Little in that description tells you whether I support Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I could fit into either candidate’s “basket” of disaffected voters who’ve seen their retirement funds threatened, home values fall, taxes rise, children burdened with student debt.
I am a first-generation American, the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Germany. After making his way to the United States from England in 1941, my dad enlisted in the Army and was naturalized after finishing basic training. He served out the war in North Africa and Italy, contracting a nasty case of malaria that would revisit him years later.
My mom and her family escaped Germany by the “skin of their teeth,” she would say, in the spring of 1939 after her father got out of Dachau, tickets already in hand. She married Dad in 1948; she was a manicurist and he was a clerk. When I was a toddler, we moved to more affordable public housing. In 1959 my parents bought a modest ranch on Long Island with restitution from Germany for their losses, which included their homes, educations and most of my dad’s family. By today’s standards, it was a pittance – maybe $5,000 – but enough for a down payment and GI mortgage.
My parents didn’t attend college, but I did, thanks to student loans and scholarships. I’ve had careers in journalism and public relations. My brother married early and became a truck driver and proud Teamster. Today, I am semi-retired, on Medicare and Social Security. Our son is a journalist with a wife and two children. My husband sells cars. We paid our college loans off many years ago and refinanced our house more than once for the kids’ college educations or to reduce our payments. We pay a lot in taxes, including nearly $10,000 in property taxes for our smallish house. I’m grateful for what we have, but I worry a lot about not having enough money for retirement, or being bankrupted by a crisis.
Sounds pretty typical, until you hear the rest of the story.
Our happy and charmed life, as I always saw it, was shattered last year when our beautiful daughter, a social worker, died at 34 of breast cancer. We were blindsided when she was diagnosed, and she and I learned we carried a mutation that put us at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She lost her battle, but my fight goes on for more genetic testing and research dollars for metastatic breast cancer.
By all accounts, I could easily be part of the so-called “angry, disillusioned, fearful” group of voters who think Donald Trump can save the country and improve our lives.
But I'm not. Far from it.
I could go into all the reasons I dislike Trump (“dislike” is putting it mildly). He and his followers frighten me with their phobias and -isms: Islamophobia, racism, homophobia. Trump’s hateful rhetoric about Mexicans and his threat to ban Muslims sound too close to the things my parents experienced in Germany.
But I’d rather focus on why I believe Hillary Clinton has our best interests at heart and why I trust her to do the right thing for America.
In early 1991, my mother was 62 and dying of a rare cancer in Florida. She had been diagnosed the previous summer and given eight months to live. Cancer treatment was advancing, but still very limited. The best the doctors could do was deliver chemotherapy to her liver with a pump. She lived as normally as possible until she couldn’t any more, singing at nursing homes and directing a community chorus. Questionable surgery did nothing but debilitate her more – and deplete her health insurance.
At the end, she again had to be hospitalized. She was in bad shape, on intravenous morphine and barely conscious. Out of the blue, the hospital told us that her health insurance had run out and they were discharging her to home hospice care. Just like that. Until that day, my parents had no idea their insurance coverage was capped and they had already exceeded it.
My mother was sent home in an ambulance, carried up the stairs and dumped in a bed, crying out in pain. The hospital had disconnected the intravenous morphine and sent her off without pain meds. The hospice representative said she was “inappropriately discharged” without being prepped for home care. That same day she was transferred to their respite facility. There, she received the best and most compassionate care of her entire illness. She died 30 hours later.
Not long after her death, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami billed my dad for $40,000 – money he did not have. We were furious. The best we could do was work out an arrangement for monthly payments. To this day, my dad, who is 93 and ailing, sends a monthly check to that *%$#& hospital.
A year or so after my mother’s death, Bill Clinton was running for president and Hillary was campaigning for universal health care as part of his platform. That fight nearly lost Bill the election and was DOA, as they say, but it resonated with me. I wrote a letter to my local paper telling my mother’s story and praising Bill for making this an issue, as no one else ever had. I knew my parents hadn’t been the only people devastated by the way health care worked at the time in this country. While my letter did not mention Hillary, I’ve never forgotten it was she who was out there fighting for accessible health care for everyone.
Thankfully, the changes finally put in by President Obama have resolved some of the issues my mother faced and more such as not covering pre-existing conditions or exhausting insurance. Yet, illness still bankrupts families, and millions remain uninsured because Congress refuses to solve the health care crisis in this country.
My daughter’s three-year battle with breast cancer was fraught with similar issues. More than once, her insurance refused to cover diagnostic tests that might have prolonged her life had a new metastasis been detected earlier. As a result, she endured a frustrating game of “whack-a-mole” with her cancer. It’s heartbreaking to listen to your gravely ill daughter on the phone with insurers or pharmacies, trying to convince them to cover a test or fill a prescription.
I have no doubt that these problems, and much worse, have been experienced by millions of Americans. Many of us are just one medical or legal crisis away from financial ruin, no matter how well we’ve managed our lives and resources.
Health care remains a centerpiece of Hillary’s platform, as do many other issues that affect Americans, including women’s rights, education, the environment and the economy.
I do not, for a minute, doubt her sincerity on these issues. She has been there before and she’s still with us. She has my vote.