SNAP, Congress, and my Career Goals June 20, 2013 9 Comments

snapShame on Congress!  Shame for even considering life-risking cuts to the SNAP program!  Shame on them further for the proposal to deny SNAP benefits to convicted felons!

How is it that the same people that would restrict birth control and abortion will also restrict assistance for prenatal care, childcare, and food for children? They are tough on crime while eliminating the transition programs that help convicts return to society and get jobs.  Without jobs, how do they live an honest life?  Without jobs or SNAP or WIC, how do they feed their families?

The answer is that our elected leaders do not work for us.  Convicted felons and poor children don’t make campaign contributions or offer lucrative lobbying jobs to retiring elected officials  and so they don’t count  Their hunger doesn’t matter. Their futures don’t matter.  In the world of government, only the rich matter.  Welcome to our “democracy”.

I write often about my struggles growing up.  I was hungry, but my brother made sure we applied for food stamps.  At the time, my mother had already been convicted of drug crimes at least once.  But we got SNAP.  We got school breakfast and lunches.  We ate, and because we ate, we could study and learn and affect our own futures.  Because we ate at home and at school, we didn’t steal  We didn’t quit school.  My brother went into the army and became a mechanic and I sent to college, where I am now looking at law schools.

Law?  Yes, law.  Not to defend the big banks against government regulators.  Not to work in a district attorney’s office.  Law school because it is the next and best step to prepare me to advocate for those whose voices are not heard in Washington or by state governments.  I am going to law school in order to become  an advocate for the poor, for poor children, for released convicts trying to live an honest life.  I was extremely lucky to survive my childhood and thrive in my education.  I had tremendous help and luck every step of the way and continue to enjoy the good counsel, occasional financial assistance, and indescribable emotional support from adults who chose to be a part of my life.  But luck didn’t feed me or educate me when my mother was unable to purchase food.  The government did, through SNAP and school lunches.  Someone needs to make sure they continue that for the next Cassie, and that someone is me.

My CommentsAbout Stubenville March 20, 2013 6 Comments

Is it really possible that I haven’t written a single post here in a year?  How did that happen?  18 credits per semester, a job, a boyfriend, a lack of a boyfriend, etc.  Yeah, a year.  But today I have something to say, so if you are still here, read!

image via http://faytoday.com/

I graduated from HS almost 3 yrs ago, and even though I was a debate nerd with a final GPA far above 4.0 at a school that didn’t win a single championship of any kind, I was a high school student in TEXAS, and I know a fair amount about the culture that worships Friday nights at the local stadium.

Beginning in elementary school, boys are revered more than girls, strong and large and athletic boys more than anyone else, and eventually football players are archangels. There are weekly pep rallies in their honor beginning in 6th grade, and they can take class time when nothing else is ever allowed to interrupt.

By high school the boys have joined the apostles on Mount Olympus and can do no wrong. They can not fail. They can not lose status except by acting gay or losing on the field.
And girls can’t say no to them.  They OWN the girls. They own the school.  They own it all.
They are what republicans aspire to be.
And so Stubenville was bound to happen — it is only a surprise that it doesn’t happen every year in every state

Professors March 26, 2012 4 Comments

I swear a professor’s job is to take the most interesting subjects and add boring language just to make things as uninteresting as possible.  And their writing is worse.

Why is the Conventional Wisdom Conventional? Or Wise? January 10, 2012 1 Comment

image via kcur.org

Have you ever noticed that the conventional wisdom in a particular area is neither conventional nor wisdom?  Mark Twain once said that “You may have noticed that the less I know about a subject the more confidence I have, and the more new light I throw on it..”

Twain also said, ”For all the talk you hear about knowledge being such a wonderful thing, instinct is worth forty of it for real unerringness.” When it comes to presidential elections, the United States seems to go with instinct rather than fact.

Mitt Romney won the NH primary today, which he was supposed to do. Conventional Wisdom and the TV Pundits all told us so.  But why? Why would a Massachusetts politician be expected to win next door?  Indeed, why would he be expected to even win his own state?  Wouldn’t we expect the people of his own area (state plus TV market perhaps) to know both his positive and negativeattributes even better than the rest of the voters?

Maybe I am missing something, but what has Barack Obama done for Illinois that he hasn’t done for the rest of the U.S.?  Or, a better analogy if New Hampshire couldn’t fit in the back pocket of Texas shorts shorts, what has he done for Iowa, Indiana and Missouri that he hasn’t done for the rest of the country?

Was George W. Bush any less of a failure for Texans during his presidency than he was for the rest of the country?  New Orleans didn’t benefit from being in a neighboring state for eight years.

Sports teams have fans outside their city and state, especially if they play in cities where the neighboring state doesn’t have a sports franchise for that sport.  But politics shouldn’t be sports. Do voters simply choose the name they’ve heard the longest? Do they want their state to “win”?  Do they assume that a politician from their state or region of the country shares their values?  Or are they just more familiar with the accent?

I don’t care one way or the other about the results of any state’s Republican primary, but I do care about my vote.  I would rather vote for a liberal than Barack Obama, but I’d never choose a “home state” candidate over a candidate whose ideas I support.  Why do other Americans?

