Wake up. They are not defeated.

Capitol Police were ready for the insurrectionists this time.

Saturday’s rally in support of the January 6 insurrectionists appeared to be a bust. Hardly anyone showed up and the press far outnumbered participants.

This apparent failure sent the left into spasms of laughter and derision.

Do not be fooled. This was not the failure so many of us think it was.

Organizers realized late in the week that the Capitol was prepared for them this time and advised people to stay home. They claimed the rally was a government trap to identify people who still support the efforts of the former president to regain the White House. Thousands of people obeyed and stayed away

We don’t know their true numbers, and we honestly don’t know what they’re up to. Look at your social media feed and you won’t see their plans because they don’t do it all on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Besides, you likely have blocked most of them to avoid having them troll you, or to resist the temptation to troll them.

While hiding them makes our lives easier, it also makes it more difficult to keep track of their lies and their plans, and that’s dangerous.

All day yesterday, I saw posts about how the planned rally was an utter failure. It was not. It was a practice run for the next one, which we’ll all think will be another bust, and for which we might not be as prepared. That’s what they’re waiting for.

These people are bullies, and bullies back down when people stand up to them. They don’t necessarily stay down, though. These people are waiting for us to look away.

When more than one-third of Republicans still believe the former president will be reinstated , and half of Republicans still think Biden lost the election, we have a much bigger problem than the attendance at Saturday’s rally would suggest.

Before you celebrate the demise of Trumpism, look at the polls and what these Republicans still believe. You can’t argue facts with them because they operate with their own set of “facts,” provided by the hard-right. They do their research on Fox (or Newsmax or whatever right-wing source they prefer)-approved web sites. They don’t believe mainstram news sources because their right-wing conspiracy sources tell them these news organizatons are “socialist.”

The former president and his people are quietly replacing election officials with people who will help them overturn the next election. They have worked for years to make us believe elections in this country are corrupt as they also have worked to corrupt the system.

The joke of a recount in Arizona was actually not a joke. When they normalize such outrageous behavior, they bring us one step closer to fascism and dictatorship. The first thing fascists and other dictators do is foster doubt in the validity of elections, and in this country, a third of voters have bought into their narrative.

We are not out of danger. These QAnon folks are a real and present threat to our nation. If we are to survive as a Democratic Republic, we need to wake up and pay attention.

The architects of where we are

Mike Schmidt, an architect of the mess we’re in today.

You see their faces everywhere, proclaiming how broken the Republican Party is now. What you don’t see is them realizing they’re the ones who built this thing.

I mean, you don’t think the Republican Party was in great shape before the Orange Menace took its ride down the escalator to proclaim its candidacy in the name of racism and dishonesty, did you?

Don’t you remember the Southern Strategy used by Richard Nixon to win the White House with dog-whistle phrases that racists would understand and the rest of us might not? “Welfare queen.” “Poor people are just lazy. If they would pick themselves up by their bootstraps …”

Reagan’s campaign was even worse, as he promised to stop giving “handouts” like food and medical care to poor people to force them to work. And we all knew these greedy, lazy bastards weren’t white like we were. No, it was those Black and Brown people who were multiplying like mad and taking all OUR money.

Papa Bush’s campaign went to Willie Horton, the Black man who was released from jail for the weekend in Massachusetts and committed a second murder. Bush blamed then-governor Michael Dukakis, who was running against him in the presidential election in 1988, for being “soft on crime.” What that really did was convince racists that Bush was on their side. He would have kept this criminal in jail forever, even had him put to death. Racists ate it up.

Clinton was little better than a Republican, ending Aid to Families with Dependent Children and other programs to help lift poor people out of poverty and replacing them with shorter, less effective solutions, and putting in place trade agreements that harmed American workers and sent almost all of the good-paying jobs overseas. Clinton’s “miracle” economy moved wealth upward again and left workers in he cold.

Michael Steele, former head of the Republican National Committee.

Then things got really crazy with George W Bush and Dick Cheney and all their cronies. This is where Steve Schmidt and Michael Steele come in. They were the architects of what the Republican Party has become. They worked tirelessly to advance the cause of trickle-down economics, illegal wars, torture and the establishment of a permanent underclass to serve the rich.

As we cheer Steele and Schmidt for fighting fascism, we need to remember they helped to create this mess. They stood by and approved while all of out political traditions and mores were dismantled so the Republicans could have their “revolution.”

When Donald Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with the Army you have,” they cheered and did the rounds of talk shows to defend him.

When the administration opened the prison at Guantanamo Bay, they defended it.

They defended “rendition,” which involved kidnapping people for “interrogation” in secret sites.

Every step Bush and Cheney took away from Democracy and toward fascism, they were in lock-step.

Then came 45. They fell silent.

By comparison, George W. looks like a statesman, so now we’ve rehabilitated him. Look what a good guy he is. He wasn’t fascist at all. meanwhile, Gitmo is still open and nobody’s talking about it.

Neither Steele nor Schmidt appear to understand their own complicity in the mess we’re in now, with members of Congress involved in an attempted coup on Jan. 6 — and four months later, those members are not only still in Congress, they just ousted Dick Cheney’s daughter from her leadership position because she won’t repeat the Big Lie that Biden isn’t really president because victory was stolen from the former guy.

Fascism isn’t defeated here. In fact, it’s still gaining strength, and it’s thanks in large part to the work done by Steele and Schmidt, who helped Bush and the GOP defy convention after convention, paving the way for this disgusting madman to take over the party.

Schmidt and Steele are no heroes. They created this mess and now they want you to forget their role in it.

Mike Day, for the 13th time

This image, taken seven months before he died, is probably my favorite. He was so handsome and his eyes were so mischievous. Also, he wasn’t making a goofy face.

On this day 13 years ago, the world lost a fabulous jackass, and I lost my precious son.

I’ve told this story every year, of how, when the hospice nurse arrived, we couldn’t rouse him, of how he finally woke up, of how the nurse kept saying he could still be with us for days, but I knew better.

I’ve told about how he tried to tell me he loved me with his last bit of strength, and of how he saw my sister, who had died a year and a half earlier.

I re-live it every year. I see him in the bed, I feel it in my gut, that desperate wish to keep him here with me, that secret, erroneous, knowledge that my heart would stop when his did.

I can hear my older son’s voice sobbing, “He’s dead? No, no. Oh, no!”

What I remember most is how pissed I was when he died and I didn’t. I sat there for a few seconds, waiting for my turn to go. Certainly God didn’t intend to leave me here.

But my heart kept beating, beating, beating …

Damn!

I remember calling my colleague, John Boyle and asking him to tell everyone in the newsroom. John called back a few minutes later and apologized for being insensitive before asking whether I knew what day it was. Yeah, I said, I knew and I believe it was intentional.

I remember the woman from the funeral home demanding I had to come into the living room to sign some papers that were on a clipboard resting on my son’s corpse. I couldn’t bear to see that body bag. I couldn’t bear the thought of watching that body bag being taken out and loaded into an ambulance.

