Time to renew and refresh

Setting up camp. Faith, on the left, is the youngest; Robin, on the right, is the middle sister. My brothers-in-law, Tim (Robin’s husband) and Alfred (Faith’s), are left to right on the other end of the table shelter.

 

For a couple months now, people have been advising me to take a few days away from everything.

I resisted because, well, the orange menace in the White House and Congressional Republicans trying to take health care away from 33 million Americans and all.

But then my two sisters decided to come to North Carolina for the eclipse, and they reserved campsites near the totality zone, about 40 minutes from my house. I was invited to pitch my tent on my youngest sister’s site.

The campground has no cell phone signal. The most I could do was send a text here and there, so all I could do was hang out with my sisters, go for walks and relax.

One of us went out every day for ice and news so we could be aware if a war started or something, but for the most part, we basked in the quiet.

My next-younger sister scoped out the best place for us to watch the eclipse without going into Brevard. We wound up going about 3 miles up from the campground to a small picnic area. We arrived at 7 a.m., certain the little clearing would be inundated with people before 9 a.m., but just a few people showed up — two young friends of mine, a biker from Connecticut, a woman from Swannanoa, a family from Raleigh and a young man who appeared to be almost unaware of anything around him except for the eclipse.

The sun, in total eclipse.

It was a small group and most of them were there by 9 a.m., so we got to know each other, shared lunch, joked, taught everyone how to speak with a New England accent and learned some Appalachian phrases.

No one asked me about health care. No one expected me to take the microphone and speak. No one asked me to write a few words for a letter to the editor or to a member of Congress or the state legislature.

I was just the oldest surviving Boyd sister (we lost my older sister to cancer 11 years ago), the loudmouth, ball-buster to Robin’s poetic sensibility and Faith’s quiet observance of everyone. I fear she’ll write a novel one day and we’ll all be portrayed too accurately.

For most of the trip we didn’t talk about my activism. We talked about our childhoods and our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

We watched a group of families with eight or so small children and they reminded us of the group vacations our family took with the Davises and the Bainses when we were little. We had the run of the campground. We always met other children, and all the parents kept an eye on all the children.

Robin just retired and is a little unsure what lies ahead. She was trying to think about something she could do, and she came up with a project to visit all the subway stops in Boston and write poetry about what she finds. Faith’s husband will be her guide, since he’s a native of Boston.

I love the idea. She is a gifted poet.

When I sighed and said I wished I could do something like that, both sisters looked at me as though I had just said I wanted to become a short-order cook or a prison guard or something.

“You have a really important project,” they told me. “You’re working on getting people the health care they need.”

It was the first talk of who I have become since my son died. I was transported back to the present. I was reminded that I can’t take a permanent break from the work I do.

Robin’s retirement work is to wring beauty from the mundane. Faith is a devoted grandmother to two special-needs children. Me? I’m the brassy loudmouth who was created for the work I do now.

There were 700 of us and 30 of them, but the anarchist youths who came to Sunday’s peace vigil in Asheville succeeded in disrupting the vigil with violent chants, air horns and drums.

 

We held a peace vigil in Asheville on Sunday and about 700 people came out to denounce racism and violence and to remember and honor the three who died in Charlottesville, Va.

As we were about to start, a rowdy group of about 30 young people came running onto the scene carrying banners. Most of them weren’t old enough to vote and most of them were dressed in black. All of them were white. Some covered their faces with bandannas.

When we started speaking, they started blowing air horns, drumming and chanting violent slogans.

They told us they were Antifa, short for anti-fascists. They’re also anarchists. They came to disrupt and they did.

Unfortunately, the amplifier we have used for rallies for eight years died on us, so we had to try to speak over their noise. They wanted their voices heard and they were intent on blocking anyone who disagreed with them.

So we sang. We sang “This Little Light of Mine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Shall Overcome.”

And we chanted: “We will not condone violence,” as they chanted, “Black Lives Matter! Blue Lives Don’t,” and “Kill the cops!”

A number of us tried to talk to them one-on-one, and what they want is chaos. That was their answer. They want to “tear it down!” They want to kill all police. They want government gone because our current government is corrupt.

