Every Vote Counts

I am approaching this milestone in Claudia’s life – her first vote, with an unusual amount of fury.

Normally in this household, it’s Steve who strides about threatening to throw things at the TV and I do apologize that I only seem to come here in anger these days.

But this election campaign has revealed so much about who we really are and what we really value that it’s been an awful shock for me to realize.

Claudia has a chromosome abnormality which affects her intellectually and physically. At 19 years old, she’s still incontinent. She relies on other people to dress her, feed her, remember to toilet her (or change her if they don’t remember or she doesn’t ask to go)

She speaks, but if you don’t know her well it can be hard to understand what she’s saying.

She walks, but she’s pretty un-co and relies on physical support. She cannot safely walk anywhere outside unassisted and has no traffic sense.

This is not going to change. For her whole life she will require help and will have to pay people to do the most personal things for her.

She can be frustrating, repetitive, loud, gobby, clammy, dribbly.  There are times you don’t want her to touch you, grab your face, shout questions at you. When you’re tired, or sick, or sick and tired of it all. But she doesn’t recognize when those times are.

She will always be vulnerable around people who don’t have a natural love and affection for her. I find it too hard to even think about that.

So, given her life will be lived literally at the mercy of others, for whom should she vote?

It’s a responsibility I was going to take seriously, carefully, studiously.

I was going to research everyone’s disability policies and weigh them up on her behalf.

But now, I’m just “F%*K it,  Anyone but National.


It’s not just their hands off policies for the past nine years, which have seen them fire ECAN and allow rapid intensification of dairying without due consideration. The Canterbury rivers I grew up swimming in, Claudia now can’t.

It’s not just their refusal to discourage speculation in property, resulting in a housing market where people with spare money have been hoovering up properties from a limited market and renting them back to people who can never save enough for their own deposits while paying huge rents to live in foul little shit boxes.

Our own experience of renting was enlightening and horrible. We paid $500 a week to live in a cold, poorly maintained house where Claudia got sick with more frequency and ferocity than ever before in her life.

It’s not just the underfunding  of health and welfare services so now we have shameful  suicide stats, mental health, public health and welfare issues. We see more of these people as Claudia gets older. Out from under the umbrella, in isolation. Not coping. Where will Claudia live when we are gone? Who will care for her?

It’s not just the yawning, cruel gap between the have’s and the have nots.

Disabled family members need full time care. Working full time when raising people like Claudia is not possible for many reasons. She’s full time. Even when she’s not in the house the paper work, logistics and appointments take up hours and hours. And more hours!

If you were suddenly delivered a child requiring full time care, could you manage on one income? What if you earnt the minimum wage? Would your relationship even survive? Could you earn enough to pay someone else to look after your child if you did return to work? Or just needed a break? Would you have the energy to manage someone else full time as well as other family members? Could you kiss goodbye to going out without having to either compromise the entire outing by taking her with you or paying someone else to look after her while you’re out?  Would you have anything left for yourself? Time? Money? Hint: probably not.

Disability is not as easy for the wealthy to dismiss or gloss over they way they do with poverty. There’s nothing we did or didn’t do to have Claudia. She’s not the result of poor choices, being lazy or not wanting to have better in our lives. We couldn’t “just work harder” our way out of Claudia.

But the result is the same – she comes at a massive, compounding  cost.

And hey, Nat supporters, poverty, where we have people working 2-3 jobs and still not affording to live, is not something THEY’RE doing wrong. Can you really be that blinkered and privileged?

It’s not just National’s dismantling of regulations and unions which has directly resulted in deaths especially in the primary industries like forestry. And lets never forget Pike River. About which they have been stalling for years now.

Todd Barclay? What a hideous little creep and Bill English enabled all of that cover up and then lied about it.

While Jacinda Ardern has pursued a “relentlessly positive” campaign, National has chosen to counter that with a relentlessly negative one.

Making up lies, maintaining lies, doubling down on things that are demonstrably wrong; lies that are so audacious, insults that are so childish, rarking up their support bases, who cannot help but adopt the same smug faces of their leaders. Because they’re all right, mate. They’re on some “winning” team and they deserve a tax cut!

And that’s so depressing for me to realize – that we are a national of selfish, greedy, short sighted, mean spirited people, prepared to lose so much for so little.

My father was a true blue National supporter, a farmer and party member. He was also an environmentalist, an honest man, who believed (and operated) with a gentleman’s handshake.

I can’t see him admiring anything about the people in the party now. What would he say to Claudia about their behaviour?

So, back to her.

Like I said, I was going to research everyone’s policies around disability to make an informed choice.

But then I realized that’s not what Claudia would do herself.

She’s a great barometer of people, her instincts are spot on. Like a dog, she can sense kindness and support, can likewise sense fear in the eye, a closed nature. A mean person.

She’d rely on her guts here.

There’s not one person left in the National party who is likeable. Not one who has shown they would give her any real consideration. They are horrible individuals.

English, Bennet, Joyce, Smith, Brownlee, Collins, all of them – ugh. And I’ve written before on how the current Minister for Disability issues views us.

They’ve brazenly played a dishonest game and she would have zero respect for any of them over it.

They are everything we discourage in children. They are fibbers, cheats, greedy pigs, taking all the stickers for themselves, dictating who can and can’t play.

They’ve shat in the sandpit and blamed the poor kids. And they’re getting away with it.

This election has been a turning point for me.

I used to be proud of this country;  our environment, our landscapes. I was proud of our history, being the first country to give women the vote, Of Edmond Hillary and Lorde.

Our Maori , our Treaty, our trying to make things more right.

Our mucking together and mucking in. Our sense of community.

Our Welfare State, our ACC, our Education Act of 1877 making us the first country in the world to make education free, compulsory and secular.

Our values. Mostly our sense of fair play.

I’m not proud of anything about us at the moment.

Now I’m just sad at how smug, ugly and dishonest is the face of “success”

As we watched, aghast, at lies paving the way to the White House, I expected more from us. I thought we were better than that.

I still don’t know who Claudia is going to vote for. But it sure won’t be more of the same.





4 thoughts on “Every Vote Counts

  1. As ever Fi, I am full of admiration for your strength of character, your eloquence, and your insight. I also love you as a friend. You are a beacon of wisdom and intelligence, and your fury is laudable. I consider us so lucky to have the right to vote in NZ, but that we also have a huge responsibility to do so, and I agree with you completely that this is the time and the need to change. I also believe we are at risk of losing it all; all the things we grew up with and took for granted. Change, change, CHANGE!


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