I asked her to come into the kitchen and she said it would be easier if I just went out there because she was in a hurry.

That’s when my pastor, Joe Hoffmann stepped in. He walked into the living room and calmly told her she needed to step into the kitchen now. I’m still grateful for that. It’s bad enough my son died from a broken health care system, I didn’t need the memory of him being taken out of my house in a body bag.

But I still had to get used to telling people he had died.

“How’s your boy?”

“He died.”

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!”

I remember all the kindnesses — the hugs, the visits, the meals, even a very expensive bottle of single-malt Scotch. I remember the cards and letters, the kind gestures and the words of condolence. I would not have survived without all of the love from my friends.

I had to get used to telling his story over and over and over … hundreds of times in these last 13 years.

This morning I woke and grabbed the tangle of yarn we once called “boo bankie,” a blanket I crocheted for him when he was little. As it unraveled, he tied knots in it until it was a tangle little bigger than a football. He always had it with him — he couldn’t sleep without it. When I pulled it close to me this morning, I wanted to smell him on it, but the antidepressants I was on after he died robbed me of my sense of smell.

But as devastated as I still am, today is the day we celebrate the crazy, funny, tragic and far-too-short life of a proud jackass.

Today is the 13th annual Mike Day.

After Mike’s memorial service, several of his friends came up to me to announce that April 1 was no longer April Fool’s Day, it would be known henceforth as Mike Day, since he was the biggest fool they knew.

“We’ll wear plaid, eat Cadbury Creme Eggs and do silly things all day long,” one of them said. “All the other fools are just amateurs, anyway.”

So, every April Fool’s Day — excuse me, Mike Day — I take the day off. I have plaid sneakers, plaid socks, a plaid shirt and a plaid hat. If it was a little warmer today, I’d wear my plaid shorts.

Tomorrow I’ll get back to work because we still don’t have a president who will work for Medicare for all.

I’ll get back to work because even though 70 percent of Americans want Medicare for all, we still don’t have legislators and policy-makers who will get it through for us. And that’s because elections can be bought, paid for by the people who have more than they ever can spend, but who think people in need are just lazy.

I’ll get back to work because even before the pandemic began, an American was dying every eight minutes from lack of access to care.

I’ll get back to work because up to one-third of Americans who have died of COVID did so because they couldn’t get early care.

I’ll get back to work because more Americans lack access to care now than did when my son died, despite passage of the Affordable Care Act because Big Insurance has found ways other than pre-existing conditions to deny coverage (restrictive networks and astronomical deductibles keep millions of people from getting the care they need).

I’ll get back to work because I made a promise to keep working until we have universal access to care or until my heart finally stops.

Today was our last day with him.

I miss his laugh.

I miss his empathy.

I miss his wisdom.

I miss his twisted sense of humor.

Unless you have lost a child to injustice, you can’t understand. You have no earthly idea. I can only pray you never find out.

Bringing my son home to die

This image, taken seven months before he died, is probably my favorite. He was so handsome and his eyes were so mischievous. Also, he wasn’t making a goofy face.

It was 13 years ago today.

Thirteen years ago today, I was at my son’s apartment in Cary, getting ready to take him for chemo, when he looked up at me and said, “I’m ready for this to be over.”

He hated chemo, but he wanted to stay and see his nieces and nephew grow up.

He wanted to be around to crack inappropriate jokes, to eat my homemade bread, to go to the beach with his friends, to cook gourmet food, to enjoy late-night conversations with other night owls, to snuggle up to his cat, to help people get and stay sober, to build computers from spare parts.

We knew he had to have gained two pounds for there to be any hope the chemo was working. And we knew he had, at most, a year, because the doctors at Memorial Health System in Savannah had ignored his symptoms and refused to do a colonoscopy until he was vomiting fecal matter and weighed just 110 pounds (he was 6 feet tall).

I would never be ready for this to be over.

When we arrived at the clinic at Duke Medical Center, he stepped on the scale.

He had lost another pound.

The look on his face proved to me he wasn’t any more ready for this to be over than I was.

“I tried!” he said. “I really tried.”

That was it, then. There was nothing more we could do. His doctor, Herbert Hurwitz, sobbed as he told Mike, “You’re a good person, Mike. You don’t deserve this.”

It was so different from the doctor in Savannah, who had allowed my son to come perilously close to death before doing anything. And his dismissive attitude as he said, “We can do a little chemo, I guess, but you’ll have to get your affairs in order.”

That had been two years earlier, when he shrugged and gave up on Mike after allowing him to almost die three different times, first by not investigating what was wrong for months and months, the second time by not treating a stricture in Mike’s small intestine until he weighed just 104 pounds and then by not treating a life-threatening infection in his surgical incision. Had we not sought another opinion and paid for a consultation, he would have died in 2006. Dr. Hurwitz adopted Mike because he knew sending him back to Savannah was a death sentence. He fought for Mike’s life as hard as we did, and he gave us two more years with him.

But the damage had been done by that callous jerk in Savannah and his colleagues, who had written in my son’s medical record, “Patient needs a colonoscopy but can’t afford it.”

On this day, we learned my son’s life was to be measured in days or, if we were lucky, weeks.

My son would die because we as a society only value the lives of people who can pay.

He would die because insurance companies were too greedy to sell him a policy.

He would die because doctors were allowed to let him suffer.

He would die because we live in an anti-life culture populated by people who pretend to be “pro-life,” and “Christian,” but who have no idea of the meaning of either of those terms.

As we were leaving the clinic, he looked at me and said, “How much time do you think I have? Two weeks?”

“God, I hope it’s more than that,” I said.

It would not be. He would die two weeks later, with me by his side, holding his hand and telling him how proud I was that I got to be his mom.

I brought him home with me that day and called Hospice, grateful that I didn’t have to do this alone.

His best friend, James, and his now-ex-wife, Janet (he had to leave to get Medicaid), would come the next day and spend the next two weeks helping to care for him. We had a team of people who adored him ready to dedicate the coming days to making him comfortable and listening to his bad jokes and his deeply wise reflections on life and death.

Thirteen years ago today, I brought my son home to die from medical neglect and societal greed.

Since then, more than a half million Americans died from the same thing before this pandemic even started, and now, up to one-third of the deaths from COVID-19 are being attributed to people not being able to get care early on in the course of the disease.

I worked for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, only to watch it being perverted by insurance companies to their own benefit. While 45 million were uninsured when the ACA passed, we have at least that many now, and another 40 million or more who can’t afford to use their health insurance because of deductibles of thousands of dollars — the average is over $3,000 now. Tell the 141 million Americans who live in or near poverty they can just use their insurance when they can’t even pay a $400 surprise bill without borrowing money.

In other words, all the work I’ve done, alongside other advocates, for the last 13 years has done not one bit of good. While the estimate 13 years ago was that 45,000 people were dying from lack of access to care in this country, the estimate a year ago — before the pandemic began — was 68,000.