Hidden Homelessness November 28, 2011 4 Comments

Good for CBS.

 

Transcript here.

Suffer the Little Children November 18, 2011 12 Comments


I’ve always been different from other kids.  Smarter, prettier, more resourceful.  Mostly more resourceful.For instance, in elementary school I carried an empty lunchbox to school most days and a full lunchbox home.  My school cafeteria had a little table near the exit for used lunch trays, and a tray in the back where you could put any food still in the package, full milk cartons, or whole pieces of fruit.  That table was my lunch line and my grocery store until we started getting food stamps. One of my teachers told me that it was OK to take an apple from the table and save it for later, and that was like a green light for me to start filling my empty lunchbox every day with enough food for dinner.

When I was little, there were times when we didn’t have enough food in the house.  My mom’s an addict, and feeding us was less of a priority for her than it should have been.

Sometimes we had enough food, but my brother and I weren’t allowed to use the stove or mess up the microwave.  Sometimes my mom had money but used it for drugs rather than food.  Sometimes she forgot.  And sometimes she grocery shopped and cooked wonderful meals. Sometimes we were hungry, and sometimes we were just food-insecure.

I became a much better-fed, happier, and less worried student when I was in fourth grade and we actually signed up for food stamps and the school’s free-breakfast and free-lunch program, after my fourth grade teacher urged my family to sign the forms.  I started eating hot meals at school and worrying less about where my next meal would come from.  Shockingly, it turns out that enrolling us in these programs could have landed my mother in jail!

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging About the Most Difficult Subject November 3, 2011 Comments Off

I’m no longer a Texan and no longer a child abuse victim, but I was both for many years.  I’ve blogged publicly about my abuse, my survival, and my determination to stop the cycle in my generation. I try hard these days to blog about other subjects of importance, but there are times when I must wade into the most difficult subjects of all because I can speak about them from a unique perspective and with a strong clear voice.

So, here goes.

Three people in the past 24 hours have sent me links to different stories about a Texas girl named Hillary adams who recorded her father, a Texas judge named William Adams, and her mother, beating her viciously with a belt.  The events happened in 2004 and the video is graphic and deeply disturbing.  The father is a judge who hears child abuse cases. To be honest, I haven’t even watched it because I am learning to avoid giving myself new nightmares.  But I’ve read the stories and had nightmares anyway last night.

The Young Turks and Bob Kincaid both played the video yesterday and discussed the implications, but I shut both streams early in the discussion.  I’ve tried to avoid the story entirely, but it’s everywhere and it has sent me back into PTSD mode, re-living both the last night I lived in my brother’s house and my first memory ever — witnessing my father beat that same brother just as viciously with a belt, when I was 5 or 6 and my brother was 11 or 12.

Here’s a summary from a UK paper, and here’s one from Huffington post. Even Fox is somewhat critical of the father, though they’re careful not to criticize the use of belts in discipline, in general.

There are about a dozen disturbing aspects to the story, and the media seem to be focusing on one of the most important ones: how the judge’s willingness to be brutal in his own family may have affected his judgment in the cases he heard.

In my mind, however, there are other, equally important questions that must be asked;

  • Other than the fact that there is a video, why is this news? Many thousands of children and teenagers are beaten throughout the country every day.  To me, this is only news if the country is willing to have a conversation about the role of violence and corporal punishment in raising children.  If we’re not willing to face the consequences of child abuse and family violence, then why are people watching the video?  Why even be surprised that a judge who hears child abuse cases would abuse his own child?
  • Why aren’t people equally disgusted with Hillary’s mom Hallie Adams’ partcipation?  She only hit Hillary once in the video, but she was an active participant and clearly in support of her husband beating Hillary viciously for the crime of downloading music from the internet.  This is a family of violence.  Mrs. Adams has since left her marriage and described her husband as violent, but this does not absolve her of her participation in the abuse of Hillary.
  • Is it worse for someone to beat a disabled person than to beat an able-bodied person.  I know nothing about cerebral palsy, but is it possible that Judge Adams made Hillary’s condition worse by beating her?  Should this matter?  Or is all abuse an equal abomination?
  • Is it possible that there is a racial component?  Would America be shocked by this story if Hillary Adams were black or a dark-skinned Hispanic?  Or is that more acceptable?
  • Why is no one linking this story to the recentBBC report on the disgusting epidemic of child abuse deaths in the US? Even those who support the beating of children can’t possibly support the death penalty as carried out by parents of misbehaving children.  Unless, of course, the bible tells them that it’s acceptable.  Many people in the Bible Belt take this passage literally:

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 2They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.” Deuteronomy 21:18-21

This is a difficult subject to blog about and I know it’s also difficult to read about. But it’s important enough for me to risk further nightmares by wading into some of the horrors of my past. Important enough only if I can help spark a discussion on how to end the horror that is acceptable violence against children.

I am glad that people are shocked by this video, but I wonder at the motivations of some of the 2 million people who have watched it on youtube. Let’s end the nightmares for children currently living with ongoing violence disguised as discipline.

