‘What are you gonna do?’

Sherri White-Williamson, a specialist in energy regulation and law, who is retired from the EPA, now works to make all out energy safer and renewable, issued a challenge to everyone on the Poor People’s Campaign Truth and Poverty Bus Tour to go home and DO something.

In the three years my son battled cancer, he often played the Cancer Card.

What that meant was if he wanted something, or if he didn’t want to do something, he would whine, “But I have cancer!”  Then he would laugh, whether he got his way or not.

In the days before his death, he told me I was about to get a card that would be hard to top — the Dead Kid Card.

“I don’t want it,” I said. “I want nothing to do with it.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter what you want. It’s there. It’s being dealt as we speak. What I want to know is what are you gonna do with it.”

I told him I didn’t know and he shook his head again.

“Nope, I want to know. What are you gonna do?”

I thought for a moment and told him I will work for access to health care for everyone. Real access, not a high-deductible insurance policy that just puts money in the pockets of the 1 percent, but real, meaningful access.

He sank back into his pillow and smiled.

“Good. I approve. You have my blessing,” he said. “Go get ’em.”

Eleven years later, I’m still working on it.

Last week, I went with some of my fellow activists in the NC Poor People’s Campaign on the National Emergency Truth and Poverty Bus Tour across the state to visit people affected by poverty.

We saw people doing, including the first homeless/formerly homeless Street Medic Team, based here in Asheville. We met homeless activists in Charlotte, several of whom got on the bus and traveled with us.

We met environmental activists in Robeson, Scotland and Duplin counties. One of them was Sherri White-Williamson, who retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and now works across Eastern NC as an activist fighting the deforestation causing catastrophic flooding, the proliferation of industrialized hog and poultry farming and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other fossil fuel enterprises.

Sherri spoke to us in Robeson County and again in Duplin, and she told us to go home and do something.”

“You’re all excited now, enthusiastic about working to improve things,” she told us. “But coming here and learning what’s happening is not enough. You have to go home and do something.

“What are you gonna do?

In the 11 years since my son breathed his last, somewhere near a half million Americans have died from lack of access to care.

I worked for the Affordable Care Act, even though I was uncomfortable leaving insurance companies in the mix because I feared they would work to sabotage the law — which is exactly what has happened.

So, I continue to work to educate people about why we need to do what every other so-called developed country has done — find a way to get access to health care to everyone.

But I can’t work in a vacuum. Health care is not the only issue we need to address because if we get health care to everyone and we don’t fix the environmental devastation or raise the minimum wage, stop the endless wars or fix voter suppression, we’re still screwed.

We need activists for this fight. We need people to work with us.

We as a nation need you to pick your issue or issues and join the fight.

We don’t need online petitions because they never, ever, ever result in any change. Never. Sitting at your computer and typing in your name, e-mail address and phone number does nothing more than give some political hack your contact information so they can inundate you with requests for money.

Donating to a cause is great — the Poor People’s Campaign could sure use some financial help, as could any number of other causes — but these are perilous times and we need people to be in the streets.

We need people who can register voters and educate people on the issues — God knows the corporate media don’t peddle much beyond propaganda.

We need people to run for office — school board, city council, county commission, state legislature — and work for real change.

We can’t do this if people just stay home and go along to get along.

We need you in this fight because this is a fight for our very existence as a species.

What are you gonna do?

Think about it. We don’t have a whole lot of time left.

 

My vote is reserved for someone who will fix health care

Mike being Mike. His main mission in life was to amuse himself and others. He was a proud jackass and I still believe he chose to leave us on April Fool’s Day.

Eleven years ago today, hospice came.

Mike had slept in the bed in the spare bedroom that first night here, but the nurse said he’d be more comfortable in a hospital bed, and she had one here in a couple of hours. She was right. You could see it on his face as soon as he settled in, raised the top and picked up his game console controls.

Part of the visit was an intake interview.

“Do you use tobacco?”

“Yup and I’m not quitting now.”

“Do you use drugs or alcohol?”

“Not for the last 11 and a half years.”

“Good for you! What was your drug of choice?”

Mike leaned closer, his eyes sparkling. “Whadaya got?”

He got the reaction he wanted, a shocked look.

“I was whatcha call a garbage head,” he said, smiling. “I would do anything that altered my brain in any way.”

Mike had sobered up on Nov. 9, 1996, and he had worked with 12-step groups in New York, Savannah and Raleigh. He often went to beginner meetings because he knew people new to sobriety needed help.

