I can’t believe I’m still protesting this …

Photo by Phil Fonville. We gathered on Bicentennial Mall in Raleigh Tuesday to protest the lack of affordable health care for a half million people in this state.

 

I realized a couple weeks ago that I’ve been protesting war, poverty and misogyny for a half century.

I mentioned it to Rev. William Barber, who will leave the NC NAACP presidency next month to head the resurrection of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign. King started the Poor People’s Campaign 50 years ago, and now I get to work with Rev. Barber to help revive it.

Rev. Barber, who’s 10 years younger than I am, just smiled, put his arm around my shoulders and told me he loves me for my passion.

A half century of trying to make things better and we’re headed right back to where we started, with incarceration as the new slavery, with women being shut out from decisions about their bodies, with voting rights skewed toward the wealthy and white, with children going to bed hungry, elders having to choose between food and vital medications, with wages far too low to cover necessities, with the poor and sick blamed for their plight and with war looming on the horizon.

I am horrified by the state of things, but I cannot give up. I stand with the photo of my late son and explain to anyone who asks that he died from lack of access to care.

So, even in the pouring rain, I went to the rally, and, as so often happens at Moral Monday rallies, the rain let up for the two hours we were there.

But, as so often happens with Moral Monday events, the legislators left early and locked up the building rather than risk having to talk to any of us. So, we had a huge poster with a few facts about what their refusal to expand Medicaid has done to this state, and the 200-plus people who attended the rally each signed it.

We left it tacked to the front door of the building as the chief off the General Assembly police looked on. It’s OK — he’s used to us and seems to bear us no ill will, but he will arrest us if told to do so. He has arrested me twice — so far.

Anyway, because we couldn’t get into the building last night, we will be back next Tuesday, and we will go into the building and sit down and wait to address our legislators, as is our right under the North Carolina State Constitution. They might arrest us again, but we will not back down. Lives are at stake here — a half million of them.

If you want to participate in the sit-in, be at the Bicentennial Mall (across the street from the General Assembly Building) at 10 a.m. next Tuesday. If you can’t participate in the sit-in, you can still attend the health care rally at 6 p.m.

 

 

 

Roger Ailes is dead, thank God

Yes, I know we’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, and I never wished him dead, but I’m relieved he’s gone.

This is a man who lead the charge on the dismantling of our Democracy. Ever since he made Richard Nixon look pretty, he has led America down the path of fascism disguised as conservatism.

My father was a conservative, but he never denied science. He knew the dangers of pollution and climate change. He knew poor people needed a hand sometimes and that workers deserved a living wage.

My father didn’t want to know what went on behind people’s bedroom doors because it was none of his business, and the only marriage he worried about was his own. He was happy to pay into Social Security and Medicaid, even though he only lived to age 67.

My father was a newsman who never watched Fox News because, even though he was conservative, he could spot a lie a mile away, and Fox News was all about lies.

Roger Ailes built a “news” channel that peddled lies about climate change, about taxes, about immigrants, about the “need” for wars and about poor people.

In this most recent election, the lies were about Hillary Clinton. The e-mail server she used was the same kind of server used by Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State, but Fox never mentioned that.

Three Americans died in Benghazi, and that’s a tragedy, but more than 50 Americans died at embassies around the world under George W. Bush. and that was never mentioned on Fox. Some 250 US Marines died in Beirut in the early 1980s and Ronald Reagan took responsibility, although no one criticized him or called him a criminal because of it.

Ailes, himself a sexual predator, may not have supported the sexual predator in chief before the Republican National Convention, but once the nomination was secure, Ailes allowed the criminal who currently occupies the White House to slide on any number of issues so that Republicans could take power once again.

Ailes was never punished for his crimes. He was fired from Fox News, but he died a free — and wealthy — man.

The lies his network perpetuated allowed the current occupant of the White House to get there. Slowly, over the course of many years, Fox News has misinformed Americans and encouraged people to dismiss the truth as “the other side of the story.”

