“devastating” to their program. Peggy Romberg, head of the Texas Family Planning Association, explains that the Administration began attacking family planning services almost immediately after Reagan took office in 1981. “Even if you remove the whole idea of choice,” she says, the Reagan administration is “still anti-family planning. . . . How can women be economically free if they have no control whatsoever over their fertility?” The net effect of Reagan’s cuts in legal aid, family planning, and a range of other basic social service programs, is to perpetuate poverty among women and their children. Allyeanne Myers, a Houston city planner active in registering low-income women to vote in this election, informs her audiences that “eighty percent of people in poverty are women and their children.” Celia Eckhardt, director of Texas Women for the 80s, adds other statistics: since 1979, she says, 3000 children a day “have fallen into poverty a 31 percent increase that is the sharpest rise in child poverty since those statistics have been collected.” The wage gap between men and women, she points out, is increasing rather than shrinking. On the broader gender-gap issues as well, women knowledgeable about the Reagan record see the election as crucial. Most disturbing, they say, are his military policies. The continued stockpiling of nuclear weapons, the placement of nuclear warheads in Europe, his “aggressive” statements about Russia and Cuba, and his actions regarding Central America, lead to characterizations ranging from “ignorant” to “dangerous” to “crazy.” One woman told me, “I think he doesn’t understand at least I hope that’s the problem the seriousness and the insanity” of his policies. She added, “I feel like we’re in the Cold War all over again.” Polarization is a concern in terms of domestic issues as well. Robina Jackson, for five years executive director of the Austin Urban League, believes Reagan’s domestic policies are leading to renewed polarization between black and white Americans. Similarly, Charlotte Flynn, a Gray Panther, is concerned that the Administration’s attacks on Social Security and Medicare are polarizing young and old. Environmentalists seek to overcome the perceived split between jobs and resources. “As far as jobs versus the environment,” says Sierra Club worker Monica Walden, “most environmental laws have produced more jobs than they have done away with.” Walden, whose work is focused on hazardous wastes and the public’s right to know what toxic substances they may be exposed to, says of Reagan’s approach to environmental issues, “His attitude seems to be, ‘Use it up, throw it away.’ ” Her list of grievances includes Reagan’s positions on wilderness lands, nuclear waste disposal, acid rain, and ground water pollution. Reagan opponents see the President wielding great power, legislatively and judicially as well as administratively. They feel Reagan is “tampering” with the divisions of governmental power and Compassion Like that of the organization she represents, the scope of Ms. Flynn’s concern extends much further than her own self-interest. “I just have never been able to really look [only] at what’s best for me and what’s best for my kids. It takes you in a different path.” When I asked about the roots of her concern for others, she replied, “I lived through the Depression. I lived in St. Louis when we had segregated housing. My family was bad off . .. but I can remember how [other people, especially blacks] had to live. I can remember Hooverville, down on the levee in St. Louis, where people lived in cardboard shacks.” Although she has worked as a nurse \(she managed to get a nursing degree during the Depression, with a partial scholarship, National Youth Agency job, and has been a working volunteer for most of her adult life, with the Girl Scouts, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, and, for the past seven years, the Gray Panthers. About the issues of most concern to older people: The areas that hit everyone are housing, medical care, and economic maintenance. About age-ism: Our society equates aging with problems. Every point in life has problems, and good points. People don’t look at it as a challenge. One of the effects of age-ism is to segregate. The attack on Social Security [for example] sets up hostility between the ages. About medical care in this country: [I am concerned about] the whole shift of the medical profession to being a moneymaking [business]. Now it’s a medical-industrial complex and I get angry. To say that one kind of illness is profitable and another kind is unprofitable is an abomination to me. This is one reason that the Gray Panthers back a national health service. Clearly this system is leaving more and more people out. You’ve got rent consuming almost 50 percent of people’s earnings now, and then they’re supposed to do health care, and food, and utilities. About the apparent trend among voters toward narrow economic selfinterest: People have just lost all sight of any kind of compassion. It’s frightening that people only look at keeping what they have and looking at the few people [who abuse the system]. It really is frightening when you look at how much money is being spent to catch the cheaters, and then when you get up on the top bracket, where you have welfare for the rich, nobody looks at that. We talk about the waste in the military. We talk about it, but nobody institutes any big programs to track this down. We do with welfare. My goodness, they find twenty people, and they recover $50,000, and they’ve spent $150,000. About the criticisms of welfare/social service programs: We’re right back to blaming the victim. I’m sure that there are people who misuse the system, [but] there are just lots of people out there who need help. This is crazy business, that . . . we’re so ready to punish people, and if we do give anything, it’s given with the sense of making those people feel less than human. It’s “I worked hard, I worked hard all my life,” and they don’t realize that a lot of other people probably worked a damn sight harder than they did for a lot less, and they should be entitled to something. About the lack of support for feminist issues: I get upset by the women who say, I’ve never had a problem. I’m not a feminist. There are people who by virtue of their birth . . . have gone through life without the barriers, but that doesn’t mean that the barriers aren’t real for other people. About the Gray Panthers’ involvement in armaments issues: Even a couple of our members have said, “You know, Maggie Kuhn ought to just tend to her own business, worrying about old people instead of all this peace business and this armament business; she doesn’t know anything about that,” and leaving the defense of our country to those “experts” of death and destruction. About the most crucial issue in this campaign: That issues aren’t going to be addressed, that people really aren’t going to look at issues. People are voting on 30-second commercials, and issues can’t be addressed. M B. THE TFXAS pcs
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.