We have lost a friend.

Anthony Bourdain doing what he loved best — eating local food with local people.

 

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide has shaken me.

I feel as though I have lost a friend. I think a lot of his fans feel this way.

He was a gifted writer who opened up the whole world to many of us. His words, both written and spoken, took us to places we likely never will be able to go.

Bourdain had a rare gift for storytelling, and an even rarer ability to make readers (and later, viewers) connect with him.

My late son introduced me to him after he read “Kitchen Confidential.”

“This is what my job is like,” Mike said after reading the book. “This is life in a restaurant kitchen.”

Mike loved the chaos of restaurant work. One night, months after he’d had to give up work because of his illness, while we watched Bourdain doing a double shift as a line cook, Mike sighed.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I miss that,” he said.

After my son’s death, it seemed Anthony Bourdain was a connection to Mike’s spirit. His love of travel and his respect for the foods of other cultures, his curiosity, his passion and his abiding love for meat in tubular form, all reminded me of my son.

He was a recovering addict, and I have no way of knowing whether his addiction contributed to his death. Mike was a recovering addict, too, but his recovery gave him reason to live.

I’m not angry at Bourdain for taking his life and depriving us of his wisdom. Perhaps I should be, but that’s not what I’m feeling.

You see, I’ve squirreled away extra pain pills, just in case. I’ve walked close to the edge of a precipice and thought about taking that one extra step, or considered turning the steering wheel toward a bridge abutment at 70 miles an hour.

I’ve battled depression my entire life, and after my son’s unnecessary death, I seriously considered checking out of this life.

Yes, I know I still have much good in my life, and it’s concentrating on that that’s kept me here. But it is a real struggle some days, and the struggle gets to be too much for some people, as it obviously did for Anthony Bourdain.

Don’t accuse me of being selfish for considering suicide because you don’t know the pain I endure some days. It is not a selfish act; it is an act of desperation, a way out of the unendurable. You can’t know what that’s like if you haven’t been there.

Suicide rates have gone up 25 or 30 percent since 2000 in this country. Think about that. It’s not happening in other countries, not in places where people have hope that their lives will improve. But we in this country are subjected to jobs that don’t pay half of what it takes to live, to denial of medical care, to crippling debt just for trying to get through college. Too many of us have no hope of a better future, and that becomes unendurable for increasing numbers of us.

But even for people who seem to have everything, as Bourdain did, can suffer indescribable pain. You can only do that for so long.

You don’t know who among your friends and family members is in pain. I have been surprised any number of times by the confession of someone I love that they have crept up to the edge of that same abyss.

When thoughts about dying come into my head, I think about the work I’m doing to try to make this country a better, more just place. Working with Rev. William Barber in the Moral Monday Forward Together Movement, and now the Poor People’s Campaign, has given me hope that things will improve, even as I watch them deteriorate.

Antidepressants did little to alleviate my depression, and therapy did even less. I combat it by staying busy as an activist, by staying connected to the people I love, by trying to make the world a little more just.

Still, there are moments I think about dying, about being at peace, being reunited with my son and my sister.

But, so far, I have been able to remember that on some level I still want to be here. I want to make a difference, and I can’t do that if I’m dead.

That’s what has worked for me. So far.

The worst enemy of a person with depression is isolation, and one of the hallmark symptoms of depression is isolation. We hunker down, pour a glass of wine — or two, or three — and stew in our own juices. The more we think about our misery, the more likely we are to end our lives.

So, if you know someone who might need a little encouragement, a little love, a listening ear, no matter how glamorous their life seems to be, reach out. You might be the connection to this life that keeps them here.

The suicide prevention hotline number is 800-273-8255.

The online chat address is: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

BOTH are available 24 hours everyday!

 

You can’t erase their lives

Me, singing as I was arrested for the fifth time for trying to talk to lawmakers about fixing our broken health care system.

I got arrested again.

For the fifth time, I was arrested for trying to speak to lawmakers about the mess that is our health care system.

They don’t care.

They don’t care that tens of thousands of people die prematurely every year, and that millions can’t afford the care they need, even with insurance.

They practice the religion of I-got-mine-get-your-own, as they and their families all have the best care this country has to offer.

I was a speaker at the Poor People’s Campaign rally in Washington on Monday, and we had a coffin in front of the stage to illustrate the fact that innocent people are dying every day from lack of access to health care and from industrial pollution.

And as these things happen, those in power continue to roll back environmental regulations and chip away at the Affordable Care Act, which has given millions of Americans access to the care they need.

