Monday, June 1, 2009

My Own Dirty Little Secret

Harry and Louise: Adding Insult to Injury?

(Draft—because I have a welfare appointment I need to prepare for)

My first spring back in New York, we used to joke about J-School: Were they trying to tweak our skills turning us into experts in public journalism or public relations.
I took my first graduate level class in public journalism on the 4th floor at the infamous J-School located inside the cool steel gates separating surrounding Morningside Heights. 116th street from the homeless and the winos’ asking everyone all the passer by's for money just before we walked through the iron gates leading to the Ivory Tower.

The blocks surrounding 116th-120th where only the young and the talented get ready to take their place in society.

We would pass the men living on the streets each day, enter through the solid stone doors that were 12 ft tall, and write about them. With such eloquence you would hardly know they were homeless at all. We exploited them.

Just like Tuskegee exploited the Blacks, and the Army exploits the young and the rudderless, we exploited the sick irony of paying more per credit than they earned in one year on Veterans benefits or disability. We disgust me.

But Karma is a bitch, because less than 2 years later there I was, sleeping in the law school stacks; showering in the indoor pool... gym because I “looked good enough to pass through the gates.” I had that Ivy League pedigree. The would-have-been Harvard Law student—maybe even have had it paid in full had I been a boy or born to a different mother.

What the fuck did they know? That cute little Jewish Girl from Long Island, the one from a "good" family... the Harvard Legacy with the beautiful mother always dripping in jewels and fur from her latest boyfriend or husband—that little girl was me.

I should have been the perfect example of how a power player in the making the benefits from good breeding. No one ever needed to know that beneath it all I worked my ass off to get into College and ultimately get a scholarship into the top ranked program in Sociology and Social Policy to effect change. The fact that I dropped out of high school at 16 could remain my dirty little secret.

And to this day, no one has ever come forward to expose that little truth. Probably because so few people know—Maybe three or four So would I reveal such an embarrassing little detail of my life and risk my reputation on something I should have left behind me over twenty years ago?

Because it matters.

No one needed to know. I can get by well enough on my looks, I speak quite eloquently, and usually appear normal to most, but it is an important little factoid because people constantly judge ME based upon who they think I am – either the girl with the wealthy parents, or a lazy too stupid too get off welfare.

It matters because what appears to be and what is are often two very different things. I am in fact, an Ivy League Alumnus. I did in fact get a full scholarship into the PhD program in Public Policy at a leading University.

I am in fact unable to find employment and live on SSI (Supplemental Security Income) the lowest of the low. I am so far beneath the poverty level (already ridiculous) that I often wonder how I manage to live at all.

So that "legacy," the access I once had to the Ivory tower on the 4th floor we wrote is now gone. Not because they didn't like my work-- they loved it! Solid A in Public Journalism.

Well if I were in New York today, I would most likely be one of the people o the streets. Actually, I would probably be sitting across the street at the Bookstore just so I could stay close to the vast amounts of wisdom and philosophy within the hollowed halls as classes break for the summer. I would be watching people go in and out and be envious that they had the one thing that I don't: access.

So I made it through the very Same J-School where Pat Buchanan refused to speak to his Alma-mater because he once punched someone in the face on the 5th floor. I made it through despite the fact that I often times slept in my car in the middle of winter because I could not afford gas for the commute and eventually lost my apartment. I made it through having no electricity and frozen water pipes.

The question is: can I make it through this? I paid my dues. I deserve a chance. Dammit, I deserve a do-over. I deserve a job. I deserve a little credit.

Will our policy decision be based upon our need for reform or the ability to perform?

We used to joke about all the sell-out Journalist who gave yup on reporting the news and became speech writers for politicians. How their idealism was tarnished and they decided to go into PR.

I am not one of those people. I care enough about the issues to take the time to examine them from all angles-- and I fell that the massive amount of money being spent by agencies that I hold in deep respect launching a counter-attack on the insurance companies and their ad execs will have serve to damage their reputation. I chose to volunteer with these agencies because I believe they are well informed and do a great job to involve the everyday average Americans like myself in the political process.

By spending $750,000 on advertising, these groups now seem to be on the same level as the Insurance Industry and others who exploit the poor and infirm at the mercy of the Healthcare marketplace.

So I take issue with this campaign. Let Rick Scott be heard. Using such tactics will make the good guys no better than the Insurance Companies that exploit us all.

Are these ads showing us: how to reform or how to perform?

The large amount of funds being thrown (public or private) being spent on media fluff, and emotional being spent on media propaganda and 'skittles' on both sides of the healthcare debate.

I am offended by the huge amounts of money being spent on propaganda and skittles by both sides of the healthcare debate. Excessive, exorbitant monies being spent to manipulate the public through misleading ads, expert analyses, media alerts~ this is insulting at best.

Real dollars being used to manipulate the public about real issues: the sick; the poor; the ignorant... We are selling bad data and information to those who need it the most.

Talk about adding insult to injury? I do hope HCAN, HealthJustice and others will reconsider this campaign. I am one foot soldier who is unwilling to participate in this one.

Bottom line is this: we need to stop manipulating images and perceptions about the reality of healthcare, education, and social welfare in the United States. All is not well in America. Not well at all. And I am here to prove it!

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.
Social Security Recipient
Anytown, United States of America

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