From the time I was seventeen until I was kicked out at eighteen, I lived in a girls’ group home and some of the governmental mess I see happening now was taking place on a smaller scale back then. When I first walked into Aviva Center back in 1987, it was run by a great woman named Lois Tandy. She had been in charge of Aviva pretty much forever. She knew all the girls. She cared about all the girls. People felt like she was their mother. If you had to be away from your own family at least Lois made the experience a little more bearable. Girls (now women) who had lived in Aviva twenty years prior still remembered Lois fondly. Lois was like early America. It had its bumps and everything wasn’t perfect, some of us even felt like slaves, but we had good leadership. There was someone in charge who cared about the “country” and ran it with discipline but love. But like all good leaders, Lois eventually retired and we got the worst possible person to take over! Enter the Barack era of Aviva Center.
Andrew Diamond was his name (and no the names haven’t been changed to protect the guilty!) and he was a tall, arrogant man. He had no time for the girls. His door was not open to us like Lois’ had been. The first thing he did when he got into power was start taking away rights. Up to that point, girls were allowed to read the Bible with staff members, with other girls, etc. Now granted, I was not a big fan of God back then and I would read the Satanic Bible, carry around my books on Witchcraft and once in awhile freak the girls out with my Satanic sounding voice-when you are locked up you got to make your own fun! Even so, I would listen as the staff tried to slap the devil out of me-figuratively speaking-by sharing the word of God with me. They knew most of this was for show and that I was angrier than anything else. They knew there was a mustard seed of faith in there and they tried to save me. But Andrew in his infinite wisdom decided,no one could talk about religion with another girl or a staff member. I truthfully feel it was to punish me for freaking the girls out with my voice and talking about Lilith-the Jewish female demon-a bit too much. We could go to church, but we had to get there on our own and we couldn’t go together. If we wanted to read any kind of Scripture or religious text, it had to be done in our rooms! He was a tyrant and it was his way or the highway! Lois looked for solutions that worked for all involved. She would be the Constitution. Andrew was the Communist Manifesto. His only solution was what would make life easier for him.
Like the healthcare fiasco today, Andrew rushed through “legislation” he often had to go back and retract some of it because obviously his way was not working. He never took the time to sit and think, what would work best for these particular girls. He never asked our opinions on any of the changes. He never once had a “town hall” with us and let us know what was going on. He was a brute of a man who would hide up in his office and rarely made an appearance. Truthfully, I couldn’t pick him out of a line-up today because I saw him so rarely back then. The staff didn’t much care for him either. He didn’t care about how difficult he made their jobs or our lives. While no one expected him to be Lois (or maybe we did who knows) we did expect him to treat us like human beings and not like trash. We were in there because we had been treated that way our whole lives and to put a man in charge who had no compassion for us at all was the height of cruelty.
I will give this to Andrew, he made cherish my religious liberty all the more. I actually hungered to talk to someone about the Bible. When he said I couldn’t-that is when I wanted to the most. The staff were careful and would still speak to me about it, making sure no one was around to hear us talk about it. I have already lived an existence where religious liberty was non-existent, I don’t ever want to go back to that era. Andrew thought the way to not to offend anyone was to take it away altogether. Instead of coming to me and going, “Dena, you are scaring the girls with this Satanic /Witchcraft thing, what’s going on? Is this what you truly believe?” and really talking to me and seeing what kind of compromise we could work out. He thought it would be easier just to ban the Bible….all the Bibles…hint hint. But even then God found a way.
Andrew’s way was the socialist way. Lois’ way was the American way. She believed in freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom to choose your own way. Andrew thought he knew better than us stupid little girls and since he had the job of taking care of us, he was going to do it with an iron fist. Andrew was a dictator, Lois was a leader. We followed Lois because we wanted to, she made us believe in ourselves and so we willingly wanted to please her. All Andrew brought us was hatred for authority, rebellion and a fear of “getting caught.” After graduating high school in June I was still there. I knew I had to leave in January because I would be turning 19, so I was working on getting what I needed together to leave. In October, I was told I had 30 days to leave. Had Lois been around I would’ve had until January. So I ended up in a shelter for thirty days and then one to a board and care. Andrew has left nothing but a bitter taste in my mouth all these years. I just hope God touched his heart and he became less of a monster through the years after I left.
However, Andrew showed me just what it is like living without true liberty. Living without freedom of religion, living under the boot of someone else. It is the kind of government we have under Obama. The days of Lois are fast becoming a thing of the past. Just as we all wept when Lois left, so shall we weep, when the Andrews are in full control. Listen to my words and harken unto them, I was sent to live that life so you would not have to. I was sent to be denied my freedom, so you could always keep yours. I was sent to have everything taken from me, including my right to know and worship God, so you would always have him in your life. I am not just your warning but I am your preserver. I have come to rescue you from the evil that is socialism. Don’t take my words lightly, or think they are some amusing anecdote. I am God’s humble servant, his beloved daughter as all of you are also his children. He wants what is best for you, what is best for America as do I. I have lived the worst, please don’t live it too.