I allowed them to speak as long as they didn’t promote violence. One of them came up and grabbed the microphone, which was sitting on the ground. She thought she was going to take over the vigil. I offered her the “stage,” a 2-foot wall at the front of the space near the Vance Monument, and she spoke about how she thought all white allies were racist because they have no idea what black people want (she was white).

When I talked to one young man about my commitment to nonviolence, he called me a coward. I thanked him for talking to me and walked away.

They appropriated other people’s belongings (including my umbrella) to hold up their signs and then called us names when we wanted our things back because we were leaving. One young man accused me of assaulting the woman who had my umbrella when I took it from her. But it was fine for them to assault a news reporter who came to cover the vigil.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a ruder, more inconsiderate group of people, or people who are so fully unaware of their own privilege.

We welcomed them when they arrived, we were happy to have them participate, but they didn’t come to participate, they came to disrupt.

Several people I knew who came for a peaceful demonstration left. Others tried to talk to them but came away with the impression that they only want their views to be heard and no one else’s thoughts mattered.

The group that pulled down a Confederate statue in Durham the next night also identified as Antifa. They at least were a diverse group and from what I hear, they weren’t chanting, “Kill the cops.” So, while I’m happy to see the glorification of a system that owned human beings shut down, I’m not happy to see the kind outburst I saw on Sunday from a group of people who are doing all they can to promote violence for their own glorification.

These young people — most of whom were not old enough to vote — think violence and chaos is the solution to the world’s problems, as though they have the experience or the wisdom to solve the complex problems we face as a nation and as a planet.

Our government is corrupt as hell. Our entire economic system is a nightmare for most of the population right now. But to tear it all down and say we should each fend for ourselves is not a solution.

But there was no reasoning with the members of this group. I tried to speak to several of them and not one wanted to hear what I had to say. They shouted me down, calling me cowardly, racist and homophobic.

Yes, I’m white. So are they. There was not a person of color among them. I’d be OK with that if they weren’t calling me and others these hateful things as though they were the only ones who could be allies against the system.

The Vance Monument, which towered over us, is a tribute to a slave-owning former governor. The ground on which we stood still carries the shame of having been a slave market. I suggested we could consecrate this ground and rededicate it to justice and equality. The crowd applauded, and the Antifa folks chanted, “Tear it down!” But they weren’t talking about just the monument, they were talking about everything — all of it.

We held our vigil in spite of them. We will do the same if they show up again. Only next time, we will have an amplifier, and we will spread our message of peace.

I was so disheartened by what happened on Sunday, as were my fellow organizers. I want everyone to have a seat at the table, but I can not ally myself with people whose only aim is the violent overthrow of everything, and the members of this group who I spoke to on Sunday advocated nothing more than violence.

Violence begets violence. Hate begets hate.

There is a better way.

Love trumps hate. Yeah, that was another one of our chants.

 

This can not be allowed to abide among us

Carrying cheap citronella torches and shouting racist slogans, white terrorists held a rally. Not surprisingly, it turned violent.

 

Last night in Charlottesville, Va., a mob of white supremacists, mostly young men, marched to protest the removal of a statue glorifying the Confederacy on the eve of a rally to celebrate white power and their fear of losing it.

Marchers surrounded a church where people were praying for unity, chanting “We will not be replaced,” “White lives matter,” Jews will not replace us,” and other slogans, as they marched.

The issue is that the city voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, which protesters say offends their delicate white sensibilities. The statue is still in the park, pending a court ruling on whether the city can remove it.

I understand that some white people are afraid of the future because they don’t consider people of color to be their equals and they don’t want to cede their white privilege to them.

Life was easier for them when the color of their skin gave them a pass they didn’t necessarily deserve. Now they have to deal with removal of the symbols of their former unquestioned power and it scares the hell out of them.

Change is never easy, especially when you believe you’re being suppressed simply because you no longer have the power to keep others down.

Their fear is real, but it is misguided. You don’t have to give up your rights to allow others to have theirs.

Perhaps they fear that minorities are becoming the majority and if they behave toward white people they way they themselves were treated, there will be trouble.

