"I'm Loyal Because He's My President, But I Believe the War Was About Oil"
Some of the best conversations I've had on this trip happen at random. During a visit to a mega-church facility for youth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I met 39-year-old Jerrie Morales, a mother of four who is currently studying to be a nurse. Jerrie brought her daughter to the church to try out for an upcoming talent show. After telling Jerrie about my project, she immediately expressed strong opinions on everything from high gas prices and low wages to Iraqi children and world affairs. Like so many people I've met on this trip, Jerrie doesn't fit the "red state" stereotype even though she voted for Bush. Here are excerpts from that interview.
I think gas prices are going to kill our budget and they don't raise wages when everything else goes up. We're still waiting on minimum wage. They keep voting that down. People can't live off of minimum wage. I'm going to nursing school and am making the same amount I'll make when I become a nurse and we'll just barely make it. I had to get rid of our health insurance in order to pay for school.
I was surprised by the high cost of everything. Housing and gas cost a lot more in the Bay Area, but food, eating out and a bottle of water in a gas station is the same.
I don't know how people survive. A lot of nurses are leaving California to come here and work. I think we're just now opening our eyes. We need to be aware. We don't know what goes on outside of the United States. I grew up in a military family and lived in Germany so I have an idea, but it's hard to get information. I'm not sure what I can trust on the Internet.
What issues interest you?
I want to know how women are dealing with the war. I know what they're showing on TV is just one group of people. They're not showing women like me. Those Iraqi women are like me. They're trying to educate and provide good healthcare for their kids, just like I am. I remember seeing an Iraqi woman whose baby was dying. She tried to throw herself in the grave with the baby. I was there watching it and bawling. I've read things and watched things. I'm interested to know how those women are doing. I also want to know how the Afghani women are doing.
You are one of the few people I've interviewed who have expressed an interest in the Iraqi and Afghani women. I've met a lot of people who say we're freeing the Iraqis one minute and we should kill them the next.
That's a sign of fear. The more the gas prices go up and the more people aren't making enough money and the more they're having problems, the less they're going to care about their fellow men. The average American is stressed out. I try not to let myself go there. I go to work everyday and deal with people who are dying and I know they [Iraqis] are going through the same thing. We're supposed to go after one group of people and we get this lady's four-year-old. That could have been my child. We have our own terrorists here. The first terrorist attack was not on 9/11. We had the KKK. We had terrorism when we gave small pox to the tribes.
Have things changed for you personally under the Bush administration?
I don't know. I'm still asking that question. I really am. He's a rich boy. He's never been poor. What made me mad was when his daughters were partying and living it up and he sent everybody to Iraq. He could have sent my son to Iraq. I think we have to vote and educate ourselves. We're not gonna be popular with our fellow Americans who are stressed out and say, 'Go over there and shoot 'em all.'
Do you always vote?
Oh yes. I homeschooled my kids to teach them about government and the Founding Fathers and the tribes. I want them to see the truth and think outside the box. Don't ever look at anything as black and white because it never is. My kids were coming home from school saying, 'I'm a Democrat,' 'I'm a Republican,' 'I'm a liberal.' I said, 'You can't be a Republican or a Democrat. You have to be an American.' Don't say you're a Republican until you can find ten things wrong with your party and ten things wrong with Democrats. The Republicans here were trying to pull the churches apart because a lot of Christians are Democrats.
Are you a member of the Democratic or Republican party?
No. When I wrote the Democratic Party and the Republican Party asking them for their platforms, the only thing they sent me was their criticisms against the other party; they wouldn't tell me what they believed in. I'm seeing too many flaws. Things are getting so hectic. There is so much you need to know about.
And the issues people almost always raise during my interviews are gay marriage and abortion.
Oh yeah, because those are smokescreens. Let's use those issues so we can ignore things that really matter.
What did you think of the Presidential election?
I didn't trust the Democrats. At the same time, I felt like I didn't have any options. Let's face it. This war happened because of oil. I've been reading and studying and I'm trying to understand Bush. I'm loyal because he's my president, but I believe the war was about oil. I saw some of our friends lose their sons in the war and bury them.
You voted for Bush?
What did you think of Kerry?
I listened to what he had to say. I thought he was intelligent, but I didn't think it was a good idea to change presidents during war. That was the main thing.
Even though you don't agree with it?
Yeah, but it's already happened and we have to fix it.
Did you vote for Bush for any other reasons?
I'm glad he slowed down the stem cell research. We need to take more time on that issue.
How do you feel about abortion?
I think a woman is going to make a decision and we, as women, need to be there to support her. I hate abortion. I hate it. I had to sit through classes about it for nursing. I know that when a woman gets to that place in her life, she ultimately has to make her own decision.
How do you feel about birth control?
Kids need to know the truth because sex is sex and sex is wonderful. We need to be honest with kids about sex. We get kids coming in with bottles up their rectums. Boys are having to explain why they put bottles in their rectums with their moms in the room. I always feel like telling that mother, 'You know what? We see at least 100 cases like this a year so your son isn't alone.' We need to start having conversations.
What issues do you want to hear about in the next election?
World affairs. We have to start caring about the world. In many small countries, people don't even own cars and we own three or four cars. We have more money and we're buying up fuel left and right. We need to build smaller communities with sidewalks. We live out in the country and they're building huge homes in gated communities. We need to start building communities again.
Where do you get your news?
I read and research and ask questions. I want to know how people are getting by. The government isn't going to take care of us. People get annoyed with me because I push buttons. When I get out of school in December, I'm going to spend a lot more time researching and reading the news. It's time to get informed.