As I was about to step up to the microphone, the police told organizers that they had to remove the coffin.

Several times, I have been denied entry to legislators’ offices and public events because I won’t surrender the photo I carry of my late son. That’s why I have the T-shirt with his photo on it. So far, no one has tried to confiscate that. But the forced removal of the casket became the same thing as the attempted confiscation of my son’s photo.

Something in me snapped.

It’s as though they want to erase the lives they have sacrificed on the altar of greed.

I stepped up to the mic.

“You can force us to remove this symbol, but that doesn’t change the fact that my son lived!” I said. “He DID exist. He was here. He was loved. And he was murdered by a broken system.”

The crowd began to chant, “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” But the casket was removed anyway.

The problem is, these people who have the power to save tens of thousands of lives a year refuse to make any move to do so. In fact, the “Justice” Department has announced it no longer will defend the Affordable Care Act in court when states challenge it.

These powerful people call themselves “pro-life,” and “Christian,” as they try to take away women’s rights to control their own bodies, and I’m not just talking about abortion. I’m talking about attacks on contraception and on women’s health clinics, which are the only access to health care many poor women have.

As it says on the T-shirt with my son’s photo on it, “When you take away access to care, real people die.”

And closing women’s clinics is taking away access to care.

When you care more about whether a woman is having “moral” sex than her very life, you are not pro-life.

When you care more about whether a business has to serve a gay couple than you do about real people’s lives, you are not pro-life.

When you think people should have to work three full-time jobs at minimum wage just to make a living wage, you are not pro-life.

When you attack education, you are not pro-life.

When you attack Meals on Wheels, food stamps and free and reduced-price school lunches, you are not pro-life.

When you put people who have committed nonviolent crimes into for-profit prisons, you are not pro-life.

When you think we’re OK spending more than half of all our nation’s discretionary dollars on the war economy, you are not pro-life.

When you tear children from their parents’ arms and place them in cages in an old Walmart, you are not pro-life.

When you hate someone because of the color of their skin or the name of the god they worship, you are not pro-life.

When you rob people of the right to vote to determine the destiny of their own nation, you are not pro-life.

When you’re OK with children’s lives being snuffed out so that you can continue to have unfettered access to high-powered, military-grade guns, you are not pro-life.

When you think it’s perfectly OK to poison the water and the land of poor people, you are not pro-life.

These murderers seem just a little uncomfortable being reminded of the lives they have been responsible for ending.

Bad public policy is lethal, and they don’t want to be reminded of that. They only want to think of themselves and how much more money and power they can amass.

But people are beginning to rise up. Thousands have been arrested during nonviolent protests in the last month, and more are coming.

We are coming for the corrupt people in power.

We are coming to end the greed that fuels our government now.

We are coming to save the lives being lost to that greed.

We are the ones who are pro-life.

We are the ones who are moral.

We are the ones you should fear because we will win, maybe not in November, but eventually.

Your days are numbered.

We. Will. Win.

You can take away my son’s coffin, you can try to confiscate his photo, you can call me names, you can arrest me.

But you will not erase my beloved son’s life. I will not allow that.

 

 

 

 

On Memorial Day, we should stand (or kneel) with those who protest racism

This was never about the national anthem or disrespect for the flag or the military. It is and always has been about systemic racism, and the racist response of the NFL proves that we have a problem.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: The protest of taking a knee while the National Anthem plays is not directed at the anthem or the flag, nor is it meant to disrespect the military.

Colin Kaepernick originally stayed seated on the bench to protest the police killings of unarmed black men and boys. When a veteran asked him to kneel instead, that’s what he did.

Now the NFL has banned kneeling, and people are screaming that it’s unconstitutional to do so.

That’s not so. Employers are allowed to ban certain behaviors by employees while they’re working. As a newspaper reporter. I was banned from supporting candidates publicly — and that included having political bumper stickers on my car or signs in my yard.

In more and more states, people can be fired for any reason — or for no reason. These are called “right-to-work” states because they ban mandatory union membership.

If the NFL wants to fire people who protest unjust executions and racist policies, it can do so.

That doesn’t make it right.

I am boycotting the NFL because of this and because of its cover-up of the devastating brain injuries its players suffer, not to mention its extortion of money from taxpayers for the construction of stadiums.

But let’s get something straight about those players taking a knee during the anthem. The protest was never about disrespect for the flag or anyone in the military, but about the lives stolen from us by trigger-happy cops who seem to believe these young men and boys’ lives are worthless.