I am exhausted. I feel defeated. As my son said 13 years ago today, I am ready for this to end.

On this day 13 years ago, I brought my precious son home to die. We would have just two weeks left with him.

A note to the president

President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden observe a moment of silence to commemorate the half million Americans lost to COVID-19

Dear President Biden:

You spoke my heart last night as you honored the half million souls lost to COVID-19 in the last year in this country.

It’s hard to wrap my heart around the grief that runs through this nation right now. But you need to know this grief that surrounds unnecessary death is far older than the pandemic, and it needs to be addressed.

You, having suffered so much loss, are perhaps the most empathetic man ever to set foot in the White House, and you are the polar opposite of the previous occupant in that respect (and in many others).

But you need to know this grief surrounding unnecessary death has been with us for decades, as people who have no access to health care are tossed aside like so much garbage.

When you spoke of opening the closet and not just seeing, but detecting the scent of your loved one on the clothing hanging there, I thought of the leather jacket my late son wore, its scent now dissipated after 13 years.

When you spoke of watching your son’s life fade from his eyes, I remembered sitting by my own’s son’s side as he breathed his last, I remembered being so angry that my heart didn’t stop, too.

Those final six weeks of his life are etched deeply in my very being, and I re-live them every year — now for the 13th time, as my heart keeps on beating.

I remember the sound of his voice as he asked what I was going to do with the “Dead Kid Card.” He had this twisted sense of humor, you see, and he played the “Cancer Card” the whole time he was sick. As he lay dying, he mentioned that I would have the “Dead Kid Card,” and he wanted to know how I would play it.

“I don’t want it,” I said.

“Doesn’t matter what you want,” he said. “It’s being dealt. What are you going to do with it?”

He paused as I sat, staring.

“What are you going to do?”

I promised him I would fight for health care for everyone every day, in every way I could imagine, as long as I had breath in my body.

Mike was born with a rare birth defect and it left him very vulnerable to a particularly nasty form of colon cancer.

That birth defect was deemed by insurance companies to be a pre-existing condition, so he couldn’t buy insurance. Without insurance, he had to pay for the colonoscopies he needed every year out-of-pocket. He’d already had pre-cancerous polyps removed before he was 25.

Mike decided to go back to college when he was 28, and since he was working part-time while he went to school, employer-based insurance was denied to him. He couldn’t find a doctor who would let him pay for a colonoscopy in installments, so he went without. It was a risk he had to take because there were no other options for him.

He got sick in the beginning of his junior year. Abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation … His doctor demanded $2,300 cash up front, so Mike still couldn’t get the test he needed so badly. His doctor wrote in his record, “Patient needs a colonoscopy but can’t afford it.” Can you imagine seeing that in your child’s medical record?

He went to the emergency room, but as you know, they only have to stabilize you there, not find the root cause of your problem. So, he was sent home with pain pills and a laxative — and a bill for several thousand dollars — when his real problem was a malignant tumor. No one helped until it was too late so save his life.

Even after he got sick, he was denied Medicaid until he left his wife.

He applied for disability and was denied. Approval ultimately took 37 months and his first check came nine days after he died.

Mike died at 3:50 p.m. on April 1, 2008, just a few months before you would become vice president. At that time, it’s estimated an American died once every 12 minutes — 45,000 a year — from lack of access to health care. By early 2020, before the pandemic, that number had risen to 68,000 a year, or one every eight minutes.

You know the grief of losing someone whose life you held more dear than your own. Imagine it had happened because of systemic medical neglect, and that neglect was not only tolerated, it was protected.

As long as private insurance companies are in control, they will dictate who gets care and who does not. They found a way around the Affordable Care Act. They simply jacked up deductibles until most people couldn’t afford to use their policies. The average deductible — or, as I like to call it, ransom — is more than $3,000 at a time when 140 million Americans live in or near poverty. They can’t pay, so they don’t get care.

Many of these half million COVID deaths could have been prevented of people had been able to seek help earlier in the course of their illness.

Mike was born on my birthday, so I mark the passing each year as another year without his sense of humor. I miss that most of all.

I miss the sound of his tone-deaf voice as we sang “Happy birthday to ME!” at the top of our lungs every year.

I miss the late night phone calls where we would talk about everything from Phil Collins to philosophy.

I miss cooking with him. I miss making up new recipes.

I miss the way he slathered butter on my homemade bread while proclaiming, “The only thing wrong with this bread is that it’s not at my house!”

I miss his utter impatience with bad drivers, actually hollering out the car window, “Hey! It’s the long, thin pedal on the right. You press it down with your foot!”

I miss how he loved animals and talked to them as if they could understand him, and how often it seemed as though they did.

And my grief is multiplied by a half million deaths from the same cause since he died. I live in a state where lawmakers steadfastly refuse to expand Medicaid. Three people die here every day from systemic neglect, just the way my son did, and these lives are no less precious than his or mine, or yours.

I know you to be a man of deep, deep empathy, so I can’t understand why you wouldn’t be pushing Medicare for all. That alone is the reason I didn’t support you in the primary election, and why I was so angry when you became the nominee.

All this empathy needs to be focused on preventing the depth of grief you and I live with every day. You understand it, and you can do something to lessen it.

When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, a hot mic caught you calling that step forward “a big f***ing deal,” and I loved that.

But that big deal has been derailed by Big Insurance, and we won’t be able to find a fix without getting them out. It’s time for Medicare for all.

You have more power to fix this than anyone else. You need to step up and do the decent thing.

Everyone deserves care. Everyone.

Sincerely,
Leslie Boyd

The day my joy ended

This was the day we learned that Mike would not survive. It was also the day a homeless man named Tommy McMahan died alone in a jail cell because he didn’t want to leave the hospital and die on the street. I grieve them both today.

This was the day I knew I’d never be joy-filled again, that every happiness I might manage to experience was to be marred with unfathomable loss.

This was the day 13 years ago that we learned the cancer was back and we knew there would be no cure.

This was the day we learned my son would die. And every year, I am forced to relive those last weeks of his life, and finally, his death.

I can still hear the echo of his voice. “Mom, the cancer’s back. If we’re lucky, I might have a year.”

We weren’t lucky. He would have just six weeks.

I don’t remember much of what was said after that, other than, “I’ll be there this afternoon.”

I was on my way into work and my husband was a few minutes behind me. I decided to go into the office and not say anything to anyone until he arrived, and then it would be OK if I fell apart.

All of this was because no doctor would see him because he didn’t have insurance. And he didn’t have insurance because a birth defect was a pre-existing condition. And doctors were allowed to turn him away, even though they knew to do so was a death sentence. And the only ones who suffered were Mike and all the people who loved him.

When my husband got to the office, I went to his desk and tried to tell him quietly, but I fell apart and sobbed uncontrollably.

How was I going to go on without my son?

That might have been the moment I decided my heart would stop when his did. Of course it would. There was no way I could outlive him.

