Blog

Why I Vote Democrat

The proposed GOP Healthcare plan has made it crystal clear why I am a proud Democrat.

Advertisements

The Nation has been on pins and needles lately watching as the Republican controlled Congress attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare). If you’ve been paying attention at all, you should be pretty terrified by what they’re trying to do. And while I have had many thoughts, feelings, and reactions since learning about what it is the GOP plans to do to “improve” our healthcare system, the overwhelming thought I keep having is “This…This is why I vote democrat.” Let me explain…

Go find any decent article about what the Senate Healthcare plan would do (you can go here, here, or here  for a few articles from reputable sources if you’re not familiar with the plan yet) and it should become abundantly clear that they aren’t seeking to improve healthcare for anyone. They are simply looking to check the box on their to-do list next to where it says, “Repeal Obamacare,” and while they’re at it, they’ll throw a few billion in tax cuts at the very wealthy.

The problems that people complain about with Obamacare (high premiums, feeling “tricked” because some people weren’t able to “keep their plan and keep their doctor,” lack of choices for affordable plans in some areas) might be “solved” on the surface with the GOP proposals (either the House or Senate plan) but they create a whole host of other problems that will have a much more harmful impact on far more Americans.

With the Senate plan your premiums might decrease a little (and I say “might” with a tremendous amount of caution) but what you’re paying for will be far inferior coverage. No longer will you be able to have confidence that any plan you’re buying will cover your most basic needs. No longer will you be able to rest easy at night knowing that there is a reasonable cap on what you can be expected to spend out of pocket on your medical care in a given year. You may be able to see the doctor you want, but no longer will you be confident that no matter how sick you or a loved one might get, that they can’t be dropped from coverage because they reached a “lifetime max.”  If you have a preexisting condition and currently have coverage, you better hope you really, really like your job, because you won’t be leaving that job without risking losing insurance.  And if you’re poor, elderly, disabled, pregnant, plan to become pregnant, have a child who receives special education services at school, or have struggled with substance abuse then you better remedy that situation quickly, because if the GOP gets their way, you’re very likely to receive far inferior coverage (if any coverage at all) to what you received under Obamacare. And as a medical social worker, I can tell you these changes will affect people in catastrophic, devastating, and sometimes fatal ways. People will die because of the GOP’s changes to the healthcare system.

But, I have good news! If you’re healthy AND really rich, well, then you’re likely to have a net benefit from the changes being proposed to our healthcare system. Well, that is if you consider a benefit something that only positively impacts you and those who are very much like you, and leaves everyone else worse off. But yes, if that’s your thing, then CONGRATS! You’ll get what you want! But that is not what I want.

I have always voted for the candidate or party that I truly believe seeks to do the most good for the most people. I first wrote about this here in 2012 and then I followed it up in 2016 here.   And never before has it been clearer that the Republican Party in no way seeks to do the most good for the most people. No, instead they seem to prey on their constituents being misinformed and lacking the facts regarding how a particular law will affect them. The truth is that the Senate and the House’s proposals to replace the ACA will have a net negative impact for many, many Americans; many of whom tend to lean Republican. And the Republican Party just doesn’t care. All they care about is checking that “Repealed Obamacare” box, and they don’t care who they have to dupe in order to do it. Because they know, that for many people, the misleading stories they’ve been spreading about Obamacare (for years) have people convinced that it’s a “bad deal.” And they (the GOP politicians) believe that as long as they get rid of Obamacare they will remain in office. Instead of stating the truth—which is that Obamacare was the first step in repairing a complex and broken system, and something that everyone knew would need tweaking and adjustments—and getting to work on improving an imperfect law, they are seeking to destroy any progress that has been made.

For the record: I am not saying all people who vote Republican are misinformed. There are certainly plenty who know the facts, and feel they will benefit, and therefore just don’t care about how a particular law will impact their fellow Americans. So, no, I didn’t call all Republicans misinformed. But, I may have called you lacking in empathy.

I by no means believe the Democratic Party is without fault. I’m not convinced they are, as a lot, any less corrupt than their opponents across the aisle. But, they put forth policies, proposals, and platforms that have at their heart people’s humanity. They understand that we are not all perfect. They know that anyone could come on hard times at any time and they seek to put in place a safety net that makes the fall from those hard times a little softer. They seek to create a world that is as safe as possible for all citizens and they don’t pander to the gun lobby who has convinced far too many people that more guns = a safer Country.

They don’t judge or attempt to impose their beliefs on others. They understand that abortion is a personal, devastating, and complex decision that a woman should be able to make without judgment or involvement from the government.  And they understand that the women who choose abortion are not baby killers, but instead people who are experiencing a devastating time in their life and they need our support and love not our judgment and condemnation.

They understand that who you love, or I love, or who anyone else loves does not in any way diminish the love we each have for our own spouses. Democrats understand that who someone loves does not determine what kind of parent they will be, and they get that love is love, and not something by which we judge the morality or integrity of a person. The Democratic Party seems to understand that gender is a construct and something that runs on a continuum. They are not threatened by a man who looks and acts more feminine or a woman who is confident, strong, and masculine. They don’t care what clothes you wear or how you dress. They just care that you get to identify as your true self and that you get to live your life in a way and go to the bathroom in the place that is true to that self.

The Democratic Party understands that every single person who has been lucky enough to be born in the United States is so damn lucky. Yes, it’s luck that made us American (Well, not all of us. Some people became American because they sacrificed, brought their family here, worked hard, studied hard, and became a citizen. But, for most of us, it was luck).  And just because luck has shown upon us that does not give us permission to judge, condemn, or treat disrespectfully anyone born in another Country. The Democratic Party understands that no, we can’t save everyone, but if you’ve come here to the United States, and you’re living a law-abiding life (even if you happened to initially enter in an “illegal” way), then who are we to kick you out?

