My letter to my senator on the ACHA

Me and Mike on his wedding day. Damn, I miss him.

 

I faxed this letter to Sen. Thom Tillis yesterday. Perhaps, if he reads it, he might understand that real people, innocent people, die when they can’t gain access to health care. I sent a similar letter to Richard Burr. Please, please, call, fax, e-mail or visit the offices of your senators.

Senator Tillis,

I think you probably know who I am. I am the mother of a young man who died because he lacked access to health care. You had me arrested for trying to speak to you when you were Speaker of the House in North Carolina about the importance of access to health care. You were one of the leaders in the fight to withhold Medicaid from a half million people in this state, sentencing some 2,000 of them to death every year.

The ACA would have saved my son’s life because it forces insurance companies to not punish people who have pre-existing conditions.

My son had a birth defect. Like many young people, he decided to take a year off college when he was 19. Little did we know this common decision would be a fatal one for him. He was booted off my policy and then discovered he couldn’t buy insurance at any price because a birth defect is a pre-existing condition – as though he had decided as a zygote to have a birth defect.

This birth defect left him extremely vulnerable to an aggressive form of colon cancer, and he needed a colonoscopy every year. When he lived in New York, he had a doctor who would allow him to pay for his colonoscopies in monthly installments. By age 25, he had already had pre-cancerous polyps removed, so he had a near certainty of developing cancer if he couldn’t get his annual colonoscopies. But when he moved so he and his wife could go back to college, he discovered he could not get a colonoscopy unless he paid $2,300 in cash up front. No credit cards, no checks, no installments, nothing.

When he got sick he went to the ER three times and came away with three wrong diagnoses, three wrong medications and three large bills. You see – and I’m sure you know this – the emergency room only has to stabilize you; it does not have to look for the cause of your problem.

By the time anyone did anything, my son had stage 3 cancer. It was too late to save his life.

My son was a student, he worked 30 hours a week and he was a volunteer. He was an extraordinary young man.

But none of that mattered. He was sentenced to death – a slow and excruciating death – for having a birth defect. He had to leave his wife to get Medicaid and although he had applied for disability when he first became sick, his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days before his first check arrived.

I tell you this story because, at the time he died, 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to health care, according to a study by Harvard Medical School that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The ACA has saved more than half of those lives. The uninsured rate in this country right now is at an historic low. The law is saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and to repeal it is tantamount to murder.

No, that statement is not overstating things. You are working on killing more than 25,000 innocent Americans every year. Those are human beings, Senator, and their lives matter a whole lot to me and to all the people who love them.

I have to face every damn day without my beloved son. I get up every morning longing to hear his voice again, devastated that I will never laugh at another one of his outrageous jokes or taste his cooking or have another late-night conversation about philosophy with him. I will never hear him tease me about being a Red Sox fan, or look for my chocolate stash only to discover he found it and left me just one little piece.

Perhaps it’s time to turn your back on your corporate overlords and become truly pro-life. Vote no on repealing the ACA. Vote to save the lives of the people who will die without insurance.

You have to know what you’re about to do is wrong.

If you go ahead with this, I hope and pray that you will burn in hell.

Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC

Arrested — again

I spoke at the press conference an hour or so after being released from jail, with Rev. Barber standing nearby. I am so proud to be a part of this movement. Arrest me all you want, I refuse to stop trying to talk to legislators about health care as a basic human right.

 

On Tuesday morning, I got my butt hauled off to jail for the third time in four years.

I wanted to talk to Senate leader Phil Berger, as is my right under the North Carolina Constitution, but when I got to his office, a very large man was standing in the doorway, blocking my entrance.

“You can’t go in there, it’s private,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said. “This is a public building and the person whose office this is, is a public official. I have a Constitutional right to speak to him.”

“He’s not in here.”

“Well, then, I’ll wait.”

He continued to block the entrance and several of us began to chant, “Health care NOW!”

At this point another man came to stand by the first one.

“You need to be quiet,” he said. “People are trying to work.”

I stared at him or a short moment.

“HEALTH CARE NOW!” I said, looking him straight in the eye, and those behind me joined in the chant.

I don’t like to be shushed in any case, but I get particularly testy when lives are at stake, and they most certainly are here. Some five people are dying every single say because Sen. Berger and his cronies are denying the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act. This denial leaves a half million people in our state without access to care, and as I said, about five of them die every day, just the way my son did.

I’m not going into the General Assembly Building for entertainment or any frivolous purpose; I’m going in there to try and speak to my legislators about how desperately this Medicaid expansion is needed.

These people call them selves “pro-life” and “Christian,” yet their actions show a callous disregard for human life.

Rev. Barber stood with us as most of us sat down on the floor to wait for Sen. Berger to come back to his office.

We were told we were blocking the doorway, but we were not the ones doing that. We would have gone in and sat quietly and waited, but the door was blocked by his thugs, not by us.

We were told we were making too much noise, but I explained that people’s lives are more important than the ability of Berger’s secretary to hear who was on the other end of the phone line, and that if they would let us in, we would sit quietly an wait.

So, we started singing to pass the time.

“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.

We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.”

Chief Martin Brock came by with a megaphone and warned us we had to leave, but we were there to address legislative leaders, as is our right under the NC Constitution, and we intended to do just that.

So, we were arrested, 32 of us, for second-degree trespass in a public building while it was open to the public. This is my third arrest for this same thing. The first one was thrown out on appeal. They never even bothered to prosecute me for the second arrest and there’s a petition to dismiss the charges because I never got a court date.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, hoping for different results. Perhaps I am insane for trying again and again to make these lawmakers see that their actions are killing the very people they have sworn to serve. But I will not give up.

We spent an hour or so in a committee meeting room in the legislature building, singing freedom songs and hymns, before we were herded into vans and taken to the Wake County Detention Center, where we were processed and placed in holding cells.

