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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

Nine years ago today

This is my son, Mike, a kind and wonderful young man. Nine years ago today, I brought him home to die.

Nine years ago today, I brought my son home to die.

In my heart, I feel as though it could have been yesterday.

I remember everything about the day because it’s etched on my heart as the day his impending death became real.

We had coffee in the living room of his apartment after his roommate and best friend, James, left for work. From across the room, Mike looked up at me and said, “I’m ready for this to be over.”

I was not ready. I would never be ready. I’m still not ready to be without him.

We had an appointment for his third chemo infusion, hoping to give him a few more weeks or months.

But he hadn’t gained any weight at the last appointment, and his doctor had said he needed to put on two pounds. I had gone to the Duke Chapel to pray for those two pounds. It didn’t seem like too much to ask. Two pounds.

But it wasn’t to be. We drove from Cary to Durham to the cancer center at Duke University Medical Center. We passed by Mangum Street and he laughed and asked what I though man gum was.

“I can’t help it,” he said. “I think that every time I pass that street.”

We got to the clinic and he stepped on the scale. He had lost another pound.

“I tried!” he said. “I really tried!”

I’ll never forget the look on his face — frustration, disappointment, disbelief.

Dr. Herb Hurwitz came in and told us there was nothing more he could do. His eyes filled with tears as he said, “You’re a good person, Mike. You don’t deserve what’s happening to you.”

I remember thinking it would have been nice if Dr. Patrick Hammen in Savannah had felt that way. Perhaps if he had, Mike and I wouldn’t he hearing these words from Dr. Hurwitz now.

But Hammen had given up on Mike before he even started treatment for his recurrence — which wouldn’t have happened if Hammen had been willing to take payments instead of demanding cash up front for a colonoscopy three and four years earlier.

Hammen had been very matter-of-fact when he told Mike the cancer was back and a cure was unlikely, and he never came back to check on Mike during his nine more days in the hospital.

And here, Dr. Hurwitz was weeping as he told us there was nothing more left to do and that Mike should come home with me and enjoy what time he had left.

As we were leaving the clinic, I was pushing Mike in a wheelchair and he looked up at me.

“How much time do you think I have left?” he asked. “Two weeks?”

“I hope it’s more than that,” I said.

But it was not.

We called James and Janet and they both met us at the apartment. They had packed up a few things they knew Mike would want, including his gaming computer, his game console and games, a few books and all his plaid flannel pajama bottoms and T-shirts, underwear and ostomy supplies. It all fit in the back of my Honda CRV.

At that point, these few things were about all he owned, except for a massive antique desk, which would go to Janet.

James and Janet would come out to Asheville the following day; Mike and I would do the four-hour trip alone, stopping at an outlet store about halfway home so I could get a memory foam pillow for his bony butt. I think it was as much an excuse for him to have a cigarette as any soreness in his backside, but I was willing to indulge him.

He weighed about 102 pounds at this point, but he would lose more since his body had stopped absorbing any food.

For the next two weeks, I would share him with friends and family from as far away as New York and New England, from Savannah and Cary, and from Asheville. All of us tried to soak up as much of his presence, wisdom, humor and love as we could. We knew it would have to last us a lifetime.

Nine years ago today, he came home to die. I would have given my own life to spare his, but it was not to be, and the pain of losing him has not abated. I was so unwilling to imagine life beyond his death that I convinced myself my heart would stop when his did. It didn’t, of course, and all I know to do now is to fight for access to health care for everyone because no one should have to go through what my family has endured.

On the day he died, some 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to care. Things are somewhat better now because more than 20 million people have access to care than had it then, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

But the occupant of the White House, the Speaker of the House and other Republican politicians want to go back to that. Perhaps if they had to watch their own children die the way I had to, perhaps if they had to live with the unspeakable pain I do, they would change their minds.

But I wouldn’t wish that on anyone — even on them.

Nine years ago today, I brought my child home to die.

We would have two more weeks with him.

 

 

Holding out hope for the party

Kitty Schaller holds my favorite sign from Saturday’s rally.

I was ready to make a very public exit from the Democratic party if Tom Perez won the chairmanship, but other events Saturday raised my hopes for the party.

