Like a beautiful phoenix arising out of the ashes of her quiet non-political non-blogging life, MOMocrats alumna Debbie Gorman Garrison graces us with a very personal piece that explains why she’s supporting Bernie Sanders for president.

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Make no mistake about me, though I live currently in the middle/upper middle class strata of our economic realm here in the lushly green, bird-bustling PNW, I ate breakfast of cereal and milk-in-a-plastic-bag (and sometimes powdered milk, when we were too broke for the plastic bag stuff). I did this sitting at a card table. I was eight. The table cover was dark green with subtly etched curlicues. It had a tear near the edge, and there was a flap that had rolled back.

I used to fiddle with the flap, reading Anne of Green Gables, ladling cereal into my mouth, the milk splattering the pages of the library book (I’d try to keep them dry but cereal milk is real splattery!). It spattered inside the tear, too. Underneath the plastic was thick brown cardboard. It dimpled from the milk and I watched it dry while I read, checking occasionally to see how much the dimples had flattened in the intervening minutes.

L'il Debbie Snack at the table she's telling you about

L’il Debbie Snack at the table she’s telling you about

I didn’t know anyone else with a card table in their kitchen, at least not in our neighborhood. Lots of the people we ate Sunday dinner with after church had similar furniture arrangements, but in our neighborhood, a middle class subdivision, people owned real tables. [Insert explanation of how my parents grew up in working-class homes but both of them obtained college degrees, wanting better for their family. Alas, somewhere along the line, they fell into the thinking that what they’d gone through must be instituted in precisely the same manner for us, despite the economics of our society having drastically changed in the interim. Both of my parents were pre-boomers; my brother and I are Gen X. It became, unsurprisingly, an issue. Mix in a healthy dose of uh-oh, real estate market crash in the late Seventies and you’ve got the reason we were broke when I was eight; dad’s job as a realtor went kaboom. It sure didn’t do a lot for his sense of confidence in the system. You might even say, in the early Eighties, that he was embittered, and turned harder than ever to religion as antidote. AHEM.]

Given the option of continuing to live with my parents so as to obtain a degree from PSU, not my first choice (my first choice was an art school. When I told my mother, she laughed), where I was expected to climb through a series of hoops to fulfill their end of the commitment of paying the tuition (live in their home, hold an at-minimum part-time job, pay a rental fee for my use of utilities and groceries, pay for my own books and other needs, maintain a gpa of 3.5, and attend church), I opted for–not that. I’d realized at age 12 that their religious beliefs were not my own, but they’d mandated I would continue to attend church, uh, religiously, until I left home. The deal-breaker was the impossible tuition requirement. I couldn’t do it. I tried, for a full year, after which I left. Quit school and moved out. This meant facing several years of living at or near poverty-level, because I didn’t have a degree or any real work experience.

I haven’t forgotten what it was like to be unable to afford the basics, unable to afford health insurance or basic doctor and dental care. I haven’t forgotten what it was like to be afraid all of the time about how I would pay rent, or how frequently it caused huge problems with my roommates that I couldn’t pay it. I won’t ever forget the way it felt to have friends who’d gotten pregnant young, watching them fear the same things I did, only with children in tow. I won’t ever forget how hard and how scary and how bleakly depressing that life can be. Is.

My mentally ill brother might not be homeless today if we, our government, offered basic health services and care for the mentally ill.

My belief that we are all worthwhile beings who deserve a shot at, if not the “good” life, then at baseline minimum, a decent one, cannot be swayed. It’s in there. It’s in there with the songs (and abysmal jingles) my mom and dad sang in the car on roadtrips. Bicycle Built for Two. Doctor Ross dog food, it’s doggone good. Woof. I will never cease wanting, and seeking, and working toward, enabling a more balanced and dignified life for every one of us. Nationally, internationally; it doesn’t matter to me, those boundaries. We are all in this together. Bernie Sanders may be a damn cranky-pants McGee 97% of the time, but the man speaks–and votes–his heart. He isn’t a slick political type. (Yes. “Type.”) He is a consistent real human who wants about the same thing I do; to see to it we all get a fair shot, a fair shake.

I guess it’s selfish of me to want to know that my brother will someday be given automatic care no matter what state of the union he’s in when his health, inevitably, fails, and I am not allowed to care for him (he rejected us as his family outright several years ago when my parents tracked him down, before dad died). But I don’t just want it for Jeff. I want it for all of those of our family members whose ability to fit into the tight square cogs this nonsensical, fractured system of pyramid schemes and musical chairs requires is below average, or simply nonexistent. I want us to all be able to have decent lives of dignity, with shelter and health care and healthy food for our kids and ourselves.

Bernie’s the guy who will help us enact this systemic upgrade. He’s got my vote coming and going, and I’m grateful he’s stuck in long enough for those of us on the West Coast, who feel we ought to have a say in the process, to get to do just that. Thanks, Bernie Sanders. Sincerely. Thank you.