Maybe, it’s my fault…

Historically, I’ve never been political. I have, however been profoundly naive. I used to think that if you went into public office, it was either because you cared about people, or you were a megalomaniac; I mean why else would you want to make decisions about people’s lives? I suppose you could be somewhere in between, swinging from the liberal former to the alt-right latter.

Anyway, I just let them get on with it. I didn’t have that much to complain about as I am white, educated. I was employed first as an accountant then as a mother, with a pretty reasonable income for a family of four, the only worry being that I was used to earning my own money. I didn’t cope all that well as a mother, it came as a shock to me, you know, thinking I’d be my own boss, then finding out that actually, no, my little bundle of baby was very definitely calling the shots.

I had left work with maternity leave, and told my boss I wasn’t going back. Partly because of an incident several months before where my staff complained to me about lack of morale. I can’t remember the exact conversations, but I would have said something like, what would you want me to do about it? It was eventually decided that I would talk to the boss on everyone’s behalf. Years before when at college, I had studied a book called “People, Planning and Organizations” and it contained some nuggets about motivational theory. Of course to a naive fair-minded young woman, it seemed like a great idea to mention these to my boss (again, as I had tried once before) and we had a talk in the board room. In any event, I was totally misunderstood and branded as a trouble maker, although I’d been there for 7 or more years without a problem, working anything from 10 hour days up to 16 hour days, and was under the impression I’d be listened to as someone trying to help. To cut a long story short, I was hauled in before the boss and two colleagues (who had been promoted to company directors, but without the requisite pay rise and share options you’d expect) and the three of them, but mainly the boss, chewed me out about being disloyal, stirring up trouble and the like. None of my staff backed me up, which really hurt after sticking my neck out for them. I was given a warning and basically told to keep my head down. Much later, some time later after I had left, the boss sold the company to our biggest rival without telling a single soul what was happening, not even the new directors, and then of course it was clear what he had been up to all along. He was in his late 50’s and his children were teenagers, so it was on the cards he might sell up. I don’t know what happened to the rest of my colleagues and staff as we lost touch.

But I wonder if that feeling of being misunderstood and let down was hanging over me like a cloud. These were people who I’d worked with, got on with, and thought we were friends, so it made me question if I really knew them at all. We went out for drinks after work. They supported me while my mother was dying of cancer. Anyway, the whole motherhood thing was a bigger shock than I thought. The pre-natal classes are all about the birth, but they don’t tell you much about how to cope. The lack of sleep, for one thing is just debilitating. Then the loneliness. My husband was still working very long hours — no change there. But my temperament, or rather my confidence has always been very up and down.

I was known as giggling Gertie by my best friend’s dad, because I laughed a lot. I walked to school on the other side of town. the first 6 months of Grammar School were stressful, I lay awake at night, wide-eyed, mind racing then struggled to get up in the morning. After doing pretty well in the first lot of exams, I relaxed a bit, but my sleep patterns never really recovered, and I still had a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that maybe they’d realized they’d made a mistake, and I didn’t pass the the 11+ really and I should be at the Comprehensive school instead. I passed 6 “O” Levels without too much effort. Scraped 1 “A” Level when I should have done much better. Went to a college for “failures”, a second chance, as I didn’t get the grades for the first one. I worked really hard and passed a Higher National Diploma w/French with Distinction, and went off for a career in accountancy, feeling the most confident I ever had. In retrospect, accountancy was not really a good fit for me, and I tortured myself with more exams, the Graduate Conversion in which I got referred in statistics, passed it second time and kept my job, then Professional Examinations 1 which I failed despite going on a residential course, and the long hours and misogynist managers until I ended up working for one of the audit clients because their employee had died suddenly, and they needed someone to keep the books while they looked for a replacement. This was nice; people didn’t hate me, I was working with them not checking up on them. It was then I decided to switch from Chartered Accountancy (ICAEW) to Certified Accountancy (ACCA). A failure, but still sticking with it.

My first job was with a publisher of weekly part work magazines, designed to be collected for a year or two, with folders and inserts as well. My boss there used to ask me to prepare a schedule, then put “prepared by (his name)” and then put it on his bosses desk. Difficult to work for someone you don’t respect. My next job was with a local timber merchants, working with local people who had gone to work there straight from leaving school. A culture shock and and the feeling I didn’t belong. So then I went to the small advertising agency where I stayed until I had my daughter. I qualified as an ACCA, after a retake in Financial Management at Level 3, got married, worked a lot then thought about having children. I would complain about work and my husband would say “just leave and get another job” but I felt that I was not an attractive prospect to a new employer being in my early 30’s, married and no kids yet. I didn’t think anyone else would employ me, and if they did, I probably wouldn’t qualify for maternity benefits, so I stayed. And almost had kids to free myself. Out of the frying pan…

A year or so after my daughter was born (by emergency c-section; I couldn’t even do that properly) and things had got at least into a routine, I spoke to my sister on the phone one day, and I was complaining about some trees in the garden, that my husband wouldn’t let me have cut down. I was very unhappy and complaining, and my sister gently said, “I think you may have post-natal depression, you should go and see a doctor”. I’m amazed it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. There were times when my daughter would be crawling or toddling about the front room, and I would be sat on the sofa, sobbing. So yes, I needed help. That journey is another story of its own, but suffice to say it was a slow one. In general elections in England, I voted for Blair, then got disgruntled and stopped voting. Then another baby, a son (another emergency c-section — still couldn’t get that right), then baby groups, kindergarten, a house move, nursery school, more struggles with depression, and then a great opportunity arose. We could move to the USA! Woo, woo! America is a great country! The land of opportunity. A chance for new beginnings! A land of freedom.

