Now is not the time to panic

We have much work to do. Let’s get to it.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, and on hearing the news, most of the people I know and respect felt utter panic.

I felt it too, but then I calmed down a minute and thought about this.

We have had a court with a 5-4 conservative majority for years, even before the creature currently squatting in the White House soiled the linen there.

Justice Kennedy has been a pretty reliable conservative vote. Sure, he saved us a couple of times, but Justice Roberts was the one who saved the Affordable Care Act, not Justice Kennedy.

It was Kennedy who handed the nation to the oligarchs with his Citizens United vote. It was Kennedy who handed the gutting of the Voting Rights Act to the institutional racists, who then proceeded to dismantle voting rights with utter impunity.

Elections have consequences. And to all those who wadded up their panties and stayed home on Election Day because the Democratic Party overruled their choice and instead put up a highly qualified, albeit flawed, candidate, this is the consequence — a “leader” who tears children from their parents and puts them in cages in detention centers and makes them go to immigration court alone and unrepresented, a man who brags about his violent tendencies and his sexual adventures, a liar, a racist and a sociopath.

We have this man who has appointed the least appropriate person to every job he could. Every department is headed by a person who wants to dismantle it.

We have a creature who should be impeached for his lies and his profiteering, and a Congress that just wants to take advantage of the chaos to make a profit before retiring.

But now is not the time for panic.

Panic is exactly what the enemy wants to instill in us.

Now is the time to stand up and do the work.

Register people to vote. Knock on doors and make phone calls to educate people. Take to the streets to protest.

We have been in this dark place before. Read the Dred Scott Decision. Read up on the Civil War and its real causes (Hint: It was only about states’ rights insomuch as it meant states had the right to enslave human beings). Read up on how the Chinese were excluded from participation in society in the 19th Century. Look at the numbers of people who were lynched during Jim Crow. Read up on how German-Americans were treated during World War I, and the kind of pressure exerted by Woodrow Wilson to get us into that war. Look at how Japanese-Americans were herded into internment camps during World War II, just because the land of their ancestors was now our enemy. The Muslim ban is nothing new.

This is America, a nation that tends to drift toward its worst nature. We committed genocide to capture this land and used enslaved people to build it. This is our legacy.

But we have shown that we can rise about our worst nature. We have stood up as a people and cried, “No more!” Time and again, we have shed blood to put this country on the right path, and it appears it is time to do so again.

During the 1960s, we committed atrocities in Vietnam and in our own country. We sent the National Guard onto college campuses, and they killed innocent college students at Kent State in Ohio. I still remember the images, the horror I felt that our government would kill its own youth to hang onto an unjust and unpopular war. We beat protesters of that war senseless in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.

We have been here before. We likely will be here again.

Now is the time to work.

I have made a commitment to nonviolence and I will stand by that commitment. Nonviolence is what got us civil rights in the 1950s and 60s. Nonviolent protest ended the Vietnam War. Nonviolence won India’s independence from Great Britain.

Nonviolence isn’t inaction, it’s action that rises above our basest instincts.

We all need to stand up and register voters, take to the streets, speak our truth to power.

We need to take back the narrative about what’s moral and what isn’t.

Denying health care to millions of people isn’t moral.

Sabotaging public education isn’t moral.

Denying a living wage to full-time workers isn’t moral.

Denying the vote to millions of people isn’t moral.

Handing tax breaks to billionaires while allowing children to go to bed hungry isn’t moral.

The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice, as Martin Luther King said.

I am going to keep doing the work. I’ll get arrested again because the immoral people in power right now don’t want to hear my truth. I may wind up with some real jail time, but I will not stand down.

Democrats in Congress need to stand up RIGHT NOW and play hardball. We all do.

So, instead of allowing panic to consume us, we need to strengthen our resolve and do the work. It’s our only hope.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

A victory for the people

Now that I’ve had a little time to breathe, let me say, “Whew!”

I was surprised to see the Affordable Care Act left intact and shocked to learn Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote.

I had agreed to participate in a press conference in Charlotte with Health Care for America Now and Action NC, so I was getting ready to leave the house when news of the decision came down.

I didn’t know whether to jump up and down hollering, “We won! We won! We won!” or cry, so I did a bit of both.

At the press conference, I told Mike’s story and I talked about how much I miss him. But I am overjoyed that other mothers won’t face the deaths of their children the way I did. I’m grateful that fewer people will suffer and die because they can’t get access to care.

