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Michealene Cristini Risley Headshot

Struggling to Avoid a Neck Injury in the Whiplash of Democracy

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In less than a month, we will elect a new President of the United States. This election is the most important event of my lifetime. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know of the many critical issues facing our country. Many of these issues are precarious. Some are downright scary.

In my observations, not only has the country become extremely polarized it has also become less civil in its discourse. I myself stopped taking comments on the Huffington Post, because I found that people lashed out personally with viciousness. My experience is a mirror to many of the "conversations" across the country. These discussions have become negative, mean-spirited and in many cases distorted. These distortions not only come from both sides of the aisle but the middle as well.

I, for one, am looking for a new political party. I think the right and left wings have hijacked our country as much as elected officials have succumbed to power and greed. We the people of the United States of America need to create a seismic shift. We have all heard much about "CHANGE" from both candidates, but how can one believe in what a candidate says if there is no follow through or execution on promises. Credibility is further damaged as you discover "something" that was said, wasn't exactly true.

Yesterday, in less than 24 hours, I heard diverse opinions from two intelligent life-long friends.

The first friend said the following: "I would rather have a pet rock in the White House than Senator Obama. The minute he becomes President, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will be partying on the White House lawn."

The second friend, when confronted about the issue of Governor Palin forcing rape victims to pay for their rape kits, insisted that is was the "Democratic Spin Machine" that wove the tale.

I tell this story not to illuminate that either of these two people are wrong in their thinking but to get at the crux of my point. There has been so much deception in our country that it is hard to figure out what the truth is. How do we create a meaningful debate on issues in our country when truth has been lost and no one is held accountable for the lies? Even in Sergei Prokofiev's classic tale, "Peter and the Wolf", the child finally understood that his deception was wrong. Why are we not howling at the lack of honesty in this campaign and of our government officials? Why are we so accepting of poor behavior from our leaders?

How can we create a base of knowledge to discriminate who the best candidate is to run this country when we cannot verify their beliefs; or be allowed to ask a tough question?

Both of my friends mentioned are both people who have passionate, strong beliefs. They share a commonality in the fact they each has received information about a candidate that may or may not be true. Yet, it has become true in their minds. Their decisions have to do with a complex set of beliefs developed in their families, their childhood and with their education. In this discussion race, abortion and women's rights play a part in their evaluation. Ultimately, there is a real and TRUE answer to whether Obama is hiding his radical side; or whether Palin is cruel and heartless and forcing women to pay for their rape kits.

The Cowardice of Politicians

Since I was fiercely angry at the thought that anyone would victimize a rape survivor twice, I decided to find out if it was true. Besides, it was a lot easier to get an answer to this then figuring out if Obama is a radical. At least I thought it was.

I called the City of Wasilla, Alaska to see if under Palin's regime as Mayor of Wasilla sexual Assault victims were charged for their forensic exams. The representative of the office of the Mayor did not answer the questions but directed me to the Wasilla website. There you can print out "A" document that addresses this issue. The document states: "that under the fiscal years of 2000, 2001 and 2002 there are no records of billings to or collections from rape victims or their insurance companies in the cities system." A review of the Wasilla Police department files and case reports has found no record of sexual assault victims billed for forensic exams. State law AS 18.68.040, which was effective 8/14/2000 would have prohibited any such billings after that date. Okay, that got me nowhere.

I found a well researched piece by Jacob Alperin, a Huffington Post writer which summed up the situation and simply stated that this was true.

Some readers may say the Huffington Post is merely a liberal media site, so I called back the Wasilla Mayor's office again. This time I talked to another assistant in the office. She could not give me a yes or no answer. She did suggest that "If I would like to get a definite answer I could fill out a public request form which was also on the website: http://www.cityofwasilla.com/. Hmmm, do you think I will get an answer before the election?

Then I discovered this listing which was part of the Anchorage Daily News blogs. In this story, there are a number of interviews with
Former Alaska State Representative, (D), Eric Croft, who introduced bill HB270 to try and outlaw the practice of forcing victims to pay for their forensic kits. The piece also talks to Wasilla Alaska city councilwoman, (R) Diane Woodruff. Most revealing is the statement by Dr. Colleen Murphy, who was formerly part of the Alaskan Violent Crimes Compensation Board. She states, "There was no question, I was there. Sexual assault victims were appealing to the committee to have their forensic costs paid for by the committee. "

Lest I be called a liberal or (god forbid) the "D" word, I called Anchorage to speak to someone, anyone who could give me an answer. A credible, anonymous source spoke to me at length. I promised not to get them fired. "Yes indeed when Sarah Palin was Mayor of Wasilla she forced women to pay for their rape kits, but it is far from the worst thing she ever did. "

So Sarah, come clean. And...WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

The Government (and Wall Street) Has Lost My Trust.


A great example of this is American International Group or AIG. Less than a week after the Federal Government bailed out AIG, the company sent executives on a $440,000 retreat. The tab for spa treatments alone was close to $24,000, a figure that for many Americans is more than their yearly salary.

Washington Mutual's short term CEO Alan Fishman was paid millions in severance. Not only did he get a $7.5 million bonus when he was hired, but over 11 million in a cash severance when the bank went under. Not only did he worked as the CEO for less than and month but he received this severance as the banks failure considered of the largest in our countries history.

Today, I was so angry that I called the Treasury Secretary's office. In case you are interested, the number is (202) 622-2000. I left a message telling him he needs to repair the Government's credibility. AIG and Washington Mutual's stories don't help.

The Lies Must Stop

According to the Encarta dictionary, to lie is to say "a false statement deliberately, to create a deception or false impression."

All of us know what a lie is, and hopefully we believe it is wrong. It is certainly what we try to teach our children (one hope's). So why when politicians and elected officials lie or tell half-truths it is acceptable to voters?

Is this the way to divert us from the substantive issues? Why can't we demand the same honesty we would expect from family and friends and our own children?

There are websites that are dedicated to fact checking what comes out of the mouth of public figures-sites completely devoted to taking candidate's statements and showing what is truth and what is false. Don't they have any shame?

We are all weary of politicians stretching the truth, smearing the facts, and spreading the benefits of their questionable behavior. When I can't figure out what is true, it makes me question my own reality. Things to think about:

• Since when did a party affiliation become more important than honesty and a good working Government?

• When did the lesser of two evils become a prerequisite for how we vote in America?

• When did smear tactics and exaggeration become the norm?

• Why aren't we all out screaming in the streets for an effective government that represents the people of America in a truthful and honest manner?

I am off to get a neck brace so I can handle the remaining days until the election. I have to stop at the bank though because my insurance carrier determined that my injury was a pre-existing condition. Civil disobedience never looked so good!