Friday, September 21, 2012

Sarah Martin's Voice

Dear Mitt,

My dad was one of the air traffic controllers fired in the wake of the PATCO strike, and my mom has always worked in medical records.  I grew up in a middle class family – at times less than middle class – but I never went hungry.  I always had clothes that fit.  I had a roof over my head.  When I was sick, I went to the doctor.  If there was something I really wanted to do, my mom made certain I got to do it.  But somehow I knew if something was really expensive, I shouldn’t ask for it.  That’s why I never told my mom about the 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. or the high school trip to Europe – because I knew she’d try to find a way for me to go, and I knew we didn’t have the money.

My father was an alcoholic and a compulsive spender.  By the time I was a teenager, he was a successful small business owner, but his dependency and habits always had my mom scraping to get by.  When I was 15 years old, my dad blew his brains out on Christmas Day.  There was no life insurance to pay for the funeral, no savings, nothing – only a mountain of bills.  My mom went into debt trying to take care of everything on her own, and I knew at that point that I had to grow up very quickly. I also stopped liking Christmas.  I bet your Christmases as a kid were different from mine.

Through academic scholarships, Pell grants, a part-time job, and Stafford loans, I managed to graduate college and start a career – a career that ended up not being very lucrative, but I made ends meet.  I got married.  We bought a house.  I was living the American dream, right?  What is your version of the American dream, Mitt?

A few years later, we took a loss on our home and relocated to a small town in Northeast Georgia for my husband’s dream-job.  I, however, was underemployed, but like a good wife often does, I made sacrifices for my husband.  One day, I came home to find that my husband had left me for another woman and had overdrawn our joint bank account.  I moved back to my hometown where I had a small support system of family and friends.   I subsequently went through a divorce and got stuck with a lot of debt.  During that transitional period, I took a job waiting tables and tried to put some semblance of plan together to get another degree and start over in a new career.  For one six-month cycle, I received food stamps, which was just what I needed to avoid moving back home and burdening my mother – what I needed to get back on my feet.  I am no welfare queen.

Perhaps at my lowest, I met my current husband - a former Marine who is now employed full-time on a one-year contract with the Tennessee Army National Guard.  I should mention that he was deployed to Iraq for 12 months, and because of my low income and his commitment to serving in a combat zone – a service which exempts his income from being taxed – we both owed no income tax for 2010.  You called us “victims.”

As you can see, Mitt, no matter to whom you were referring in your remarks – whether it was the population who are receiving or have received federal benefits (and I have) or the population who have not paid income tax (and at times I have not) – I am part of the 47%.

Today, I am blissfully married, own a home, and am active in my community and the political process.  I may have a mountain of student loans, but I currently hold a master’s degree in public administration and graduate certificate in nonprofit management.  I have a promising position with a nonprofit organization and am committed to effecting change in my time here in this world.  With help, I changed my life, and I feel an obligation to help others change their lives, as well.  I get it -- you're not interested.  And I'm not interested in voting for you, either. 

Sarah Martin

Sarah Martin is from Nashville, Tennessee and works for a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women.  She strives to be a voice for those whose voices are not heard loudest.