12-Year-Old Jackson Ripley Gives Me Hope For The Future

When I was twelve years old, I was really concerned about whether or not I could learn and perform all of the dances from Britney Spears‘ videos.  It was a big deal, and took up a whole lot of my time.  And this was before YouTube and DVRs.

I was most certainly not writing concerned letters to presidential candidates.  Heck, I couldn’t even be bothered to write fan letters.

Jackson Ripley thinks Mitt Romney is getting some big things wrong in his campaign, and he wants to share his thoughts.

Evidently, Jackson has seen first hand how Romney’s proposed repeal of Obamacare will affect his family and families like his:

Jackson’s strong political beliefs appear to have, in part, grown naturally from his family’s life experiences beginning with his little sister Kennedy who has had pre-existing conditions since she was just 4 weeks old.

Shortly after Kennedy was born, she developed a hemangioma – an abnormal, raised tumor of blood vessels — on her face. According to her mother, Lindsay Ripley, only 10 percent of children are born with a hemangioma and less than one percent of the cases are life-threatening, like Kennedy’s.

The tumor grew so large that at just nine months old, Kennedy was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

“She was very ill and in and out of the hospital for the first two years of her life. During which she had several procedures, surgeries, MRI’s, CT’s and hospitalized many, many times, making her our million dollar baby when she was around a year old,” Lindsay Ripley told The Huffington Post.

For a brief three months in 2009, John Ripley, Jackson and Kennedy’s dad, was without a job.  When he was hired again, the small size of the company forced the Ripley’s to shop for insurance elsewhere.  Time after time, Kennedy was denied insurance due to her pre-existing condition.

Jackson’s mom, Lindsay Ripley, explains how Jackson came to write his letter to Romney:

I think partly due to his sister’s illness, at an early age Jackson began to notice injustices in the world that many children never see. Writing has always been a great outlet for Jackson, so three years ago when he was upset about the war in Iraq, we said, “write a letter to the president.” And Jackson did. A year later when Jackson saw a homeless man in Cherry Creek and became very upset, we said “write a letter.” After buying the man a Cinnabon, Jackson wrote to then-Mayor John Hickenlooper and thanked him for his efforts to end homelessness in Denver. When Jackson came home from school last week, I had the news on and they were discussing the fate of health care and preexisting condition coverage if Governor Romney were to become president. Jackson watched the segment with me. When it was over, Jackson stood up and said, “Excuse me mom, I have to go write a very strongly-worded letter!” So John and I no longer say “write a letter” because he does it on his own.

Jackson’s full letter is pretty amazing and surprisingly insightful (no word on how much help, if any, he got from his family).  But the ending is my favorite part:

Also, you’re domestic plans (birth control, gay rights etc.) are horrible! Women should get to manage their own health, and if you wonder why you’re not appealing to many women voters, rethink your birth control and women’s’ rights plans. And people should be able to marry whom they want. We built this country so people could have freedom, and not have religious beliefs control them to that length. This country was in no way built on any religion, so we should not create laws that repress the American people in a religious way and hurt our most vulnerable.

Jackson Ripley, age 12

Now, it’s been some time since I was 12, and I don’t interact with all that many children, but I have a suspicion that this kid is pretty bright beyond his years.

Best of all, it doesn’t look like Jackson is just mimicking his parents without doing any critical thinking of his own. This is his letter, through and through.

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • Jeff Akston

    I really wish Google Reader would allow me to unsubscribe to individual poster’s posts.  I have no idea why Jessica’s post are on a site about atheism.  Without doing any actual research, I would say that at least half her posts have absolutely nothing to do with Atheism – but are standard progressive faire.  Either marriage rights, or healthcare, or wage sex discrimination, or some other such position about how Republicans are evil.  

    Granted, these are not topics I necessarily disagree, but they HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ATHEISM.  If I want stuff on healthcare, I’ll go to Kos.  

    It’s so ridiculous.

  • Davismicah1

    Fighting against others forcing their religion upon us is not related to atheism? I get you don’t want to hear about “how Republicans are evil” but the point is that they do tend to push their religion upon Americans more than liberals. If you took time to read the post you would see that Jessica highlighted the part of Jackson’s letter relating to keeping religion out of public policy.

