Bernie Sanders is the only candidate running today who is listening to my voice. I have spent my life in the background of society. My twitter profile is a lesson in how not to get followers. I’ve elevated introversion into an artform. I have my small circle of friends and family. I have many reasons to love my life despite the daily battle I fight with my own mind.
I have struggled with severe mental illness all of my life. This is something I have never been ashamed of. I can’t predict when I’m going to have an episode. When it happens, it is so sudden and complete, there isn’t much I can do about it but wait for my brain to turn back on again. That puts a damper on my ability to hold a steady job. Social Security disability allows me to pay my bills. Medicare and Medicaid allow me to see my psychiatrist. Medicare prescription drug coverage allows me to afford ridiculously overpriced medication. Government subsidized housing is the only way I can live independently.
When Republicans speak so dismissively and callously of “entitlements” and “free stuff”, it is a little hard for me not to take it personally. There is so much they are not seeing. Millions of Americans depend on our social safety net to survive. That’s not a metaphor, and we aren’t just a number to be cut. Our great-grandparents fought for Social Security, and we can not allow it to die.
When Bernie Sanders was the first to answer RespectAbility’s People with Disabilities questionnaire, it told me that a voice like mine matters to him. Last night’s victory speech in New Hampshire brought me to tears a few times. I sobbed out loud when he mentioned disability rights alongside gay rights, women’s rights, and racial justice. Often, people with disabilities aren’t in the discussion at all.
This is a historic election cycle. For the first time in my lifetime, people are awake and their eyes are open as to what we could lose if we get another Republican-led White House. I hope we will be able to tell our grandchildren we elected the President that secured our social safety net for generations of our citizens and made healthcare a right for all. When I give what little I can to the Bernie Sanders campaign every month, I’m making an investment in America’s future that will pay off for all of us.