It started with the precinct cluster meetings in the morning. I’m vice-chair of my precinct (45.1 in Buncombe County, NC), and in previous years, the chair, John Parker, and I had to scramble to get five people out to a meeting so we could have a quorum. We had to make calls and get people to the meetings so our precinct wouldn’t lose our “organized” status.

“Can you just stop by for a half hour while we vote on resolutions and elect officers?” we begged. We were able to keep organized, but barely.

Yesterday, instead of begging for people to show up, we had 16 people, several of whom were young and progressive. The others were from a retirement community, and I was afraid they might be conservative Democrats like the ones who killed several progressive resolutions last year, but they were old-style progressives who decided to become active again so we could take our party back from pro-corporate influences.

Last year a conservative banker convinced people to vote against a resolution calling for re-regulation of the banks and against a resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. He wouldn’t stop talking until he had the votes to defeat these two resolutions.

This year, the banker was nowhere to be seen and both resolutions passed unanimously, along with resolutions calling for an immediate raise in the minimum wage to $15, plus one calling for a single-payer health care system. In all, we passed nearly a dozen progressive resolutions, all unanimously.

I wrote two resolutions — the ones calling for the $15 minimum wage and Medicare for all — and most of the precincts passed them without amendments. One precinct leader asked if the minimum wage resolution could be amended to phase in the $15 over three to five years. I told them no. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, five years without a living wage is not an option. The raise is needed now, and in five years, inflation adjustments should have it up to about $20. People need to be able to feed, clothe and shelter their families NOW, not in five years.

“Well, these a pretty conservative people,” the precinct chair said.

“Those are the very people we need to outnumber to take the party back,” I said. “Go ahead and write your own resolution, but mine stays as is.”

These new party activists were Bernie Sanders supporters, determined to move the Democratic Party back to its FDR progressivism, back to the days when LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. They were inspired by the organization, Our Revolution, which is comprised of progressive fighters.

I left the precinct meeting with renewed faith that we can do this.

From there, I went to speak at an Our Revolution rally downtown. We had 500 people turn out to call for improvements to our health care system, from support of keeping and improving the ACA, to a public option in the marketplace, to single-payer.

I told my son’s story and reminded people that 45,000 Americans died the same way every year before the ACA took effect. We’re still losing 15,000 to 20,000 in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid.

What I saw yesterday was a determination to take the Democratic Party left again.

When it was announced that Tom Perez won the party chair election, we were encouraged by the fact that the election was close and that our candidate, Keith Ellison, is now the vice-chair and that Perez has vowed to work closely with him.

I am encouraged. We have to remember that the Republican right wing has worked since the 1960s to achieve what it has, and that in one election cycle, we progressives have made remarkable progress.

So, let’s follow the Indivisible playbook. Let’s take this nation back in the 2018 elections, despite gerrymandering, despite voter suppression laws. We are the majority. If we work for this, and most importantly, if we vote, we will not fail.

An open letter to my anti-life members of Congress

Me and Mike on his wedding day.

Dear Sen. Burr, Sen. Tillis and Rep. Meadows:

You know me.

You know me because for the last nine years I have hounded you and others about the importance of access to health care.

I have hounded you because nine years ago yesterday, I got a call that every parent dreads.

It was about 9:45 a.m., and I was on my way to work.

“Mom,” he said, “the cancer’s back. There’s nothing they can do. I might have a few weeks, maybe a few months.”

It was as though I had been punched in the chest, full force, by a very strong man.

“How do I begin to say goodbye to everyone?” he asked.

The next six weeks are etched on my heart, burned into it like a cattleman’s brand.

I am forced to relive the death of my child because he couldn’t get access to health care.

He was uninsured, not because he was lazy — he was as hard a worker as anyone I’ve ever known. He was a full-time student, working in a restaurant and volunteering with his 12-step group to help other people get and stay sober.

But a birth defect — one that left him vulnerable to colon cancer — was a pre-existing condition, so no insurance company would sell him a policy. Without insurance, he was unable to get the cancer screenings he needed, and of course, he developed cancer.

He went to the Emergency Room when he got sick. He went three times and left with the wrong diagnoses, the wrong medicines and a bill because the ER only has to stabilize patients. I’ll bet you know that when you tell people they have access to care there when they really don’t. My son was given laxatives and pain pills when the problem was a malignant tumor blocking his colon.

By the time anyone did anything for him, he was vomiting fecal matter. Can you imagine that?

