Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What we could have had, what we got

When I was growing up, going to school in the 50's and 60's, there were never any kids with disabilities in my classes. No kids in wheelchairs, no deaf kids, no blind kids. It never even occurred to us that this was not okay. Sad, but it's sad that a kid that had had polio couldn't walk, or that a deaf kid couldn't hear, or a blind kid couldn't see.

Of course none of these kids could go to school. How would the kid in the wheelchair get up the stairs to their class room? How would a deaf kid hear the teacher, or a blind kid read the textbook?

When Hillary graduated from law school she could have gone to work for a law firm and made lots of money writing contracts for corporations and setting up trust funds for the children of the wealthy and filing lawsuits for squabbling relatives fighting over who gets Daddy's millions.

But she went to work for the Children's Defense Fund. She went door to door to find the children that were listed on the census, but not in school, to find out why they weren't in school. As the CDF suspected, these were the children with disabilities. They simply sat at home while all the other children in their neighborhood got on the schoolbus or their bicycles and headed off for school with their friends each morning.

Armed with the data, the Children's Defense Fund filed legal challenges and lobbied Congress. In the end, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed.

Years later, after the insurance industry spent tens of millions of dollars on misleading and intentionally frightening "Harry and Louise" ads to defeat Bill and Hillary Clinton's attempt to provide health care to the uninsured, Hillary worked with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) to pass the Children's Health Insurance Program. Today, over 8 million children are covered by health insurance thanks to CHIP.

All of this that I've written so far is "political policy." Which we are told is boring and irrelevant to average folks. Those of us who do care about such things are accused of being elitists who don't understand ordinary Americans. I remember one young woman explaining to me that she wasn't interested in politics in the same way that she would have explained that she wasn't really interested in Pokemon or French cooking.

But political policy, is in the end, about the lives of average folks and ordinary Americans. It affects us all.

Sara's and Martha's lives would have been very different if Hillary hadn't gone door to door looking for kids like Sara who weren't in school. If she hadn't fought for CHIP. Before the election, I was filled with hope that we'd see more like this.

Instead . . .

Night before last was the first night I haven't waked up at 4am with these two videos running side by side in my head. What we could have had. What we got instead.

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