When you hold power and misuse it, I suppose you should fear what happens when you lose power.

But here’s the thing: Those people in the streets last night, carrying cheap Home Depot citronella torches and Nazi and KKK banners, chanting racist slogans and threatening the people inside that church — I have friends who were in that church, and they were scared — did so with the help of police, who didn’t disperse them immediately.

I have seen reports of just one arrest, and a friend who is there now warns us to stay home because both sides have provocateurs and both have weapons. It is not safe there.

What happened last night — and continues today — is a page right out of 1930s Germany, and the Republicans (and most of the Democrats) in Washington have yet to roundly condemn it.

Where the hell is the outrage?

Yes, all my progressive friends have called this out.

But those in power — the people with real power — have done little.

Had those protesters been carrying a Black Power banner, immigrants’s rights pickets or a Quran, the National Guard would have been mobilized and we would be cleaning the blood of the protesters off the streets of Charlottesville this morning.

I know this is true because I live close enough to Charlotte, NC, to have been there the day after police shot an unarmed black man, and the Guard was mobilized within hours to combat people who were protesting the death of an innocent man, not just the removal of a symbol of white power (the kind of power, by they way that allows for police to get away with gunning down unarmed black man after unarmed black man after unarmed black man).

Can you see the racism yet?

Too many white people go on about their business after these murders, relieved that it isn’t their sons being shot in cold blood because a cop says he smelled pot and feared for his life. And to rationalize their complacence, they vilify the dead black man. He was selling illegal cigarettes. He smelled of pot. He might have stolen a couple of cheap cigars. He was jaywalking.

What these people don’t see, sometimes even after it is pointed out to them, is that jaywalking is not a crime punishable by death, and not just that, but without so much as a single day in court.

The white mob in Charlottesville last night was a terrorist mob. If Muslims had done that, we certainly would call them terrorists. But when white people do it, they’re just voicing their discontent.

Violence erupted when the white marchers encountered counter-protesters, one of whom apparently sprayed the demonstrators with mace, and fights broke out. I don’t condone that. If we are to rise about the hate of the alt-right, we must not be violent. Violence is what we are protesting. If we commit it ourselves, we become that which we oppose.

But there were no reports of arrests.

Imagine no arrests if the protesters had been black.

Wouldn’t have happened.

Imagine the outrage if the protesters had been anything other than white. Can’t you just hear Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell calling for stern reactions and punishment to the greatest extent the law allows? Can’t you just imagine the Twitter storm emanating from the White House?

But the White House embraces the fascist movement. Staff members working for the Occupant are more than a little sympathetic.

Overt racism has been rude and inappropriate for the last several decades, but it is enjoying a return to power under this administration, which emboldens racists. They know they can get away with their hate when the people in power share their views.

Frankly, I think the divisions in the Democratic Party are promoted by these people so we can’t interfere with their rise to power, nor their hold on it.

We must work together to defeat this. We can not bicker over whose fault it is that this administration even exists.

We have to work as one. We have to rid ourselves of this hate.

This can not abide.

 

 

 

Consider your privilege

At Wednesday’s kickoff of the National Poor People’s Campaign, Bishop Dr. William Barber II called for a commitment from those present to work on various aspects of the Poor People’s Campaign. Hundreds came forward to offer, time, money, their very bodies, to the campaign.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my privilege lately as I hear people vilify the poor and people of color.

“Poor people should obey the law,” says one white man who can afford to pay the $185 court cost that comes with the $15 speeding ticket. That same white man probably had no fear of being dragged from his car, beaten, shot or thrown in jail for “resisting arrest.” It never occurs to him that he could be jailed indefinitely for not having the money to pay court costs, or even be shot leaning over to get his registration and insurance card from the glove compartment. Then, as he’s bleeding out, the cop concocts a story that he smelled pot and feared for his life and gets away with your murder.

I know when I was stopped for speeding a couple of years ago, I was well aware of all of that. Later, as I wrote out the check for $195 — without ever seeing any official of the court, so I have no idea why I was charged $180 — I realized there was a time in my life I would not have been able to come up with the money.

That inability would lead to a bench warrant being issued, which could have landed me in jail at this time and in this place.

