Sequester: Not A Summer Vacation Get-Away

Let me begin this post by relating a recent phone call conversation I had with my mother:

Mom: Hey babe, how are you?
Me: Good, busy, working on sharing information about the upcoming sequestration.
Mom: You have a secret? What? You aren't pregnant are you?
Me: NO! No, not a secret, sequestration. You know, the fiscal cliff?
Mom: Ryan Seacrest is dating some guy named Phil Cliff? Wait until I tell my friends at the coffee shop!
Me: NO! Not Seacrest, Mom, SE-QUES-TRATION.
Mom: Wait. You are going on a sea quest? I'm confused.
Me: You know what, me too, me too.

And I don't think I'm the only one who has had difficulty in communicating with anyone about the sequester or what could "possibly" happen in the days ahead. While many people I know are talking about it, we don't really know what we can even do about it, if anything. And I understand that our feeling overwhelmed by the BIG PICTURE means that we tend to focus on the little picture, the things we feel we can control and manage, things such as tweeting about:

  • who wore what, and wore it well, at the Oscars;
  • what the "urban decay ammo palette" colors are this season; and
  • whether Kim Kardashian is "qualified" to write a "mommy blog."
Now, mis-communication in my phone call not withstanding, the truth is while my Mom is all "you go girl" about my advocating with groups such as Shot@Life and RESULTS, she really doesn't think that what is happening in DC regarding the budget is going to directly impact her in a significant way. She's 65 and on a fixed income, but she lives fairly frugally and worse case scenario will walk to the grocery store rather than drive if gas gets too expensive. She, like so many, think that only the "bad" or ineffectual programs will be cut. But $85 BILLION in across the board spending cuts, cut everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this case, the first cut isn't the kindest cut at all. 

For those of us in Kentucky, the sequester will: 
  • displace 160 teachers and impact 21,000 students (decreasing funding for education by $11.8 million)
  • cause 1,350 children to not receive vaccinations (cutting funding for vaccines by $92,000)
  • decrease funding for meals for seniors by $677,000
and this isn't everything comprehensive that will be cut, Head Start, the military, law enforcement, the environment...well, it's all on the chopping block. There are no surprises. We know what is going to happen. And while we think that the loss of 160 teachers may not have real significance, add those teaching job loses with those in California, Texas, Massachusetts, and so forth, and you have REAL SIGNIFICANCE. 

Advocating in DC for Shot@Life,
February 2013

My email in-box and twitter feed have been filled with news regarding the sequester.  An action alert from RESULTS, for instance, has helped me to communicate out to others how our incredulity and indignation can be turned into action. 

Because this is what I know. If you have the time to tweet about Anne Hathaway's questionable fashion choice for the Oscars and whether or not Argo was robbed of honors, then you have time to tweet about how we need to #talkpoverty and how the sequester will impact your State, your city, your schools, and your family. And if you have time to tweet you have time to call or email, because those phone calls and emails take less than two minutes, five at the most. I know, I've timed them. And it isn't as if you have to come up with something to say, many of these groups have crafted a script that you can follow word for word, it's a fill in the blank scenario. 

Because you matter. You are a constituent. The decisions they are making, or in this instance, not making, will echo in some way in your life. A child without a teacher is a child who grows up lacking an education. While I may be able to skip a meal every now and then, our seniors shouldn't have to. And children who don't receive critical vaccinations are at risk of getting an illness, causing harm to themselves and potentially others. Just ask my friends at Shot@Life. Vaccines work and make a difference. Here as well as globally. Polio? So close to being completely eradicated. Let's not let a door open when it's been closed for so long. 

We are in this together. We must work to do the right thing for everyone. For those who live in my community are really the same people who live in yours. We have to care that the decisions being made today will resonate for several tomorrows to come. 

For as John Donne said, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent" 

And, to my mother, as far as I know, I'm not going on a summer "sea quest" vacation, but that doesn't sound like a bad thing at all. If I find one, I promise to let you know. 

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