This morning I find myself reflecting on the person that I used to be and how I became a completely new person, not just different. As a young man through my 30s, somebody observing me would consider me nominally a political centrist who leaned conservative on some issues. I grew up in capitalist household that strongly believed that the system in place was the best system for innovation and preventing stagnation. I used to believe that capitalism made everything superior from technology to healthcare and I refused to consider anything socialist. Growing up I believed that the poor were genetically inferior and inherrently flawed; that all they did was seek instant gratification instead of work and save. I believed that as an American, we go to war to defend other countries and that a state involved in conflict is a state who’s technology advances.
To think how I used to drink the bug juice beverage that was fed to me by my father, the news media, and other baby boomers makes me nauseous today. It took me becoming 100% disabled to finally correct my sorely misguided beliefs that were in no way grounded in reality. When I first became disabled, I fought tooth and nail asking the state for assistance with SNAP and refused to even consider applying for disability. After all, I reasoned that I was not one of those people. My attitude began to change when I was released from the hospital and placed into a partial, day hospital program in 2015.
I remember the summer of 2015 where I was sitting in a room with chairs facing in a circle and hearing other people sharing their problems with mental illness. At first, I was thinking that I heard a whole lot of very weak, flawed people and I was determined to pick myself up by my own bootstraps and fix myself. Gradually, after listening to the others sharing, I heard people more educated and classically successful than myself who met with sudden life-changing circumstances. One of the people sharing was a former university professor with a Ph.D. and another was a former senior manager at a finance firm. I finally began to question what I was told about rugged individualism.
At last, when I finally felt like sharing, I told the group where I was at and that I was thinking about applying for disability but do not want to ask the federal government for help. The two group members explained how it is an entitlement that I am entitled to and that I paid into it for all of my working life. They reassured me that I would not be somebody simply living on the dole. Basically, these two very educated and experienced human beings helped to understand that a society without a safety net is actually a very poor one. I learned about Bernie Sanders from the university professor.
Never being one to eschew an education, I decided to do an internet search on the good senator from Vermont. Upon doing so, I saw so many people from all different walks of life and education backgrounds discussing Bernie’s plans. It dawned on me that everything I had been taught about the “fairness” of capitalism was really all a carefully constructed story to perpetuate the status of the wealthy. I read some very well-reasoned, and well argued statements about the way American society operates that I began to change. At the same time I was changing, I realized what an perfectly miserably, unhappy person I was and that I scapegoated my problems on others. Bernie set me on the path from ardent capitalist to socialist.
With the reassurance of the university professor and the senior finance manager, I applied for disability based on my recent hospitalizations and problems with Bipolar Depression. I sought out the assistance of an attorney and won my case on the first round. I am presently poor and still disabled with severe depression but I am not the miserable person I used to be. I really see how ideas like Medicare For All and Housing For All could be very good programs and good policies. I see how society needs a safety net and when so many are homeless or can barely feed themselves all of society is ultimately effected.
Finally I realized I was wrong about the poor when I had a teaching moment from somebody who is poor and lived in the inner city. I asked him why it was that I saw a lot of poor people driving high end cars. I thought that was a really stupid move but kept that opinion to myself. He said, “It’s easy as hell to qualify for a loan for a BMW or Mercedes. I cannot get money for a damn house. But I can have a nice car.” Wow that was really eye opening to me. Now that I am poor and my credit has enough holes in it to rival swiss cheese, I fully understand the desperation some feel to have something that provides some level of comfort and satisfaction. In other words I am becoming human.
The socialist community has really opened my eyes to the fundamental unfairness and inequality of life in America and I am grateful for how the community awakened me. I shudder at the person that I used to be. Despite the fact that I am on a prolonged road to recovery (and that it okay because for some, recovery takes many years), I like who I am much better now. I like being empathetic, kind, and compassionate. The community of which I am a member of now is kind, caring, and generous to me. The members helped me afford a medicine that I needed and I will never forget the outpouring of generosity. I am not much of a religious man but when the bible says, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”, I believe this to mean the poor are the bonafide good people.