Oh, and your constitutionally guaranteed access to an attorney here in North Carolina comes with the proviso that if you are found guilty, you will have to pay the lawyer.

Now, add in the fact that many people who are not guilty consent to a plea rather than a trial because they don’t want to risk jail and you have innocent people being penalized by crippling debt just to avoid jail — and if they can’t pay up, they go to jail.

In other words, if you work at a low-paying job, you are more likely to land in our broken “justice” system, and you’re very likely to be caught up in the system for a long time, to wind up going to jail and then losing that low-paying job.

I don’t want to hear the cry of the privileged that these people should just look for better jobs — there are no better jobs for people who aren’t college-educated. And don;t pontificate that perhaps they should have made better choices when they were 16, like you did. You likely had choices; a lot of kids in poverty don’t. The good manufacturing jobs are gone, replaced by jobs that pay $10 an hour or less. Minimum wage is less than half of what it takes to live. Mom and Dad can both work full-time and still not be able to make ends meet.

That’s not laziness, that’s deliberate abuse on the part of a nation whose laws permit this abuse.

Here in North Carolina, we have honed the abuse of poor people to a fine art. We are the only state ever to take away an earned-income tax credit. We are the only state ever to cut the duration and the amount of unemployment insurance compensation. We have refused to take the federal money (that WE paid in federal taxes) to expand access to health care to a half million human beings.

We have so vilified poor people that when I talk about my son’s death from lack of access to health care, Republicans’ first reaction is to ask, “Was he working?”

That’s right, “Was he working?”

I spoke to a woman today whose 7-year-old son has autism. She wants to get him a therapy dog because he responds so well to animals. But the cost is $25,000 (it costs about $20,000 to train one of these dogs). She lives on disability because she has frequent seizures and other serious health problems. The organization told her there is no grant money to help low-income people get these dogs, but they put up a page for her son at their own web site. She is not permitted to put up her own Go Fund Me page.

What this tells me is that unless you’re wealthy, you can’t have one of these dogs. She is poor so her son is very, very unlikely to ever get this help.

She is not lazy. She worked until her health would no longer permit it, and she would work again if she could, although she likely would not find a high-wage job where she lives.

This is a person who deserves the help her son needs. She doesn’t love her child any less than people with money love their children. Her little boy deserves the help he needs.

Last night, I attended the kickoff of the National Poor People’s Campaign at a Antioch Baptist Church in Charlotte.

I stood with people whom others think are undeserving of anything — even life itself. I held their hands, sang with them, cheered with them, hugged them and cried with them. Now I will work with them to make sure they are afforded the dignity they deserve.

This is a fight for the soul of our culture.

Will we choose money over our soul?

Will we choose hatred over the love every major religion commands of us?

I’m standing on the side of love.

If you want to know more about the National Poor People’s Campaign, visit https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/.

 

 

Mark Meadows is afraid of ghosts

I was told I had to surrender this photo of my late son to be allowed into Mark Meadows’ town hall. I’m thinking he’s afraid of ghosts. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

 

I went to the Mark Meadows town hall the other night, but I wasn’t permitted in.

They wanted to confiscate the photo of my son that I always take to these things. I had it with me at his town hall two years ago. I had it with me at the Patrick McHenry and Robert Pittenger town halls as well. I carried it with me in Raleigh and Washington. I had it with me when I met with Heath Shuler and when I was blocked from speaking to now-Sen. Thom Tillis, who had me arrested rather than speak to me.

I have plenty of copies of the photo, but I will not surrender any of them to people who want to deny the truth about my son’s death.

Mark Meadows leads the Congressional “Freedom” Caucus, which rejected the first House version of Trumpcare because it didn’t take enough away from people.

Meadows is wealthy beyond my imagination. He can afford to buy his insurance and pay the co-pays. Hell, he can afford to get whatever care he needs without insurance.

But instead of understanding his privilege, he tries to deny that care to people who aren’t wealthy and then paint them as lazy bums.

