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Virginia legislators are back at work, deciding if Medicaid should be expanded.  As usual, it all boils down to money, and who gets more of it from which decision.  While I understand the practicality of determining expense, I can say with very little doubt that if any of these legislators’ family members were ill, cost would probably be their last concern, even if they did not have the salaries and health insurance VA taxpayers give them.  So why do the rest of us deserve so much less consideration?

It seems the old stereotype of low income families as “leeches”, “freeloaders”, “addicts”, “lazy”, etc. are still alive and well in our state.

The Republicans argue that the federal government might default on its financial obligations.  (If this is the real reason, perhaps we should close all our schools, in case the Fed fails to kick in their part of the money for our state’s educational system.)  The federal government is expected to contribute millions of dollars per day, totaling billions of dollars, to help Virginia cover the cost of expanding Medicaid.  Now our state is facing the same kind of stalemate which shut down the federal government before.

I am not sure why there is such an argument over whether or not we should help the sick and poor.  All I can think of is that there is a percentage of our population who simply do not wish to help anyone they deem “unworthy”, and they have for some reason deemed all low income families as such.  We do still have “in God we trust” printed on our money, and a large percentage of our politicians identify themselves as Christian, or at the very least, supportive of family values.  So, “what would Jesus do”?  What kind of person would deny help to anyone in need?  Our politicians have a history of spending money, with the idea that they will find a way to cover the expense later, but they typically reserve that privilege for pet projects, and now that it would actually be the right thing to do, they’ve suddenly developed a fiscal conscience.

Here’s an idea:  Put off a pet project or two, show some compassion for your fellow human beings, and expand Medicaid.

It might even help our economy when families who are struggling no longer have to worry so much about personal financial devastation from medical expenses.

And, a healthy society is a productive society.  I wonder how many of the impoverished and downtrodden will be able to return to productivity after their medical issues have been addressed, and they are no longer treated as subhuman.  I wonder if our legislators even care.

The recent debate over a law requiring equal pay for women has touched a personal sore spot.

I recall years ago, when I began working as an administrative assistant for a large insurance company, I was paid about 10% less than the male I was replacing– and I had more administrative experience than he did!  But, at the time, I was young and naive, and it never occurred to me to ask for higher pay.

I was also charged about 20% more for my health coverage, purely because I am a woman, in spite of the fact that I had (and still have) no intention of having children. I actually argued with the inurance rep over this point.  The health insurance rep (also a woman) explained that it made no difference, because there was a chance that I might change my mind. When I asked hypothetically if they still charge more for women who were menopausal, she answered yes. I told her I hoped that someday she would realize how sexist the practice was. Then I paid the extra 20%, because what else could I do?

Women are not charged 20% less for everything for being women, so why should we be paid on average 20% less?

This should be important to men, too. These women are your wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. If they are making equal pay, it is a benefit to the men in their lives too.  When women are making the same pay as men, imagine how much easier it will be to save for your children’s educations, pay your mortgages, or take longer vacations.

Moreover, women make up about half the world’s population, so equality for women is equality for every ethnicity and culture.

And, ladies.. it is time to be bold. If you do not ask, you do not receive. Employers trying to save a few bucks will pay any employee a little less if they can. Don’t be afraid to ask for more; you might be surprised how often you get it!!

Tshirts, buttons, bumper stickers, and hats featuring the phrases “Free Ai Weiwei”, “Where is Ai Weiwei?”, “Love the Future”, and “Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei” are available in the Free_Ai_Weiwei store on

10% of total sales will be donated to charity.

My personal fave is the design with the sunflower– partly because it reminds me of Ai’s sunflower seeds exhibit, and partly because the one prominent petal makes it almost look like the sunflower is giving the bird (something Ai is known to do).   Or maybe that last bit is just in my head.  Does anyone else see it??

The resemblance the petals bear to a flame is nice, too.

If it was possible, this stuff would all be free.  Unfortunately, I currently lack the funds to buy and distribute these by the truckload.

Initially, I was more hesitant to fully boycott all goods made in China, since this often only hurts those whom it is intended to help. Typically, those in power hoard scarce resources and it is the rest of the people who suffer.

However, money seems to be what most understand, better than petitions and protests.

If the tainted pet food, lead-paint toys, and cadmium-covered drinking glasses haven’t convinced you to buy fewer Chinese products (or none at all), perhaps nothing will.  But I will try to convince you anyway.

I admit that I myself have been less than fully conscientious when it comes to buying various personal and household products.  I haven’t always looked at the “Made in” labels, and at times I have gone for the lower price the “Made in China” stamp offers.  No more.

As an artist/individual who has at times been too outspoken for my own good, I can easily imagine myself in a similar position to that of dissidents being “detained” or “re-educated”, which is perhaps why the arrest of Ai Weiwei has struck such a chord.

So, I recently contacted, which handles the art prints and gift merchandise I offer through the soulbearing store, and asked which items are produced in China.  They responded very quickly that all of their product manufacturers must comply with fair labor standards, that many products are made domestically, and that the mugs offered are produced in China but printed here in USA. 

It is important to note that is a fabulous company offering high quality merchandise and prints from many fabulous artists.  However, I cannot in good conscience keep offering items produced in China since I object so strongly to the Chinese government’s current treatment of its own people.  As lovely as some of the mug designs were, and as much as it pained me to cease offering them, I had to ask myself: Which is more important? Humans or mugs?

Of course, it’s a no-brainer.  So, the mugs are no longer available through my store, and if I find that any other products are manufactured in China, I will do “close-outs” and cease offering those items too.

I realize it is only a drop in the bucket.  But, while I doubt my individual act of protest will make a huge difference alone, I do hope it will start a trend of boycotting goods made in China, until the Chinese government upholds its promises to allow more free thought and expression.  Enough drops in the bucket can create a flood.


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