Sixteen years ago, I was able to vote, but I was apolitical and apathetic then. I wanted merely to play my guitar and to make electronic music.
When the 2000 election became a bizarre affair I joked about it; I said we should just flip a coin on National TV.
When I watched the second plane hit a tower of the World Trade Center I was not laughing. I saw these events with my own eyes via the television screen, and I did not forget that the historic debacle of the election in 2000 preceded these events, that perhaps these events were not inevitable, that there was a failure to prevent them.
In 2000 and 2001, I learned that Voting Matters.
I have known of Bernie Sanders since he was railing against Operation Desert Storm, (what we now call the First Gulf War) as a Congressman.
A lone man shouted to empty and nearly empty rooms, and I noticed that he had [I-VT] by his name. I asked my Grandpa what I-VT meant as he watched C-Span and he said, "Oh, that's that damn fool Bernie Sanders. He's an Independent from Vermont."
I had never seen anyone with anything but an R or a D next to their name before their state, and I knew that R was for Republican like my parents and grandparents, and D was for Democrat.
I decided, although I didn't understand at all what it meant, that I too would become an Independent, so I could have an I by my name. And I began to follow what Bernie Sanders did in Congress and later Senate, because as best I could tell he was the only member of my "Party" actually holding office and doing anything. In part, this was the reason that I argued for Ralph Nader in 2000, but also saw through the marginalization of his campaign the difficulties in standing apart.
I maintained my neutrality, even as I supported Barack Obama in 2008, I did not change my affiliation to ensure his nomination to the Democratic party.
Yesterday, I changed my affiliation, and in a few hours, I will be participating in the Democratic Caucus in Lawrence, Kansas. I did not do this because I have been following Sanders' activity since I was a child, nor because I have followed his campaign since he announced it, nor because I have had the opportunity to see him speak twice in person now.
If you are undecided, or you are considering candidates, I want to take this time to explain why I support Bernie Sanders, because his platform and my personal platform are the same in these key regards:
1. HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT
I grew up with good health insurance, provided to me by my father's hard work as a Civilian Contractor at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I did not understand how great those benefits were, even though I and my brother had bouts of pneumonia and asthma that hospitalized us over and over.
My opinion on this changed through arguing online in the late 90's and early 00's with Canadians, British, Australian, and European people. They all told me one thing: Healthcare Is A Human Right as though it was a fact, ludicrous to think otherwise, just as I thought it ludicrous they don't have the Right to Bear Arms.
Through their arguments and my desire to prove them wrong, I discovered they were right. I can affirm that Healthcare Is A Human Right. As a founding member of the United Nations we should recognize Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it says
Article 25(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.While we do not have our right to healthcare enshrined within our Constitution through the Bill of Rights, we do have the following:
We hold these Truths to be Self-Evident, that all Men are created Equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.It is impossible to have Life, one's Liberty, or to pursue Happiness without good health. Because we have tied our healthcare to debt, and because we have neglected this as other nations pushed for Healthcare for every one of their citizens, the current state of healthcare is a threat to our Self-Evident unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
I have not attended college, owned a credit card, bought a car on loan, taken out a mortgage on a house, or applied for a business loan because it would have required me to create debt. In part, I attribute this fear of debt to seeing my parents struggle with debt, who declared bankruptcy in the 1980's--because of medical debt for my half-brother's psychological treatment.
Yet, despite my best efforts to live simply, I have debt, and 100% of my debt is from medical bills.
As I was preparing to finally take the plunge and apply for a business loan in the mid-2000's to promote my art and my music, I got a staph infection which turned out to be resistant to the penicillin I was prescribed by a cut-rate medical care office. I had an allergic reaction to the second round of penicillin I was prescribed by those same people, and had to go to the Emergency Room.
This cost $5000, and in a few more months, I was laid off from my job repairing computers. I was unable to apply for the business loan.
Once while walking down Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas I was assaulted by a man on drugs, and my Emergency Room visit cost $1200.
Last year in June, I had an unusual medical emergency, and that Emergency Room visit--even with insurance paying the lion's share--stands at $2000.
For me to have lived in fear of debt and economically disadvantaged for my aversion, but still to incur debt despite every effort to avoid debt has negated my independence and infringed upon my rights to Life, my Liberty, and my Pursuit of Happiness.
I am not the only one. There are millions of Americans with far worse stories than mine, millions who like my parents had to declare bankruptcy to manage the mountain of debt accrued by the act of living and becoming ill as an inevitable matter of course.
This must change. Healthcare is a human right, and it must be recognized as such by the United States.
Along among the candidates vying to become President, only Bernie Sanders has repeatedly declared this truth: Healthcare is a human right.