Mark Meadows calls himself “pro-life” and “Christian,” but his behavior doesn’t line up with either one. To be pro-life, one must support life even after it exits the birth canal. To be Christian, one must offer aid without asking whether the recipient deserves it. Christ taught us that by example and then in Matthew 25, Christ tells us what will happen if we refuse to care for those least able to care for themselves, what he called, “the least of these.”

Mark Meadows has proven to be a tough political opponent, partly because of the huge sums of money he commands, and partly because the people of this district tend to believe his lies about why we can’t have universal access to health care or a living wage as minimum wage.

This is when our party has to come together. We have to remove him from office, along with others who share his selfish, destructive and immoral policies.

We have a candidate, Phillip Price, who seems to hold some pretty great ideas. He’s new to politics as are many candidates this year, including a contender against Patrick McHenry named Kenneth Queen. I’ll devote an entire post to him tomorrow.

 

Representing, unlike my representative, and refusing to back down

Mark Meadows exemplifies everything that’s wrong with America right now.

 

I wasn’t going to go to the Mark Meadows town hall tonight.

There’s nothing he can say to convince me he’s right, and he won’t let me speak to him.

At the last town hall I went to, questions had to be written out, and we were told they would be asked in the order they were submitted. I was the second person through the door and I submitted the second question. But mine was not among the eight questions asked.

I approached Meadows afterward to ask why that had happened, but he took one look at me when I stuck out my hand to introduce myself, said, “Oh, I know who you are,” and turned his back to me.

This man is supposed to be representing the people of Western North Carolina, but he refuses to speak to anyone who might disagree with his cruel and inhumane policies.

The first attempt to pass Trumpcare in the House of Representatives wasn’t severe enough for Meadows and his “Freedom Caucus.” It didn’t take enough away from people. It still saved a few lives, after all. It had to be made more draconian before he and his sleazy band of thugs would vote for it.

I have no use for this man, but I have decided I need to show up with my son’s picture and pray that perhaps I can move him toward compassion. At least I can be there to show that not all the voters in this district are anti-life.

This fight takes its toll. I am stressed and emotional from the fight against Trumpcare. I have spent hours and hours writing to Meadows and my senators (Burr and Tillis), only to have them ignore me or send me form letters filled with lies about the Affordable Care Act.

Now I have fellow Democrats accusing me of being a “purist” and suggesting I should leave the party because I don’t want to vote for anyone who doesn’t support universal access to quality health care. Let your kid die and then tell me it isn’t imperative that we fix this now.

I’ve had little rest lately, as the radicals on the political right try to take away what little progress we have made in access to care. I was arrested in Raleigh in May because I was trying to talk to the NC Senate leader. I was arrested in Washington in July for trying to disrupt a vote to take away health care from up to 33 million people.

I’m putting my body on the line and being vilified as a “purist” for my belief that we need access to care for every human being and speaking the truth that we need candidates who will work for us on this.

I want a living wage for minimum wage. I want to see it set at $18 an hour and tied to inflation so people don’t have to work three jobs to pay their bills. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, you need that money NOW, not in five years. Only people with unacknowledged privilege think it can wait.

The establishment Democrats are exactly what mainstream Republicans were before it was taken over by right-wing radicals. I had differences with them, but could at least respect them. Since 1980, the radicals have managed to drag the entire conversation so far to the right that what once were mainstream Democratic ideals are now considered radical.

A living wage as minimum wage? Socialist! Health care for everyone? Communist!

If you think I’m wrong, just read the 1976 Democratic Platform: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29606.

I’ve been told I’m too divisive and I should leave the Democratic Party and go Green, which I would do if there was a chance in hell they could win against all the big money now flooding the Dems’ corporatist candidates.

So as far as being “purist” and “elitist” goes, screw that. I’m the one staying with the party and trying to make a difference.

I voted for Hillary Clinton even though she said she wouldn’t work on single-payer and she wasn’t for a big increase in the minimum wage all at once. Hoe does that make me a “purist” who should be purged from the party?

So, if you’re in agreement with Mark Meadows and think we don’t need universal access to care or a living wage for people who work 40 or more hours a week, then join his party because you aren’t a Democrat.

Democrats make room for disagreement. Democrats are able to talk things out and compromise.

If you want people who will slavishly follow the party line, join the party of Mark Meadows. They love sheep.