“I have to go,” I said. “I’m heading out there now.”

My husband decided it would be better if both of us went, so he went in to the editor’s office to tell him. The editor never came out to face me. I remember how upset I was that this man I had worked with for several years couldn’t even bother to come out of his office to say he was sorry about my son.

I remember my colleagues hugging me and offering whatever words of condolence they could muster, and most of them only finding, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry.” Surprisingly, those words from people who cared about me were enough to help me pull myself together.

It’s a nearly four-hour drive from where I live to where Mike lived, just outside of Raleigh. I don’t remember a moment of that drive. I hadn’t seen him in several weeks and I was shocked to see how much weight he had lost and how close to death he looked.

This was really happening. My precious son was dying because no one had cared enough to help him before it was too late to save his life, because our system was — and is — so damn broken.

We spent a couple hours with him, his wife (they’d had to split up so he could get Medicaid and have any chance at all of surviving, but they never stopped loving each other) and his best friend, and then got a motel room.

I had wandered across the street to an electronics store because I couldn’t just sit in the room, and as I browsed, I saw a photo printer and thought to myself that Mike could help me set it up if I bought it.

Then I remembered that Mike would be gone soon, and I was overcome once again. I ran back to the motel room and fell apart again.

My phone rang a few minutes later and it was a colleague asking for numbers of people to call who could comment on the death of a homeless man named Tommy McMahan. I was the reporter covering social services issues, so I would have written Tommy’s obituary. I had the contacts for a story like this one.

Tommy had gone to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing, and it was frigid outside. They diagnosed him with pneumonia and discharged him with medication, but he begged not to be turned out into the sub-freezing night. So, someone called police so he could at least be in a warm jail cell.

That’s where he died in the early hours of the morning. Alone.

I knew my son would have people who loved him by his side when his time came. Tommy had died homeless and alone. It was unbearable to think about it.

This has stayed with me almost as vividly as the news that my son was dying. That we as a society can allow people to die from lack of access to even the most basic necessities is so deeply immoral that I have no words to express it. Even now, 13 years later, I cry over the loss of both of these precious human souls — and the hundreds of thousands — more accurately, millions, when you consider all the ways poverty causes premature deaths — of precious human souls who would follow because we love money more than life itself.

We still haven’t fixed any of this. And don’t tell me the Affordable Care Act fixed it. Insurance companies have subverted the law to their own advantage and more people were dying from lack of access to care before the pandemic hit than were dying in 2008 (45,000 a year then, 68,000 before the pandemic hit). The ACA helped some people. But the average deductible now — the amount people have to spend out-of-pocket before seeing any benefits — is more than $3,000 in a time when nearly half of Americans say they have to borrow money to pay a surprise bill of $400. The ACA did not fix this.

Every year on this day, I weep from the overwhelming grief of watching my son die from medical neglect, but also for Tommy, and for all the people who are still unhoused.

I fume as I see people praising someone for building coffin-sized boxes for fellow human beings to “live” in, but who then stand firmly against paying people a living wage in exchange for a week’s work. I live in a perpetual state of grief and outrage, and I can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t, too.

I think of today as Tommy McMahan Day, a day to remember this man I never met, but who touched my heart so deeply.

I continue the anti-poverty work in memory of my precious son and in memory of Tommy. May they, and the millions who have died prematurely from poverty in the 13 years since their hearts stopped, rest in peace.

Deliberate destruction leaves people with nothing

All that was left after NC Department of Transportation bulldozers cleared a community of homeless people’s belongings from an underpass in downtown Asheville.

A few days ago, during the coldest week of the winter so far, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, the NC Department of Transportation bulldozed the belongings of a community of unhoused people that had been set up under a highway overpass in downtown Asheville, NC. Some people had time to gather a few of their things, others did not.

I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel to be on the streets because our society chooses to not help people in crisis, instead calling them lazy and vilifying them. In comments on news sites about this, people are actually gleeful about fellow human beings being booted out of a place they found community and a tiny measure of safety.

Imagine having lost everything — your shelter, your car, your possessions — and now you’re living in a tent under an overpass, in sub-freezing temperatures. You go to get food or to a government office in search of help and when you come back, everything is gone. Your tent, your sleeping bag, any spare clothes, even the few small things that offered you a connection, however tenuous, to a happier time, all gone.

I wrote an angry letter to the Mayor and City Council members, asking how they could have allowed this to happen. Mayor Esther Manheimer replied with an “I’m sorry this happened,” and a denial that the city knew anything about this.

I had hoped for a little more outrage than that. The statement had no suggestions on how City Council plans to address the problem of increasing numbers of people in poverty.

The mayor can write all the public statements she wants, but until she starts offering — or even asking for — suggestions on how we move forward, there is no evidence of genuine concern on her part. There wasn’t even a promise to replace things that were lost in the city’s statement, although I’ve heard people can contact the city to report lost items. If I were one of those people whose few possessions were bulldozed, though, I likely wouldn’t trust the city to replace them.

Council member Kim Roney also replied to my email with a long list of questions and concerns she has sent to other council members and the DOT Commissioner. I found her reaction to be far more appropriate than the mayor’s. She was genuinely concerned about these fellow human beings.

I want to know why there’s nothing in place to ensure city officials know before any property is destroyed or people displaced within city limits. If such a policy exists and it failed, I want to know why and what’s being done to rectify it. I didn’t get an answer to that concern. We do know that the complaint came in through the Public Safety Department and was sent to the state DOT, and that city police were present when the destruction took place.

I want to know why the city, since it can’t accommodate as many people in shelters because of the COVID pandemic, doesn’t at least make sure people have a place to set up their tent community. As it is, it’s illegal to be homeless here. People can’t stay on public or private property without being harassed or arrested. It would be easy to designate a small piece of city property with trash pickup, portable toilets that are serviced daily, perhaps a water tank truck, some cooking stations and some electrical power that will allow people to plug in cell phones or small heaters. The city also could offer security training to some volunteers because the police should have no presence there.

Please understand that I don’t think a tent community is the answer. This is a tourist town and time and again, city officials have shown that tourism is more of a priority for them than poor people. In fact, the city is about to allow a continuation of the hotel boom, which will bring in more wealthy tourists that residents will serve for poverty wages and inhumane working conditions. Why don’t we require hotel developers to contribute to housing for poor people in a meaningful way? Why can’t they contribute to a fund to buy a couple of old hotels that then can be turned into safe and decent housing for people who have nothing? If you won’t invest in the community, you shouldn’t be allowed to build here.

People deserve the dignity of a place to call home. It’s a basic necessity, and we don’t even view it as a right in this society because we’re too afraid someone will get something they don’t “deserve,’ as though anyone on Earth deserves what happened to those fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters.

Other cities are finding ways to house people. Why won’t we?

I am a follower of the teachings of Christ. I am required to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner and welcome the stranger. But Christianity isn’t the only faith that demands love of each other from its followers. In fact, evert major religion demands the same thing, and even for people with no religious faith, moral standards demand this.