No, I guess not. You and your families have access to care whenever you need it.

By the time he got any care, it was too late to save his life. He was forced to leave his wife to get Medicaid. It took 37 months for his disability to be approved — he was dead nine days before his first check came.

Michael was lucky because the many people who loved him did all we could to make sure he had a place to live and food and clothing — and even a few little luxuries like a cell phone.

But all the love and support he had weren’t enough to save his life — all because insurance companies wanted to protect their profits.

My son died on April 1, 2008. I sat beside him, his hand in mine, as he breathed his last.

I had believed I would die when he did. I couldn’t imagine that my heart would continue to beat after his stopped.

But there I was, heart beating, lungs inhaling and exhaling. I was too devastated to cry.

Have you ever had that happen? Something so horrible that you can’t even cry because you’re so paralyzed? It’s not something I would wish on anyone — even you.

So I decided I would work to make sure everyone — not just every citizen, but every human being — gets access to health care.

We managed to make some progress with the Affordable Care Act. Some 32 million Americans have gained access, saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and now you want to repeal that law.

And you still call yourselves “pro-life,” and “Christian.” You are neither, and I pray you will face judgment for your crimes.

Since it’s unlikely you’ll ever lose a child the way I did, let me tell you what it’s like.

I would give my own life to have him back in the world. I so miss those late-night phone calls that began with, “Hi Mom, I knew you’d still be up.”

I miss the calls that started, “When are people going to learn to fucking drive?” when he was stuck in traffic.

I miss having him in the kitchen, eating an entire loaf of fresh-baked bread with the proclamation, “The only thing wrong with this bread is that it’s not at my house!”

I miss watching cooking shows with him, punctuated with, “Oh, you know what?” which was followed by an idea for a recipe. We both wrote a lot of recipes. I had hoped we would write a cookbook together someday.

I miss slapping his hand away from the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, and I miss him emptying the entire gravy boat onto his plate so I had to refill it for the rest of us.

I miss how much he loved his wife and his nieces and nephew, his brother, his many, many friends, and me.

I cry most days because the pain of losing him hasn’t gotten any better. On our shared birthday, I go with a friend to where we scattered his ashes and I sing Happy Birthday to me, while my friend tries to drown me out singing it to him. I miss that Michael and I used to sing it that way.

See, I told him he could have the birthday when I was done with it. It was a joke on each of the 33 birthdays he had before we were robbed of his life by a broken health care policy.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I was advised to have an abortion when I was pregnant with him, but I CHOSE not to. I am much more pro-life than you are because I believe life is sacred even after it exits the birth canal.

Now you’re talking about repealing the ACA, which would condemn tens of thousands of Americans to slow and painful deaths. It would condemn tens of thousands of families to suffer the same loss mine has.

But you don’t care about that because your friends profit so much more when people suffer the way my child did.

I have a fantasy: You know the passage in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus sorts the people in to goats on his left and lambs on his right?

I have a fantasy of you walking in and confidently sitting among the lambs, only to have Jesus say, “Excuse me, you’re in the wrong seats. You belong over there on the left. I was sick and you told me I was lazy because I didn’t have a job with insurance. I was hungry and you voted to take away my food stamps and then you voted to keep my wages too low to be able to afford decent food and shelter.”

Then you say, “But we never saw you sick or hungry …”

This is where Jesus cuts you off and points to my son and the tens of thousands of others like him.

“Whatever you did to them, you did also to me.”

Sincerely,
Your constituent, Leslie Boyd

 

 

We have crossed the line into an uncivil society

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday's massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday’s massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander is one of 53 surviving gunshot victims from Sunday’s massacre at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and she has another problem — finding a way to pay what will be massive medical bills.

It wasn’t enough that she was targeted because she frequented a business that caters to LGBT people; now she faces lifelong debt or bankruptcy because the state where she lives has chosen to not expand Medicaid, and even if she does have insurance, the deductibles and co-pays will be massive.

In other words, not only can we as a nation do nothing about gun violence; we can’t do a damn thing about access to health care, either.

The money from the Gun Lobby has been used to bribe Congress into total inaction on access to guns, and the money from Big Pharma and Big Insurance has prevented adequate access to medical care for millions of Americans, especially in states like Florida.

