was to technically drop out and get my GED - which I did. I've been able to study architecture, theology, and pharmacology - all while working and never earning more than $8/hr. I've worked temp jobs, I worked at Walmart for a while, two fast food restaurants, two gas stations, and one job I could only work at during the summers and made less than $6/hr. 

I was finally able to become a contract employee at the local Veterans Admin. hospital as a pharmacy technician. Earning $13.85/hr, it was the best paying job I had ever had. In less than a year, however, it became clear something was wrong. My back and shoulders starting hurting, I passed out several times at work, my stomach would end up in agony, I lost 30 pounds and still haven't recovered my original weight. After a few years of tests and a blur of different doctors I was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease, IBS, and an unspecified autonomic neuropathy. On top of that, I have migraines which have actually caused lesions in my brain, and both of my rotator cuffs are damaged. The medications I was originally placed on resulted in me now facing roughly $10,000 in needed dental work.

Some might say my "privilege" ran out and that I could be forgiven for having emotional, or drug, or criminal problems. But that's the thing...

Despite my disadvantaged childhood and disadvantages today: I have never been arrested, I have never been addicted to drugs, I am not in debt, while I was healthy I was able to hold down steady jobs for years (even if they pay wasn't great), I was able to get some level of education, I have been in a stable relationship for nearly 9 years, and while I have struggled with severe depression and anxiety, I have been able to rise above that and turn my various hobbies and interests into something meaningful. I've been blessed to have worked on and volunteered with nine political campaigns, I've been able to use the Internet to reach millions of eyes with my blogs, websites, and contributions to other websites, and I'm slowly working on a few books.

How is this possible? 

It's possible because despite whatever issues there were growing up, my mother never left me. She worked her ass off to provide the best she could. She did without so that I might have a little more. She always encouraged me emotionally, even if she wasn't sure how to help me rise higher educationally or in other ways. She made sure I went to my church youth group so that I could have some level of a social life, even if I never had many real friends. And when I told her I was gay at the age of 16, even though we fought some and yelled some, at the end she said "you're my son and I will always love you."

She had disadvantages too, but she also made bad choices. She knew this and used herself as an example so that I and my brother might do better. Despite everything, she has never stopped trying to better herself and even went to college when she was 50. Like most people, she went through a period of letting her emotions and fleeting desires govern her life. But she stopped that and is now in the most secure and happy time of her life, despite not earning $1 million a month.

I too have had disadvantages and made bad choices from time-to-time, but I know that it is through MY efforts, and MY desire to become better, with the help of God, that I will succeed. I may never become a millionaire, I might not be the sexiest man, or the most educated, but even if I have to accept the situation I'm in now, I know that there is no limit to wealth - and that wealth doesn't just mean vast sums of cash. I know that if I keep working and keep making good choices as best I can, that I will die in a better state than that to which I was born. None of us have a choice in the situation we're born in, but we all have say in the world in which we die.

I know many who were in similar circumstance to my own and some who were in far better ones. Some of them have done well, others have all but destroyed their lives. Yes, circumstances can have an effect, but none of us are immune from the consequences of our actions. It is not Walmart's fault that you stay an employee for decades. It is not Bill Gate's fault that you decided to drop out of high school. I can only imagine the struggles and choices others are faced with, but I've seen so many rise above unprivileged circumstances and unforeseen problems. You are not a statistic, you are a unique and capable individual who must take charge of your life. You have to be the one to love your children and sacrifice your life for them, even if your parents didn't do that for you, so that they can rise above the station they were born into. However, while things may be incredibly difficult, you can still find enjoyment in life, fulfillment, an education, and so much more. 

Things may not be equal for you, but income mobility is a saving grace. According the the US Treasury, 80% of taxpayers had income quintiles as high or higher in 2005 than in 1996. Indeed, those born in the higher quintiles are actually twice as likely to do worse than those born in the lowest. In 2014 there were 500,000 new millionaires in the US and there are twice the number of American millionaires today than in 1996! There are certainly problems, but those at fault aren't what we've been led to believe. 

Looking upon my life, this is what I want the government (federal and local) to do to make things better for us all. (This is in no particular order)

1. I want the government to enable people to use their own talents and rise above based on their own efforts by getting the heck out of the way.

2. I want the government to stop piling on regulations so that starting a small business becomes a nightmare many would rather avoid.

3. I want the government to stop shutting down the lemonade stands of 6 year old kids, thus discouraging them from trying to stand on their own.

4. I want the government to stop creating safety nets that trap people into the cycle of poverty and instead, reform them to allow families and individuals leave poverty behind without punishing them for getting a job.

5. I want the government to stop placing entire generations of people - particularly minorities- in jail over non-violent drug offenses while all but ignoring mental health and rehabilitation programs.

6. I want the government to stop treating people differently because they're poor, and instead treat them like equal citizens and valuable human beings.

7. I want the government to put an end to predatory and flat out immoral court fee & probation programs that destroy lives; programs that ensure that those who need help end up in prison, lose their families, and that crush their chances of getting a job in the future.

8. I want the government to stop wasting countless billions of dollars and thousands of lives on illegal, endless wars.

9. I want the government stop profiting off college students and creating the tuition problem to begin with.

10. I want the government to end their dangerous and corruptible practices of crony capitalism - the thing that directly led to the 2008 meltdown, to soaring healthcare and education costs, and to banks practically being immune from justice.

11. I want the government to get out of the way of the market system which will then ensure tuition rates decline, medical costs decline, food and energy prices decline, and would result in the innovations of millions of citizens reaching the marketplace and making all of our lives better.

12. I want the government to stop destroying our monetary system via the Federal Reserve and our $18 trillion in debt.

13. I want the government to stop creating an environment of fear by spying on us all, by killing unarmed men and women, by using the threat of force to steal homes, and by confiscating money and property without due process.

14. I want the government to stop ignoring or dancing around the Constitution. If something needs to be changed or if the government wants more power, it should be done the ONLY legal way - by amendments. Otherwise the rule of law means nothing and the people become nothing but chattel.

Finally, I want the government to recognize and remember that it's the individual that makes the community. That without the individual (and his/her contributions & innovations) there is no family, no community, and no nation. That we are all capable of succeeding in our lives, and that by suggesting that we can't without the help of government, you are causing the very problems of inequality and racism we face today. In short, I want the government to give us all the privilege of succeeding by own our hands, and the privilege of knowing that we are all capable of it.

--Jacob Bogle 12/20/15

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