    But again you should have probably just commented: tl;dr.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I thought Hemant was the author of the article so I started to picture him trying to dance like Brit. What an amusing image that was.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    They’re here because politics and gay rights and progressive issues are a concern for atheists. (e.g. We don’t have gay rights in America because of religious conservatives.)

  • LesterBallard

    You could start your own 100% USDA Approved All Atheism, All the Time Blog. Then you wouldn’t have the spare time to be forced to frequent this one. Win-win.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    We did get to see a video of Hemant doing a traditional Indian dance a year or two ago. 

  • Ch30410

    When I was twelve, I had no idea how to use “whom” and all my infinitives were split.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

    It is a great letter but I am a little skeptical that he wrote the letter himself.

  • RobMcCune

    If this guy doesn’t like the “left wing” stuff on this blog, what makes him think he has a right to change it’s content?

  • Lefty Lewis

    a friendly note: split infinitives are regarded as stylistic and no longer seen as errors. this is a sore spot for me as an extremely petty professor once docked me 1 point on an essay for using a split infinitive (bringing my score to a 99) just to be a dick.

    also, don’t give the kid too much credit, he opens with “you’re” instead of “your” and starts a sentence with “And.” tut tut.

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    Actually, at his age I was a very good writer as well. Granted, it was in a different language, but according to all my teachers I had a gift for writing in the italian language.

    It didn’t do me much good in my life, especially after my decision to move to the US, and I am really not well equipped to judge a 12 years old writing style because I don’t really have a way to compare the writings of his age group, but I think it would be possible for a kid to write beyond his years.

    Incidentally, someone should really correct the beginning of this sentence for him:
    “Also, you’re domestic plans” 
    But this is an error I see plenty of adults make all the time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    Most kids that young these days and even younger are just spouting off Yolo and Swag bullshit these days. (One of the perks of being a teenager in 2012, you get to deal with the Yolo and Swag crap. If you’d call it a perk.) Definitely nice to see someone young worrying about real life issues, and not whining that mommy won’t get them an iPhone 5.

  • Blacksheep

    Lefty, if you are a grammar curmudgeon, maybe you have observed what I have, and I’m beginning to think I may be wrong since it’s so rampant:

    Even on news channels, I hear people saying, “There’s three things going on…” as opposed to “There ARE three things going on…”
    One wouldn’t say “There is three things going on.” but somehow when it gets contracted the rules change.

  • coyotenose

     If you take out political and social issues, then there is no reason at all to care about atheism. You might as well just sit quietly while religionists take over, because speaking out against that is a Progressive political issue. Magically, it all relates.

  • coyotenose

     Look at the word choices and sentence structure. That letter was definitely written by a very bright kid.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Is it “There is the holy trinity” or is it “There are the holy trinity”? Is the Godhead one or are they three? Or three but one?
    Just having some fun…

  • Lewis Scaife

    i have not noticed this, but now i will… spoken grammar issues bug me far less than written ones…being that i am afflicted by a slight southern accent (a condition which is exacerbated by alcohol) and its infamous accompanying contractions, i have a lot of tolerance for colorful speech.  

    never assume you’re wrong because of rampant wrongness! cling to your proverbial guns (but leave the religion, of course).

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    Hold that thought until the next Camp Quest fundraiser. :D

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    That is evil, but I like it.

  • Jeff Akston

    I am all for political action as it relates to atheism.   This is a post about kid who doesn’t like Romney.  It’s about progressive politics.  It’s not about politics.  It’s not about religion.  There is a line in his letter about religion.  But since Romney isn’t Santorum, he hasn’t made comments about this being a Christian nation or other such nonsense. 