“As soon as you smelled fryer oil, you knew the meeting was going to be a good one,” a friend of his told me. “He would come right from work, and he was so wise, so compassionate. You just knew if he was there, something good was going to happen.”

Anyone who needed to talk knew they could call Mike and he’d listen. No matter what time of day it was, no matter how much he had going on, he always made time for someone who needed to talk.

I was feeling pretty smug because I believed I would die when he did. Yes, I know there’s nothing logical about it, nothing even remotely logical. But I had somehow convinced myself that I wouldn’t have to go on without him. And yes, I had another son, two fabulous daughters-in-law, a loving husband, four grandchildren and sisters and friends. That didn’t matter to me.

Mike was born on my birthday, and he and I were so alike, we often didn’t need to talk, although we always did. He had my sense of humor and my passion for justice.

We had long, rambling conversations about everything imaginable, although he could lose me in the weeds when he got into philosophy.

And he was particularly delighted when he could combine philosophy and wise-assery. He knew every word to Monty Python’s Philosopher’s Song, not to mention “Every Sperm is Precious,” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” He could recite huge swaths of dialogue from Monty Python and Mel Brooks movies. In fact, he and his wife’s stepfather used to put on German helmets from Bob’s extensive military artifacts collection and sing, “Springtime for Hitler,” from “The Producers.” They invited me to sing along, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put on a German helmet and join in. It was too much fun watching them.

Mike was a foodie who loved working in restaurants except for the lack of health insurance. He went back to school because he knew he needed another career, and he had chosen law. He was planning to be a legal aid attorney, and he would have been a damn good one.

But our broken health care system derailed his plans. It shouldn’t have. We have dozens of models for a just health care system from every other industrialized country in the world. But corporations have more power than people do in this country. They have co-opted our democracy to suit their needs, and they have used every immoral method in their playbook to maintain a stranglehold on progress of any kind.

The Affordable Care Act would have gotten my son the insurance he needed, although it might not have covered annual colonoscopies because the insurance companies have maintained control, with the full cooperation of both corporate-owned political parties.

Somewhere near a half million people have died in these last 11 years. I think that’s enough already.

Condemn me all you want for my hard-ass stand, but I will not vote for anyone who won’t support the Medicare for All bill that would have everyone covered within three years. That’s my line in the sand.

This is a national emergency and it’s long past time we treat it as such.

If the creature currently squatting in the White House steals another election because the Democrats won’t give us a viable alternative, then we as a nation get what we deserve. I will not accept any blame. I played along once and the DNC rigged the primaries to get their flawed candidate on the ballot. I dutifully voted for her.

I bought into your “anything is better than that clown” line in 2016. Now, considering that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome, I would say anyone who falls for that again is the fool, not those of us who refuse to do so.

Some 70 percent of voters want this. Even 52 percent of Republicans are on board. This is not an unreasonable demand and I will not back down again. You will fix this, Democrats, or you will go down with the Republicans and it won’t be pretty.

I have had to live these last 11 years without my precious son. I miss him every moment of every day and the pain I feel constantly won’t let up until I join him.

There are a half million people who have landed in this boat with me since my son died. It’s time for action.

 

 

 

 

 

Either way, it’s a victory for Democrats

This gives me hope that we can defeat Republicans everywhere in November.

It appears Democrat Conor Lamb has won the seat in Congress vacated by Republican anti-choice philanderer Tim Murphy (you may recall, he resigned his seat in disgrace after pressuring his lover to have an abortion).

He defeated a well known Republican, Rick Saccone, who was a member of the state legislature, endorsed by the local newspaper, and who stood for all the Republican “values.”

The win, if indeed it comes to that after the absentee ballots are counted, is huge.

Even if, in the end, Lamb loses by a few votes, this should scare the piss out of Republicans. This was a safe district for them and they spent $9 million to preserve this seat. It looks as though they failed, but even if they didn’t, they all but closed a 20-point gap. That’s huge. If they can do that, they’ll take every close race for Congress in November.

I understand Lamb stands for a woman’s right to choose. That’s important. But he’s more for fixing the Affordable Care Act than for expanding Medicaid. I would still have voted for him in this special election, even though offering everyone a single-payer system is of paramount importance to me.

See what I did here? I compromised, because electing Lamb is an important step in fixing the mess in Washington. I don’t demand perfection from my candidates because there’s no one who’s going to agree with my every stand on every issue except me, and I’m not running.