It is almost without exception that young white men who actually have killed people are taken into custody, but young black men like Michael Brown are shot dead in the street for no good reason.

After Brown’s murder, a video of him arguing with a store owner surfaced, as though that justified his slaughter. Dylan Roof executed nine people in a church in Charleston, SC, and he was given a bulletproof vest and fed a burger and fries on his way to jail. But Michael Brown was executed and people used a tussle with a shop owner to justify it — but the cop who murdered him had not seen the video and had no way of knowing the tussle had happened. Michael Brown, an 18-year-old boy, was tried, convicted and executed for walking in the street.

Stephon Clark was slaughtered for having the temerity to use his cell phone in his grandmother’s back yard at night.

Philando Castile was murdered during a traffic stop after telling the officer he had a gun but was not reaching for it. His girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter witnessed the execution.

Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when he was shot and killed by a police officer while playing with a toy gun in a park near his home.

In Charlotte, NC. Keith Lamar Scott was shot and killed while sitting in his car.

Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York City police officer after being accused of selling single cigarettes.

In Baltimore, Freddie Gray died mysteriously while being transported in a police van.

None of the cops responsible for these murders was convicted of a crime.

In 2012, I attended a gathering to talk about poverty in an African-American neighborhood a few miles from my home. I noticed pock marks in the side of the church where we were meeting. Across the street, an apartment building had the same pock marks and there were holes in the glass.

All of these were caused by bullets, shot by police officers who were chasing a young man suspected of stealing a $300 game console. Fortunately, none of the 76 bullets they shot hit the suspect or anyone else.

When I rose to speak about poverty and health care, I opened with the fact that this would never have happened in my neighborhood because my neighbors are white.

Last summer, here in Asheville, two cops accosted a young man who was on his way home from a 12-hour shift at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant. They beat and tased him. Someone leaked the body camera footage six months later, and the officer, who had been allowed to resign after a four-month internal investigation, was finally charged with assault. His trial hasn’t happened yet, so he still could get off. Despite other officers taking part in the crime and the cover-up, no one else has been charged. And when City Council proposed some changes in policy to reduce the likelihood of this happening again, the police union threatened to sue to stop them.

What we have here is racism so pervasive that it touches people of color every day of their lives — which are all too likely to be cut short by that racism.

So, on this Memorial Day, I will grieve not just for the soldiers killed in our overseas adventures, but also for the innocent African-American men and boys slaughtered by our unjust “justice” system.

May they all rest in peace and may their loved ones find comfort.

What does one say on Mother’s Day?

My boys, Christmas 1982.

What do you say on Mother’s Day when the mom you’re talking to has lost a child, or to a person who has a bad — or no — relationship to his or her mother, or to someone whose child has abandoned her for whatever reason?

Do you say, “Happy Mother’s Day” anyway?

I still have a living son, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

But the son I lost sits heavy on my heart today.

I should still be Mike’s mom. He should still be here. It is not a happy day for me, even though my surviving son is doing well.

So, what do you say to someone like me?

How about this: “I’m thinking of you today.”

Or this: “I know your heart is heavy today. Tell me about your son.”

That first one is good for everyone — for a bereaved mother or a bereaved child, for someone whose relationship with their mother is complicated or nonexistent or to a mother whose child has walked away, no matter what the reason.

Today isn’t about flowers, sappy greeting cards and chocolate for everyone. For me, it’s about remembering my late son and renewing my vow to fight for health care justice so other mothers won’t have to endure what I do.

Yes, it’s about being grateful for what I still have, but please don’t tell me I should stop thinking about Mike and focus on the living. He should still be among the living and I’m never going to get past that.

The loss of my child still drives me to seek justice — and it makes me dangerous because I don’t fear much. The worst thing that can happen to a parent has happened to me. Nothing can hurt me more than that. You can arrest me (that’s happened four times already, thank you), you can throw me in prison. Yes, that would be bad, but not as bad as losing my child.

What do I want to hear today? I want to hear that you’ll stand with me as I fight for health care justice.

I want to hear you’ll fight for a living wage so parents can support their children and still be able to spend time with them.

I want to hear you’ll fight for education so that all children can have an equal chance to do well in life.

I want you to stand with me as I fight for women’s rights to equal pay opportunity and to dominion over their own bodies.

I want you to stand against racist policing and all the other ways we treat people of color differently than white people.

I want you to stand up for immigrants as our government pulls families apart.

