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I have a deep and abiding loathing for conservatives. It's personal, it's visceral, and it's permanent. Some people can't understand why I won't even engage with them, and why I leave that burdensome task to other more hearty liberals. The answer all begins with a trauma in 1981. Now, the sequester, the cuts to food stamps, and the cruel war on the poor is triggering a lot of symptoms of post-trauma. But, how do you tell a therapist that you need to start therapy because conservatives are again traumatizing people?

Many people have had an overwhelming trauma. If you haven't, you may not relate to the years of aftershocks that come with trying to recuperate from one. If you have been through an extraordinary life event or several, you may relate to the hardship of witnessing the circumstances that created the trauma repeating... and still rampantly harming people.

This year represents the 32th anniversary of my family being torn apart by a combination of unemployment, poverty, and most importantly, the conservative cutting of the social safety net. Nothing was ever the same after my parents were laid off in late 1979. They went through their savings. Still, the economy in Iowa and the Midwest farm crisis was unrelenting. We had more than one Christmas where the presents were wrapped-up cans of food, and the stockings were stuffed with apples.

They did odd jobs. They approached more than one church asking for a loan to get through until the economy picked up and new jobs could be acquired. They were turned away, even from the Lutheran church for which my mother had done a two-year mission to New Guinea when she was 22. Our family could no longer afford the rent on our tiny apartment, so we desperately moved to my grandpa's abandoned farmhouse. We planted three huge gardens and tried to live off the land. Still there were things that required money, so the family charged up a Conoco gas card for supplies we could glean from a convenience mart.

Since my parents were conservative Christians, they eschewed help from the government. But eventually with all other options exhausted, my mom and dad signed up for a welfare program for two-parent families called AFDC-UP (Aid to Dependent Children-Unemployed Parents) It was our last hope. Nearly as quickly as our family started the program, conservatives led by Ronald Reagan had it cut so that they could give tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people. That last hope for the family was cut off, and by December 18, 1981, the State would find our family living in the farmhouse with a temperature of 32F in the house, scarce food, and conditions deemed insufficient to raise children.

Just before Christmas 1981, two of my brothers and I went to one foster home, and my youngest brother and sister went to another foster home. The money that was paid to the two foster families was 6x greater than the amount paid by the welfare program that could have kept our family together. They paid $1250 a month each to the two families for the foster care, whereas the welfare check to my parents had been $400 a month.
Eventually, my parents were able to regain custody after an extensive legal battle, but not before everyone involved was deeply traumatized. They went to the media with their story, and the Des Moines Register published an article in 1982 about a "Jobless Pair Fear Children Will Be Snatched Again." They had actually taken us on a parent visit and then refused to give us back. Losing their children led my parents to rapidly decompensate into paranoid, mentally unwell people.

My parents soon divorced and the family was broken and poverty-stricken from that time on. My mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and collected AFDC for the next 17 years along with her SSI check. She was constantly suicidal, and as the oldest child, I was left to run the household as best I could. My father had been honorably discharged from the Air Force during the Vietnam War (in which he enlisted) with schizoaffective disorder. He had managed to work and function with the disorder for years prior to the 1980s recession, but the foster care incident took away what was left of his sanity. His future was filled with minimum wage jobs as a janitor or 10 years as a stockman at Wal-Mart. My brother would eventually commit suicide after years of depression and continuous reference to the foster care trauma.

Flash forward 32 years and again we are limping out of a recession with unemployed people suffering. Conservatives all over the country are falling all over themselves to protect tax cuts for wealthy people who are already living the good life. Meanwhile, there are families out there like my own, on the brink, ready to fall apart and the help they are counting on is being cut. Food stamps cut by billions. The sequester decimating the budget of the untold social programs. The feeling of hopelessness is palpable for me. I wonder often how many children are being placed into foster care right now, because their parents can no longer meet their basic needs without outside help...and that outside help is disappearing.

Today, a holier-than-thou conservative asked me why I wouldn't want to have a mutually respectful conservation with someone from their perspective. The answer begins with a trauma...

9:00 AM PT: I should add that from that time up to this day, my mother's five brothers and sisters, and my father's brother treat them like scum for ever having used government benefits. They have said nasty things to their face, and refused to ever reach out to my parents' children. They are all Mormons, and Fox News fanatics.

2:33 PM PT: Someone asked an excellent question, "Do I hate my parents, since they are conservative?" You can't really stay a conservative after your family rejects you and treats you like you're less than nothing. Both of my parents remained deeply religious, but both became liberals. They began working for the Poor People's Congress, which was a group in Iowa that tried to advocate for the rights of poor people. It has since been disbanded to the best of my knowledge. I do resent the fact they let us get get into dire straits before accepting help, because of their stubborn ideology. One of the things the teachers at school reported to the state authorities was that us kids were asking other kids to have some of their leftover food at lunch time. This was because they wouldn't accept the School Lunch program, and what they sent us to school with was so paltry. I was a very lonely elementary school kid, and I'm sure being an outcast from doing things like asking for food didn't help. But, my mom was a Kuchinich fan before Obama clinched the nomination. My father died young. No health insurance, and rampant, out-of-control diabetes.

2:35 PM PT: Someone asked an excellent question, "Do I have my parents since they are conservative?" You can't really stay a conservative after your family rejects you and treats you like you're less than nothing. Both of my parents remained deeply religious, but both became liberals. They began working for the Poor People's Congress, which was a group in Iowa that tried to advocate for the rights of poor people. It has since been disbanded to the best of my knowledge. I do resent the fact they let us get get into dire straits before accepting help, because of their stubborn ideology. One of the things the teachers at school reported to the state authorities was that us kids were asking other kids to have some of their leftover food at lunch time. This was because they wouldn't accept the School Lunch program, and what they sent us to school with was so paltry. I was a very lonely elementary school kid, and I'm sure being an outcast from doing things like asking for food didn't help. But, my mom was a Kuchinich fan before Obama clinched the nomination. My father died young. No health insurance, and rampant, out-of-control diabetes.

2:36 PM PT: Oops, sorry for the double update. It didn't appear at first...

Originally posted to dmegivern on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 07:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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