This is largely why I left the news business. I was being pressured to quote Tea Party lies as “the other side of the story,” when they were lies, pure and simple. If I quoted them, I also debunked them because sometimes “the other side of the story” is nothing more than a bald-faced lie.

He led Americans to deny science and to the view that a belief holds as much weight as a fact.

The Earth is billions of years old, not 6,000.

Evolution is real; creationism is a myth.

Climate change is real, so real that our planet could become uninhabitable from the changes in 100 years or so.

But Ailes’ followers continue to fight — and vote — against their own best interests.

When you cut taxes on the wealthy, nothing trickles down.

When workers don’t make a living wage, the economy suffers because nobody can afford to buy anything.

Poor people are not lazy.

Unions protected workers from the unfettered greed of the 1 percent.

These things are all true, even though Fox tells people every day that they are not, and people believe it.

One study showed that people who watch Fox News exclusively knew less than people who watch no news at all.

Ailes knew that if he could divide people, if he could make “ordinary” people hate the “elites,” he and his cronies could win. He was stunningly successful, and that’s why we have a mentally ill criminal in the White House, and a Speaker of the House who brags he wanted to kill Medicaid when he was a college frat boy getting trashed at keg parties.

The damage done by this one man is hard to measure. I never wished him dead, but I’m relieved he’s gone.

 

Telling the story, over and over

Speaking at a town hall to which my congressman was invited, but chose not to attend.

Three times on Friday and Saturday, I told the story of the death of my son.

It never gets easier. It’s emotionally exhausting, yet I work to find places to speak and people willing to listen because his is the face of the injustice inherent in our so-called health care system.

I stood alone outside the federal office building in Asheville Friday at noon as people at the stoplight honked their approval (this was the first time I’ve done this that no one flipped me off or said rude things). Then I packed up and went to a “listening” session sponsored by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, which is trying to put the best face possible on the legislature’s planned dismantling of Medicaid here in North Carolina.

The right-wing agenda of the legislature has been the shredding of our social safety net ever since they took power in 2010. They have refused to even consider expanding Medicaid and have chosen instead to privatize it, to farm it out to their corporate friends, who will line their pockets with some of the limited funds meant to help people in need.

I listened to a woman who is blind talk about losing her job, and with it, her access to health care, because North Carolina refuses to allow access to health care to people who live below the federal poverty level.

I listened to another woman talk about trying to recover from a horrible accident while having no access to care because, even though she has obvious disabilities related to the accident, she has been denied both Medicaid and disability. I heard her vow, tearfully, to continue her fight.

Like these two women, my son was not lazy, nor was he to blame in any way for his condition. He didn’t choose to have a birth defect that left him vulnerable to colon cancer. He didn’t choose not to buy insurance — that was decided for him by greedy corporate hacks who saw no profit in him. In fact, no one saw a profit in him until he had stage 3 colon cancer and needed chemotherapy. That’s when he became eligible for Medicaid (but only after he left his wife), and the drug companies collected more than a half million dollars while my son waited for approval for disability. He would not live to see a penny of it — his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days when his first check arrived.

This state destroyed a decent mental health system a dozen years ago when it privatized services. I know because I was the one reporter in the state who covered it from the beginning. I watched as people who needed help were denied services. I watched as the state made change after change after change to the system, never allowing it to stabilize. I watched as people died.

When I returned to work after the death of my son, I found an e-mail telling me about the deaths of three young men who died within weeks after being released from state psychiatric hospitals without follow-up plans. One of them was released and dropped off at a homeless shelter that had been closed for months. He landed in a fleabag motel, where, in utter despair, he took his own life.

No policymakers cared until the day the story ran. Then they announced a policy change: No one would be released from a state psychiatric hospital without a follow-up appointment with a psychiatrist and enough medication to carry them over to that appointment.

It took more than the three deaths — it took public outrage over those three deaths — to change policy.

Stories are powerful. Stories matter. That’s why I continue to tell my son’s story.

I told his story again on Saturday, at a Town Hall to which Mark Meadows, our member of Congress, was invited, but to which he didn’t come.