The Affordable Care Act provided some badly needed insurance reform, but it left the insurance companies intact and still in charge. It provided insurance coverage to some 22 million Americans, but because the Supreme Court voted to reject the mandate for states to expand Medicaid, it left another 22 million Americans uninsured, and millions more with insurance plans they can’t afford to use because of high deductibles and co-pays.

If you’re in your mid-20s, as many of the victims were, and you work an entry-level job, that $5,000 deductible you have to meet before you start getting benefits might as well be $5 million.

The 102 people who were shot by a religious zealot (and, according to some, a self-loathing gay man), who despite being on the no-fly list was able to buy an AK-15, were victims of a society that cares not at all about human lives, and now the 53 survivors face choosing between a lifetime of debt and bankruptcy.

If you’re not outraged by this, you’re part of the problem.

If you think we don’t need to do something about access to guns, you have bought into the hate and malice being peddled by the NRA and others.

If you don’t want your tax money to go to paying for health care for everyone, and you consider yourself a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew, go back and read your scripture because all three sacred texts talk about loving and caring for each other. Nowhere do any of these texts tell us to adopt an I-got-mine-get-your-own attitude.

If your member of Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gun Lobby, Big Pharma and/or Big Insurance and you vote for him or her anyway, you are part of the problem. If you don’t vote, you are part of the problem.

We have crossed a line here, and I think it was after Sandy Hook, when we failed to do anything about access to guns. We are no longer a civilized society. We are devolving into chaos.

It’s long past time to fix this. We must pass sensible gun laws. We must offer universal access to health care.

To do this, people of conscience must vote. We must vote in every election, in every race. We must demand better or we never will return to being a civilized society.

If you want to help Rachel, you can visit her Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/laurawillprevaill.  To donate to a fund for all the victims, visit www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.

If you don’t know how to reach your member of Congress, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

Two huge decisions

 

aca

Last night, for what seems the millionth time since my son died from medical neglect, I cried myself to sleep. But the tears were different this time. Mixed with feelings of loss were feelings of gratitude that the Affordable Care Act is finally safe from the wolves on the Right.

In fact, in his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts pretty much scolded opponents, telling them the law will not be overturned unless Congress is able to do it.

Then today, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court upheld the right of any two consenting adults to marry. My tears were strictly tears of joy this time.

From Justice Kennedy’s decision:
“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.
“Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.”

rainbow flag

I wish I was home in Asheville tonight for the party, but I will do my celebrating here in New Jersey with friends.

The screamers on the right have gotten it wrong again, and in both these cases, their defeat is complete.

The people who call themselves “pro-life,” but assert that it was OK for 45,000 Americans to die each year from lack of access to health care, can go away now.

Of course, the first reaction from House Speaker John Boehner was that he will keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I imagine the haters will try to pass a Constitutional Amendment again, defining marriage in their own narrow view, but that won’t happen. Too many people get it that we all deserve the freedom to marry the person we love.

Too many people understand that the Affordable Care Act is saving tens of thousands of lives a year, even as opponents continue to block Medicaid expansion in nearly half the states. That, by the way, is causing the deaths of 17,000 Americans a year.

While that’s a lot better than we were doing, it is still 17,000 human beings. That’s the same as wiping an entire small town off the map. You can’t say that’s OK and continue to be credible when you call yourself pro-life.

Justice Scalia huffed and puffed over the Affordable Care Act decision, calling it “pure applesauce.” I don’t think he’s happy about being a relic, and I would think Justice Thomas may realize his status as a relic of a more hateful time any day now.

I have friends and family who are getting health care now who couldn’t get it before the ACA, and they would have been booted out of coverage had the court ruled the other way. I would have lost coverage.

I also have friends whose marriages were affirmed by the decision on marriage equality. When my friends Bruce and Christopher were married this year after more than 20 years together, I wept through the entire ceremony. Christopher said he could hear me sobbing on the video, and he loved it.

It may well be the most joyous wedding I ever attended.

Thank you, SCOTUS, for getting it so right two days in a row. I never thought I’d be able to say that about this court, but there you go. Miracles happen.

 

 

 

 

At least I’m not alone

Michael, age 3, playing with his food.

Michael, age 3, playing with his food.

This is a hard time of year for me. Tomorrow is Mike Day, the anniversary of my son’s death.

