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Born In The 47% (A Million Little Miracles)

You know, I kind of feel sorry for ol' Mittens Romney.  He's the only presidential candidate in my recent memory who has successfully opened up a can of whoopass on his damn self.  That said, I, like, say,47% of the country, took offense at his remarks about the 47%.  Because, unbeknownst to me until recently, I was born into the 47%, at least for a while.

Like ol' Mittens, I, too, used to be on my high horse about people on public assistance.  I would see women at the Winco with their manicured nails handing over their EBT cards or hearing in the news about folks using their EBT cards at casinos and I would think to myself, "This is just wrong.  I get up and go to work every day, took a pay cut, cut coupons, and watch every penny, and they're going to casinos and getting their nails done."  I started to look down on healthy-appearing folks on public assistance and started to voice my disdain of them to my family members.

Until my oldest brother informed me that I, too, had been on public assistance.

My oldest brother, whom I will refer to as "He Who Is Wise" (HWIW for short), told me about the real deal of my existence in my early days on this earth.  It appears (and I may be getting this wrong since it's family stuff that happened before my memories formed) that my dad loaned his car to a family member who had an accident in that car and had no insurance.  The judgment against my dad wiped him out -- our family lost the house we were living in and had to move in with friends of the family.  During that time, my dad moved out so that my mom could qualify for food stamps for their six kids, me being among them.

HWIW informed me that our dad hadn't abandoned the family; he just did what he had to do financially to, in the words of the Beverly Hillbillies, "keep his family fed."

This little fact checking of my past made me realize that the things I thought were normal about my life were indeed not normal.  That the position in which I sit now -- well-education black woman from a two-parent family where both parents had jobs, benefits and pensions despite the fact that neither had graduated high school -- was not normal at all, but the product of a million little miracles.

It was a miracle that I was born to married parents.
It was a miracle that my parents stayed together.
It was a miracle that my parents had jobs with benefits and pensions, even though neither of them graduated high school.
It was a miracle that my parents were homeowners (eventually).
It was a miracle that I went to good public schools.
It was a miracle that I graduated high school
It was a miracle that I was admitted to Stanford, Princeton and Harvard.
It was a miracle that my parents stressed education and never gave me the option of not considering college because of the cost.
It was a miracle that my parents discussed world events at the dinner table and made my siblings and me think for ourselves and sharpen our critical thinking skills.  To this day, we can spot an idiot a mile out.
Most importantly, it was a miracle that my parents were able to get off public assistance.

Sure, what my parents did is what parents should do, but there's a huge difference between "should" and "could" in America.  What I thought was normal in my life and what I've been able to do with my life is really the result, the amalgamation, if you will, of a million little miracles.  Miracles that didn't happen to many other people.

I understand that some of ol' Mittens' family were on public assistance at some time, like mine.

So before you look down on women with manicured fingernails who use EBT cards at the Winco, check yourselves.  They don't represent all folks on public assistance any more than I do, even though being on public assistance is an experience we both have in common.  There is no one type of person on public assistance or in need.

And, Mittens (and Lyin' Paul Ryan, for that matter), before you criticize folks on public assistance, you might want to make sure that you or your family weren't among them at some point in time.

That's what I learned from my brother, HWIW.


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