I talked about Mike’s experience not getting what he needed, even from the emergency room. I explained that the ER only has to stabilize patients, not look for or address the root cause.

Two women came up to me after I spoke and told me I was wrong. I explained again how the ER only has to stabilize patients and they insisted what my son got was treatment.

“No, he didn’t,” I said. “He left the ER with the wrong diagnosis, the wrong medications and a big bill three times. What he needed was a diagnosis of the malignant tumor that was blocking his colon.”

“I’ve studied this,” one of them said to me.

“I’ve read the laws and written about it for three decades,” I told her. “You are wrong.”

She tried again to tell me I was wrong, and I just turned and walked away. Some people refuse to hear the truth and I can’t waste my time trying to get through to them.

After that, as I stood fuming about how ignorant people can be, a woman walked up to me and said, “You’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but I have a message from your son. He’s really, really proud of you. He stands behind you as you speak, and he’s smiling.”

I decided to not think she’s crazy. I need to feel his presence whenever I can. I need for him to not be completely gone from me.

So, I tell his story. In his memory, I work for access to health care for every human being, and I won’t stop until we’re done.

They think it’s a joke; I beg to differ

These are the people who just voted to gut your health care. Remember this in 2018. They all need to be sent home. Every damn one of them.

At a town hall in Idaho’s First Congressional District, Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican, claimed no one dies from lack of access to care. The moment was broadcast on CNN.

“No one dies from lack of access to health care.”

I have news for you, you ignorant thug; you can pretend all you want that your vote to eviscerate the health care of more than 24 million people with this draconian bill won’t cause any harm, but the reality is that you will be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Americans.

I was advised to have an abortion when I was pregnant with my son, Michael, because I’d contracted a rare virus and no one knew what problems it might cause. I chose (notice I have emphasized that word) to continue the pregnancy and I adored my son, despite the birth defect that would make it impossible for him to buy insurance, and with it, access to the care he needed.

His doctors chose to deny him the treatment he needed. That choice led directly to his death. That’s the truth, Raul. My son died as a direct result of the health care system you just voted to re-break.

This is my son, Mike, a very wise young man. I continue to be influenced and informed by his compassion and love.

If you and your cronies think you won’t be held responsible, think again. You now have made us so angry, so desperate to get rid of you and your ilk, that gerrymandering won’t protect all of you.

Come Judgement Day (I stopped believing in this many years ago, but I am reviving my belief in the hope that it will happen), you will be held accountable and you will be cast into the pits of hell (another belief I am reviving in hopes you and your murdering cronies will land there).

I already have told my representative, Mark Meadows, the same thing in a fax and in a comment on his happy post on Facebook.

We are coming for you, I told him. We have an opponent who can beat him, I think, a smart, charismatic, passionate and compassionate man named Matt Coffay. I don’t donate to political candidates as a rule, but I have donated to Matt and I will work as hard as I can to get him elected.

The very soul of our nation is at stake here. Are we a nation that cares about human life and wants to alleviate human suffering, or do these murdering thugs truly represent us?

I will once again carry voter registration forms with me everywhere I go. I will register even more than the 50 or so voters I registered for the last election. I will drive people to the polls. I will speak out against this despicable attempt to steal access to health care from the 33 million people who gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act because I am pro-life.

 

 

 

 

Murder. That’s what ‘repeal and replace’ really is.

“You die and you die and you die …”

The House will vote today on whether to murder tens of thousands of innocent Americans.

While you might not think the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a replacement that takes health insurance away from some 24 million Americans is murder, but it is the premeditated removal of access to health care.

In my book, that’s murder, just as the death of my son was.

My son didn’t have to die. He shouldn’t have died. But he was denied insurance because a birth defect was a pre-existing condition. Because he didn’t have insurance and he didn’t have thousands of dollars in cash, he was denied care.

Think about this for a second.

My son was denied care when he got sick.

He was turned away, even though he was in pain and obviously sick because he didn’t have insurance.