2. LEGALIZATION AND DECRIMINALIZATION OF MARIJUANA/CANNABIS/HEMP
This is a personal mission for me, which is why I have placed it second, although it falls under lower priorities for my Nation. This has been my singular political goal since High School, when I was assigned a project to tell the class how and why marijuana is illegal, before I had even seen it in person.
In my research I discovered a great historical collusion between racists, religious thinkers, industries, media, and law enforcement to criminalize marijuana, also known as cannabis, which is the same plant as hemp. I will not belabor these historical points because I have time to discuss this at length and will repeatedly speak on it for my lifetime. I argued in that assignment before the class that we should immediately decriminalize cannabis and hemp, to regulate and profit from their production. I saw the great benefit that legalizing cannabis would have upon my great State of Kansas, where I found we grew tremendous amounts of hemp to benefit the war effort during World War II, and where hemp was a 6 billion dollar industry in 1997.
When I was a child (and admittedly still to this day), I wanted to become a Police Officer, to Serve and Protect. When I discovered while in High School that this conflicted with enforcing unfair laws, I pursued music instead.
In my lifetime--in part related to my line of work in the arts--I have seen the effects of drug use and drug abuse. My first exposure to hard illegal drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin were through the same people that sold cheap, poorly grown, poorly harvested, poorly transported low quality marijuana. When the risk factor is the same for any of the above drugs, a smart person diversifies, because the risk remains the same, and the profit margins for marijuana are negligible. Obviously, they did not check ID, as they did whenever I started buying tobacco as an 18 year old.
I have been detained, searched, and had my property searched by Police at gunpoint at least ten different times under suspicion of possession of marijuana. There have been so many of these events that I am unable to count them all. I have been arrested twice and placed in jail, and of those, I was charged once for possession of marijuana, although my charges were dropped.
The earlier of those arrests lead to the loss of my high paying job with benefits through failure to pass a security clearance, through having to admit that I had been arrested on July 4th, 2002, three days before my security interview, although I was never charged with a crime. It was the first time I'd ever been inside a jail cell.
Many of my friends and acquaintances have lost their ability to vote, their jobs, scholarships, Federal loans and Pell Grants for school, their access to benefits, their houses, even the custody of their children, suffered impoverishment, and lost years of their life because of the criminalization of marijuana. As I write this, I know that across this country there are millions of people who are incarcerated and who are on probation for nonviolent offenses for a plant that is less dangerous to handle and process than alcohol or tobacco. Likewise, I know that most within Law Enforcement and our Judicial system have long recognized that the prohibition of marijuana adversely affects their ability to ensure the Public Peace and Justice.
We must decriminalise Cannabis/Marijuana/Hemp.
We must ensure that everyone charged with nonviolent marijuana related offenses are released from jails and prisons and returned to civilian life. We must absolve the historical criminal records of those charged and those convicted of nonviolent marijuana and not let those records affect their employment, their voting rights, their access to Federal social programs now or in the future. We must create a system of regulation for the safe production and commerce of cannabis and hemp, for recreational, medicinal, and industrial purposes, with appropriate taxation and proscriptions against large monopolies, even allowing for individuals to grow their own plants strictly for personal, non-commercial use.
Only one candidate has spoken directly about the need for reform and decriminalization of marijuana, as well as the great cost to law enforcement and our civilian population: Bernie Sanders, and so I must stand with Bernie Sanders.
3. NATIONAL SECURITY
Although I have not served in the Armed Services, I did have a desire to, although like my want to become a Police Officer, I altered my course. My grandfathers on both sides of my family and my father served in the US Armed Services and were honorably discharged.
I saw the consideration and rapid move to go to war in Afghanistan and in Iraq under George W. Bush. I saw what those invasions caused, which was massive amounts of death and destruction at great cost. I saw the coffins that came back and the new graves at Ft. Leavenworth's cemeteries. I met and I talked with veterans who told me things that bother me to this day, and those testimonies are nothing to the witnessing of them.
I saw that Bernie Sanders stood against the Iraq War as he had stood against the Patriot Act. Almost alone among my friends, I too argued against these things, and was saddened to see that those who so admired the Beats and the Hippies all collectively shrugged in response to these dangerous policies.
Over the last sixteen years, only a fraction of what has occurred under the George W. Bush Administration has come to light, but of that fraction we see that there was a rush to go to war and to neglect our Civil Rights, a neglect of the effects of those wars and the erosion of Civil Rights, a failure to plan for neither success or failure, a great and growing distrust of the US Government by other nations and indeed as we can clearly see by US citizens.
For half of those sixteen years I have seen President Obama either unwilling or unable to alter the course of the W. Bush Administration, because of the threat of National Security, Constitutional restrictions of power, and the obstinance of politicians who maintain these policies were not the failures that they are.