As I told the mayor, there may not be a Biblical Judgment Day, but there will be an election.

BeLoved Asheville is replacing the things people lost — tents, sleeping bags, warm clothes and more. If you can donate, please go to www.belovedasheville.org. We’re all doing our best to keep these people alive right now.

Accountability needs to come before unity

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about having to hide in a bathroom to escape terrorists who we calling for her to be killed on Jan. 6.

Reporting by the New York Times yesterday and AXIOS today makes it pretty clear that the former president was deeply involved in the conspiracy that led to the attempted violent coup of Jan. 6.

Investigations are starting to uncover involvement by Republican members of Congress, some of whom led reconnaissance tours the day before the attack, and some of whom tweeted the whereabouts of Democrats the terrorists were looking for during the attack.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chilling Instagram video describes what happened to her during those terrifying hours hunkered down in the bathroom of Rep. Katherine Porter, believing she was going to die at the hands of the terrorists she could hear calling for her.

“Where is she? Where is she?” she heard them ask from just a few feet away. She was wearing heels and Rep. Porter helped her find a pair of sneakers she could wear in case she had to run for her life.

At least two members of Congress have tested positive for COVID since the assault because Republicans refused to wear masks, and then a majority of Republicans in the House and a handful in the Senate voted to overturn a fair and legitimate election.

Someone needs to pay for these crimes before we can talk about holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.”

We have reached levels of stupidity and corruption I wouldn’t have thought possible before Election Day 2016, and I was aware it was going to be really bad.

But 2016 wasn’t when all this began. Evangelical “Christians” have been wanting to “take over” since I was a child growing up among them in the 1950s and ’60s. And their alliance with white supremacists and fascists proves their hypocritical belief that it’s OK to do anything — steal, lie, cheat, even kill — as long as it’s for Jesus.

They voted for Reagan because he was against abortion. It didn’t matter that he was incompetent, that he and his cronies would set us on a path that was pro-military, pro-police and pro-Wall Street, anti-labor, anti-LGBTQ, anti-woman, anti-health care and anti-environment.

They voted for Bush I because he kissed up to them.

They voted for Bush II because he was a “Christian,” and they supported his illegal kidnappings, imprisonments and torture, his illegal wars and corrupt cronies.

Then they voted for the least moral, least competent, pettiest, nastiest, most ignorant and unstable man ever to run for the office, and they supported an attempted coup to keep him in office after he was defeated at the polls..

Now they want “unity.”

Well, here’s what’s required for unity:

To start, convict this former president in the Senate and ban him from holding any federal office ever again.

Then file criminal charges against him and all his co-conspirators — and that includes every last person we can find who entered the Capitol illegally on Jan. 6.

I have been arrested twice in that building. Once was for disrupting the Senate by bringing in an unframed 5×7 photo of my late son to hold up when they began debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, as we chanted “Kill the bill!” I was convicted and did 48 hours of community service. The other time was when I tried to speak to leaders of the Senate about health care. I paid a $50 fine.

I didn’t break in. I actually went through security. I didn’t steal anything, break anything, cause any damage, smear my own excrement on the walls, threaten anyone, carry anything that could be construed as a weapon, mouth off to cops, threaten anyone, attack anyone — none of that. I chanted from the Senate Gallery and I prayed and sang in the Rotunda after being refused entry to the corridor that led to Mitch McConnell’s office, where I had hoped to deliver a letter.

I went there to try and save lives, not to take them. And I was arrested, tried and punished for trying to beg for people to have access to health care.

I broke the law by refusing to leave the Rotunda, and by chanting from the Senate Gallery. I was arrested and punished. I never complained about being arrested. I knew it was likely when I went in there, and I never, not even for a moment, considered violence.

I want to see justice dished out to everyone involved in this mess before I cozy up to anyone who supported this creature, and I refuse to cozy up to (or work with) anyone who still supports him and his lies.

Donald Trump is a common criminal. A thug. He belongs in prison for the rest of his life, as do his children, his advisors, his lieutenants and members of Congress who helped to plan or incite the insurrection.

When I see that, we can talk about unity.

Accountability first, then unity.

No justice, no peace.

It’s a trap

All of a sudden, I’m seeing a ton of ads for stock trading on my Facebook feed. And as soon as I hide one, another pops up.

I’m looking at these in the light of the Robinhood/Game Stop fiasco this past week. This was a scheme by rich people called shorting, where they manipulate the stock of a company (in this case, retailer Game Stop) they’re betting is about to fail. Last week, middle-income people who saw this happening, went to the online trading company, Robinhood, and bought so much of the stock as a group that the price rose precipitously. The Robinhood traders made millions selling this stock back to the wealthy traders. The rich people lost a ton of money, so trading was stopped to protect the wealthy.

So now, we’re seeing ads for “discounted” stocks all over because rich people are going to prey on the hopes of people who can’t afford to gamble with these schemes.

Headlines are promising unimaginable wealth from new tech stocks, or 50 percent off trading fees for hidden gems in the market. I have hidden the ads of one company (Motley Fool) three times in an hour.

Meanwhile, most of us are drowning in debt, from student loans at 12 percent interest, four of five credit cards, all maxed out at 29 percent interest, and now we have payday loan apps on smart phones.

I get emails from Experian every day — every damn day — telling me I can have this credit card or that one to “rebuild” my credit rating.

I cut up all my credit cards two years ago after struggling for years to get them paid off. One of the most popular ways to get people to keep their debt is to offer another card at lower interest rates, say, 12 percent, for the first year. They’ll transfer your balance.

Except they won’t.

They’ll leave $1,000 or so on the original card, so now you have another payment to make, and in times like these, the minimum payment is all people can afford to make. And, since you now have a credit card that isn’t maxed out, when the car breaks down, you put the $1,500 bill on the now-almost-cleared card, at — you guessed it — 26 percent interest.

I struggled with this for years before I finally figured out I’d already paid more than double what I had borrowed. I cut up all the cards and signed on with a debt-reduction service. Instead of struggling to pay nearly $1,000 in credit card bills each month, I pay about one-third of that. The downside is that I have a crappy credit rating. I mean, really crappy.

That means I have to pay a higher interest rate if I borrow money. But with $600 a month freed up, I can pay cash for what I need. I don’t need credit for everyday expenses anymore. The debt-reduction service is negotiating settlements with all four credit card companies, and I’m able to save a little money for when I have a big expense.

For the first year, these credit card companies filled my inbox with threats of court action, but the service I contracted with told me not to even acknowledge those threats, and after a year, they stopped.

Wall Street and Big Credit don’t want you to know these things, and I think the rich are rather amused at our efforts to catch up and live debt-free.

They punish us with a bad credit rating if we don’t play their game, and your credit rating is everything. It’s even used to determine whether a company will hire you, whether you can rent an apartment and have a roof over your head.

