Gather ’round, children, Auntie Mildred is going to tell you all a scary story. Once upon a time, two men were running for President. One, who was already President; he did many great things. He repaired our country’s image with our friends in other countries after a previous President did things that got almost everyone angry at the United States, helped save the jobs of thousands of men and women who work in factories making cars, made sure everyone could get healthcare if they had an accident or got sick or were born with medical troubles, brought home lots of brave men and women who had been fighting a war in a hot, sandy, scary, dangerous country called Iraq and tried to ensure they were cared for (even though the grinches in Congress did not want to vote for jobs bills for our veterans), treated women and gay people like human beings who deserve the same human rights as everyone else, told rich people that they had to play nicely with others and pay their fair share of taxes, punished the evil troll who was behind the World Trade Center tragedy that killed 3,000 Americans, proposed something we call a “stimulus” which helped the economy and got a lot of unemployed people back to work, signed a bill into law that forced bankers to be better corporate citizens and not crash our economy by behaving badly, helped students get more grant and loan money for college, required automobile makers to make cars that pollute less and use less gasoline, protected credit card users from being cheated, ensured that women get equal pay for equal work, made sure our food would be safer to eat, preserved more of our wilderness areas so you children will be able to enjoy visiting them, made schools better for students with more nutritious lunches, made sure more people had high-speed Internet access, and our country began returning to a state of prosperity, with the stock market thriving and more people able to go back to work. He released a plan for his second term that promised more great things and progress, and most people who read it really liked his ideas and wanted him to get a chance to keep working on them.
What about the other guy? Well, he was a nice enough man, but he had some scary ideas. He was once a Governor of a state, and few people in that state voted for him because he did a very bad job, fought with people in the political party he disagreed with and vetoed 800 things, and the state’s economy tanked. He did not believe that gay people deserved the same rights as non-gay people. He wanted to take away the healthcare benefits the other man fought hard to allow us all to have. He did not think women deserved to be paid the same salary for the same job. He thought that the government should force women to only make deeply personal healthcare decisions that the government agreed with. He said that the auto industry shouldn’t be helped, which would have hurt a lot of people who rely on auto industry jobs. He did not agree that cars should be forced to be more efficient and less hazardous to our environment. Children, this man thought that corporations–those are businesses–were “people.” How very silly! He did not like public broadcasting, which means that your friends Big Bird and Elmo would not be on your television any more. He wanted to start a war with Iran, and give the military trillions of dollars they didn’t even want! He supported businesses who wanted to pollute our air and water, and destroy our environment. He wanted to let rich people avoid paying their taxes, to let them buy our elections, and for bosses to tell their employees who they should vote for. He did not want to punish companies who ship American jobs to other countries because this man once was the Big Boss in a company that shipped a lot of American jobs overseas. This man did not want to show us his tax returns, even though his own dad showed us twelve years of his tax returns. This man told many, many lies, children.
Yes, children, lying is bad. We know that we shouldn’t tell lies. But this man told many, many lies and his friends said it was OK for him to keep lying to us, so he kept doing it. Even when other people told him that they knew he was not telling the truth, he kept lying. It is difficult to trust someone who lies to you, isn’t it? He said that his opponent, the President, didn’t like businesses, even though his opponent had lowered their taxes eighteen times. He said that some car companies were sending jobs to China, even though it wasn’t true, and even though companies that his former business controlled actually were sending a lot of jobs to China! He said that Iran was best friends with Syria, and that Iran needed Syria so it would have access to the sea, even though Iran has access to many large bodies of water. He wanted to let bankers take care of our Social Security, which is something working people pay into with each paycheck, and which bankers should never, ever be allowed to mess with, because some bankers do naughty and dishonest things with other people’s money, then he wanted to make old people wait years longer to get their share of Social Security money back. He wanted to give old people vouchers, which are like coupons, and let them worry about how to find an insurance company or hospital who would treat them and accept their vouchers. He wanted to give parents of school-age children vouchers, too, which meant that rich people could afford better schools for their kids, but poor people would have to settle for whatever they could find, and those schools were usually not as good as the other schools.
This man is very, very rich, children. He puts most of his money in banks in other countries, where it sits and sits and grows and grows. He doesn’t release any of his money into the economy or create jobs with it. He doesn’t want us to know how rich he is, exactly, but he is rich enough to have several houses and an elevator for his cars! It is not bad to be rich, children, but from those who have been given many gifts and rewards, much is often asked when you live in a society that believes we are all in this together and that we help each other when we need a helping hand. If you have 250 million apples and your neighbor has no apples and is hungry, it is selfish not to give your neighbor an apple, especially when people who only have 50 thousand apples are asked to give twice as many.