  • Jeff Akston

    I have no problem with “left wing” things.  But this isn’t dailykos or Democratic undground.  A disbelief in God is not dependent upon the progressiveness of your politics.   This specific blogger’s posts are far more political than than they are about theological (or activist about anything atheism related).  All of her posts are specifically anti-Republican.  Which again, I have no problem against – it’s not like i’m voting for Romney.  But it’s muddying up the message.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RandyJReed Randy Reed

    I actually saw the article and forwarded it, though I have no idea if that is what led to it’s being posted.  But I agree with Jessica, the last part is the best and why it is relevant.  The 12 year old simply stated it in an awesome direct manner and yes, it does give me hope for the future.  

  • Jeff Akston

    It would make sense if Romney had made an issue about religion.  He hasn’t.   He’s not Santorum.  He has many views I disagree with around social policy such as gay marriage, possibly because of his religion, but while Jessica hates all things Republican and therefore all things Romney, to make the case that Romney is is some firebrand who wants to make this a theocracy is not rooted in any linkable facts. 

  • Jeff Akston

    Marriage rights I can see the connection.  Healthcare is not a religious issue.  Her prior (horribly inaccurate) post about wage discrepancies have absolutely zero to do with religion.  Nor do voter right laws, or union busting, or any of the other progressive topics that are becoming more and more prominent here.  

    No one’s forcing me to read, and I’m paying nobody to do so either, so I understand if I don’t like it, I can leave.  So long as you have full knowledge that this blog (not your posts, particularly, but others) is actively moving from largely discussions about activism around religion and constitutional encroachments as a result – to merely another progressive blog with a heavier dose of atheist topics than usual.  

  • Anonymous Atheist

    I guess you missed Romney’s recent “I will not take God off our coins” nonsense, for one thing. Romney may not be an evangelical Christian, but he darn sure wants to appeal to them.

  • amycas

     Then don’t read it. Just skip over it. I like Jessica’s post. She often has something funny and/or insightful to say that I would get if I read Kos. She’s not on Kos, she’s here.

  • JackneedslookupUSA

    really this comment just gives tears to my eyes,”
    And people should be able to marry whom they want. We built this country so people could have freedom, and not have religious beliefs control them to that length. This country was in no way built on any religion, so we should not create laws that repress the American people in a religious way and hurt our most vulnerable.” First off yes it was based of religion which was Christianity which you obviously know nothing about. Secondly, people shouldn’t be able to marry whoever they would like because marriage is supposed to be man and women not man and man or women and women.Thirdly, who is are most vulnerable and this country needs to hear about God and repent before the rapture and second coming. When people hear about God they always assume religion like oh i don’t wanna hear it but, the truth is God is not about religion it’s about having that personal relationship with God and talking to him by praying. Lastly, i’m pretty sure the reason the sister and has that condition is because the mom and dad were former Homosexuals and when they turned Hetrosexual they got together and made her while they had all theses diseases and when she came out she had a whole lot of defects. So now the mom and dad told their kids to accept gay marriage and now the dad left to be Homosexual again, and this kid did not write this letter and im talking to the real writer of this letter. So no offense to the kid i do have some things against him but, i am he will accept christ before he dies

  • RobMcCune

    As one of Hemant’s co-bloggers Jessica can contribute what she wants. While atheism as  a whole doesn’t have a political stance on anything, an individual blogger can. Bloggers can also have their own message, and over the 4 months she has been here she hasn’t changed the topics she writes about. I take this as a sign that the people she blogs with don’t believe she is damaging the message.

    Also it is not true that all of Jessica’s posts are anti-republican, and she posts less than once a day. So her presence on this blog hasn’t changed it that much.


  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Can we clone this kid?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

     Shut the fuck up, Christer troll.

  • A Reader

    I love this kid so much right now. Just had rough day at school arguing with conservatives. I’m usually the only one who says anything about the “other side” (aka the sane one) of issues in class discussions, and if the teacher pops out for a minute, it can get nasty (6-on-1 yelling matches are common). Finding stuff like this after a day like mine is why I love the internet so much!! (For real, I had to watch a solid hour of The Daily Show to cleanse my mind…*sigh* small towns…)

  • Maria


  • ImRike

     Do you ever read what you write? Goodness, how DO you come up with all that BS? Do you know, if I wasn’t already an atheist, reading your post would make me one!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    I hate you both.