I want to hear you’ll fight for voting rights and fair elections so its the people who control our government, not corporations.

I want you to say you’ll stand for the rights of LGTBQ people so they can live their lives in peace as who they are.

I want you to say you’ll stand for peace and resist war with all your being.

I want you to join me as we kick off the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. I want us to fight for social, economic and racial justice together.

I’m not just thinking of happy white mothers in intact families today; I’m thinking of mothers and children who are struggling.

Please, please, put down the flowers, cards and chocolate and stand up for justice. There’s no better way to honor mothers than to stand for justice for all of us.

You’ll never convince Fox News lovers they’re being lied to

Robert Mueller is not a crook, he is not incompetent. He has been a Republican and a war hero. He’s someone the right should love, but Fox News has succeeded in making him into a villain. (Image from The Blaze)

Let’s get a few things straight here.

Robert Mueller has some pretty damning stuff by all accounts. However, we don’t know what it is he has on the creature currently squatting in the White House and his cabal of crooks and liars.

I venture into Right Wing World occasionally when I see a post from one of my conservative friends that leaves me scratching my head.

“Oh, the witch hunt is over now!” or “This proves that traitor Mueller has nothing!”

I’ll just Google whatever their topic is and find the lie they’re crowing about. Sometimes I’ll comment with the truth, but mostly I just keep scrolling because you can’t argue with people who are operating from a base of Fox News lies. You can, however, post the truth on your own news feed.

My son is more in tune with the right-wing than I am because he was a Republican until the rise of this thug. And as much as my son hates him, he still hears most of what the right has to say, and he still believes some of it.

Stuff like: “It’s all based on the Steele Dossier and all of that is illegally obtained.”

Don’t ask me why they’re saying that, but I have it from a reliable source, even though I can’t watch Fox News myself.

The raid on the office of Michael Cohen wasn’t based on the Steele Dossier. It was based on decades of dirty dealing in the Southern District of New York, and if the creature fires Mueller now and seals all his records, there’s nothing he and his thugs can do about the evidence in New York.

And although the creature tweets almost daily that he’s not guilty of anything, he well might be. Even if no crime was committed, it is still illegal to try to impede an investigation.

We need to understand what the creature is doing here because fascists and petty dictators do this all the time. They discredit the media by claiming the most reliable and venerated members of the press are lying. Keep repeating that same lie over and over and over again and people will believe it.

Keep claiming an investigation of very real crimes is nothing more than a witch hunt and you may have enough people believing that the FBI and the officials in the Southern District of New York are corrupt and maybe you can prosecute them for”crimes” and maybe get away with your crimes.

The creature is a pathological liar. He has been caught in lies thousands of times since he took the oath of office. But Sean Hannitty, et al, keep defending him and their followers just trot merrily along behind.

They are dismantling our once great nation bit by bit. This administration is the culmination of a decades-long conspiracy by the oligarchs to take over control of the country and dismantle all our social programs so they can create a permanent underclass to serve them.

Look at what we have already: A minimum wage that’s just one-third of what it would have been if it had kept pace with inflation; a de-funding of the public education system that they don’t want or need, since they send their children to private schools that the rest of us can’t afford; cut after cut after cut to nutrition programs that feed low-income people; trade agreements that benefit them but send all our living-wage jobs overseas, where workers are paid even less than our minimum wage; privatization of the military and our prisons and the gutting of the one law that gave us some real improvements in access to health care.

To seal their power, they have attacked voting rights and now they’re stacking the courts to keep those unconstitutional laws on the books.

Robert Mueller is not a crook, he is not incompetent. He has been a Republican and a war hero. He’s someone the right should love. (Image from The Blaze)

The constant state of alert caused by the shitstorm in the White House is meant to distract us from what’s really happening.

And now the people who perpetrated the dismantling of the middle class are jumping ship. They’ve done the damage and it will take decades to rebuild — if we ever can.

So, what can we do? Support legitimate journalism. Do your homework when you see something you want to share on social media. Check for other sources of that information. Google it, check on Snopes.com or another reliable web site.

It’s bad enough that the right has people only believing Fox News and its approved sources; we don’t have to buy into that. I sent something to a conservative the other day and he claimed it was an unreliable liberal source because it came from the Washington Post. It was an op-ed piece by a Republican, but he wouldn’t believe it because it came from the Washington Post.

And above all, VOTE. Yes, the Democrats are controlled by Wall Street, but they are better than the right, and we can oust them, too, if they don’t start to undo some of this damage.