If you can get an apartment by paying three months’ rent up front, you’ll also have to pay a hefty deposit — perhaps the equivalent of three months’ service — for utilities.

If you can get a loan, it will be much more expensive because you’re going to pay a much, much higher interest rate.

These are the ways our current system extracts the last drop of blood from the poor. It’s how they drive middle class families into poverty, where they, too can be exploited.

Historically, it reminds me of the way my grandparents had to live in company housing and buy from the company store as employees of textile mills in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You never had quite enough to cover everything, so you just went deeper and deeper into debt, so the company pretty much owned you.

Today, it’s not the company, but the banks who own us. They control the narrative because they control the money.

We the People are not being represented in Congress anymore, they are. That’s why minimum wage hasn’t budged in more than a decade, even though the cost of living is three times what minimum wage is now. That’s why interest rates that once were illegal are now considered low. It’s why car title companies and payday lenders are thriving.

We’re not supposed to be able to dig out.

We’re entering serfdom from the first time we borrow money, and now credit card apps are available for children to teach them how to “manage debt,” so we’re not even able to reach adulthood anymore before being ensnared.

And nearly half of us are voting for people who stand against helping any of us dig out.

I can’t say what the solution might be except to push the new Democratic majority to change some laws:

  • Raise the minimum wage to $15 immediately and plan increases over the next five years to get it to where it would be had it kept up with inflation, and then tie it to inflation.
  • Re-establish usury laws to keep interest rates in check. Put caps on what banks can charge for various loans. Close payday lenders.
  • Establish a massive public works program to shore up our crumbling infrastructure and electrical grid.
  • Break up the banks and tech monopolies.
  • Provide real, ongoing relief to people whose jobs went away because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, forgive their rent and pay the landlord. Pay their utilities and make sure unemployment compensation pays for the bills they still have. Make sure they have health insurance (this is especially urgent in the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid).
  • Treat us like human beings. All of us.

When will someone stop him?

His affiliation with convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein didn’t stop him.

For three and a half years, we have watched as the creature currently squatting in the White House has dismantled norm after norm after norm.

He has surrounded himself with sycophants, and disposed of all whose loyalty rested first with the nation and its people. He has fired people who won’t stoop to his cruel ways.

It isn’t just him, of course. He has allies and co-conspirators, all of whom have dispensed with societal and governmental norms in a naked power grab.

The Republicans in the Senate have been happy to follow him down the path to fascism, filling seat after seat with incompetent judges loyal only to the fascists on the right — hundreds of them, thanks to Mitch McConnell and his minions.

The object, of course, has been to take over the judiciary so they could own all three branches of government.

We got back the House of Representatives, but it means little when the Senate is pandering to the most unstable, the most purposely cruel person ever to inhabit the Oval Office.

And now we have a deadly pandemic raging out of control. Those of us who take it seriously haven’t seen our families in four months, and God only knows how much longer it will be.

And because of the inaction from Washington, we are trapped here. Our passports are useless because no other country will have us. Mexico is finally grateful for the wall. Canada has closed its border. The European Union has told us to keep out.

Meanwhile, 140,000 Americans are dead and no one knows how long it might be before we can get a handle on it because nobody will do anything about him. The House impeached him and the Senate shrugged it off. He blatantly cashes in on his office and reaps profit from his position, in defiance of the law, and still nothing happens.

When he said he could shoot someone and get away with it, he was right.

Each revelation of his misdeeds starts with, “Maybe now somebody will do something,” but nothing happens.

Now his niece, clinical psychologist Mary L. Trump, has written a book about how he came to be who he is, and it reveals even more horrendous information. It sold nearly a million copies on its first day out.

I remember him as a real estate magnate in New York. I remember hearing about how he made sure his late brother’s children were disinherited after his father’s death — including a very sick baby named William, whose health insurance was cut off.

I remember the Central Park Five and how he has yet to apologize for calling for the death penalty for these five — who, by the way, were innocent of the attack on a woman who was jogging in the park.

Last night, everyone was focusing on how, during an interview with Rachel Maddow, Mary said that, of course, she had heard him use the N-word and utter anti-Semitic slurs.

We have 140,000 Americans dead from a lethal pandemic that is raging out of control as he tries to think about how he can make money off it, and the numbers are still rising, and people are screaming that he used the N-word.

Yes, he’s a racist. And people of color are dying in greater numbers because of his racism. People of color are still dying at the hands of police.

And now, it will be poor children — disproportionately children of color — and their teachers who will die has he tries to send them back to school so he and his minions can pretend things are back to normal in time for the election.

And still, no one with the ability to do something to remove him from power will act.

What will it take? We know 140,000 dead won’t do the trick. Will it take a million dead? Two million? Will it take the utter destruction of the economy? The crumbling of supply lines? Will we have to sink to civil war like Syria and Yemen?

When will somebody do something about him?

Wear your damn mask!

Wear a mask when you go out. Wash it when you get home.

I unfriended a couple of people on Facebook this morning because of their insistence that masks cause brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Each one had posted You Tube videos from crackpots claiming masks are a dangerous conspiracy because they’ll cause us all to become stupid from oxygen deprivation.

So, here’s a little test you can try at home if you have a pulse oximeter: Test your pulse-ox level, then put on a mask for 15 minutes or so. Now test again. What? You got the same result? Wow!

Of course, science deniers won’t own a pulse oximeter because they won’t acknowledge it’s a good idea to have one to test for diminished lung capacity from COVID-19, something that happens before serious lung damage occurs. This is a common complication, but if caught early, the chances of successful treatment are better. But these people don’t “believe” in COVID-19 as a threat because their science-denying leader told them it’s a hoax.

Doctors and other medical personnel have worn masks for long periods of time for years and years. My stepsister is a radiology tech who wears them all day, every day. She has never suffered from oxygen deprivation. Nor have any of my medical professional friends.

Wearing a mask can be difficult, especially for anyone who has PTSD. I had to suppress the urge to panic every time I put one on before this pandemic. So, I made a mask out of two layers of quilting fabric (the best fabric to use, by the way, because it’s tightly woven and light) and put it on for a couple minutes. The next day, I put it on for a minute more, and the same for the day after that. Within a week, I was able to put it on and keep it on for as long as I needed to.

Wearing a mask is not just for you. It protects others from your germs as well as protecting you from theirs.

Yes, the virus is smaller than the weave of the fabric, but it’s carried in droplets that are’t that small and the mask stops them. It is not 100 percent effective, but it is much, much more effective than wearing nothing.

While some quack on You Tube may tell you people are dropping dead from the tyranny of having to wear a mask, scientists are saying it’s a good practice, even if it’s not 100 percent effective.

I say if I have a 70 percent chance of catching COVID-19 when I encounter someone who’s carrying it and a mask lowers my chances to 10 percent, I’m going to go with whatever gives me that advantage. And what gives me that advantage is a mask.