Michael, age 3, playing with his food.

He committed no crime, but he was handed the death penalty for being born with a birth defect.

Yes, he went to the emergency room. But the emergency room only has to stabilize you, so my son was given pain pills and a laxative when the problem was a malignant tumor blocking his colon.

He went to the emergency room three times and got no help.

He was denied a colonoscopy for three years running — even though he’d already had pre-cancerous polyps removed by the time he was 25.

Yes, Republicans, he was working when he got sick, but he got too sick to work — try reporting for a shift waiting tables when you have stage 3 cancer.

And if you think you’re safe because you have employer insurance, this new law allows states to remove the protections of mandated coverage from your plan as well.

That’s right, you could lose maternity coverage, addiction treatment, mental health coverage. And while you may not want maternity coverage because you’re a man, your wife or daughter could lose a child because of lack of access to maternity care. In fact, you could lose your wife or daughter.

But go ahead, laugh and say, “like I need maternity coverage, chortle, chortle.” Maybe it’ll be a little less funny when your wife or daughter dies from lack of access to care.

And if you think they don;t know what they’re doing, consider this: They kept all the protections of the Affordable Care Act for themselves in this bill. We can die, but they won’t because they wrote the law to protect themselves and their families.

These murdering thugs belong in  jail, not in Congress.

But because they’ve been able to convince enough Americans to vote against their own interests, because they’ve been able to gerrymander their districts to prevent a Democratic majority, they get to murder tens of thousands of Americans.

If the ACA goes, I lose coverage because I have asthma.

If the ACA goes, 22 million Americans are in the same situation I am.

Are you one of them?

I have tried to appeal to my congressman, Mark Meadows — a man who claims to be “pro-life” and “Christian.” He is neither. I have called, written, e-mailed and faxed appeals to him, trying to appeal to his better nature.

As it turns out, Mark Meadows has no better nature. Nor do Robert Pittinger, Patrick McHenry or Paul Ryan. These are not reasonable people. These are criminals who belong behind bars for their part in this heinous crime.

You can say I’m a little over the top with all of this, but if you lose a loved one to this mess, you’ll understand.

If you don’t have health insurance, you are not a criminal, as much as those in power would paint you as such. Why else would their first question on hearing my son’s story be, “Was he working?”

Perhaps they should have to watch their children die. Perhaps that’s the only thing that will work to change their minds.

I really do hope there is a Judgment Day. I want to be there when they’re condemned. I want to see it happen.

 

 

Your greed and ignorance are not harmless

The right wing in this country loves to blame the victim.

Poor people are lazy and don’t deserve any help.

Sick people are at fault for their own illnesses.

Women deserve to be raped.

People of color deserve to be shot in the street, even when they’re unarmed.

They also expect the things they want to be paid for — you know, the roads they drive on, the electrical grid and the water systems they use, the military that gives their tiny dicks a hard-on.

Their attitude is “I got mine, get your own,” as they pass laws that make it impossible for others to get their own.

If you haven’t seen it, you need to watch Jimmy Kimmel talk about how his newborn son almost died but was saved because he had good insurance.

No one should have to watch a child die from neglect the way I had to.

And then Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Alabama) claimed that if people live a “good” life, they won’t “get” pre-existing conditions.

I had someone come onto my timeline this morning on Facebook who buys into that crap, hook, line and sinker. He claimed that people with pre-existing conditions should have taken better care of themselves, that their conditions come from personal choices.

I called him on his bullshit and he claimed it wasn’t victim-blaming, but a harmless point of view.

No, your point of view is harmless only if the outcome doesn’t harm someone. If you take away the pre-existing condition clause of the Affordable Care Act, more people will die the way my son did. That is not harmless.

My son was in no way responsible for having a birth defect. It was in no way his fault that he couldn’t find a doctor in Savannah, Ga., who would let him pay for his care in installments. My son did not choose to get colon cancer, and nothing in his lifestyle caused it. But my son died because he didn’t have — because he couldn’t get — insurance.