 

 

 

 

It’s time to get serious about opposing the oligarchs

We need a strong, progressive candidate who will illustrate the real difference between the parties.

 

Matt Coffay has dropped out of the race for the 11th District Congressional seat in North Carolina.

Now what?

There is another candidate named Phillip Price and I have e-mailed him to request a meeting. I want to know where he stands because I’m not ready to vote for another moderate who won’t work for my interests.

I don’t want someone who’s happy with the Affordable Care Act; I want someone who will push for a single-payer system.

I want someone who will push to regulate Big Pharma and rein in the drug companies’ abuses.

I want someone who will fight to raise the minimum wage to $18. Three years ago, $15 would have been adequate, but time marches on, as does inflation. $18 now, not in five years.

I want someone who will work for universal voter registration. Everyone in, no one out, just like I want in health care.

I want someone who will understand the dire risk of global warming and who will demand action immediately, in spite of what Big Oil wants. I want to see solar panels and wind turbines popping up in the landscape like weeds in my garden.

I’m looking for a candidate who will work on re-funding education and strengthening schools, colleges and universities.

I want someone who will actually reduce spending on the war machine.

I want to see someone who’s unashamed to support Planned Parenthood.

I want someone who’ll work to stop the militarization of our local police forces.

I’m tired of moderates who aren’t willing to challenge the corporate overlords. Nothing will change until we the people make those changes. and moderates won’t work with us.

I voted for Hillary Clinton, not because I agreed with her on everything, but to try and keep the Orange One out of the White House. She is qualified to be president, but she is in bed with the big corporations.

She doesn’t get Black Lives Matter. The issue of institutional racism is somehow out of her grasp.

She doesn’t get the need for an immediate hike in the minimum wage to make it a living wage. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, you need that raise now. It’s only about 40 percent of what’s needed to live in any city in the United States and less than that in many places. If you’re in business, you don’t get to enrich yourself on the backs of others. If you can’t pay a fair wage, you shouldn’t be in business.

She wasn’t for an immediate move to single-payer because the insurance overlords don’t want it and they would have withdrawn support.

It was, in part, purists who put this clown in the White House because they wouldn’t vote for someone who disagreed with any of their stands. I get that and I’m not a purist.

I do, however, want a candidate I can back wholeheartedly. I want a true progressive because more and more Americans are beginning to understand the need for progressive policies.

So, can we at least try to recruit a progressive without the Democratic Party getting its panties in a bunch?

Mark Meadows is an oligarch. He has no idea how we struggle with bills or how terrified we are of getting sick in one of the worst health care systems in the world. He cares only about himself and his little circle of the pampered and privileged.

We need someone strong to run against that. We need to be able to show people there is a very real difference between the parties because if there isn’t, we truly are lost as a nation.

 

 

 

Thank you to the GOP members who voted no

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no. John McCain joined them. Photo by Getty Images.

 

John McCain had a choice. He could play politics and be the darling of the right wing, or he could do the right thing.

The future of the Affordable Care Act lay in his hands.

Thing is, this likely was to be his last hurrah.

Diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, he likely has little time left to him. I was afraid the irony might be lost on him — a politician who had fought against the ACA, getting the best medical care available to anyone and able to allow tens of millions of people to keep, or lose, lifesaving access to health care.

Would be make the connection? Would he see the importance of access to care for everyone, or would he continue to play politics with people’s lives?

I was truly afraid he would stand on the wrong side of history.

He chose to be on the moral side of history.

But the beautiful story in all of this is the two Republican women who stood steadfast in the face of derision and threats.

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska never wavered in their opposition to the theft of access to care for tens of millions of Americans.

When Murkowski was threatened with official punishment in the form of retaliatory action against her constituents, she shut down her committee’s hearings on appointments to the Department of the Interior, which was the source of the threats against her.

Sen. Capito caved. I don’t know what the enticement — or the threat — was that changed her vote, but Collins and Murkowski stood firm.

I took some heat this morning because I mentioned McCain before the women in a Facebook post. I call bullshit on that.