The Democratic party understands that the Country’s greatest resources are its people and that providing our children with a high quality, good, free, public education is a necessity. The Democratic party believes strongly that it is “worth it” to fully fund education so that all children, no matter what city or town they were born in or who their parents are, have the opportunity to learn in a safe environment taught by educators that want to be there and are paid appropriately to do this crucial job.

The Democratic Party does its best (though, they still often fail miserably) to foster and value diversity. While they haven’t mastered the art of being a truly diverse and tolerant party, the desire to be is strong and at the core of many of the decisions they make. Democrats don’t want to “make America great, again.” They want America to be the best that it can absolutely be, and they know achieving that does not involve going back in time to some point in which the progress we have made towards diversity and tolerance is undone.

The Democratic Party understands that healthcare is a human right. They know, as Pope Francis said, “Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege.” Democrats understand that the health and well being of Americans is not something to be politicized. Passing healthcare policy is about doing what is right for the American people. It is about making sure all Americans have access to good, affordable healthcare. It is about doing the most good for the most people. And for that reason, I am a very proud Democrat.

Mr. Trump, I despise you more than most. Hire me!

For Hire
Dear Mr. Trump,

It is well reported that you have been slow to fill key positions in your administration. At last count (Washington Post, March 16, 2017) you have failed to even nominate people to more than 500 of the 553 positions that require Senate approval. So, it’s clear you’ve got plenty of room for someone like me.

But, as I said, I despise you and find you more unqualified and ill-suited to be President than your average American. So, why, you ask, should you hire me? Let me explain.

As you’re aware your approval rating is abysmal. According to Gallup, as of March 15, 2017, 53% of Americans disapprove of the job you’re doing so far. This, Mr. Trump is pathetic. I know, I know, you think the polls are wrong. But let’s just pretend for a minute that they’re onto something and at least agree that you’ve got a lot of room for improvement. Also, I need to remind you that the majority of Americans did not vote for you. So, you’ve clearly got a lot of work to do on convincing the American people that you’re doing a good job. And we know that ratings are VERY important to you. So, I’d like to help you with that.

First of all, let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m a 35 year old mother of three with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a Master’s Degree in Social Work both from Boston College. With those qualifications alone that makes me more highly educated than a good portion of your cabinet (can we say Betsey Devos, Rick Perry, & Rex Tillerson??) and well, more highly educated than you, as well.

In my role as a Social Worker I’ve worked or interned in agencies or organizations that addressed issues of homelessness and healthcare. I’ve directly assisted people in obtaining affordable housing, applying for asylum, applying for health insurance, welfare benefits, or food stamps. I know firsthand that the majority of people applying for these resources are hard working, dedicated people who have not been afforded the same advantages that you and I have and would much prefer that they didn’t need assistance. But because they want a better life for themselves and their children they access whatever resources they can until they are back on their feet. I know the people behind programs like Section 8, WIC, Foodstamps, and TANF. I know they are not “looking for a handout.” They are looking for a better life.

Also in my role as a Social Worker, specifically, a pediatric medical Social Worker, I have had the privilege of taking part in the care of some of the sickest children in our Country. I’ve played Guitar Hero with hospitalized kids whose parents couldn’t be with them all day because they had to work. I’ve sat with desperate parents while they waited for the call that their son or daughter would be receiving a life-saving organ. I’ve listened as families feared they would lose their health insurance when a parent got laid off. These parents feared their children would die if they couldn’t pay for the life-saving treatment their kids needed. I’ve been witness to two moms providing the most loving and supportive environment imaginable for their dying son. And I’ve cried with and supported moms and dads as they sat with their dying child and said goodbye.

I’ve also worked as a therapist and counselor and provided support to women who desperately wanted a child only to seek an abortion because of their child’s devastating diagnosis. I’ve provided counseling to children whose siblings or parents died. Oftentimes, the surviving parent was paying out of pocket for these counseling services because they weren’t covered by insurance. I’ve helped kids battling cancer explain to their classmates why they looked different and couldn’t keep up the way they used to. In these rolls I’ve learned empathy, compassion, and acceptance. I’ve learned that kindness is everything, that empathy will get you further than judgment, and that all people need, want, and deserve to have their basic needs met.

So, I’d say I’m qualified for any number of positions within your administration.

And if you ever seek to gain the approval of the majority of Americans then you’re going to have to convince someone like me that you seek to do as much good as possible for the majority of Americans. And no, Sir, the majority of Americans are not rich millionaires and billionaires with multiple homes, in multiple cities, and the resources to meet not only their every need but also their every desire, as you and your cabinet members can.

So, Mr. Trump, hire me, or someone like me. Hire someone who truly knows and understands the way the majority of Americans live. But don’t just hire us; convince us that working for your administration will truly make us a part of an Administration that seeks to make America a better, kinder, gentler place to live. We do not need more “hard power.” We need compassion, empathy, and acceptance. We need leaders who will build bridges between communities of people, not walls. We need people who will stand up to bullies and tell them that their behavior is unacceptable and an embarrassment. We need leaders who will seek to protect our Earth and make it a healthier, easier place to live, not someone who denies climate change and thinks the EPA is dispensable. We need someone who values public education as our most important asset and gives teachers and administrators the resources they need to give our children what they deserve. We need leaders with the bravery and desire to do what is right, not what is easy.  We don’t need you. But, we’re stuck with you, at least for the time being.

So, I beg you Mr. Trump, seek to hire people like me, and seek to convince us to stay. Because without people like me (and I promise, there are a lot of us!) your numbers will never improve, and we know those numbers are so very important to you. We’re here to help. All you have to do is ask.

Most Sincerely,

Kristen Caminiti


P.S. For the record I’m not looking for a job. My current role as Mom to Ryan, Zachary, & Connor is where I belong. But I know a lot of exceptional people who meet all the qualifications above, and then some. I’d be happy to point you in their direction. 