We can’t afford to perpetuate the ignorance coming from the right. We have to look for — and broadcast — the truth.

The truth is that we as a free nation are at great risk, and it may be too late already to save us.

 

We’re using Nazi tactics on immigrants. How is this OK?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations are stealing people from their homes and jobs, leaving thousands of families shattered. (ICE Photo)

 

We have become the very thing we have claimed to hate the most: Nazis.

Across the country, immigration agents are arresting people, tearing them from their families and friends and dumping them into prisons, where they may languish for months or years — all because they tried to make a better life for themselves and their families, just as our ancestors did (unless, of course, you are descended from the people who were here when Europeans arrived and your ancestors were fortunate enough to survive the genocide).

My granddaughter is a third-grade teacher. One of her children came to school the day after the ICE raids in her city and cried as she told my granddaughter that her daddy was gone. People had come and taken him away and she didn’t know where he was or when she might see him again.

Another student said his uncle had been taken and he blamed himself because he left the door open when he left for school.

Six other students were missing from her classroom as their parents had taken them and fled in the night.

Here in Asheville, people are afraid to leave their homes so advocates have organized to get food to them and get their children to and from school.

Latin-owned businesses are feeling the pinch, so if you have business to do, please try to seek out and patronize these businesses.

In Upstate New York, a farmer was roughed up as he tried to come to the aid of one of his workers, who was being roughed up by armed ICE agents.

What have we become when we think this is OK?

Instead of rounding up Jews, we’re rounding up Mexicans and other Central and South Americans. Tell me how this is different. We are targeting an entire group of people and persecuting them.

Anyone with a Spanish accent or even a Spanish-sounding name is having to carry paperwork to prove they’re here “legally.”

I’ve heard people saying that they broke the law by coming into this country, but there is, in all practicality, no legal way to get here and escape the danger in their own countries. Once here, immigrants endure insults and abuse as employers pay them less than minimum wage and work them to exhaustion. They are beaten and raped and they’re afraid to report it because they fear they’ll be the ones arrested and sent to prison. They stay because they believe their children will have a better life here.

Risking their very lives to get here is as courageous as it gets in my book. My ancestors left starvation and grinding poverty in Ireland and didn’t find acceptance here, either. Wealthy Americans paid poor Irish to take their place on the front lines of the Civil War, and many went because they faced such discrimination in the workplace that this was their only choice.

But we weren’t rounded up, stolen from our homes and shipped off to overcrowded prisons for months or years.

They’re coming for our Latin brothers and sisters. They’re dragging them off in the night, kidnapping them from the streets and sending them to prison.

We can’t call ourselves people of faith — any faith — and abide this. We must stand up and protest. We must do all we can to make it stop. These are Nazi tactics, these are fascist tactics, the method of petty dictators and corrupt-to-the-core governments.

Who’s next? Muslims? They live peacefully among us now, but the hatred ginned up against them would make it pretty easy to drag them from their homes, jobs and schools.

Then who? Dissidents? That means me, an old, white great-grandmother. I could be next.

Then they’ll come for you. Don’t think they won’t.

 

Good riddance to Paul Ryan and friends. Now let’s get to work

Thank God and Greyhound he’s going. But it’s not enough. We need to begin to fix the damage he and his cronies have done.

Paul Ryan is leaving Congress, along with 30 other Republican House members, according to NPR, and 10 Democrats, plus three Republican Senators, according to Ballotpedia.

This does not count the four Democrats and 11 Republicans who have left already.

I can’t remember an exodus like this from Congress. But then, I’ve not known such cowardice and lack of ethics on such a scale in my lifetime, and I lived through Nixon.

This group of Republicans has allowed a toxic narcissistic sociopath, a liar, bully, con man, racist and misogynist free rein for more than a year. They have refused to protect the special prosecutor who is investigating very real crimes this creature likely committed, while relentlessly attacking the woman who should be in the White House to draw attention away from their own crimes.

They have stolen much of America’s treasure, allowed polluters to poison our air and water, stolen public lands, saber-rattled with nuclear powers, attacked anyone who tried to stand up to them and ripped apart families at a record rate just to keep out anyone they deem as “other.” They don’t care that crops are rotting in the fields because they know they have enough money to buy whatever they need, even if others of us starve.

They have attacked our access to health care, undermined education, broken trade agreements, built gas and oil pipelines to increase profits from fossil fuels while making safer, cleaner energy less accessible.

They have sold off prisons to people who are making a profit off of other people’s misery.