I have been healthy all my life, but I developed asthma a few years ago. Having insurance means I can manage it and it doesn’t get worse — and more expensive to treat.

My best friend developed type 2 diabetes in her 50s because she has a genetic predisposition. She exercises every day and eats very, very well. Because her insurance also pays for glucose testing supplies, she can manage her diabetes. Without insurance, she would develop life-threatening — and extremely expensive — complications.

My husband’s family has heart disease all through it, so no matter how much he exercised, no matter how healthy he chose to eat, he still developed coronary artery disease and needed bypass surgery, which saved his life.

My son didn’t deserve to die, but people still try to place the blame on him.

When I went to speak to a newly elected state senator about health care and told him Mike’s story, his first question was, “Was he working?”

Not, “Oh, my God, how does this happen in America in the 21st Century?” but “Was he working?”

My answer was that he was working and he was a full-time student with a 3.75 GPA, and he was a volunteer.

But then I had a question for him: “When did being unemployed become grounds for the death penalty? When did death for unemployment become part of the penal code?”

He had no answer. But he’s still against expanding Medicaid in North Carolina because he still thinks it’s OK to blame the victims of our society’s greed and self-centeredness for their own suffering.

Perhaps that’s more comfortable for them than facing the truth — that public policy is a moral thing, and that their willingness to let people die rather than have compassion for them is immoral on its face.

The person on my Facebook thread this morning asked why I get so upset over his “harmless opinion,” and I told him his opinion is neither harmless nor correct. I had pulled four instances of people with pre-existing conditions that were not their own fault. I had told him about how his opinion had led directly to people’s deaths, and he persisted in saying people are responsible for their own pre-existing conditions.

What’s worse, he said I should know that children can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. He was unaware that that’s a piece of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s not my opinion, that’s fact.

Until 2012, you were off your parents’s plan at age 19, unless you were a student and then the cutoff was 21. And if you had a pre-existing condition like little Billy Kimmel’s heart defect or my son’s birth defect, you somehow deserved to die.

It’s time we face the immorality of our public policy on health care, on the minimum wage, on education, on workers’ rights, on the environment, on housing, on income inequality.

It is not the fault of the victim, it’s the fault of every one of us who believe selfishness and greed are “harmless opinions.”

 

 

 

Was Jesus a Republican? Nope.