  • Ouigui

    Wow, that’s really impeccable logic lurking in your word vomit, Mr. Jac-Kneed. Your God sure knows how to demonstrate his infinite knowledge and infinite compassion even through such amazingly flawed vessels as yourself. Golly, let’s hope it’s not too long before the imaginary voices in your head compel you to be a raging asshole yet again!

  • ReadsInTrees

    Healthcare could be considered an atheist issue since there are so many religious people that want to deny healthcare to people. They don’t want people to have/use birth control, they don’t want to allow a woman to make her own reproductive decisions, they don’t want people to be able to make their own end-of-life decisions, they want religious employers to be able to arbitrarily decide which services their insurance will cover…….

  • ReadsInTrees

    Nuts, us atheists obviously know nothing about Christianity. I mean, I dunno about you guys, but I lived in a cardboard box up until about age 24, and I literally knew nothing at all except that softy, velvety feel of aged cardboard….

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    A cardboard box? You were lucky. I lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I know, I really shouldn’t complain. Not only was it a cardboard box, it was from a WASHING MACHINE, which is like a mansion in the cardboard world. Although….it did have those massive copper staples that no one ever removed, so I occasionally got scratched up if I was rough housing.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    A cardboard mansion with copper details? Shiiiiny!

  • The Other Weirdo

     There is no reason yell. We can all hear you. That’s the nature of the Interwebz, even the tiniest font can be read with Ctrl-+.

  • Rose

     But sometimes a disbelief in God is caused by the progressiveness of your politics.
    I reached a point where I realised I didn’t care what the Bible said about women and homosexuality; I believe homophobia and sexism are wrong regardless.

    Yes, I realise being an atheist does not necessarily mean you have progressive views. But if atheists are not more tolerant than Christians then I might as well be back in church.

  • Casper77385

    Jessica, I hate to burst your bubble, but NO I know for a fact that he did not write this letter on his own.  He might of signed his name to it, but that is as far as it went.  We live about a mile from  his family and my 2 girls go to the same school he does.  My daughter describes him as just an average student academically.  She even showed me her journal that each student was assigned to write something about themselves since it was the beginning of the year and again near the end of the school year.  They were supposed to observe if any grammar, verbal, handwriting, or environmental changes occurred.  I read Jackson’s entry.. it was very elementary. It was not written in cursive, had misspelled words, and no “big” or “complex” words were used at all.  It looked like it was supposed to, just a normal 12 yr old.  When I read the letter he supposedly wrote to Romney.. I knew immediately that those 2 writing entries did not and could not have been created by the same person.  One of my good friends talks with his mom off and on and has known her for over a year.  Her career is in the political field. She was a fund raiser for Stan Garnette,  for Colorado Attorney General…she is also a political event organizer and fundraiser.  It is his MOTHER who wanted the letter to get out and it was HIS MOTHER’S words.  She wrote a comment on a political blog just 4 weeks ago, that was VERY similar to the letter that Romney received.    I might..might..could see a 12 yr old boy concerned with his sister’s health..but when he chastised Romney for his views on Gay Marriage and Free Birth Control for Women???  That was over the top..totally unbelievable. Using the phrases like “people should get to marry whom they want” (a 12 yr old would have said WHO), “financial burden” (a kid would have said “we didn’t have a lot of money”), emotional stress” (a kid would have said “SAD”), “backpedalled” (a kid would never use this word), “On Meet the Press you stated” (a kid would have said “you said”, not stated), …he also talked about “repealing Obama Care” and said “this country was built for freedom of the people and not have religious beliefs control them to that length”.  
    LOL  NO KID WOULD EVER WRITE THAT!   I almost forgot about the part where this little 12 yr old tells Romney WHY he doesn’t have the majority of the women voters…  REALLY…  And he knows this how?  Where does he find time to watch the “Tonight Show” and “Meet the Press” in between playing video games and playing with his friends in the neighborhood which I hear is what he spends most of the day doing.. Karly said he talks non-stop with the other boys in class about playing X-box and a game called “Call of Duty”.  She said they are always deciding who joins who’s live gameplay after school.