They have allowed gun manufacturers and extremists to dictate a horrific lack of gun policy.

They have attacked voting rights to the point that our elections no longer are deemed fair. And their theft of a Supreme Court seat has made them safe for another decade or longer.

They have impoverished millions by refusing to increase the minimum wage, which now is about one-third of what it would be if it had kept pace with inflation. They have choked unions to death to make sure workers have fewer rights now than they have had since the 1920s.

And after these millions have been impoverished by the Republicans’ corrupt public policy, these affected people are vilified as lazy, even when they work two jobs and still can’t make ends meet.

I believe the leadership of the Republican Party knew about Russian interference and they welcomed it. I believe they’re in it up to their eyeballs. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have threatened then-President Obama when he wanted to make what he knew public. He didn’t know how extensive the conspiracy was, but I think the Republicans did because I believe they were part of it.

This class of crooks came to Washington to enrich themselves and their uber-wealthy co-conspirators. They came to pick our collective pockets and now that they’ve been found out, they’re going to abscond with their booty.

The problem now is that the Democratic Party is about where the Republican Party was under Nixon, and true progressives are being squeezed out. Our alternative is the Green Party, which can’t win major elections because of the power of the two corrupt parties that hold power now.

A blue wave in November might improve things somewhat, but it likely will not be the change we need. It might mean a few patches to the huge tears in the fabric of our nation, but what we need now is radical change.

I’m part of the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival because I don’t think politicians are going to bring about the changes we need without some kind of revolution, and I’m standing for a peaceful one.

So far, 41 states and the District of Columbia have organized to be part of this campaign. Each organization is unique to its own state because each state’s needs are unique. But beginning on Mother’s Day, we will be seen and heard in state capitols and in Washington.

Right now, more than 40 million Americans live in poverty while there’s actually more than enough to support everyone comfortably.

We need to stand up to the powers of corruption and greed and we need to do it now.

Don’t be satisfied that the likes of Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy are leaving Congress; stand up and demand more. Demand a living wage, demand a cleaner environment, demand affordable health care, demand more money for education, demand military spending be cut drastically, demand fair immigration laws.

Demand a just society. Demand it and mean it, or it never will happen.

 

Nobody “just wants a handout.” Nobody.

I will continue to tell my son’s story because no one — no one — should die the way he did. This was almost a year ago, hours after Rev. Barber and I were arrested for refusing to leave the General Assembly Building until we had been allowed to exercise our Constitutional right in North Carolina to speak to lawmakers about expanding Medicaid. 

Ten years ago today was my first day of life without my precious son. It has been difficult every moment of every day. I live on the verge of tears almost constantly.
I have been and will continue to be very public with my grief because Mike’s is far from the only story of death by denial of health care. We got the Affordable Care Act passed, but opponents are still trying to get rid of it, to go back to the days of killing people like my son because they can’t turn him into a profit-maker. He was denied care until his cancer had spread. That’s when he could turn a profit for Big Pharma. Taxpayers couldn’t spend $1,000 a year to prevent his cancer, but when Big Pharma could make a profit off him, taxpayers were forced to pay more than a half million dollars for his chemo.
Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist, but you won’t change my mind.
Here’s what you need to know if your heart aches for me and the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose loved ones have died and continue to die the same way he did and who endure the same pain I do:
Profit-mongers are still trying to kill the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities.
The Republicans’ “health care” bill takes money from Medicaid, the federal insurance program for poor people and people with disabilities. If you think Medicaid is for people who “just want a handout,” think again. Medicaid pays the bills for people who live in nursing homes and for people who live with disabilities. For those who have it, Medicaid is a lifeline.
But the income limits are so low that even disability can put a person over the top and leave them without access to health care for two years, until Medicare kicks in. That’s right, Medicare doesn’t kick in for 24 months after a person begins to receive disability payments. I’ve known people who have fallen into that loophole, and some of them die from lack of care.
Remember, my son, who had no job and was too sick to work, still had to leave his wife to get Medicaid, and his disability took 37 months to be approved. His first check came nine days after he died.
He never wanted a goddamn handout, OK? He wanted to work and pay his way. Until he got sick, he thought the government had no business getting into health care. He changed his mind when he saw what really happens to people, as it happened to him.
I have a friend in Rhode Island, which has expanded Medicaid, thank God, who has a rare disease and can’t work. Without Medicaid, he will die. He is a passionate, funny, smart, kind and caring person. He doesn’t want a handout, he just wants to survive.
My stepfather and my mother both needed to be in a nursing home at the end of their lives. They had both worked and retired in their 70s. Should they have been sent home to die?
If that’s what you think, then go ahead and set your elders and anyone with a disability out onto an ice floe now, because you are condemning them to death.
My son has been gone a decade, and it hurts today every bit as much as it did 10 years ago.
I fought for the passage of the Affordable Care Act because it would lower the death toll, and it has, by more than 20,000 human beings every year.
People who need health care don’t deserve to be turned away. No human being should suffer the way my son did. No human being deserves to die from the greed of Big Pharma, Big Insurance or any other greed-driven entity.
Health care is not a “handout,” it is a basic human right. If you don’t agree with that you are wrong, and if you refuse to listen, you are willfully ignorant — and still woefully wrong.
Let me repeat what I’ve said a thousand times or more since my son died from medical neglect: Nobody wants a handout. Nobody. In all the years as a reporter working on social justice issues, I never met a single person who just wanted a handout. No once. In the decade since that I have worked as an advocate, I haven’t met anyone who just wants a handout. If you think you know someone who just wants a handout, get to know them better because I assure you, they don’t.
I can imagine that some people get so weary from fighting that it might seem as though they’re just looking for a handout, and I have seen that, but no one starts out that way.
If you want to be able to consider yourself a moral person and you think it’s OK to let people die, you need to change your ways.
I start out the second decade without my precious son the same way I started out the first, immobilized by my grief and determined to stop the carnage.
I will fight these purveyors of misery and death going forward as passionately as I have fought for the last 10 years. I will not stop, I will not step back. That’s my promise to my son and I will keep it to my dying breath.