No Human Is Illegal: Part II

Previously I introduced you to Leticia, Jose, & Roberto. Now, I would like you to meet another amazing family.

Maria, Raul, and Joshua:

I don’t remember the first time I met Joshua and his parents, Maria and Raul (names changed). But the first time I met them as “their” Social Worker was sometime between Joshua’s second and third open-heart surgery. He was about 18 months old. My co-worker who had been following them was on vacation and I was covering all her patients. Joshua had pneumonia and was not doing well. He was in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). As always, Maria was there around the clock and Raul was there every second he wasn’t working. They were two of the most devoted parents I had ever met in my years as a Social Worker.

During this admission I spent a lot of time with Joshua and his parents. As I’ve mentioned, I spoke mediocre Spanish. It was adequate for daily check-ins at the bedside, but I always used an interpreter for more complex conversations or whenever anything that needed a medical explanation was being discussed. But in these more casual conversations I always spoke Spanish. And so did his parents. Often with families like Joshua’s I would speak Spanish and the parents would try their best at English, each of us hoping to improve our language skills a bit. However, I remember Maria saying to me, “Si hablamos Inglés contigo, sólo ayuda a nosotros. Pero, si hablamos en Espanol contigo, podemos ayudar a todas las familias como nosotros que tύ ayudas. Y por eso, vamos a hablar sólo en Espanol.” (Translation: If we speak English with you, then that only helps us. But if we speak Spanish with you that helps all the families like us that you help. So, because of this we will only speak Spanish.”) This statement defined Maria and Raul. They were selfless and caring and they saw helping me improve my Spanish as a way to help all the immigrant families I would encounter.

Raul and Maria had come to the United States from Honduras when they were teenagers. (They were now in their early 20s). Their parents had saved money so that Maria and Raul could escape together. Their parents were friends, Maria and Raul were each only children. Their parents gave everything they had to save their only children. Their parents knew they had a grandson in Joshua, and they wrote to each other often, but they knew it was very unlikely they would ever meet Joshua.

Joshua would eventually recover from the illness that put him in the hospital when I first officially met him and his parents, but it was clear that his body was not healing as well as hoped from his last surgery and he was highly susceptible to illness. (All kids with congenital heart disease (CHD) are, but Joshua even more so).

When Joshua’s primary Social Worker returned from vacation we decided that because of the relationship I had been able to build with Joshua’s family during this admission (largely due to my Spanish speaking ability) that I would remain their primary Social Worker.

Joshua was in and out of the hospital often between his second and third surgeries. Despite the amount of time Joshua spent in the hospital he was always such a joyful, playful boy. He had a thick head of long, jet black hair that visually added to his playful personality. Being in bed all the time while hospitalized one might expect that he often suffered from outrageous “bed head.” But I remember the pride Maria took in frequently combing Joshua’s hair, and it was clear that Joshua LOVED having his hair combed. It provided him much comfort.

When Joshua grew big enough to consider doing his third open-heart surgery it was a difficult decision. He wasn’t in optimal physical condition to endure such a surgery, but it was clear he was unlikely to get better without the surgery. So, together, his parents and the medical team decided to move forward with this third surgery.

His initial recovery was long and complicated, and during this time I grew to know Joshua’s parents even better. Yes, they were here illegally but Joshua was a US citizen and so they qualified for some welfare programs which I helped them apply for. They were always so grateful for every little thing I was able to help them with.

Eventually Joshua made a full recovery from his third surgery and he soon seemed to be thriving. They would come in for out-patient visits and like Roberto’s parents would ask for “Trabajadora Christina” during these visits. I always enjoyed seeing Joshua, Maria, and Raul when Joshua was feeling well. The relief and joy they were able to experience during these times was a joy to witness.

But Joshua’s good health did not last long. It has been many years since I cared for Joshua and his family and I do not remember all the details. But he developed a rare complication many months after his third surgery and soon began to deteriorate. Undoing this third surgery, and instead hoping for a heart transplant was considered, but Joshua did not give his parents or the medical team much time to consider this option. He soon grew too ill to allow for another surgery.

I remember a day when his parents were holding vigil by his bedside. They were eating a fruit I was unfamiliar with (or at least I thought I was). I asked what it was and they said “Quieres?” Do you want one? Sure, I said. Knowing that sharing food is often a sign of immense respect I never turned down an offering of food from my patients. It was a fruit about the size of a plum. It was sweet and delicious and had a small seed inside. I asked what it was and they said, “Ubas!” Or at least that’s what I thought they said, forgetting that in Spanish “v” is said like a “b.” Remember, my Spanish was mediocre, and I didn’t remember the word for grapes (uvas). They tried to explain, but how does one describe a grape. I mean, IT’S A GRAPE! It wasn’t until later that evening when I got home to my husband and asked him what “ubas” were that I learned they were saying “uvas” and they were grapes. They were the biggest and sweetest grapes I had EVER seen! We both laughed when I returned the next day and explained that yes, now I understood what uvas were.

A few days after sharing uvas, Joshua grew even sicker. It was a weekend, my pager went off in the early morning hours when the medical team knew he was deteriorating and asked that I come in. Of course I did. His parents were so grateful to see me. In their time of immense sadness, knowing their son was dying, they were thanking me profusely for coming in on a weekend. They always seemed to be thinking of someone else.

I sat with them, we shared more uvas and we shared stories of Joshua. He was 2 years and 7 months at this time. Despite his physical limitations from his heart condition he’d still managed to get into trouble at home like any toddler, and his parents loved sharing these stories with me, his Cardiologist whom they adored (and who adored them) and other staff members.