I love Princeton in the Snow! October 29, 2011 6 Comments

Why does everyone else stay inside? They’re missing out on the smell and the soft sounds and the little hats on the ends of the benches. Every leaf has its own blanket. Tomorrow it will get trampled and by Monday it will be a mess. But here I am catching snowflakes on my tongue, looking and listening and feeling and tasting.

A year ago, I spent the whole first snow throwing snowballs and trying to build a snow man, but this time I am content just to be here.

Happy Snowy Weekend!

MSNBC Looks at Child Abuse, sorta October 21, 2011 3 Comments

Actually, no.  They don’t.  They just interview someone from BBC who looked at child abuse, and even then they talked about correlation instead of causation, and then let a Boston talking head give anecdotes about teen mother he saw in “certain parts of cities”.  He talks about teen pregnancy as a double death sentence with no mention of teen fathers, support systems, extended families, or how teens might prevent pregnancy to begin with.

Joe Scarborough also seems quite content to show that NY is second to TX, which I think is a way of saying blue states are as bad as red states.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

At least the conversation does turn to prevention, that line of talk is generally shut down when the solutions require spending money on poor children.

There are studies out there that talk about causation, but the news reporters on MSNBC didn’t make any effort to tell us which “child experts” they spoke to, and didn’t talk with any professors or social scientists.

Here is the original BBC report with Michael Petit of Every Child Matters: Michael Petit: America can fix problem of child abuse fatalities. I’m glad they’re talking about all this, but can we also address the children who survive child abuse and not simply talk about the children who die?

Misplaced Priorities in Kansas October 13, 2011 3 Comments

Dear Blog,

Please accept my humble apologies for being too busy with school, work, and fun to follow politics carefully enough to write blog posts.  Thank you for still being here!

Love,

Cassie

Is the Topeka City Council misguided, fiscally conservative, or just plain mean?  I couldn’t tell from all the news stories about them decriminalizing domestic violence.  They’re actually letting people out of jail rather than charging them with a crime when they hit, punch, threaten, or beat the people around them.  But maybe Topeka just doesn’t have the money to protect women and children from abusers.

Then I looked at the Topeka budget for this year.  I am not an economist or even a person who likes graphs, but I look at this and I can’t help but wonder why they can’t afford to prosecute abusers.

How can they be spending 28.8% of their salary expenses on police, but not be able to do anything about domestic violence?

They spend 5.3% of their budget on their parks programs, but they can’t protect their citizens?

True story.  My grandparents abused my dad when he was a kid.  My dad was abusive to my brother, and probably to me and my mom but I don’t remember back that far.  Then my mom was abusive to my brother and me.  Then my brother was abusive to me and to his wife.  This is how abuse goes.  If you don’t stop an abuser, they will keep abusing, and if they don’t think they might go to jail or have some harsh consequence, they will never stop abusing.

And victims will keep being victimized by all the people in their life unless they get counseling and learn to be survivors instead of victims.  Where in Topeka’s budget is the money for domestic abuse victims?  Where do they try to break the cycle?  Has no one explained the cycle to the city council members in Kansas, or are they just too busy blaming the victim to even care?

I grew up in Texas, and spent most of middle school and high school in Austin.  I had free counseling through a city agency, and Safe Place came in to my HS to teach us about abusive relationships and loving relationships.  They gave us advice on how to tell if your partner was abusive, and they also told us how to get help if we found ourselves in an abusive relationship.

In Texas, when someone is arrested for abusing their family members or their girlfriend or boyfriend, they are charged with a crime, and the city or the county presses charges even if the victim changes their minds.  And people go to jail for abuse, and lose their jobs.

The same is true in NJ, and there are organizations that help abuse victims here.  NJ even has mandatory arrest and seizure of weapons, which Texas does not have.

Abusers are abusers.  They are unlikely to change, and often it takes something like an arrest for them to even look at their behavior.  Even an abuser who stops hitting can still be a threat to their family members in other ways.  They may substitute financial or emotional control if they’re worried that physical violence will lead to arrest.  But even that is safer for their family.  In the end, victims need help, and often the time that an organization like SafePlace can help them is while the abuser is in jail and unable to control them or convince them to take them back or drop charges.  If you don’t put the abuser in jail, the victim has no room and no time to find their path from victim to survivor.

And then it continues to the next generation and the next.

Topeka, if you are so strapped for cash that you need to choose between your public parks and protecting abuse victims, then please choose protection. But I suspect that you didn’t even look at hard choices.  I think you just chose to protect the abusers and leave the victims to fend for themselves.  You’d just better hope that your own partners don’t decide to take advantage of your decision and start to victimize you.

You can email the Topeka City Council here, and be sure to remind them that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Here are all their email addresses:  council@topeka.org<council@topeka.org>; khiller@topeka.org; jalcala@topeka.orgs; ortiz@topeka.org; deverhart@topeka.org ;lwolgast@topeka.org; cmanspeaker@topeka.org; agray@topeka.org; barcher@topeka.org; rharmon@topeka.org.