McCain walked the farthest in his position. Maybe it was because he wants to see the whole law repealed; maybe it was because the stark reality of his own mortality has humbled him. Whatever the reason, he has saved access to health care for tens of millions of Americans.

We knew we had the votes of Murkowski and Collins; McCain’s was the miracle vote.

And while we’re talking about heroes, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also has cancer — stage 4 kidney cancer. She also traveled to Washington to vote, making her every bit as heroic as McCain. The media haven’t picked up on it they way they did McCain, so we all need to thank her for her heroic effort.

I have written thank-you notes to all four senators.

But we have won just one battle. The occupant of the White House will not let this go. He has promised to attack it and kill it with a thousand cuts. We are not out of the woods.

So, let’s take some time to breathe this morning, but tomorrow we have to resume the fight. This is not over until every human being in the United States has full access to health care.

 

I can’t sit down

 

Marching to the Capitol with a cardboard “coffin” on Wednesday morning. I was arrested for chanting, “Kill the bill!” Photo by Religion News

 

I have been arrested again, this time for trying to speak truth to US senators.

On Tuesday, 32 of us went into the Senate gallery to watch the vote on opening “debate” on a bill that could rob 50 million Americans of access to health care by 2026.

I was hauled out of the gallery before the action began because someone noticed I had a 5×7 photo of my late son. I just thought he might like to see the circus. Honestly, I wanted to hold him up for John McCain and Mitch McConnell to see.

I spoke before we marched to the Capitol from a church a quarter mile away, begging senators to be truly pro-life and drop their effort to murder tens of thousands of Americans each year by taking away their access to health care. A portion of my remarks was picked up by Now This and the video is circulating on Facebook. I’ll be honest, I’m a little tickled by that. The more people who know about my son, the better. We have to put the faces of real people suffering the real consequences of these people’s actions.

I know some people just stumbled over the word, “murder.”  It seems so harsh. But there is no other word to describe an action that you know will result in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

So, we marched, then we stood in line for two hours waiting to get into the gallery. I got a little star struck watching Al Franken walk in. I had listened to a podcast of him being interviewed by Larry Wilmore on my drive up to Washington. He’s so smart and so funny. He’s shorter than I thought. I looked over at Mitch McConnell and remarked to the woman next to me that I think he looks even more turtle-like in person.

But before John McCain walked in and voted to open “debate” on a bill that no one has seen, I was hauled out of the gallery for having a photo of my late son. That’s right, I’m a dangerous subversive because I carried a photo.

As I was speaking to a cop, who was taking down my personal information, I heard the chanting start. Now, I don’t know if I was about to be arrested or simply banned from seeing the Senate at “work,” but I looked at the officer and took a deep breath.

The officer, whose name is Michael, and who is the same age my son was when he got sick, said, “Don’t do it.”

“I have to, ” I said. I turned my back to him and started chanting. Then with him behind me, I walked over to the line of people being taken out of the gallery.

It was a little like “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” where Spock, who is not charged with a crime, walks up to stand with Kirk and the others, saying, “I stand with my shipmates.”  I could almost hear my son laughing as that thought entered my head.

I kept chanting as Officer Michael caught up with me and held my elbow. They cuffed us behind our backs as we waited for the elevator, and my nose started itching immediately.

They took us to the building’s garage, where we were searched. As they took our jewelry, wallets, even the tissues I had tucked into my pocket, we sang freedom songs and hymns.

We sang in the paddy wagon, and we sang in the converted garage they had set up to process us. We sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “Hold On,” “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Not be Moved.” A rabbi among us taught us a Hebrew song.

The officers were all respectful and kind. Several of them even joked with us. One admitted quietly to me that he respected and admired us. Another whispered to me she was honored to be in our presence. They had several coolers filled with cold water and a half dozen big floor fans to keep the air moving in the garage to keep us comfortable. They took off the cuffs and cuffed everyone in front, which is a whole lot more comfortable. We sat on cafeteria chairs and chatted.

There were a few from the North Carolina Moral Monday Movement, including Rev. Rob Stephens and Jennifer “Jeff” Ginsburg, a hospice nurse who was arrested with me in Raleigh on May 30. Jeff, by the way, runs a small box turtle rescue operation, which makes her an expert on turtles. She agreed that McConnell is an evil turtle.