Joshua died later that day. Again, I was in the room with Maria and Raul, and with his cardiologist, when he passed. They had asked that their “hospital family” stay. So, we did. Maria sobbed quiet, deep sobs and combed Joshua’s hair throughout the last hours of his life. She and Raul took turns holding him. Raul, a quiet, gentle, emotional man sobbed too. He was saying goodbye to his son and it was too much for this man who had always tried to stay so strong for Maria and Joshua.

I helped them find the funds to pay for Joshua’s cremation. They knew they may one day have to leave this Country and leaving Joshua behind was too much for them to contemplate. It wasn’t an option. So, despite them believing it was against their religion (despite the fact that I had a Spanish speaking priest call and tell them it was not) they cremated their son. They held a simple memorial service and asked that I sit up front with them at this service.

A few weeks after Joshua’s service Maria and Raul came to the hospital. I got a call from the front desk saying they were there to visit me. It was too much for them to come up to the Cardiology floor where I worked, and where Joshua died, so I went to meet them. They came to this place that held so many painful memories to say “thank you” to me. They brought me a picture of Joshua, a thank you note, and some uvas. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Anytime a parent found it inside them to thank me for helping them during the most awful time of their life I was always brought to my knees in gratitude for this amazing job I had the privilege of doing, and the amazing families I got to work with.

They did this every month or so. They came to the hospital, we sat in the lobby, shared memories of Joshua, and ate uvas.

At one point many months had passed and I hadn’t seen Maria and Raul, when one day I received a call from the emergency room. It was Maria. She was sobbing. “Mi nino! Es en la emergencia. Ayudame!” (Translation: My son! He’s in the emergency room. Help me!) I was confused. I knew this was Maria, but she was talking about her son. I was panicked she was having a mental health crisis. I went to the emergency department and found Maria, Raul, and…Diego, their 5 week old. Maria got pregnant about 7 months after Joshua died. They had told NO ONE because they were terrified this baby would die too. And now they thought that fear was coming true. Diego had been projectile vomiting for the past day. They brought him to the emergency room not knowing what to do. The doctors found he had pyloric stenosis, a condition in which the pylorus muscle prevents food from entering the small intestine. It is easily repaired with a minor surgery. But of course, Maria and Raul were terrified. Diego went into surgery later that day and he did well. He went home perfectly healthy a few days later.

I saw Diego and his parents again one more time. At this point I myself was pregnant and his parents knew I would be going on maternity leave. My plan was to come back to work part time after having my son. Despite having the full support of the Cardiology department (which I am to this day forever grateful for) the Social Work department did not support part time positions and I was not able to return to work. I was told since I no longer worked there that I could not reach out to these families. I have never seen Maria, Raul, or Diego again and I think about them often. Especially since November 8th I have been thinking of them…a lot. They have two sons who are American citizens. One died and their only memories of him are here. One is very much alive, and I hope thriving here. I hope with every ounce of my being that they remain here for many decades to come.

When we think about “illegal” immigrants, we have to remember: They don’t come here through terrifying, arduous journeys because it’s the easy way out, or because they are too lazy to do it the “legal” way. And they don’t do it because they want to come here and mooch off of our social services. No, they do it because they fear for their lives and they see no other way out. The legal avenues take years and are difficult to access. When faced with a crisis, they do what they have to do to get to safety. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are people just like you and me. They just happen to have been very unlucky and were born in dangerous countries, in which their basic needs aren’t met and their lives are at risk. Why should we turn our backs on people living here, contributing to our economy, living peacefully, who want nothing more than to have the chance to thrive, just like you and me?

I guess I see myself as much more of a citizen of the world than of the United States, and I don’t think we should turn our backs on people like Maria and Raul, or Leticia & Jose. And I am glad I was born in the United States so I am able to fight for the rights and privileges that we have to be opened up to more people.

No Human is Illegal: Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot in recent weeks, as many Americans have since the President’s EO barring immigrants from certain countries and all refugees. I think part of the fear people have about immigrants is that they don’t know any personally.

Having spent my career as a Social Worker I have come to know many immigrant families. In the coming days I hope to share a number of stories of some of the immigrants I have come to know in my work as a pediatric medical social worker.

First, meet Leticia, Jose, & their son, Roberto:

Having worked in various top-ranked pediatric hospitals, I have had the privilege of helping to care for and support many, many families who were here illegally, who had very sick children, who worked hard in “our” Country and who just wanted to see their children thrive in a way they had never been able to.

Jose and Leticia were two of those people (names have been changed for their protection). They first traveled to the US when they were pregnant. They lived in Honduras, and met when they were barely adults. They got pregnant, and because of violence and fear for their lives they decided to travel to the United States to give their baby a better life. The details they shared with me of that journey were terrifying. But they made it here, only to learn soon after arrival that sometime during that journey their baby had died. Leticia had miscarried. They were devastated. And they felt guilty. They felt the arduous journey had killed their baby. They believed it was their fault.

But they stayed. Jose got a job as a cook and Leticia worked cleaning the homes of some extremely wealthy people in Washington. They were able to pay for a small apartment themselves and were proud of the life they were creating here.

They got pregnant again. They were overjoyed. But that joy soon turned to fear. I met them shortly after their 20 week ultrasound when they learned that their baby boy, whom they would name Roberto, would be born with a complex heart condition.

But Roberto was born and immediately transferred to the hospital where I worked. He received impeccable care (by the medical team and his parents) and had surgery a few days after birth. He did well and began to thrive. He grew chubby and playful and his parents adored him. His dad kept his job as a cook. His mom continued to clean the homes of her clients. You see, her clients liked her so much and thought she did such a good job that they let her come very early in the morning and late at night to clean their houses so that either she or Jose was ALWAYS with Roberto.