Two more days

Mike being Mike. His main mission in life was to amuse himself and others. He was a proud jackass and I still believe he chose to leave us on April Fool’s Day.

Ten years ago today, we had a dozen or so people in the house. Along about mid-afternoon, Mike was napping and I was just getting out of the hot tub and drying off when the doorbell rang. I opened the front door to find a very angry woman standing on the steps.
“What the hell is going on with all these cars on my street!” she demanded. “What makes you think you can clog up my street with all these cars? I have to get in and out of here, you know and this is a menace!”
I listened for a moment as she ranted, a couple of my friends standing behind me in utter disbelief that someone could be so nasty without asking what was going on before launching into attack mode over cars on “her” street.
“Excuse me,” I said finally. “These people are here to say goodbye to my son. He’ll be dead in a few days and you can have your precious road back, although I’ve been led to understand you don’t own the road, we all do.”
Her jaw dropped.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“You should be.” I started to close the door.
“Wait! Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes. You can drive carefully. None of us needs to add a wrecked car to our grief.”
A half hour later, Mike woke up and I told him about it. He burst out into a belly laugh. He always loved it when rude people got put in their place.
That would be his final belly laugh.
That evening, all our company would leave and it would be just me and Rob and Mike. James and Janet went back to Raleigh to take care of things there and would come back Wednesday.
Janet would lose her job because her boss said she couldn’t have any more time off. James’s boss would allow him the time he needed to say goodbye to his best friend.
Rob’s and my boss, Randy Hammer, had told us to take whatever time we needed.
Randy had told me a few days earlier he was praying for a miracle, and I told him that was nice. I did appreciate the prayers, I said, but there wasn’t going to be a miracle and I would appreciate it even more if he would pray for strength for those of us who were left behind.
He was a little shocked that I would give up, but I had to be realistic. I didn’t want to have false hope. In my mind, praying for a miracle just means you’re not good enough to get one when it doesn’t happen.
The people in my childhood church always blamed the victim for not praying hard enough or not believing enough when no miracle happened. I won’t fall into that trap. If anyone deserved to live, it was Mike. He was kind and generous, smart and funny. But he would die because he didn’t have insurance and he didn’t have a doctor who gave a rat’s ass about him until it was too late to save his life. He would die, just like 45,000 other Americans that year because our health care system is broken and the powerful people who have all they access they need are too greedy and corrupt to fix it.
Even now, 10 years later, Republicans’ first question on hearing his story is, “Was he working?” As though we have criminalized poverty to the extent that we believe all poor people are lazy, as though unemployment should be punishable by death. And when I say that, the response is always, “Well, some people just want a handout.”
No. Nobody wants a handout. I’ve worked with people in poverty in one way or another for more than 30 years and I’ve never met anyone who just wants a handout. Not one soul. What people want is to live in dignity, working and being paid enough to meet basic expenses in exchange for a week’s work. People want access to health care, a decent education, safe housing, healthy food, clean water — and they should all have these basic things.
For the final three years of my son’s life, he lived in abject poverty because he had to leave his wife to be eligible for Medicaid and it took 37 months to approve the disability payments he had earned over 18 years of working, and his first check didn’t come until nine days after he died.
On this beautiful spring day 10 years ago, we had just two more days with him; 48 hours to soak up enough of his spirit to last a lifetime.