This man had a funny sense of humor. He went on a family vacation and put his dog Seamus on the roof of his car! Yes, that would be very, very silly indeed, but poor Seamus was scared up there. It is not nice to put your dog on the roof of your car. He also pulled many silly pranks! He walked a blind teacher into a door and laughed and laughed. He also picked on another student and held him down and cut off his hair with scissors because he thought he was gay and because he didn’t like his haircut. Yes, that does sound mean. Yes, maybe he was being a bully. Then there was the time he put on a policeman’s uniform and used it to scare his friends. No, it is not OK to pretend to be a policeman, but it was just a silly prank. Still, you should probably not try it. The police do not think this prank is funny. When a nice baker made him some cookies, he said they looked gross. Is it nice to make fun of a gift you have been given? That’s right, our parents have taught us to always say “thank you” when someone does nice things for us and gives us gifts, even if we don’t think we’ll like them. This man didn’t say “thank you.” Maybe his parents forgot to teach him that lesson. This man doesn’t really care about police officers, or firefighters, or teachers. He thinks we need fewer police officers, firefighters and teachers, and that we shouldn’t care if they lose their jobs, and that the government shouldn’t help fund more jobs for them. He also said that he didn’t care about almost half of us Americans.
How can he be nice and then say he doesn’t care about the very poor, or 47% of Americans? Well, that is a good question. Maybe he isn’t really that nice. I am sure his family loves him very much, though.
The scary part? Well, sometimes some Americans aren’t smart, children. Some Americans think that the color of your skin makes you more or less worthwhile, or that everyone should be forced to believe in the same religious teachings they believe. Their religious teachings tell them silly things like the Earth being only a few thousand years old, or that human beings lived at the same time as dinosaurs, or that gay people are bad and women should not vote, work outside the home, or choose not to have children. They want everyone else to believe those hateful and ignorant things too, and they try to make their beliefs into laws, instead of sharing the nice, positive, caring, loving things that their religion has to share. Some Americans watch programs on TV that scare them into believing things that aren’t true, and when they are told why those things aren’t true, they decide that they prefer the lies to the truth.
Some people thought that the man who lied really cared about them, even though he didn’t. The man lied about how he liked hiring qualified women by picking them out of binders, but he also said he enjoyed firing people who provide services to him, and he has done a lot of firing and not so much hiring. The lying man even said he wanted to fire Big Bird, remember? Stop crying, children.
The man lied about how he supported natural disaster relief services after spending years saying that the government shouldn’t help people who are harmed by tornadoes and hurricanes and floods and snowstorms. He thought that the states, which have limited budgets and resources compared to the federal government, should be on their own when bad weather strikes. Did you see the pictures of all the water and knocked-down trees and houses on the TV? Those are disaster sites, and they need help from the government to get fixed up and made all better again.
He also doesn’t believe in climate change, kids, even though the vast majority of scientists do. Scientists know that climate change is why we are seeing more and more storms that are worse and bigger and more scary. Scientists think we should be more careful about how much we pollute and that we shouldn’t contribute further to global warming. He thinks that clean energy like wind and solar is a bad thing, but old, dirty energy is good, because a lot of his best friends make a lot of money selling coal, gas and oil. He wanted to take money away from government programs that help poor people, old people, disabled people, hungry children and babies, sick people and poor working people and give that money to his rich friends and to corporations instead.
Why? Well, some people do not believe in sharing. They call it bad names, and only like it when it funds things they care about, like big business, wars, drilling for oil, buying elections, and giving tax exemptions to churches they agree with. They like it a little bit if they go to national parks and public libraries, or if their house catches fire or when they use the Internet. They don’t like sharing one little bit when sick people need medicine or hospital care, or when hungry people need help buying food, or when the working poor (many of whom work for the same Big Businesses the lying man likes a lot, and which think raising the minimum wage is bad) need financial support to pay their bills and eat, or when other needy people might get some help. They call them moochers and dependents and think they should just die rather than get a penny from our tax money. You want to know what’s funny? We give twice as much money to profitable job-outsourcing corporations than we do desperate human beings. That doesn’t seem right, but that is how things are.
Why do people like the lying man? Well, they don’t like his opponent, the President. Some things they don’t agree with include the way he treats gay folks and women like all other kinds of people, because their religion says they should treat them as “less than” or deny them equal rights. Sometimes they don’t like how the President chooses sharing and compassion over greed and unfairness, because they don’t like sharing. Sometimes they don’t trust fact checkers or economists or scientists or experts because those people agree with what the President and his friends say, and disagree with the lying man and his friends. Sometimes they believe lies they have been told by their favorite TV shows, and don’t want to believe that they have been lied to, because they prefer to believe the lie. They don’t want to believe the economy is doing better, or that more people have jobs today than when he took office, that treating gay soldiers the same as non-gay soldiers has not hurt the armed forces, that making sure women are paid the same salary as men who do the same job is smart and fair, or that more of our military folks coming home from wars is good, or that helping the auto industry was a good idea, or that helping everyone get medical care is compassionate and correct, or that making rich people pay a fair share is right, or that treating all human beings with equal respect is good, or that helping our neighbors when they need a helping hand during hard times is kind. They use a lot of words and rationalizations to pretend otherwise, but they want to believe that being selfish is good, that the President has not done a good job, and that the truth is not really the truth.