Roberto was a beautiful boy. He was playful and outgoing. And his parents, despite speaking very little English themselves, were trying to teach him English so he wouldn’t struggle the way they did. Whenever Roberto came for check ups in the Cardiology clinic his parents would ask for “Trabajadora Christina.” (Social Worker Kristen). They just wanted to say hi and show me how well Roberto was doing. I remember Roberto’s giggles and his cheerful, “¡Hola!” It was always a joy to see them. They tolerated my mediocre Spanish and wanted to help me improve. They corrected me when I spoke incorrectly. They asked me to do the same for their English. They were so proud of the beautiful boy they were raising. And they were so grateful to be doing it in the United States.

When Roberto was about 18 months he came in for what should have been a fairly benign procedure but there were complications and Roberto ended up in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. He was not doing well. He was very sick. I still remember what room they were in. I still remember the look of anguish on his parents’ faces. I remember standing with them at his bedside as they sobbed and tears streamed down my own face. Roberto remained in the CICU for 10 days with no improvement. The decision was made to withdraw support.

As Roberto died in his parents’ arms I will never forget the sound of the wail his mother made as he took his last breath. Usually I left these moments for the families to have in private. But Leticia and Jose had asked that I stay in the room. They said I knew Roberto better than anyone besides them. They wanted his “family” with them.

After Roberto died I helped find funds so that they could burry their son. Their cultural traditions did not support cremation. We discussed this option though because of the very real possibility that one day they could be forced to leave the US. But they said “This is Roberto’s home. He should stay here even if we can’t.”

I called Roberto’s parents every month to check on them. They would visit the hospital just to visit me…one of the few people who knew their son.

About two years after Roberto died I left my job when I had my own son. The fact that as a result I was unable to keep in touch with these families (hospital policy didn’t allow me to do so) is one of the greatest regrets I have about leaving my job.

I have thought a lot about Roberto, Leticia, and José and many others in recent months. I wonder if they are still here. I wonder if Leticia and José were forced by fear to leave behind Roberto. If they haven’t yet, will they?

Leticia and José may have been “illegal” by many standards. But to me, they were amazing. They were exceptional parents, hardworking, and determined. They were people who contributed to “our” country in valuable ways. They just wanted a decent life and they had that here. And why shouldn’t they be allowed to continue to have that?

When you contemplate whether “illegals” should be allowed to stay please think about Leticia and José and Roberto. And remember that they are not illegals. They are human beings with less luck than we have (as it is just luck that has made it so we were born here) but for more grit, determination, and love for this Country than most of us will ever have.

Don’t Let DeVos be the Boss!

Dear Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions,

I am the mother of three young sons, Ryan (7 years), Zachary (4 years), and Connor (2 years) and I am writing to express my ardent opposition to the nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. On January 17, 2017 from 8:30 until after midnight I did something I’ve never done before. I sat and watched the entire confirmation hearing of Mrs. DeVos. (That’s right, Senator Alexander, despite your efforts to have the hearing at a time that would make it difficult for people to watch, I watched the entire recorded confirmation). Why did I spend over three hours of my time doing this? Because this woman will be in charge of regulating, budgeting, and controlling the education system in which my children will spend their most formative years. And I refuse to sit back and allow a totally unqualified candidate to move through the process without my ardent opposition.

Senator Alexander, I watched as you tried to extol Mrs. DeVos’ qualifications for this position. But really, do you think the American People are so naïve to believe you? If you were so confident in Mrs. DeVos’ qualifications for this role, then please, tell me, why did you insist on limiting the questions that committee members could ask? Never before has such an inexperienced candidate been before the HELP committee for this position. It is only logical that your fellow Senators would have a LOT of questions. Need I remind you?

Mrs. Devos…

  • Has no education beyond a bachelor’s degree and her bachelor’s degree is not in the field of education.
  • She has never worked in a school (at any level) as a teacher or administrator.
  • She has never held an elected political office.
  • She has never attended public school, nor have her children.

I went through the biographies of every Secretary of Education who has ever served and Mrs. DeVos is the only one who does not have any of the qualifications listed above. So, to expect that the members of your committee had a few more questions than normal seems more than appropriate. I would expect, Senator Alexander that you would be familiar with the caliber of the previous Secretaries, given that you were one of them. But, I digress…

While I was disgusted by the insistence by many members of your committee that Mrs. Devos is an acceptable nominee, I would like to personally thank some of you for your brave lines of questioning.

Senator Sanders,
Thank you for asking what so many Americans are wondering and acknowledging that the only reason Mrs. DeVos has been nominated to this position is because of her hefty donations to the Republican Party.

Senator Franken,
Thank you for making it crystal clear that Mrs. DeVos is wholly uninformed about some of the most basic issues confronting education policy makers at this time. Thank you for bringing to light Mrs. DeVos ignorance on the important issue of proficiency vs. growth when measuring student progress.

Senator Warren,
Thank you for pointing out that Mrs. DeVos had not completed her ethics paperwork prior to the hearing. And thank you for showing the public that Mrs. DeVos has no experiencing managing a system and budget as complicated as that which is controlled by the Department of Education. Thank you for highlighting that Mrs. DeVos is not willing to commit to enforcing rules and regulations already in place to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.

Senator Murphy,
Thank you for challenging Mrs. DeVos on the issue of guns in schools. Thank you for forcing her to show that she is unwilling to say that “guns should not be in schools.” The shocked and appalled look on your face when she refused to state this spoke for so many Americans. We appreciate your brave and bold advocacy on this issue that seeks to keep our children safe. An issue, I might add, that I can’t believe is even up for discussion.

Senator Hassan,
Thank you for showing so clearly that Mrs. DeVos is uninformed about basic Federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). That someone who will be responsible for enforcing these exact laws could “confuse” something so basic to ensuring that all children receive an appropriate education is appalling.

Senator Murray,
Thank you for your leadership on this committed and your commitment to strengthening public education for all. I appreciate your attempts to get Mrs. DeVos to state her opposition to privatizing public education. But sadly, the woman now charged with protecting public education very well may dismantle it.