If you’re going out, wear a mask. You don’t have to wear it while you’re alone in the car, but when you’re out and about, put it on. It show’s you’re both intelligent and considerate.

When you get home, wash the mask in hot, soapy water and dry it in the sun of you can.

And please know that if you tag me in one of these posts or post it to my timeline, I will unfriend you. If you do it again, you will be blocked. I’ve had my fill of ignorance.

To love each other, we must seek justice for everyone

Demonstrators in Minneapolis demand justice after the murder of George Floyd by four police officers who ignored his pleas for almost nine minutes.

I’ve seen a meme on Facebook this morning, posted by several friends, calling on us to love one another.

But as sweet as it seems, it just calls on us to agree to disagree, and that will never contribute a thing to the justice oppressed people are seeking.

“We’re one race—the human race. You want to support President Trump? You do you. It’s your choice. You want to support Biden? Fine… also your choice! You want to believe in God? Okay, believe in God. You want to believe in magical creatures that fly around & sprinkle fairy dust to make life better? Awesome… you do you.

“BUT stop thrusting your beliefs on others & not being able to deal with the fact that they don’t have the same exact mind-set as you. Having our own minds is what makes us all individual and beautiful.”

I have a problem with this — a big problem.

The entire thing (it has several more paragraphs) seems sweet, but it isn’t. It offers a pass to racists and bigots.

“Just do you …” means I’m not going to challenge your beliefs that people of color are stupid or lazy, that poor people don’t deserve more than slave wages or that they don’t need a decent place to live or healthy food and clean water, that immigrants belong in cages because they came here seeking safety and perhaps a better life for their children — the same thing every one of our ancestors came here seeking.

“Just do you …” means I’m OK with your bullying demonstrators and legislators by carrying a military-grade assault weapon around and demanding we reopen the economy in the midst of a deadly pandemic because you want a haircut.

“Just be you …” means you’re OK with cops killing unarmed black people and then looking to justify it by saying, “he had pot in his system,” or “he was arrested for breaking and entering six years ago …” None of these things is a capital crime, and everyone deserves a trial, not summary judgment and execution.

“Just be you …” means you’re OK with the 1 percent grabbing all the stimulus money and leaving small-business owners desperate enough to feel they have to open up or starve.

“Just be you …” means you’re privileged enough not to be experiencing these horrors.

We need to be talking about inequality.

We need to talk about how we love and support people who are forced to work low-wage jobs or starve in the middle of a pandemic.

We need to talk about those who are fine with children, stolen from their parents and held in filthy cages, are being lost in the system or dying from preventable causes.

We need to talk about the number of unarmed people of color shot and killed by cops, who then face few, if any, consequences.

We need to talk about people who are marching for their very lives are being doused with chemical weapons (tear gas is a chemical weapon that’s banned in war by multi-national treaties) and shot with rubber bullets.

We need to talk about poisoned water in Flint and other cities.

Yes, the meme is sweet and feel-good, and it’s privileged.

Those of us who have enough food and water, who can feel safe walking or jogging pretty much anywhere, can feel this way and feel good about calling to love everyone.

But to love everyone, we have to advocate for those who aren’t privileged. I don’t feel like pointing that out is “thrusting an opinion” on anyone. People are dying because of inequality. Love can only solve these problems if we who have privilege act to secure what we have for those who are oppressed.

My faith calls me to do that. What about yours?

Dear white people: Please listen to people of color

George Foster is just the latest in a very, very, very long line of people of color lynched by cops or former cops. As angry as I am about all this, I must listen to people who are directly impacted by racism before I start designing and demanding a solution. I can be an ally, but I can’t take the lead.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

Three more in a long, long, long list of casualties of systemic racism.

Today, I’ve seen a lot of white people lamenting that we need to do something about this, but then disagreeing with things people of color had to say.

This is not how we fight racism, white people. We are the problem here if we don’t listen to what people of color are saying.

An African-American friend posted that she won’t get in line to vote for Biden. She listed her reasons, and while I may not see things exactly as she did, I also never have experienced racism.

I’ve experienced sexism and misogyny, and I know how furious I get when a man tells me it’s not so bad. I can’t imagine telling someone who fears for her life every day that she can’t fight racism in the way she wants (short of violence).

Someone used the analogy of giving a demanding kid candy, even when you know he won’t do what he promised he’d do to earn it.

Neither party has been willing to stand up to racism the way it needs to be done. We need to see cops who shoot unarmed people convicted of murder and sent to prison.

The woman in Central Park who called police screaming because a black man wanted her to leash her dog was completely unaware of — and uncaring about — the likelihood that this man could be murdered because of her actions.

Can you just see the courtroom scene as the audio of the 911 call is played?

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, can’t you hear the utter fear in her voice?”

And the knights in blue armor rushing to defend this poor white delicate flower come off as heroes.

In Charlotte, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he feared for his life because he smelled pot — and the officer got away with murder.

In Cleveland, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child playing with a toy gun was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he thought it was a real gun. The child’s family got as $6 million settlement, but the officer walked free.

I’ve lost a son to injustice, although not like this, not so sudden and utterly shocking, and I can tell you, $6 million wouldn’t make it better.

So what do we, as white allies, as anti-racists, do?

Well, first we listen.

This is not within our realm of expertise.

We do not live in fear of being murdered by cops (or ex-cops) who detest our very existence.

Second, we listen some more.

We do this because trauma is best addressed by allowing people to speak about it.

Then, we ask what we can do to stand with and fight with oppressed people.

Finally, we do what we’re told we’re needed to do (short of violence).

Here are a few things I’ve learned we can do:

Speak out when you see racism and call it what it is.

Don’t call the police when you see a person of color in your way. In fact, unless it’s a matter of life and death, don’t call the police at all.

Be public about being anti-racist. Show up at demonstrations because the racism in our justice system will rear its head and hurt demonstrators more quickly if no white people are there.

Join and donate to organizations that fight racism. A year’s membership in the NAACP ( https://www.naacp.org/ ) is just $30. Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ, at https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/ ) is actively fighting injustice in cities across the country. The Poor People’s Campaign (http://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org) works on issues of social justice on a state and national level.

Donate to funds that raise bail money for poor people who are awaiting trial in jail because they can’t come up with $500 bond for a nonviolent crime. These people, too many of whom are innocent of any crime, and none of whom have been convicted of anything, lose their jobs, their homes and their children.

Finally, if you are white, understand your privilege. What that means is that even if you’re dirt poor, you still have more power than a person of color in your same situation.

It means that if your ancestors were in this country before or during slavery, they benefited from the economic conditions created by enslaving human beings of color — whether or not they enslaved anyone — and all of us here now benefit.

It really means you have to check that privilege before you open your mouth to criticize how a person of color reacts to racism and oppression.

If we want to end racism, we must confess that we live in a racist society, that racism is pervasive, and that when someone of color tells us something is racist, they probably know more about it than we do, so stop defending it.