What’s the scary part? Well, I’m getting to that. The two men had everyone vote for them, and the one who got the most votes (forgive me if I don’t explain the electoral college to you, because it will make you cry) won, and became President. Some people were too scared to vote because the lying man’s friends made it too scary or difficult for them to vote. Some people couldn’t get to the polls because they were dealing with personal tragedies and damages due to a very bad storm. Some people thought that their vote wouldn’t make a difference and stayed at home. Some stayed at home because it was cold and windy outside and they don’t like standing in line and didn’t want to bring a book or handheld game or some knitting or to talk to their neighbors. Some had bosses who made it very difficult to vote, or even told them who to vote for (and it is never your boss’s business who you vote for, so you don’t ever have to tell). Some were old or sick or weren’t able to get to the polls, even though they wanted to vote. Some people decided they didn’t care enough about politics to vote. Some people happily voted for the lying man, because they liked him and disliked the President. Some people happily voted for the lying man because they believed his lies, or because they had always voted for the lying man’s friends and didn’t want to support the President.
The scary part, children, is that the lying man won. Some people think that his friends or family might have messed with some voting machines, which may or may not be true (the lying man’s friends have been caught cheating before), some people think that he won fair and square, and some people think that a lot of people might be sorry now that they didn’t bother to vote, or that they voted the way they did then, because times are tough now, unless you are very rich, or a corporation. If you aren’t a religious, Caucasian, conservative, straight, older man, the odds are against you getting a fair shake. Students find it harder to afford college; the lying man just said “ask your parents for the money!” but not everyone has rich parents. Women are being told that they have to stay pregnant, even if they can’t afford to raise the child or were raped or might die. Minority religions are being suppressed. The needy have to struggle harder, and are still told that they are the cause of all their own problems and don’t deserve any help. Those people with preexisting medical conditions can’t get insurance. Elderly people are having to shop around to find anyone who will care for their medical conditions and they get turned down for being too old or too sick. Elderly people also have to wait longer to get their Social Security, and once the bankers got their hands on it, not much was left, especially after they all took their cut for “administrative fees” and after the most recent stock market crash and bank failures. Unemployed people find it harder to find work, because corporations find it cheaper to send their headquarters overseas than to hire Americans.
Rich people pay fewer taxes, but there aren’t any jobs being created, because asking the wealthy to pay less than their fair share never has and never will work. Women have no recourse if they need to work and find out that they male co-workers are making much more money than they do every year for the same jobs. Married gay people found their marriages dissolved, and were not allowed to marry each other any more, or visit each other in hospitals, and were denied almost 1,500 legal rights that straight married couples take for granted. Textbooks now assert that Christian mythology and creation stories are just as valid as scientific fact, and that slavery wasn’t so bad, unions have never offered us anything of value: Christian religious figures and robber barons are praised and lauded while civil rights heroes, minorities, women, and any Founding Fathers who were outspoken about their lack off Christian fervor are skipped over. Corporations are allowed to spend freely and secretly to support the politicians they like best, and feel no compunction to tell the truth in political ads. We are fighting another bloody war in the Middle East, and our foreign friends once again have a low opinion of our country as a whole. We deny climate change exists and pollute our air and water freely, we deny that the ocean levels are rising, and we give companies who strip-mine, frack, and dump millions of gallons of crude oil into our oceans tax breaks, subsidies and a free pass so they don’t have to clean up their messes. We have fewer civil servants, so the few remaining police officers and firefighters have to struggle harder to maintain safety and order. Our prisons are packed wall to wall with murderers and rapists sharing cells with people who got caught with a pinch of weed in a Baggie. We spend a lot less on medical research and scientific exploration. We have fewer teachers, so classrooms are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with children learning facts by rote–including religious opinions that the conservative fundamentalists have insisted they be taught, along with the three R’s– just to pass standardized tests, and none are given special attention if they have special needs. Books that the fundamentalists disapprove of are banned. Sex-ed classes only teach abstinence. Women have to prove they fought back and that they have been “legitimately, forcibly, really” raped before their rapists are prosecuted, and even then, few are. Small business owners are allowed to discriminate freely against whomever they choose, because whatever a business owner wants should be the law of the land. We have eight extremely conservative Supreme Court judges who have ruled that zygotes and corporations are people, women are incubators, gay people are second-class citizens, that money is free speech, that healthcare is not a human right, that creationism is equally as valid as evolution and should be taught to all children of all faiths, that protecting the individual person who has been wronged against the power of a huge business is a waste of time, and that all close political elections go to conservative candidates.
What’s that? You’re right, children. That is a very scary story. But don’t worry. It hasn’t happened yet. It wouldn’t happen right away. After all, even the lying man probably wants to change economic things first (in favor of the wealthiest among us) before meddling with social things. Maybe if enough people vote for the President, then the lying man will go away and not frighten you any more. We might get lucky. There might be enough people who choose to vote wisely than otherwise.
We won’t know for another week. Now, sleep tight.
In the meantime, enjoy a funny video of a ferret in a ladybug costume. Happy Hallowe’en!