As we all know by now this is an election year. This November all registered voters will have an opportunity to vote to decide who will become the next President of the United States. This is an important decision for all citizens of our country for many reasons. It is also very important to those of us with multiple sclerosis. The next president will decide, among other issues, whether to uphold the Affordable Care Act that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.
This legislation is expected to extend health care coverage to millions of Americans who are currently uninsured. The court has also restricted the expansion of Medicaid, allowing states to choose to “opt out.” This will impact people with MS, and is an important issue for us to follow.
My husband and I have always had a keen interest in U.S. history. We recognize the value of being aware of not only our history but also being equally aware of where our country is headed. We’ve taken our son to places such as the Lexington, Concord and Gettysburg battlefields. We visited Washington, DC several times, and toured sites such as the Capitol Building, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Vietnam, Korean War, WWII and Women in the Military Memorials as well as Arlington National Cemetery. We are proud to be Americans and choose to share our pride with our son.
As Americans with multiple sclerosis, we have a strong collective voice to let the nation’s leaders know what we think about issues, how we feel about them, what is important to us and what our needs are. No matter what type of MS we have, there is one thing that cannot be taken away from us – our ability to vote.
I recently heard an interview on NPR’s “On Point” radio show (On Point Radio Website) about the disconnect between our political leaders and their constituents. The guest explained that despite the result of many polls, our leaders continue to turn deaf ears to the results of these polls and listen only to the demands of special interest groups. They said we no longer live in a democracy, but we are now living in a “republic.”
I don’t want to get political here on HealthCentral; I merely discuss the radio interview to illustrate a point. People with MS need to use their voices – LOUD AND CLEAR – to let others know what we need – no, deserve (!) – the most. Better health care. More accessible transportation. Stricter laws against discrimination. Increased funding for higher education for the disabled. The list goes on…
According to The University of Arkansas, “A nationwide telephone survey conducted by the two universities (Rutgers University) revealed that disabled Americans under the age of 55 have become increasingly active in political matters.”
This survey may be small in scope but I believe it’s indicative of what is happening today. More and more people with disabilities are speaking up for themselves. To quote the movie Network… “Get up out of your chairs and yell ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore. Things have got to change…’”
We need to vote in order to speak up for ourselves. We need to decide which candidate best represents not only what is good for our country, but also what is best for our disability. So before November 6 rolls around, do your homework. Read all you can about each candidate and his platform, from reputable sources. Don’t listen to anyone else’s point of view - listen to yourself. You know what is important to you and your family and only you can make that decision. In this great country of ours we have the right to make our own decisions without coercion. Use that right; you are entitled to it.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION PROVIDED BY MOMENTUM MAGAZINE, THE NATIONAL MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS SOCIETY NEWSLETTER:
• Citizens in 30 states have voting laws to comply with. Contact your local polling precinct to learn what you’ll need to be able to vote.
•Is your polling place accessible? Visit aapd.com/what-we-do/voting ahead of time to find out what your rights are.
•Visit longdistancevoter.org to learn more if you are unable to vote in person.
Cathy Chester is the author of the blog An Empowered Spirit.
Published On: July 31, 2012