I don’t know about the men, but we women started singing again. An officer told us we had to quiet down, so we sang a little more quietly. We had a contest to see who could stand on one foot the longest. We comforted a very frightened young woman who had been arrested for driving without a license, and we laughed.

We had been without food all day by the time we were released at about 4:30, so we were grateful to find snacks and water, brought by the Movement support team.

And we made it back downtown in time for the 6 p.m. press conference.

I love my Moral Monday Movement family, from our convener, Rev. William Barber, to all the people who stand with him in solidarity, no matter what our issues.

I’ll be honest: I believe this movement and the people in it have saved my life. There have been days I didn’t want to go on without my son, but these good people have held me up. I feel reborn every time I am with them. When I lose hope, someone always reaches out to support me and tell me we will triumph.

Progress is slow. Movements take time. I’m in this until we finish the work or until I’m carried out feet-first.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

The Angel Mike

I was visiting my family in South Georgia a couple weeks ago, playing with my brilliant and beautiful great-granddaughter, Reaghan, when she noticed the pin I wear every day.

“What’s this?” she asked tapping on its face.

“It’s an angel,” I said. “I wear it all the time.”

“Why?”

I knew there would come a day when I would tell her about Uncle Mike. I wasn’t sure where to start. She’s almost 4, so she understands that people die. I wasn’t sure how to tell her why he died, though.

“Well, did you know Pop-Pop had a brother? His name was Mike.”

I told her he got sick and no one would take care of him.

She looked shocked.

“Why not?”

“Because he wasn’t rich enough to pay them,” I said. “To some people, money is more important than anything else. Uncle Mike didn’t have much.”

I wanted to focus more on who he was, though, so I told her he was the silliest person any of us had ever known — a real goofball.

She wasn’t sure she believed that.

“Oh no, Grandma’s right,” my son said. “Uncle Mike was a goofball.”

I brought out my phone, where I have a bunch of photos stored. There was one of him in a flower petal bathing cap, another of him making a goofy face, one of him and me making faces …

“He was a goofball,” she said, giggling.

I told her I’d had another angel pin, but it fell off and I never found it, so a man I know who makes jewelry made this one for me.

Reaghan dubbed the pin, The Angel Mike. He watches over all of us, she said, now that he’s a real angel.

Mike and Meghan

That’s when my granddaughter, Meghan, told me she’ll have a memorial table at her wedding next month, and on it will be her favorite photo of her and Mike. It was taken a few days before his wedding, on the day I gave him the handmade quilt that I had just given her as a wedding gift.

When Mike died, Janet gave the quilt back to me because she wanted it to be handed down to another generation, and they had no children.

When I asked Meghan if she would like to have Mike’s quilt instead of me making her one, she cried.

“You’d give that to me?” she choked.

“You’re the first one to get married,” I said. “This is meant to be handed on.”

If only Mike had lived long enough to meet Reaghan. If only he had been here to see Meghan get married. If only … if only …

Nine years ago today, James and Janet went to Goodwill and bought a wheelchair, which they dubbed the Mike-around.

Mike was too weak to walk very far, so they thought the wheelchair was just the thing to get him out onto the deck and into the fresh spring air.

Nine years ago today it was a Thursday. We had 12 days left with him.

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.

 

 

A deadly budget

Sorry, GOP, but you can’t call yourself pro-life while letting children go to bed hungry.

If the powers that be in the Republican Party want people to die, then they got it right with this budget.

Cut Meals on Wheels and stop feeding hungry children.

Get rid of the arts, cut funds for medical research, zero-out PBS and slash funds for education.

And while we talk about how Americans have equal opportunities, let’s cut assistance for college students and then we can call them lazy when they can’t go to college and minimum wage is still less than half of what people need to pay their bills.

Oh, and let’s not help poor people in cold climates to heat their homes. So what if they starve? It’s their own fault for living in a cold place. They should move to Florida or Texas or something.

While we’re at it, let’s slash after-school programs so families that are struggling to get by on minimum wage have no safe place for their children while they work. And then when their children get in trouble, we can say their parents are to blame for neglecting them.

Well, maybe they shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford it, right? Then, why are we closing women’s health clinics? That’s the only place many low-income women have to get reliable contraception. But then, these clowns don’t think women should have access to contraception. Or abortion. We are, after all, pro-life, aren’t we?

Oh, and let’s cut programs that offer nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers. If the kids don’t get good nutrition for brain development, then they won’t need college anyway.

And we can get rid of programs that help people with their rent in emergencies — you know, if the car breaks down or someone gets sick.

And speaking of getting sick, the GOP plan for health non-care is breathtakingly cruel. It seems intended to kill poor people.

But, hey, let’s fund war. Lots and lots of money in this budget for more war, and for a wall we don’t need, since Mexicans aren’t coming here in great numbers anymore.

I have a question for people who call themselves Christian or pro-life: How can you reconcile your support for these lethal policies that target the poor with surgical precision?

Have you read the red print in the Bible? That’s the stuff Jesus says — and in case you’ve forgotten, Jesus Christ is the person Christians are supposed to be following.

I wish the Pope himself would write to Paul Ryan and tell him his policies are deeply, grossly immoral.

I don’t think anyone can make the occupant of the White House a more moral person. I think he believes his only concern should be with the wealthy and powerful. I think he’s just too cruel, willfully ignorant and immoral to change his ways.

But the Republicans are skipping merrily along, allowing him to wreak havoc across the country and around the world.

This is evil on a massive scale. We must resist. We must persist. And we must find a way to enlist Republicans in the cause. This is not about party; this is about morality. This is about fighting the greatest evil the world has seen since Hitler and Stalin. We can’t afford to lose.

 

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

 

 

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