A 34th series on the impacts of policy on our lives...

Dorsol PlantsUpdated January 4, 2012

My Life: Dorsol Plants

When I was growing up, I was told a story about the ruler of a city-state. Long oppressed by neighbors to the north and east, they had united as a people and fought for their freedom. Safe and free, the ruler was preparing to disband his ragtag army and return his focus to peace and farming. Frightened of the evils they had just defeated, they refused the idea, insisting the army stay and stand ready to fight future threats. Bowing to the will of his people, he did not disband his army but changed his herald to a snake eating its own tail as a reminder that as long as you have an army, it must feed, and left to its own devises it will even consume itself.

Whether the story is true or not, the moral of the story bears a striking resemblance to the tone of Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address and contains an important lesson for us today. As Eisenhower prepared to leave office, he was leaving behind the foundation of the first true standing army the United States would have. From Valley Forge to Normandy, freedom had always been defended by mostly volunteers answering the call when needed, as a direct response to a threat. Concerned for the industrialization he saw, Eisenhower broke it down into exactly what The People would lose with every battleship built and; as if predicting the actions of President Bush in 2003, warned of providing this much power to someone who did not know the military as well as he. For those of you who think that American defense policy only affects the 1% who have served in this pastime of war, you are sorely wrong.

I have seen the dramatic effects our defense policy can have first hand. Massively advanced technologies are being used against people ill-informed and very ill-prepared to meet them. The long term effect our decision to invade Iraq will have is not defined as a number, but a frightened look cast in the direction of our vehicles. Not discounting this damage to non-Americans, when we go to war we harm ourselves as well. Every bomb built is money not spent on our own children in order to kill someone else's, and war for the sake of war provides our real enemies with greater insight into how we would defend ourselves when it really counted. Finally, it leaves a terrible scar on an entire generation of Americans. Already, Veterans like myself face a ten percent higher unemployment rate and a suicide rate of around eighteen per day. That is also, unfortunate to say, just the tip of iceberg, with more of us coming home soon and more long-term health damage like mine and others exposure to depleted Uranium rounds will take decades to manifest.

My greatest fear from all that, what keeps me up at night, is seeing those same defense policies enacted here, in my own home. Yet, under a Democratic President we have continued to see our civil liberties eroded. Our President now has the power to detain actual citizens as war criminals, and continues to cede control over the internet to corporations, enacting censorship similar to that used by dictators in other countries.

Scariest of all, the military industry, seeing arms money going away from the two wars overseas, have set their eyes here. Across the country we are seeing our police departments outfitted with the same military equipment used overseas, whether it's the spy drone flying over homes in Atlanta, or rifles and body armor better than I was equipped with to invade Iraq. We are outfitting our police officers like soldiers and then shaking our heads and wondering why they act like it.

Defense policy affects everyone, its a loadstone that weighs all other governmental policies and actions down, and if you don't watch carefully it will be the same policy in your backyard.

by Dorsol Plants

Updated December 4, 2011

My Life: Betsy Shedd

My life has been one of a progressive, non-conforming, non-traditional, active citizen. After graduating from Summit High School here in Seattle in 1978, I needed to make a choice on my future path. There were policies, and a long line of incredible leaders, that helped make my choice possible and build the culture in Seattle where I would thrive.

The successful efforts of the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War protests of the 1960's and early 1970's created the awareness, on a national level, of a clear need for greater social and economic justice in the awarding of federal contracts using public tax payer dollars. The policy our government created was Affirmative Action. Evolving law stated a goal that 5% of the federal contracting dollar shall go to socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs.

Additionally, Washington State has always been a leader in federal defense contracting. Our naval shipyards, aerospace industry, and transportation networks are in part funded through federal dollars.

With the new policy in place, by the mid 1970's unions could no longer afford to defend their mono-racial, mono-gender, training and hiring programs. By 1980, all major trade unions opened their apprenticeships to non-traditional applicants and my career path was born. In 1997 private interests actively opposed Affirmative Action by funding Tim Eyman's original initiative campaign, WA I-200 which won the popular vote. The struggle for justice is endless.

I am certain that my 33 year career as a non-traditional member of the skilled construction building trades was made possible by the hard fought gains of all the social and economic justice leaders. They convinced our elected officials that the road to a stable and strong USA must include a diverse work force.

Every city and community in the U.S. has benefited from the implementation of Affirmative Action, whether we choose to believe it or not. I am eternally grateful for all leadership struggles that create greater justice and equality in our lives.

by Betsy Shedd

Updated November 2, 2011 Marcee Stone

My Life: Marcee Stone

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I was proud to be a Democrat that day and proud to be a parent of a soon-to-be college graduate. Claire Donehue, my daughter, was to graduate from the Evergreen State College that June.

Because of that law I knew she would be able to stay on my healthcare insurance until she turned 26. A great relief as many college graduates today face tough times trying to find work, let alone a job with healthcare benefits.

Shockingly, two months after the signing of the bill, Claire was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes), a mere 3 weeks before her graduation.

Now, it was more than a relief she would be able to stay on my healthcare insurance, it was a godsend. She would need constant medical attention for this chronic disease the rest of her life.

Claire is doing extremely well and has found a job with benefits and is no longer on my plan. However, knowing how unstable the economy is, it is still comforting to know that I'll be able to put her on my plan for another two years if she were to lose her job. I keep my fingers crossed that she and I will continue to be gainfully employed and that Obama will sign new rules to ease the repayment terms for college graduates with federal student loans. Every little bit helps.

That's how President Obama has changed my life.

Marcee Stone

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