Others, including Dr. Margaret Flowers and Rev. Traci Blackmon, walked with us and sat with us, but didn’t participate in the action because of their previous arrests.

We were supposed to be given a $50 fine and released, but we were charged with disrupting the Senate, which is a slightly more serious charge and means we all have to go back for a court date.

If they think that intimidates me, they should think again. I’m fighting for the lives of every American. I’m fighting for health care as a human right. This fight is way bigger than one bereaved old woman.

After we were released, we were all hungry enough to be grateful for the cold pizza that was waiting for us across the street from where we were being held.

We called an Uber car to take us back to the church for the belongings we left there. The driver was a Muslim man from Afghanistan, who, when he found out who we were, refused to accept payment from us.

“I don’t take money from heroes,” he said.

After I gathered my things and started walking to the Metro station near the Capitol, I saw Sen. Lindsay Graham in the crosswalk. I approached and stuck out my hand.

“Senator Graham,” I said, “I’m from North Carolina.”

“Then we’re neighbors,” he said, smiling.

“I know you’re in a hurry, but I need to speak to you for just a moment.” I pulled out my photo of Mike. “This is my son who died from lack of access to health care. He was a good man, a hard worker, a community volunteer and the light of my life.”

He looked at the photo, somewhat shocked at being accosted, I think.

“”Please, please, sir, I beg you to think about the lives that will be lost, the families who will grieve, before you vote on any health care bill.”

“I will,” he said as he handed the photo back to me.

He voted against the first bill that night. I like to think he saw Mike in his head, but then he voted yes on the second bill.

I am exhausted. I am worried about my own health — I have a bunch of kidney stones — but I have access to decent care and I have to fight for those who do not.

I slept well last night, knowing I have done the right thing and that I will continue to fight these murderers. As long as my heart beats, I will continue this fight. This isn’t for or about me. This is about being truly pro-life. This is about loving my neighbor.

I’m not a hero, I’m just a person following my conscience and my faith. I know how it feels to lose a child, and I live in fear of losing my only surviving son, of outliving both of my children because of the greed of a few powerful men. This is what moves me to action.

I am standing for the lives of my fellow human beings.

I can’t sit down.

 

 

The irony of McCain’s cancer diagnosis

Photo by NBC News.

Not that many people get this, but is is more than a little ironic that John McCain’s brain tumor postponed the vote to take away access to health care for millions of Americans.

McCain was a sure “yes” vote on the “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act that Sen. Mitch McConnell was pushing. I don’t know that this diagnosis will change McCain’s mind on that vote.

Still, I would not wish this on him and I am grateful that he has access to the care he will need if he is to beat this.

My son never had that chance.

I’m being criticized today for saying this because McCain is a mean-spirited man who has fallen in willingly with thugs and thieves. He was set to help take away access to health care for 23 million Americans.

That is the aiding and abetting of murder.

To me, that doesn’t matter right now because when I say everyone deserves access to quality health care, I mean exactly that.

No one deserves to die the way my son did. No one. Period.

It would be the height of hypocrisy to stand up in public and say no one deserves to die the way my son did and then turn around and wish it on someone else, even if that someone is not a good person.

Conservatives say they don’t want universal health care because some people just want a handout.

That’s bullshit.

In my 30 years as a reporter covering social justice issues and in my nine years of health care advocacy work, I have not met anyone who just wants a handout.

My son wanted health care. He worked hard and he went to school and he was a community volunteer who gave selflessly of himself to help others.

And don’t tell me, “OK, your son deserved to live, but some people are lazy …” Who the hell are you to decide who deserves to live? Where do you get off condemning someone to die because you deem them too lazy, or too mean?

No one deserves to go without access to health care. No one. Period, end of discussion.

I don’t know John McCain personally, and I am not going to judge him other than to say he has done and said some incredibly mean-spirited things. Still, he does deserve health care.

I am grateful that his family doesn’t have to watch him die from medical neglect. Having watched my son die from lack of access to care, I am steadfast in my desire to see no one else die that way.

 

 

 

 

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