This morning, my friend, Josh Brannon, said on Facebook that there are no Christians in the Republican party and it led to a lively discussion, which was joined by a couple of people who took umbrage to that statement.
Oh, the indignation of these poor Jesus-loving people — people who then turn around and reject everything Jesus ever taught in their public policy.
Let me explain why I think Josh is right.
Nine years ago, my son died because Republicans blocked any improvement to our for-profit system of health “care.” They are trying now to dismantle what little progress we made since, and that progress would have saved my son’s life. Indeed, it has saved tens of thousands of lives.
Republicans want to close women’s health clinics even though doing so would mean innocent women (who get their care there because it’s affordable if you can’t get insurance), will die.
People are hungry, but Republicans have cut funding for food stamps and agree with de-funding Meals on Wheels and WIC (Women, Infants and Children).
People are working for a minimum wage that is less than half of what it takes to make ends meet, but Republicans refuse to raise minimum wage and then accuse people of being lazy and use that as an excuse not to help them.
Republicans support opening private, for-profit prisons, which prey on the misery of people, especially low-income people, who have committed even the pettiest of crimes.
The people on the far right wing of Christianity made up this thing called prosperity theology, which says that Jesus will bless you with money if you’re a good person.
The far-right wing of Christianity also believes that women are inferior to men and must be controlled tightly because women were the ones who brought men down with original sin (sex), of which women are ALL guilty, even now. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence won’t have dinner with a woman who’s not his wife — because men can’t be expected to control themselves around women. Poor things can’t resist women’s sex-crazed advances.
Don’t try to say this isn’t so to me because I was raised with this stuff.
God took my son from me because of some egregious sin of mine (probably for not being a submissive woman). Right-wingers have told me this.
I rejected all of this theology as a teenager. I couldn’t read the red print (the words of Jesus, for those who don’t know) and in any way align it with the policies of the Right.
In other words, I couldn’t be a Christian and a Republican. To follow the teachings of Christ (love your neighbor as yourself, feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort the dying, visit prisoners, welcome the stranger …), I could not be a Republican.
When I told a Republican lawmaker about my son last week, his first question was, “Was he working?”
Really? “Was he working?” Not, “What happened?” Not, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Was he working?”
As a matter of fact, he had a job and he was in school full-time, with a 3.75 GPA. And he volunteered several hours every week.
I asked the politician when unemployment became a crime punishable by death. I thought the death penalty (which I oppose) was reserved for murderers.
My son was working AND he needed help.
But the “Christians”, the party of “pro-life” blocked any effort to allow more Americans the access to care they have, and they continue to try and walk back any progress we have made.
Which brings me to another anti-life point: Republicans favor the death penalty, and they are so stubborn about carrying it out that they have killed innocent people in their insistence that every person sentenced to death is killed. They have blocked appeals in which there was exonerating evidence.
Now let’s fast-forward to Judgment Day as described by Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew:
The crowd is divided into two groups, of lambs on the right and goats on the left.
Jesus turns to the right and thanks the lambs for feeding him when he was hungry, offering him a drink when he was thirsty, clothing him when he was naked, visiting him in jail and caring for him when he was sick.
Of course, the lambs claim they never saw him sick or thirsty or in jail or naked and Jesus tells them, “Whatsoever you did for the least of these, you did also for me.”
Next he turns to the left and admonishes the goats for refusing to help when he was in jail or thirsty or hungry or naked or sick, and they protest that they don’t remember seeing him.
“Whatsoever you did to the least of these, you did also to me,” he says, and then banishes them from his presence.
In other words, Jesus himself tells us that if we reject people in need, we reject him. And you can’t be a Christian if you reject Christ.
On Josh Brannon’s thread this morning, there was plenty of “Christian” indignation, but there was not one person able to say anything that would align Christian behavior to Republican policies.
Forget about prayer in school. Think about morality in public policy.
If you want to be both Republican and Christian, you need to work to inject some morality into the policies of the party.

Unbeatable? Really?

Mark Meadows is my congressman.

I say that with a deep sense of shame and frustration. He is somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun and not quite as modern.

Meadows leads the Freedom Caucus, which believes in nothing more than its freedom to take basic rights away from the rest of us.

It was Meadows who inadvertently saved us from Trumpcare by refusing to vote for it because it didn’t take away enough. It left mandates for coverage of mental illness and addiction, and Meadows objected to that.

Meadows has no respect for human life, although he calls himself “pro-life” and “Christian,” even though the only life he supports (other than his own, of course) is that of the fetus, and the last time he followed any of the teachings of Christ — well, I don’t know when that might have been.

He is an advocate of taxing the poor, not raising their wages and not giving them food, shelter or health care. He sees public education as a form of welfare, and he wants all forms of welfare abolished.

Apparently, he thinks Jesus actually said, “I got mine, get your own.”

So, why is such a despicable character still in office?

Because my party shrugs its shoulders and says, “His district is gerrymandered and the Koch Brothers fund him.”

OK, so we just give up? That’s it?

This last time we put up a pretty good candidate, a retired engineer who was born and raised here, a man whose name invokes history, Rick Bryson, of the Bryson City Brysons.

But no one would donate to his campaign. “It’s a lost cause,” people said. “We can’t beat Meadows.”

And you know what? We didn’t because we went into it believing we would lose and we were unwilling to fight.

This is why I considered leaving the party. I’m damn sick of this we-can’t-beat-them attitude.

Damn right we can’t beat them, not unless we actually try. Bryson called Meadows out on his misogyny and on keeping a sexual predator on the payroll for months after the man’s aggression was made public, but his voice was barely heard because it costs money in this climate to have any voice at all.

But that’s not enough. We have to call him out on his claims of being Christian and pro-life because he is neither.