I don’t mean to exclude any of the other brave Senators who challenged Mrs. DeVos and posed excellent questions about important issues, such as sexual assault on college campuses, but in the interest of time, I will move on.

At the end of Mrs. DeVos’ opening statement at her hearing she said, “I trust parents and I believe in our children.” First of all, where in her statement did she say, “I trust teachers and I believe in our public schools?” Whether she likes it or not, she will be representing the Nation’s dedicated, hard-working, under paid public school teachers. And the fact that she seems to have little understanding of (and little desire to gain understanding into) how hard they work for their students is a slap in the face to these amazing men and women who give so much to our children.

Furthermore, if she really “trusts parents and believes in our children,” then perhaps she should take the time to truly understand what it is that the majority of parents want for their children and the other children of this world.

My husband and I are lucky to live in an upper middle class neighborhood, but we believe in public education and we are sending our children to public school. Our oldest son, who is in 1st grade at Nantucket Elementary School in Crofton, Maryland is receiving a superb education at a diverse school. He is loved and inspired daily by the teachers and administrators at this school. I know we are privileged to be able to send our children to an amazing public school. I know not all public schools work as well for all students. But, please, committee members, do your research!! It is well documented that Mrs. DeVos’ own home state of Michigan, where she sought to “reform” the public school system has shown a decline in student achievement since these “reforms” went into place.

If Mrs. DeVos truly trusts parents, and believes in children then she will take the time to listen to all parents and not just the wealthy ones who most benefit from vouchers. Studies show that vouchers rarely enable children in low income, failing schools to attend successful private schools. If the voucher is enough to allow a low-income parent to enroll their child in a private school, it is only the failing private schools they can afford.

Vouchers are most beneficial in helping wealthy families, who can already afford private school to supplement the cost of very expensive schools. So, when Mrs. DeVos says she “trusts parents” what she really means is she “trusts wealthy parents who are already sending their kids to private schools.” She does not appear to value or trust the opinions of parents like me and my husband who believe in and choose public schools, or parents of children who are struggling, but who don’t have enough money, even with a voucher, to attend a high quality private school.

And if Mrs. DeVos doesn’t trust teachers, and she doesn’t trust the majority of parents, then there is no part of me that comprehends how that translates into “believing in our children.”

To close I would like to share the words of two teachers with decades of experience between them:

Tom Carco, Kindergarten Special Ed, Boston Public Schools, 11 years of public education experience:
“At a time when our nation’s schools are finally taking steps to maintain high standards in all regions, regardless of income or background, we are also moving toward an important understanding that success is not exclusively measured by proficiency in testing – especially for students with special needs.

Mrs. DeVos has no experience reconciling this duality. Instead, she endeavors to ignore and shame those caught in the middle. She favors private and charter schools without holding them accountable to any standards, academic or socially just, as she blames public schools for failing to meet the needs of our kids. Her advocacy is unjust and serves a disproportionately small number of children – many of whom already benefit from an array of socioeconomic advantages.”

Peggy DeBoy, Speech and Language for the hearing impaired, History, at elementary, middle, and high levels,  in MA, RI, VA and MD, 35 years of experience:

“In my 35 years of teaching I have worked with a wide range of students representative of our society. Throughout my career, I have collaborated with outstanding administrators and other educators dedicated to their profession and committed to cultivating age appropriate  environments to guarantee and enable quality instruction to take place in their schools and classrooms.

It baffles me that the president would consider a person whose education, background and experience not only does not qualify her for the position of Secretary of Education but whose education experiment  in her home state of MI was  a dismal failure.

I am not only discouraged, but saddened and deeply concerned that competent educators, with a strong commitment to our children will be discouraged by inept decisions at the top and not receive the insightful, encouraging support to provide effective instruction. Already, statistics show that very bright, capable educators are withdrawing from the field, frustrated and stymied by unrealistic, ineffective demands, and inadequate compensation.

We cannot afford to waste our children’s education in laboratories created by people with little or no qualifications as educators.”

Senators, I beg you. Look to the research, look at Mrs. DeVos’ record (or lack thereof) and truly understand what it is the Nation’s teachers and parents want and our children need. I promise you, we do not need Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

 

Most Sincerely,

Kristen Caminiti
Mom to Ryan, Zachary, & Connor
Social Worker
Gambrills, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mother’s Letter to Donald Trump

lovetrumpshateDear Mr. Trump,

Let me start by saying this letter is NOT going to be politically correct. But, considering you just ran a campaign on the premise of opposing political correctness in all its forms, this letter should be just the type of thing you would appreciate.

I am writing this letter for the benefit of my three sons. They are ages 7, 4, and 2. I want my three boys to know what side of history I was on when you became our President. I also want them to know that there is no part of me that hesitates to stand up to a bully, even when that bully happens to be the President-elect of the United States of America.

Mr. Trump, I am writing because I am disgusted by the fact that you will be our Nation’s next President. I’m sure you’ll read this and assume I am a disgruntled Democrat who is just angry that I lost. You’ll consider me one of those “enemies” you so rudely called out in your “Happy New Year” message. But that could not be further from the truth. Yes, I am a Democrat, but in my lifetime, and since I’ve been able to vote, I’ve been on the “losing side” a few times. But I have NEVER before been disgusted by the prospect of our next President. When George W. Bush won I wasn’t happy. But I never feared for the future of our Country or world, as I do now with you. Had Senator McCain or Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama I would have been disappointed and sad, but I would not have felt an overwhelming sense of despair as I do now.

You see, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney always impressed me as good men. Yes, I disagreed with them about what the greatest problems facing our Nation were and I strongly disagreed about what the solutions to those problems would be, but I never doubted their integrity as human beings.

