Attention, Congressman Ryan: I am one of the women you said must not be from Iowa or Wisconsin because we did not sit back quietly, respectfully, and smile and say nothing while you lied to us during your first solo stump speech as a vice-presidential candidate at the Iowa State Fair earlier this week. Actually, I am from Iowa. I grew up here. My parents are from here. I have taught school here, in Des Moines, for 40 years.
I asked you if you were going to cut Medicare. You didn’t answer. The truth is, Congressman, I already know the answer. I know what’s in the budget you wrote, that your fellow Republicans in Congress voted for, and that your running mate, Gov. Romney, supports. I know it ends Medicare as we know it today and turns it into a voucher program that raises seniors’ costs by thousands of dollars a year and throws us on the mercy of private insurers.
And I assure you, Congressman, what I did, what those other Iowans did that day, wasn’t easy for those of us raised to be “Iowa nice.” From a young age I learned to behave in the way you alluded to, to be extremely friendly and to always assume the best of people. Over the years I’ve sat very patiently, listening to politicians, watching them dodge questions or distort answers or really just abuse the facts and I never said anything because it wouldn’t be nice, it’s not Iowa nice.
But I’m 63 years old now, I’m retired, and I’ve seen the impact of that silence. I’ve seen who really pays the price for silence and it is the poor and the middle class. I have seen the big picture – how corporate greed erodes democracy and factories take over farms. I’ve seen it all up-close and personal too, every day, for 24 years, teaching middle school in a district that serves low-income families. I have seen kids come to school in the dead of winter with no socks and kept my classroom stocked with food to make sure these kids had a fighting chance to learn when they made it, by themselves, with no one to set the alarm and no one to drive them through the snow, to school against the odds. I’ve seen their parents struggle to get off drugs and wait months, years even, for a spot in a treatment program that would give them a fighting chance to be the parents they truly want to be.
So you understand, Congressman Ryan, and Governor Romney, that when I hear you tell a crowd that you want to "help the middle class to prosper," by cutting off the lifelines these young people need to survive – food stamps, Medicaid, public education and, yes, drug treatment, it makes my blood boil. It sends that Iowa nice thing right out the window.
I get just as angry when you talk about broadly shared prosperity, as if that’s something you believe in, when you have written and voted for plans that slash taxes on millionaires and corporations and do nothing at all for my 86-year-old aunt, whose groceries I buy half the time, because she lives on $1,400 a month, mostly from Social Security, and pays $785 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
There’s so much more, Congressman Ryan, and Governor Romney, that makes me forget my upbringing – at least the part of my upbringing that tells me to sit back, grin and bear it, and let you lie to me and destroy people’s lives and then maybe, at most, grouse about it quietly in private. Or maybe I’m not forgetting my upbringing at all, come to think of it. Maybe I’m remembering well the lessons of generations of hardworking Iowans who value community, fairness, opportunity and kindness in the face of a mean-spirited policy of greed. A little of that Iowa nice has turned from Iowa nice, to Iowa sad, to Iowa angry and finally, to Iowa strong.
Cherie Mortice is a retired schoolteacher and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) Action Fund member from Des Moines, Iowa.