My husband’s company had a vacancy that had been empty for over a year, and although it was a sideways move rather than a promotion, he was qualified to do it. We ended up moving over the following summer in 2007. Houses in Akron, OH were significantly cheaper than London, and much bigger! We found a school for the kids a similar size and style to the one they attended in London. My husband had a 5 minute commute to work. I just needed to find some friends! This was going to be a new beginning! My husband would be able to get home from work at a decent time for us all to eat together and spend quality time. That is, until the economic downturn in 2008… and my husband carried on working 14hr+ days, and nothing changed. It was the same but in another country. It did surprise me how behind America was in certain things. UK banks switched to chip and pin years before for better security. I went from ordering my groceries from my local stores online for delivery within a specific 2 hour window, back to traipsing to individual stores to get it myself, although they did have people to pack it up for you. And the quality and price were not as good as I was expecting. Clothes were very reasonable, similar to UK because most are made abroad, presumably. American stores really don’t care how many plastic bags you use, in Britain they charge you for them to try and get people to use reusable bags. Service is much better in US, from better training and better sales technique, although UK companies like Marks and Spencer, John Lewis are good.

I love living in America. There’s so much space, and everyone is friendly. I joined a tennis club and met lots of lovely ladies. I made friends with some of the mothers of my kids friends. In June 2012, I was diagnosed with abnormal cells in my right breast, had a biopsy, then had a lumpectomy. I have had mammograms (or MRI’s) and checkups every 6 months and have been taking Tamoxifen since November 2012. My left breast showed up some anomalies in 2016 so another biopsy, but that turned out to be harmless. We have health insurance through my husbands company for the whole family, which started off great and has been cut back to good, but I do worry what will happen when he retires. Will I even be able to get any cover? Will the premiums/co-pays be really high? I am also taking an anti-depressant called Venlafaxine which is working very well for me, another reason why I might not get health cover? I just cannot imagine what it must be like to have no health cover. The thing with breast cancer, and there are different types, but the earlier you find it the better, that’s why mammograms are so effective. Mine wasn’t a lump, I just noticed my right breast had changed shape, a very slight change, but I went to get it looked at as soon as I could. But what would have happened if I hadn’t noticed, or I didn’t have insurance? I shudder to think.

So, I was not really very well informed about ACA, because I had other insurance. I only took notice of the sound bites from the news on the candidates in the election. I liked Bernie Sanders, and was sorry he didn’t win the nomination. I was appalled at how Trump behaved against “fellow” republicans, HRC and don’t even get me started on “pussygate”. He was arrogant, full of bravado, rude and disrespectful, had no clear policies, just promises that sounded empty. HRC had policy documents (not that I read them — too boring…) and sounded like she knew what she was talking about, and she’s woman. She doesn’t seem all that charismatic, but that didn’t bother me because she had experience. So still, I am not engaging, despite my citizenship duty and responsibility to engage in the process. I thought “no one will vote for that crazy megalomaniac who has no respect for anyone but himself”. I voted for Bernie then I voted for Clinton, trying to quell the panic of what if… “President Trump? No it can’t happen, can it?” All the polls were pointing to Clinton. It’s a slam-dunk, right?

Well ladies and gentlemen, I don’t mind telling you that for a week after the election, I was in turn sad, angry, shocked, disappointed, gobsmacked, numb, in denial, sorry, appalled, in despair. And I still am to some extent. How could I have been so wrong? How could the polls be so wrong? No body I talked to seemed to like Trump, put off by his behavior, even republicans I knew… and yet somehow he won. He looked almost as shocked as I felt.

So here he is, still a billionaire businessman, despite his empty promise to separate himself from his businesses, and now our president. In the top position in the country, an example to us all.

Investing in our military at home and our police; is that to protect the people, or keep them under control?

Defund Planned Parenthood; is that to protect the unborn, or to keep women under control?

Ban muslims from entering the country; is that to protect the people, or to turn us into an alt-right patriarchy?

Ban muslims from coming here; is that to protect the people or prevent religious freedom in this country — against everything the Founding Fathers wanted?

Building a wall? Seriously? Better to spend that money on healthcare.

Anyone remember history? Hitler? Mussolini? Stalin? If you think that couldn’t happen here, I’d agree with you, except that the Germans, the Italians and the Russians probably thought that too.

So, no more sitting on the sidelines letting everyone else get on with it. I need to get involved. I need to make my voice heard. I need to educate myself about the political system in more detail. I can’t trust this shower to have a handle on decency and humanity. In the week since the inauguration, it’s gone from bad to worse. The cabinet will be a bunch of alt right millionaires who have bought themselves into power and are not qualified, or even decent candidates for the jobs. The ACA will be repealed, Planned Parenthood defunded reducing access to basic health services for women. Trump has alienated Mexico, China and Europe, but as embraced Putin as a hero rather than the despot he is. The campaign of hate has morphed into the presidency of hate. If you take away rights that already exist by law, where does it end? What’s to say he won’t reduce other freedoms in the name of making America great?