Meanwhile both Obama's detractors and supporters have come into the understanding that since 2000 mass surveillance of our Nation--and indeed the entire world--is a policy we pursue to date, that the US committed acts of torture, that foreign citizens are infinitely detained without being charged with a crime, that the US kills foreign citizens with missile bearing drones in the sky in sovereign nations, that Due Process under either US or Military Law has been subverted, that US troops remain stationed throughout the world, that our Defense budget remains our largest expenditure, and that the world is more unstable today than it was in 2000.
The detractors of Bernie Sanders attempt to point to his status as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, his supposed lack of foreign policy experience, and dismiss his rejection of the Patriot Act and the Iraq Invasion. These same people appear to tend towards believing that spitting out a series of the names of countries, knowing the names of a few of their leaders, and promising to have a strong Defense and Support The Troops is sufficient to pass for Foreign Policy.
It is within the following that I must argue for Bernie Sanders as the best choice we have for Commander In Chief.
One, he recognizes that axiom that those who will give up a little Liberty for a little Security deserve and will receive neither.
We cannot surrender our Rights as Citizens, nor can we cease to recognize Inherent human rights that those who are not US Citizens under the fear that bad things will happen, in the hopes of gaining something. We have gained no more security since 2001, but we have suffered great erosions and violations of Civil and Human rights. Bernie Sanders recognizes this and has spoken against it.
Two, his work in Veteran's Affairs speaks to his knowledge of the full cost of war, beyond the rhetoric of "spreading democracy" or "regime change" or "winning hearts and minds". The cost of war is not fully contained in the present and future tax dollars borrowed and spent, nor the lucrative contracts to private companies provide services and goods to the US Armed Forces, nor the employment of technology to further the battlefield out to the civilian Internet, nor the careful management of media to prevent bloody pictures and video to be widely published, nor the pomp and circumstance afforded to the dead and the survivors of war in funerals and award ceremonies.
The cost of war is within the pricelessness of deaf, the blind, the lame, the scarred, the psychologically and emotionally shattered Veterans--and not just them but their families, spouses, parents, and children who must forever after be affected by the decision to put them in harm's way. The cost is much greater than dollars and cents. Senator Bernie Sanders knows those people by sight and presence, serving in the Senate Committee For Veteran's Affairs. In standing against the Iraq War, unlike those who did support that military action, Senator Sanders stepped forward to the commitment to ensure those casualties of that decision were not left behind.
That knowledge will temper any threat or provocation to send men and women into harm's way, and I know that a President Sanders would work to afford those Veterans of the US Armed Services are adequately paid for and taken care of into the future, not neglected, not paid lip service.
Three, I want a civilian Commander In Chief who has situational awareness.
Bernie Sanders clearly has situational awareness, as you can see clearly in this brief video where he reacts to a person fainting.
And again, in this separate incident, Sanders again shows awareness and direct concern:
As opposed to these men, who showed little to no situational awareness:
Here is the reaction from one of the other people vying for the title of Commander In Chief to a medical emergency in a large crowd:
As compared to Senator Sanders' reaction to a medical emergency in a large crowd:
Sander's concern for Veteran's and the Armed Services, his opposition to the Patriot Act, his ability to discern intelligence and to unapologetically make the right decision on the invasion of Iraq, and his situational awareness clearly make him the Candidate I have no fear of being Commander In Chief.
4. WEALTH INEQUALITY
Those who hoard little pieces of paper in great piles are considered mad and dysfunctional; those who hoard money in great piles are considered astute and contributing members to society.
I advise watching the following short, concise video to get a sense of the wealth inequality problem:
For a sense of the scale of Money, I recommend Randall Munroe's brilliantly researched and executed graphic "Money" despite its four year vintage: https://xkcd.com/980/
Although I do not endorse Represent.us their video Corruption is Legal in America shows the results of wealth inequality upon our Government.
If you have the time for it, I recommend a review of the documentary Rich Kids, viewable here:
Or perhaps scroll through http://richkidsofinstagram.tumblr.com/ for an idea of the difference in wealth inequality.
Bernie Sanders is exceedingly aware of this aspect of US politics, economy, and Government, and has made it a primary plank of his platform.
For this reason, I merely advise these simple videos as an introduction to the scope and scale of inequality, and then ask you if you can relate to this brief video from the opposite side of the scope:
It is for these primary reasons that I endorse Bernie Sanders for President, although I could list many, many more. I have run out of time, and I must now depart to personally participate in the Kansas Democratic Party Caucus for the first time.
(((( [-_-] )))))
Bernie Sanders website is berniesanders.com
His Platform is detailed at berniesanders.com/issues
His YouTube channel for his Campaign is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH1dpzjCEiGAt8CXkryhkZg
His YouTube channel as Senator is https://www.youtube.com/user/SenatorSanders