I think he chose April 1 to go; he was a proud jackass. He loved turning things upside-down and inside-out for a good laugh. His best friend, James, eulogized him as a jackass and everyone laughed and applauded.

I don’t know why this doesn’t get any easier. I honestly thought that after seven ears I would miss him a little less, that the edges would have worn off the pain, but that’s not so. I think of him every day, sometimes every hour, and on days near the anniversary of his death, it’s more like every moment.

At least I’m not alone.

I’m not talking about the friends and family who have stood by me and held me up, although I treasure them; I’m talking about the hundreds of thousands of others whose family members and friends have died the way Mike did.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the death toll was 45,000 a year, and each one was loved by somebody. Each person was adored by friends and family.

The death toll is lower now — about 17,000 a year in states that have refused to expand Medicaid.

Marketing people tell us we need to use the phrase, “close the coverage gap,” but that doesn’t say it any better than “expand Medicaid.”

How about this? It’s time to stop this immoral and inhuman killing of people just because they can’t help enrich insurance companies and Big Pharma.

Or, this for all the “Christians” who think we don;t need to ensure access to care for everyone: Who would Jesus turn away?

And for those of you who are “pro-life,” but think that doesn’t include access to health care: You are most decidedly NOT pro-life, even though you have tried to make the definition only about abortion.

chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to do so, and you “pro-lifers” did nothing to help him get the care he needed after he was born.

You are not pro-life.

Maybe if I was alone, if my son’s case was an aberration, it would be easier.

But my friend, Lila suffers every day because she can’t get insurance. The pain she endures makes it impossible for her to work full-time, and without that income she is eligible for neither premium subsidies nor Medicaid.

My friend, Crystal, is just 30 years old and the mother of two. She has cervical cancer and can’t get treatment because even though she works, she can’t get insurance or Medicaid. She’ll likely die the way my son did, and she will leave behind two orphaned children.

If their lives don’t matter to you, you are not pro-life.

If their lives do matter, you need to do something about it. Our state legislators say the people don’t want to care for the poor because they’re lazy bums.

What they don’t tell you is that 88 percent of people living in poverty have low-wage jobs. And in this so-called economic recovery, most of the jobs being created are low-wage. Fully one-third of people in poverty have two full-time workers in the home and still live below the poverty level.

We need to call and visit our legislators and tell them they’re going home in 2016 if we don;t have expanded Medicaid by then. And then you need to work hard for the candidate who will expand access to health care.

We did it here in Buncombe County. We sent home Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey and replaced them with people who will vote to close the coverage gap, expand Medicaid, stop the senseless and immoral carnage — however you want to phrase it.

My precious son has been gone seven years. I had hoped we would have made more progress by now.

 

The very definition of insanity

A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again, each time expecting a different result.

Well, House Republicans have voted 41 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the law is still in place.

In desperation, the GOP shut down government, trying to de-fund the law and make it impossible to implement.

That didn’t work either, although it did cost us $24 billion, according to a Standard & Poor estimate.

So now, what’s the plan?

Well, Ted Cruz, the freshman senator from Texas, says he wants to shut down the government again.

And here at home in NC Congressional District 11, our representative, Mark Meadows, has been called the architect of the shutdown because, back in August, he reportedly wrote the letter calling for the shutdown unless “Obamacare” was de-funded.

Economist Steve Morse of Western Carolina University said the shutdown cost people in this district about $1 million a day in lost tourism revenues.

October is the busiest time of year here because of the changing leaves and mild climate, and the shutdown cost people in the tourism industry half their October business.

Meadows has backpedaled on his insistence that the Affordable Care Act be de-funded, probably because people in this district were so angry at the closing of the national park and at his role in bringing about the shutdown (which he now denies, by the way).

So, perhaps Meadows now sees the folly in his obsessive hatred of the Affordable Care Act. His constituents don’t want to lose their businesses over it; they don’t want another government shutdown — hell, they didn’t want the first shutdown.

Cruz was elected because he claimed he could bring government to its knees, which he did, briefly.

Now he claims he wants to be president. Well, let him run and see how far he gets. The American people overwhelmingly disagree with his far-right stands and we are not amused by his antics.

Cruz could still cause trouble, but it’s doubtful he can orchestrate another shutdown and it’s even more doubtful he could take the White House.

Cruz has shown his hand and it’s a loser.

 

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