I’m not good at raising money. It’s just not a talent I possess. But I am good at calling people out on hypocrisy, and Meadows is about as hypocritical as it gets.

Meadows claims to follow someone who told us to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit people in prison and love one another. He shows no evidence of doing any of those things.

Two years ago, I went to one of his town halls. I was the second person in the door and I was told I had to write down my question. So I asked whether he was planning on fixing the flaws in the Affordable Care Act, you know, since he was a follower of Christ, who instructed him to care for the sick.

I was told the questions would be asked in the order they were submitted, good or bad. My question was submitted second and eight questions were asked. Mine was not among them.

So I walked up to Meadows afterward to ask him why he lied, but I never got the chance. I got as far as introducing myself and he said, “Oh, I know who you are,” and he turned his back to me.

That was it. “I know who you are.”

He knows I’m the woman who lost her son to a broken health care system, but he doesn’t care about that. He cares about getting more money for himself and his cronies and the rest of us can die for all he cares.

This is my Congressman and I’m supposed to shrug and say, “Oh well, we can’t beat him.” Really?

There has to be someone in the 11th district who has the know-how to do this. Gerrymandered or not, it can be done. We ousted Tim Moffitt from the North Carolina House in 2014, even though we were told it was impossible. The district was gerrymandered and there was a ton of money behind Moffitt. He was next in line to be speaker of the House. But Brian Turner and his volunteers made calls, knocked on doors, held town hall meetings — in short, we worked our butts off. And we won.

It can be done. We don’t have to settle for such an immoral man. Meadows does not represent us; he represents the people who fund him.

We can do this. We can defeat him. We should at least try.

 

 

Don’t celebrate too hard

These thugs may indeed have the last laugh. They can still destroy the ACA. We won a small battle, that’s all.

 

It looks like Trumpcare is dead in the water.

It’s fine to take a little time to breathe a sigh of relief, but this fight is far from over.

The thugs who want to destroy the Affordable Care Act are still busy wreaking their havoc.

Already, the occupant of the White House has directed the IRS not to enforce the mandate to buy insurance. That means the law will fail as young and healthy people bail out because they won’t face consequences for doing so, and that alone is enough.

Sure, the thugs didn’t get their tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, but they have plenty of time to do that.

Even if 45 is impeached for his collusion with the Russians, and he’s removed from office, we have to deal with Pence, who is every bit as dangerous. If it turns out Pence was involved in the Russian scheme and he goes, too, that leaves us with the sociopathic Paul Ryan.

Sociopaths and psychopaths seem normal. They appear healthy, but they have no empathy. They can only feel what affects them directly. That’s what made Ryan able to have his drunken college frat boy fantasies about pulling the rug out from under people in need. And his peers consider him to be the smart one. This brain malfunction is how he can call himself a “Christian” but follow none of Christ’s teachings. Because Christ never actually said, “I got mine, get your own.”

The Republicans who were going to vote against Trumpcare, members of the so-called Freedom Caucus, were doing so because it didn’t go far enough. It allowed poor people access to addiction treatment and mental health care. Apparently, my representative, Mark Meadows, head of the so-called Freedom Caucus, thinks more people should die from lack of access to care, not fewer.

They still want to change Medicaid to a block-grant program, which would offer set amounts to the states, and those amounts won’t grow even as the need does. That means fewer people will be served and more will die.

They still want to close women’s health clinics, which for many low-income women are their only lifeline to health care. Without these clinics, the women who use them will have no access to birth control, to mammograms, Pap smears and other diagnostic tests. They won’t have access to safe abortions, and if you really want women to bear every child that’s conceived, shouldn’t you want them to have access to care so those babies will survive? Apparently not.

This crowd also wants to de-fund WIC, which provides pregnant and nursing mothers and their babies the nutrition they need. It is one of the most efficient and successful of all the government programs, but these thugs want it gone.

And, then there’s Meals on Wheels, which 45 de-funds in his budget. Yes, it gets most of its money from private donations, but it still needs the money it gets from the government.