We won’t get rid of the people who are working feverishly to break every system in our country until we step up and vote in every election for the better of the two candidates. And, yes, I said the better of the two candidates because we have a two-party system, whether we like it or not.

I left the Democratic Party because it has moved so far to the right, but I will still vote in every election and I will probably vote for the Democrat because that’s the candidate who stands the best chance of beating the Republican, and I will NEVER vote for the Republican, even if that person is pro-choice and anti-gun. It’s too likely that moderate Republican will still vote with the party.

We have a very sensible woman running as a Republican in a primary against a man whose stands on the issues are insanely right-wing here in North Carolina. She asked for my support and I turned her down because she will vote with the Republicans if and when she gets to Washington. If she were to pledge to vote for single-payer and against any more restrictions on abortion, if she were to promise to vote against the gun lobby, I might consider supporting her, but I doubt it.

Republicans are wrong on just about every issue, and we as voters have to put a stop to their stranglehold on power. They are dismantling every system they can put their hands on — health care, education, food security (Meals on Wheels, food stamps and school lunches), environmental protection, workers’ rights, justice …

We can only defeat them by registering and voting. Really, we can turn out for marches — women’s marches, health care marches, anti-gun marches, pro-choice marches, workers’ marches … but nothing will change until we all vote.

Historically, higher turnout on Election Day almost always favors Democrats. That’s why Republicans work so hard to reduce the number of people eligible to vote.

What happened in Pennsylvania is that people turned out to vote in a heavily Republican district (the current occupant of the White House won by 20 points here). If people had decided they couldn’t win and just stayed home, we would not be celebrating the probable win of a Democrat in this district.

This race is proof that we can defeat Republicans, even in heavily gerrymandered, heavily Republican districts. All we have to do is register and vote — all of us, every last one.

The fraud isn’t by the voters

State by state and even nationally, Republicans are moving toward requiring a photo ID to vote. It will help reduce voter fraud, they say.

They talk about dead people voting in Washington County, NC; they talk about noncitizens casting hundreds of votes.

Well, from the NC Justice Center, here are some numbers:

4—number of votes allegedly cast by dead people in Washington County (Zombie voters in Washington County, Under the Dome, News & Observer, March 1, 2011)

0—actual number of votes cast by dead people in Washington County after investigation by elections officials (Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina)

0—number of votes cast by other people using the names of deceased voters in Washington County.

637—number of legally present non-citizens who may have voted in North Carolina in last election, and who received letters from the State Board of Elections inquiring about their status  (Non-U.S. Citizens may have voted in N.C. elections, Under the Dome, News & Observer, March 2, 2011)

106—number of letters from “noncitizens” returned in initial batch of responses to Board of Elections inquiries. (Ibid)

105—number of “noncitizens” in initial response to Board of Elections who had become citizens and simply had not updated their drivers license information when the rolls were checked (Ibid)

0—number of the 106 people in the initial batch of responses to the Board of Elections not verified as citizens who voted in the last election (Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina)

212—total number of 637 people investigated as non citizens who the Board of Elections believes voted in the last election (Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina)

212—number of 637 people investigated as non citizens likely to have voted in the last election who election officials believe had become citizens (Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina)

6,102,163—total number of registered voters in North Carolina (State Board of Elections).

2,700,383—number of votes cast in North Carolina in 2010 elections.

0—number of people that voter ID supporters can prove voted illegally in either example currently cited as support for legislation (Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina)

0—number of times that supporters of voter ID legislation have acknowledged that their claims about dead people voting in Washington County or noncitizens voting have proven to be false.

In other words, there is no voter fraud. Every case they have raised has been proven false, but they continue to insist we need this legislation.
The reason they want it is that a lot of people don’t have a photo ID, mostly poor and elderly people who don’t drive. These people tend to vote Democratic, so if you can deny them their right to vote, you have a larger percentage of Republicans voting. It’s exactly how the South held down the African-American vote for generations after slavery ended.
You start with the poor and elderly, you get rid of agencies that help make it easier for them to vote — like ACORN — and then you deny the vote to anyone who’s been in jail — a population that is disproportionally African-American and Latino, who also tend to vote Democratic.
Then you send out notices to predominately low-income and minority neighborhoods and give them disinformation on what date or where they should vote, and make sure there are too few voting machines and too few poll workers for the people who do show up.
Pretty soon you have a majority of Republicans.
Now, that’s what I call voter fraud.
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