You however, Mr. Trump, you are a disgrace. You are the epitome of what I will raise my three sons not to be. As they grow up and see you as our President I will sadly point to you and say, “See that man? Don’t be like him. Do not look up to him. Do not emulate him. Do not aspire to be him.” You are the definition of disrespect, bigotry, hatred, and dishonesty. The fact that you will lead our Country and represent us to the world is a travesty.

Throughout your campaign you demonstrated that you are willing to say and do whatever is needed to be elected. It’s a sad commentary on the people of our Country that the things that got you elected were doing and saying some of the most heinous things imaginable.  In case you forgot, let me outline a few of them:

  • To women, early on you commented on our biological processes, you know, the one that allowed you and any other human to exist, as an explanation for why one brave, bold woman, may have been just that, brave, bold, and clearly challenging you. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about can I remind you of Megyn Kelly and your comment that she had “blood coming out of her wherever?” Later a tape was made public in which you were caught regaling your ability to have any woman you want and it included your bold and disgusting statement that you just “grab them by the pussy.” Somehow this didn’t destroy your campaign. Sadly, the release of this tape seemed to embolden you and make you more determined to fight on. These are just two examples of the many times you demonstrated a complete lack of respect for women.
  • You mocked a reporter with a disability in such a vile and disgusting way, and then worst of all, like a two year-old caught stealing from the cookie jar you tried to deny that’s what you did. My two year-old has more integrity and compassion in his little finger than you have in your entire being.
  • You built a campaign around the goal of building a wall to keep out immigrants and you threatened to create a registry of Muslims to keep them out as well. As if this lack of compassion, understanding, and respect for the truth (there are in fact no more violent Muslims in the world than there are evil, white, Christian men) wasn’t bad enough, you then demonstrated just what a hypocrite you are by recently requesting work visas for your vineyard so you could hire immigrant workers. You are a liar and a cheat, Mr. Trump. Have I mentioned yet that you disgust me?
  • To the African American community you have repeatedly demonstrated your lack of respect and clearly do not consider them equals. You’ve been sued twice by the justice department for not renting to black people (yes, you managed to settle those cases out of court. Yes, I know. You don’t have to remind me). You questioned the legitimacy of our first black President by constantly spreading doubt about where he was born, and when white supremacists lathered you with praise and support you refused to openly disavow them. When a black protester started chanting “Black lives matter” at one of your rallies you said the next day, “Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up. It was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” What about that was “disgusting,” exactly? Please explain, because currently I don’t understand and it terrifies me to think that the President-elect of our Country seems to think the belief that people with dark skin do matter is disgusting.

And despite all of that you were still somehow elected. I take great solace in the fact that you did not win the popular vote. That’s right; you LOST the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Only 46% of those who voted chose you. And considering that only 60% of eligible voters actually cast a ballot I have to believe that the vast majority of Americans do not support you. And believe me when I tell you that people like me have never before felt so passionate about standing up for what is right. I have never felt so determined to speak out loudly and clearly about what I believe is right. People like me will be a thorn in your side throughout your Presidency. We will not sit idly by as you seek to destroy this already great country.

But, it didn’t have to be this way. I wanted to give you a chance. I wanted to believe that somewhere deep within your arrogant, narcissistic being that you wanted to do what was right for the majority of hard working Americans. But, then you started making Cabinet appointments…

  • In Steve Bannon you chose a man who gave a platform to white supremacists via his “news” organization Breitbart to be one of your most trusted advisors. And knowing he was unlikely to ever get past Senate confirmations you chose him for a position that requires no confirmation.
  • In Rex Tillerson you chose a man who has no diplomatic or government experience whatsoever to be our chief diplomat. He has no advanced degree and no education that suits him to this role. You chose a man who seems to have closer ties to Vladimir Putin than to the average American to represent America on the world stage.
  • In Scott Pruitt you chose a climate change denier as the person charged with protecting our environment. You chose someone with no background in science or environmental policy to run an agency that is supposed to regulate and protect our Earth’s resources. You chose a man who has been actively suing the EPA to run the EPA! If that’s not a conflict of interest I don’t know what is. And if this isn’t evidence that you have no regard for the safety of the people who live in America and on the planet Earth then I am not sure what is.
  • In Betsy DeVos you chose a woman to head the Department of Education who has NO EDUCATION EXPERIENCE AT ALL! She was never a teacher or school administrator. In fact, she has never attended a public school and none of her children ever attended a public school. She will be charged with making policy that will impact all of the children in the Nation’s public school and it’s quite possible she’s never set foot in one before. Making someone with no education background the “Chief Educator” is a farce. It is a slap in the face to the Nation’s children and to our brave and dedicated educators. It shows there is no part of you that has the best interests of our Nation’s children at heart. Choosing someone like this to head the department of education would be like choosing an oil tycoon as Secretary of Sta….oh…right……never mind.
  • In Rick Perry you appointed a man with no advanced degree, who barely graduated from college with a degree Animal Science. Most people don’t realize that the department of energy is responsible for the maintenance and protection of our nuclear weapons as well as the clean up and disposal of old nuclear resources (perhaps you didn’t know this? Please now consider yourself informed). All the recent Secretaries of Energy have been PhD level scientists some of whom are Nobel laureates, because it’s generally seen as an asset to understand nuclear physics in order to regulate nuclear weapons. But you decided all that was over rated and appointed a man who in a 2008 Presidential debate said he would abolish the department of energy, except, he couldn’t even remember the name of the department he was planning to abolish. Well done.

You see, I really wanted to give you a chance. But you chose these people (as well as so many others with questionable qualifications and backgrounds such as Ben Carson and Jeff Sessions) to help you lead our Country. With these appointments it became painfully clear that your priority was repaying favors and giving power to your billionaire friends. Your goal was NOT seeking the best people for these complex, powerful, and very important roles. Again and again you chose your own interests and the interests of your allies over the interests of the American people. Shame on you, Mr. Trump.