When Dr. Herbert Hurwitz at Duke University Medical Center adopted Mike and gave us two more years with him, he asked that we write to our legislators and ask them to support access to quality health care for all Americans. I had already done that, but I wrote again. And I wrote some more. Then I did it again.

I felt Mike’s spirit with me when I heard the news. I felt like he was dancing around the family room with me. I was thrilled that 30 million more people will have access to health care thanks to this law, but at the same time, I wish I could have shared the moment with my son.

My son’s illness, his lack of ability to get insurance, or care when he got sick, and ultimately his death set me on a path of lifelong health care advocacy. Too many people say I’m being political about it, but this shouldn’t be political. This is about saving lives — some 45,000 or more of them each year. This is a moral issue because it is about saving human lives. How can anyone claim to be pro-life and be against providing health care to everyone?

How can you say you believe life is precious so you’re against abortion and then turn around and say my son didn’t deserve help?

How can you vilify the poor by calling them lazy bums when you’ve never sat down with them and heard their stories? Is it because opponents of health care reform are so afraid they might be caught between the cracks one day that they have to blame the victims to feel more secure in their own safety?

Mike’s story makes a lot of Tea Party people furious because he wasn’t a lazy bum (nor are most of the other people who are being denied care). I’ve been called a lot of nasty names — and so has Mike — by people who don’t want to admit that it could happen to anyone, including them. They don’t want the stories out there because the stories don’t go with their narrative and they don’t want to change their narrative. That would require disagreeing with what Fox News tells them to believe.

The only reason health care became so political is that big business has co-opted the political process.

People don’t seem to understand that their health care policy premiums have helped pay for this corruption of our system and that the new law will put a cap on the insurance industry’s ability to do that. They must spend 80 percent of the money we pay them on direct care now.

This law is a good start on the road to access to care for everyone, just as Medicare was supposed to be in 1965. The plan was that Medicare would slowly expand downward in age until everyone was covered. Since that never happened, this new path became necessary. It’s a bit of a round-about way to achieve the goal, but OK, I’ll work with it.

Today begins the work toward getting the other 21 million access to care. Let’s start by letting people buy into Medicare if they want.

 

Is it too hard for you, Justice Scalia?

Justice Antonin Scalia jokingly asks whether he's expected to read the entire Affordable Care Act.

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of my son’s death, and the week leading up to it is difficult under any circumstance. But this year it was especially hard.

I paid close attention to the Supreme Court arguments in the case of the Affordable Care Act and watched with great dismay as they became as political as I had anticipated.

Now, the Supreme Court isn’t supposed to be a political body, but this court is unabashedly so. It has been stacked with ideologues on the right, and there is no reason among those justices. Just look at all the decisions they have made along ideological lines, including the disastrous Citizens United decision that has allowed unlimited corporate money into our election process.

In recent years, Justice Kennedy is the only one to whom anyone needs to pitch an argument, since he is the only one who matters anymore.

I was truly appalled at Justice Scalia, as he joked about the individual mandate leading down the slippery slope to a mandate that we all have to buy broccoli. That’s clever and witty if you have guaranteed medical care for the rest of your life. Oh, and by the way, we taxpayers pay for his government-funded health care. Now, there’s a joke for you, albeit a particularly cruel one for those of us who have watched loved ones die slow and painful deaths because they couldn’t get care.

And when he jokingly asked whether he should have to read the entire law, my head almost exploded. Here’s what I have to say to him:

You’d better read the whole damn thing, Justice Scalia; it’s your job to read and understand the law. Or are you above such menial chores now? I’ve read it. In fact, I keep a copy on my desktop. I see it as my best hope of getting care to more Americans, even as you joke about their pain and suffering.

The death toll stands at 45,000 a year, Justice Scalia. Four years ago, one of them was my child and I will never get over that. I was genuinely insulted by your behavior as you made light of my son and the hundreds of thousands like him when you said we could just let people continue to die. Yuk, yuk.

What’s really baffling to me is that you call yourself a Christian. I can’t stand in judgment of your actions, but someday, someone will. I only hope I get to witness it.

Political pundits are saying now that President Obama should run on the failures of the Supreme Court. I think that’s a great idea; right now it’s the only governmental body less popular with the American people than Congress.

And maybe if the president wins a second term we can get a couple more justices who will judge each case on its merits, not on the ideals of the Koch Brothers.

 

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