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An Open Letter to Senator Barbara Boxer

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Boxer speaks at an event.

Boxer speaks at an event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have just sent the following email to Senator Barbara Boxer:

Dear Senator Boxer:

I recently listened, via podcast, to your speech at the Commonwealth Club. I agree with and am grateful for your point of view on what’s happening in our country, and your policy ideas for repairing some of it, like raising the minimum wage for everyone and addressing climate change on a tangible level. However, I’m sorry to say that some of your perspective is myopic and limited.

When you say those who “play by the rules” ought to reap the rewards of the “American Dream” you…discount me and every other artist in this country. I am a writer, and I’m speaking as well for painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, and everyone else who commits themselves to bring truth and beauty into the world. We are consistently told we do not “play by the rules” because we don’t buckle down and go to work for some corporation or other. Similarly, when you say those who “work hard,” you omit the disabled population who cannot “work hard” at most of the jobs available in our culture. When you say government must step in when “the middle class is in trouble” you omit the poorest of the poor.

In fact, Senator, by your choice of language you are dismissing everybody whose personality or disposition doesn’t fit into the capitalist mold. Some of us just can’t make it in the usual 9-5 routine—and we pay for it, believe me, we pay for it.

I am the mother of a disabled son who is now nearly 50. Between raising him myself (and a daughter) through brain surgeries and seizures, while still trying to write (not to mention being one of, as Erica Jong calls us, the “whiplash generation” of women who had the game switched on us midway), I have had a checkered work history that’s left me with a paltry amount of Social Security and nothing else to support me now that I’m 68 and getting older every day. My son is poor, I am poor, and I’m told it is my fault for not playing by the rules. You should know, however, that I have worked extremely hard in my life by necessity, and it continues. Compared to my still-married friends who’ve retired to Florida or Costa Rica, my life in East Oakland is deprived. I am not complaining: I’m glad I didn’t spend my entire life in some office (as it is I had to spend too much time in them). But I do want you to know that I and millions of us who don’t fit the American Dream mold deserve a decent life just as much as the middle class corporate workers, who I readily admit have also struggled without reward or justice because of what’s become of this country.

Despite my criticism of your language and what it might reflect, I still thank you for holding down the liberal fort in Congress.

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6 responses »

  1. Lorraine Freeman

    Love love love this letter. I’ve always said capitalism is a form of sociopathy and if you refuse to participate in sociopathy, you are pretty much economically screwed.

  2. Oh, Lorraine, that is terrific! Thanks for your great comment.

  3. Lorraine Freeman

    AND…the hardest workers of all, mothers and caregivers, receive *no* pay and in fact often are targets of contempt…because they don’t Make Money. The good they do in this world means *nothing* to the money-obsessed.

  4. See? I knew we were sisters at heart. I can’t imagine the struggle with a disabled son not only to support physically and financially, but your own mother feelings to support emotionally. I have a wonderful friend and many former colleagues (can I call them ‘comrades’ as we were all anti-capitalist?) in Oakland and as time goes by must introduce you to them.
    Meanwhile…I’d lead with the last paragraph, as an editorial strategy. It’s the women & mothers and disabled that are the real sufferers, although mothering and womening do have their own rewards like those for artists.
    I too support my son: he’s not physically disabled, but through emotional/psychological illness has ended up in prison. Long-term. I am, however, one of those very fortunate feminist single-mom artists who managed a career, and I am honored to share a gift now and then. Count on me if something really urgent comes up. (And no, I’m not a soft touch asking to be taken advantage of: I just know sisters when I see them.) (J)

  5. Well done Marcy. That deserves to be published more widely Nancy Sent from my iPad

    Thanks Nancy!

  6. Sister Juanita: This fountain of enthusiastic support means a lot to me.
    I’m sad and sorry to hear about your son; no wonder my recent posts resonate for you. That’s a hard one.

    A correction: I don’t support my son financially. Fortunately, SSI is one of the few safety nets that’s still functioning in the U.S.

    Thank you from the bottom of my boots, girl. You rock!

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