And then you’ve repeatedly demonstrated that you trust Vladimir Putin more than you trust the skilled and dedicated men and women who serve in our intelligence agencies. You have openly mocked these agencies all while openly praising Mr. Putin. You’ve threatened international diplomacy through provocative and poorly thought-out phone calls (Taiwan) and Tweets (China, Korea). You seem to lead by flying by the seat of your pants and that is absolutely no way to lead when your decisions affect the lives of millions of people.

You are no longer simply the CEO of the Trump family business. Then, when you screwed up you could file for bankruptcy, or find a way to turn your losses into assets by avoiding taxes. But now, when you screw up, lives will be at stake, livelihoods could be ruined, lifelong dreams shattered, and the future of our Nation could be destroyed.

So, Mr. Trump, as you take office, remember: the majority of Americans are not with you. We do not support your self-serving, misinformed, poorly planned agenda. And while I have and always will teach my boys about democracy and respecting the process I will also teach them about resistance and speaking out against that which is wrong. And you, Mr. Trump, so much about you is wrong.

As I stated at the beginning, I wrote this letter for the benefit of my boys; So that one day they can read it and understand that their mommy was brave and emboldened in the face of your Presidency. They will know that I took the time to write to the soon-to-be most powerful person in the world and told him he was selfish, amoral, misinformed, and unkind. And in the meantime, until they can understand the many complexities contained in this letter, me and my three boys are fighting back with kindness. We are spreading kindness far and wide. And they know that we are not spreading kindness because of you, but in spite of you. They know that you are a man who spent his campaign spouting hatred. And they know, with great confidence, that love trumps hate.

 

Sincerely,

Kristen Caminiti
Mom to Ryan, Zachary, & Connor

 

Thank you, Hillary!

 

Dear Hillary,

This letter is long overdue. While I’ve wanted to write it since November 9th, I’ve been at a loss for words. But, a few days ago, while driving in the car from Maryland to Connecticut with my husband and three sons (Ryan (6 yrs), Zachary (3 years), and Connor (2 years)) I suddenly realized we were in Chappaqua and we made a quick detour to swing by your house. (We were all shocked at how easy it was to find your address. That has to be tough to adjust to. I’m sure you have far too many people like me that come to bother you. Sorry about that…But, I’m just so very grateful to you that I couldn’t resist stopping by). You weren’t home. But, we decided we would swing by on our way back to drop this letter off.

So, while, I’m somewhat at a loss for words, I hope these words will suffice to tell you how much you mean to me and to our Country.

First of all, THANK YOU! I know things didn’t turn out the way you had hoped, or the way I had hoped, or the way the majority of voting Americans had hoped. But just because you didn’t win doesn’t mean you didn’t accomplish so much. I don’t need to detail here what you’ve meant to the Country. I hope that’s obvious. But I would like to detail what you’ve meant to me.

You gave me a context through which to talk to my three sons about what it means to be brave and kind. You helped me teach them that we are all imperfect, but that despite stumbles and falls we can do great things. You taught me and them that sometimes the most qualified and capable people are the most reviled. And that even when our critics try to bring us down that we shouldn’t let them; that instead we should stand tall and fight back for what we believe is right.

You helped me to teach my boys about women’s rights and equality. Through you and your campaign I had conversations with my boys about racism, inequality, gay rights, and discrimination. My boys know that women are just as good as men in every way. They know the only thing that men can do that women can’t is successfully stand up to pee (I had to explain that one when my 3 y/o said, “Mommy, if girls can do everything boys can, why do you have to sit down when you pee??”). On November 9th, when I sadly had to inform my boys, who just the day before were proudly chanting “Love trumps hate!” and “Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry!!” that you had lost, my oldest, Ryan, said, “I just really, really wanted a girl President. She would have done such a good job.” And I couldn’t agree more.

We are all so sad you lost. But on November 9th, in the midst of my sadness and hopelessness I decided we HAD to do SOMETHING. So, we began a campaign of spreading random acts of kindness (RAKs). On November 9th we put together bags of Hershey’s hugs and kisses and handed them out in the “pick up line” at my oldest son’s school. We delivered a plate of cookies and brownies to the local fire department. We delivered another plate of baked treats to the front office at the local elementary school. And we went into Starbucks and I had my two oldest boys choose two strangers whom they would buy coffee for. To every person or group we did a RAK for we gave them this note:

love-must-win

One of the women they bought coffee for started crying and said, “I needed this today. Thank you so much.”

rak-collage

Since November 9th we have continued doing random acts of kindness, all in your honor, all because, as Queen Elizabeth recently said in her Christmas address, “On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice. But the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.” We delivered homemade cards (made by my three boys) to nursing home residents. We’ve handed out more bags of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses at Wegmans, Target, the commuter train station, and in our neighborhood. And best of all, I’ve started a Random Acts of Kindness program at my son’s elementary school because I believe that if we can teach our children to be kind to each other, to their neighbors, and to people they don’t know or have never met, then we can make this world a better place. We’ve done all this because of you. Yes, because of you hundreds of people (our own family’s RAK tally is somewhere around 200 now) have received kindness from a stranger, and hundreds more children are being charged with the task of spreading even more kindness in our community.

So, thank you! When you have dark days; when you’re angry at Donald Trump (as I am CONSTANTLY!), when you’re wishing you’d done things differently, please, please remember the Caminiti family and what a difference you made for us and how we are living our life in the wake of the 2016 election. We ARE making a difference. And without you, we wouldn’t be. As Shakespeare wrote, in the Twelfth Knight, “I can no other answer make but thanks, And thanks, and ever thanks.”

 

Most sincerely and forever grateful,


Kristen DeBoy Caminiti

Mom to Ryan, Zachary, & Connor