These thugs have an agenda. One tiny piece of it has been thwarted, and we can and should be happy about that, but they have any number of means to achieve their goals. They are not done. We can not claim victory until they are gone.

So, stay active. Register people to vote and then help them get to the polls. Run for office yourself if you can — any office, including city council or school board.

And above all, stay woke. That means pay attention to what’s going on. The thugs are not done.

 

‘Was he working?’

I have spent the last nine years telling my son’s story to try and persuade lawmakers to increase access to health care. He called it “playing the Dead Kid Card.”

 

Nine years ago yesterday, Mike told me to tell his story.

It wasn’t in so many words, of course. He told me I was about to be dealt a card that was pretty hard to trump: the Dead Kid Card. He had been playing the Cancer Card for three years. Every time he didn’t want to do something, he pointed to his chemo port and said, “But I have cancer.”

It was meant to amuse more than anything else, and it did amuse him no end. But on this day nine years ago yesterday, he was serious.

“I don’t want that card,” I said.

“Too bad,” he countered. “It’s being dealt and you can’t stop it. You have to do something positive with it. You have to figure out how you can use it for good.”

I have played that card by telling his story, by using his face to tell people what happens when access to care is denied.

Yesterday, I was in Raleigh for an advocacy day sponsored by the NC NAACP. Most of the legislators I spoke to are in favor of expanding Medicaid, but one was not.

“Was he working?” the legislator asked me when I started to tell Mike’s story.

“He was working and he was a full-time student,” I said. “And he was a volunteer, and through all of it he had a 3.75 GPA.”

And then I took it one step more.

“And perhaps you can tell me when not working became a crime worthy of the death penalty. I thought that was reserved for murderers, not people who are lazy,” I said. “Oh, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to work and not depend on handouts.”

He was a little taken aback, but he looked at Mike’s picture again.

“Did he try to buy insurance?” he asked.

Of course he tried to get insurance, but no one would sell it to him because a birth defect was a pre-existing condition.

He wanted to know more about this tragedy. That’s when I explained to him that this is not a unique story, that up to 2,000 families in North Carolina face the same thing every year because we haven’t expanded Medicaid.

“I’m a navigator, so I help people enroll in insurance plans through the Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. But if someone’s income doesn’t rise above the poverty level, I have to break the news to them that there’s nothing I can do to get them access to health care.

“Do you know what that does to me?” I asked. “Do you have any idea how it feels to tell someone they can’t have the care they need? It’s like sentencing someone to death even though they’ve done nothing to deserve it. It breaks my heart every time because I know the odds are that they or someone in their family will suffer and perhaps die for no reason other than the people in charge in their state don’t care whether they live or die.”

These are real people, dying at the rate of up to five a day, I told him. Every day in North Carolina. They die from cancer that was diagnosed too late, from complications of diabetes that isn’t controlled because the patient can’t afford the glucose testing supplies, from strokes brought on by undiagnosed or uncontrolled high blood pressure, from heart attacks brought on by untreated high cholesterol.

The legislator listened to me. I’ll give him credit for that because most of them won’t talk to me. In fact, two have had me arrested for waiting outside their offices to talk to them, as is my right under the state Constitution.

So, I was pleased that this man would see me and hear me out, that he appeared to listen to what I had to say.

After the legislative visits, I spoke at a press conference. After Rev. William Barber invoked the passage in Isaiah about unjust laws that cause pain to the poor, I invoked the Judgment Day passage from Matthew.

I envision Jesus saying to these politicians who put political ideology before human life, “I was sick and you repealed the Affordable Care Act or you refused to expand Medicaid. I was hungry and you voted to cut food stamps and Meals on Wheels …”

I don’t know if I changed anyone’s mind yesterday, but perhaps I planted a seed. Maybe that one legislator will see Mike’s photo in his mind and he’ll begin to understand that we’re dealing with real people’s lives here.

Nine years ago yesterday, it was Friday. We would have just 11 more days with him.

 

 

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