We don’t fear much anymore, and that scares people in power

Cindy Sheehan flashes a peace sign outside the White House.

Cindy Sheehan lost her son,Casey, four years before I lost my Mike. He was killed in Iraq, in a war fought for power in an oil-rich region, in a country where we hoped we would be able to control the oil.

“I remember sitting out on the front porch the day after he was killed, wondering how the world could just be moving on,” Sheehan says. “People were going to work, the sun came up. … It was awful.”

But Sheehan did get up and move again, and with great determination, to create a world where people’s children don’t die from the foreign adventures of imperialist powers.

She bought land near the ranch of then-president George W. Bush and made sure Camp Casey was visible to anyone going to the ranch — a reminder that public policy has consequences, usually for people who don’t deserve those consequences.

I admired the hell out of her then, as I still do. But now I’ve gotten to know her a bit and I love her. I love her fierce determination to bring about peace, to educate others about the damage caused by wars — even those far away that seem to have little effect on most of us here in the US. I love how she stands up and speaks truth to power — even roundly criticizing Barack Obama again and again for his continued use of drones.

She holds Republicans and Democrats in equal disdain for the policies that perpetuate war and for their support of the war economy that bleeds the nation dry.

But all of us are complicit in these wars, whether we know what’s being perpetrated in our name or not. We’re complicit because we vote for the people who continue our overseas adventures, or we don’t vote at all.

We’re complicit because we should know what’s happening and we don’t, and even when we find out, most of us don’t take action to put a stop to it.

Before the Women’s March on Washington, Sheehan approached organizers to ask that they condemn war and the war economy, since war and the imperialism that feeds it are “the biggest purveyors of violence against women in the world.” The organizers said they would address other issues when all women are free.

“I took that to mean all Democratic white women,” Sheehan says.

Someone suggested she hold a mock women’s march on the Pentagon, and she decided a real march would be more effective. She set the date for Oct. 21 and put it up on social media (it’s on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/184236778838247/), with a Children’s Peace Festival the day before. Immediately, people started jumping on board, eager to help.

Most of the people who have become involved in the march so far are women, Sheehan says.

Sheehan is criticized often for her in-your-face style, but I agree with her and it’s my preferred style as well. Not everyone can stand up after the loss of a child and speak publicly to confront those responsible. It’s a skill some of us are born with, and it helps me fell less alone. I’m grateful Cindy and I have the ability to speak truth to power.

“They want us to go away and grieve quietly,” she says. “But why shouldn’t they have to have our grief thrown in their faces? Why should we be the only ones suffering?

“We’re doing what we do for a reason. We were thrust into it and we’re not afraid. I mean, what are you gonna do, kill my son again?”

Sheehan is not polite about her disdain for war, or about her fury at the way innocent young black men are being murdered by police and then vilified by media as petty criminals, as though the petty crimes they MAY have committed merit the death penalty without even a sham trial.

“They can’t lynch people anymore so they shoot them and claim they feared for their lives,” she says. “We are living in a police state.”

When people argue that she’s being unfair, that police have a dangerous job, Sheehan answers by posting on social media a list of jobs that are more dangerous (a higher number of injuries and deaths) than police work.

“Grounds maintenance. Grounds maintenance is more dangerous,” she says.

Neither Cindy nor I asked to do the work we do. We didn’t, as children, say, “Gee I hope one of my kids dies so I can be an activist fighting bad government policies.”

I would be much happier to have my son still with me. His death radicalized me, as Casey’s death did to Cindy.

Neither of us wanted to be a troublemaker. That’s just how our lives worked out, and neither of us is leaving this fight for the soul of our nation until we succeed or we die.

I plan to stand with Cindy Sheehan on Oct. 20 and 21. I plan to demand we stop wasting our precious children’s lives and spend that money on something useful — like creating jobs to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or making college free.

It’s time to listen to the women — especially those women who have been harmed the most by our really bad public policy. We’re not going to shut up until you do. And we’re not going to be polite about it, either.

 

 

 

 

a world of progress site | woven by WEBterranean