They’re spreading terror and getting away with it

These armed white men acted like terrorists, bringing their guns into the Michigan State Capitol and harassing police. They should have been charged with a half dozen different crimes, but they weren’t. It seems right-wing nuts can get away with any terrible behavior they care to exhibit.

I have been arrested and hauled off in zip-ties five times in my life, all of them for trying to talk to legislators in Raleigh and Washington about the need for access to health care for every human being.

If you know me, you know why I have entered the NC General Assembly Building and the US Capitol to speak about health care. My son died on April 1, 2008, because he was denied the care he needed because he didn’t have insurance. And he couldn’t get insurance because his birth defect was a pre-existing condition. And doctors were able to deny him the care he needed to survive and not face any penalty for his death.

Legislators refused to speak to me, and I refused to leave until I had spoken to my representative/senator or a legislative leader. I was never threatening. I was not armed. I didn’t cuss at anyone. I never raised my voice until the door was closed in my face, and then I raised my voice to be heard through the door. I sang “Hold On Just a Little While Longer” as they hauled me away.

I was arrested three times in Raleigh for trespass in a public building, while it was open to the public. I was convicted once and had the conviction thrown out because you can’t actually be trespassing in a public building while it’s open to the public. You can be disturbing the peace, but not trespassing. The rules of the General Assembly Building were found to be unconstitutional.

I have been arrested twice in the US Capitol for wanting to speak to representatives and senators about people dying from lack of access to health care. Again, I never threatened anyone. I was armed only with a 5″x 7″ photo of my son — unframed because I didn’t want to appear threatening in any way. The photo fit nicely inside the brochure I was given to take into the Senate chamber with me. The officer called it a poster and claimed posters aren’t allowed in the Senate gallery.

Fast forward to yesterday, when a group of armed men entered the State Capitol in Michigan and were scary enough to drive several legislators to don bullet-proof vests. They screamed at police who were there to keep the peace and wandered around threateningly with semi-automatic weapons because they want their “personal freedoms” back. They want to be able to spread COVID-19. It’s their risk to take, they say, and they don’t care about anyone else’s freedom to survive this pandemic, and their lack of concern for anyone else was made evident in their failure to wear masks or social distance.

And they weren’t arrested.

They weren’t forced to leave.

Their weapons weren’t confiscated the way my son’s photo was.

They were allowed to act like terrorists and get away with it.

Imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t been white men.

Hell, unarmed black men can’t even jog through a white neighborhood unarmed without getting slaughtered, let alone enter a government building with a gun.

I can’t even enter a government building with my knitting and thread snippers.

But these fascist white men can roam around a state capitol armed to the teeth and get away with it, all because they don;t want to act like responsible adults in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

If you ever doubted we live in a racist, fascist state, you can stop doubting now.

We can be scared and still be kind to each other

Testing on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt showed high counts of people with the virus but with no symptoms. We don;t know why, but we do know it’s dangerous to re-open everything in light of this.

I’m having an increasingly hard time being on social media these days, what with people screeching to reopen the state and country in the midst of a pandemic that hasn’t peaked yet, people spreading the lies and half-truths of the current occupant of the Oval Office, the shrill demands that we all vote the way YOU want …

I know we’re all stressed right now, and for damn good reasons. But we can be stressed AND kind to one another.

If you don’t want to vote for Joe Biden, I get that and I will not scream at you because I, too, suffer from the loss of hope that we can fix the political mess and help 141 million poor people climb out of poverty with a living wage, safe and affordable housing, health care, safe food, a sensible plan to address climate disaster …

However, if you come onto my timeline with excuses about why we need to open everything up and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, you will find yourself with no access to my timeline, because you will be unfriended and ultimately blocked.

If you come onto my posts and act like a jerk, you will be unfriended and possibly blocked.

If you have information about Covid-19, please provide a credible source for that information. And the White House is not a credible source.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about this virus, including why some people test positive and show no symptoms. News reports today have stories about testing at a homeless shelter in Boston where 146 out of almost 400 people tested positive and not one showed symptoms (https://www.boston25news.com/news/cdc-reviewing-stunning-universal-testing-results-boston-homeless-shelter/Z253TFBO6RG4HCUAARBO4YWO64/), and testing on the aircraft carrier Roosevelt showed a large number of people testing positive with no symptoms (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-military-sympt/coronavirus-clue-most-cases-aboard-us-aircraft-carrier-are-symptom-free-idUSKCN21Y2GB). If we have so many people spreading the virus while showing no symptoms themselves, think about how bad things could get if we re-open everything and expose vulnerable people.

Yet beaches in Florida are re-opening. Churches in Texas never closed. People are demonstrating in Raleigh, NC, and Lansing, Mich., to have businesses re-open, and these people are violating social distancing rules, spreading the virus.

The thing is, we don’t know all that much about the virus and its spread, and we can’t know more unless we do widespread testing, which those who want to end social isolation insist we don’t need.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people judging the actions of others whom they know nothing about.

If we see someone taking a child into a grocery store, we probably think that parent is pretty terrible, but it might be somebody on the way home from the doctor who needs to pick medication for that child’s ear infection. It might be someone who has nobody to care for that child and who’s afraid to leave the child at home alone for a half hour. And if that parent does leave a child at home while he or she runs to the store and something happens, will you be one of those screaming for “consequences”?

Not everyone has your level of privilege. You might want to remind yourself of that.

A lot of poor people are being forced to work so you can have what you need, and they’re not getting protective equipment or hazardous-duty pay. In fact, they’re still working low-wage, part-time jobs with no benefits AND they’re having to take verbal abuse from customers angry at the lack of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and whatnot.

Meanwhile, those of us who have the luxury of isolating call them heroes and pat ourselves on the back for being so thoughtful.

You know what would be kinder? Paying a living wage and benefits to grocery store workers, restaurant workers and others who have to be at work in the midst of a pandemic.

The news is scary. We don’t have to make it worse by spreading disinformation. We don’t have to make it worse by being unkind to one another. We don’t have to make it worse by screaming at each other for decisions no one wants to have to make.

A month into isolation …

For the first time in many years, the Himalayan range is visible from India, as the shutdowns caused by quarantine clear pollution worldwide.

Isolation, Day 29: It’s hard to believe I’ve been home for four weeks.

I still have plenty to do every day, thanks to the water disaster in my garage, the fact that the big mower is broken and won’t be fixed for another two weeks (we’re using the reel mower, which is great exercise) and the beginning of gardening season. Plus, I still have about a quarter of my granddaughter’s wedding quilt to finish, if the cats will let me work on it.

Around the world, there are reports of pollution being reduced, the air and water clearing, because we’re not out driving, rushing around to buy more stuff, much of it utterly useless. I have hope that we’ll realize there are more important things in life than consuming just to consume.

I’m doing OK except for the moments of utter panic, when I realize how serious this is and how unprepared we are to face it.

Republican friends all think I’m just blaming the current occupant of the Oval Office, but it started way before he ever schlumped into office. We as a society believed we were so smart and knew so much science that a pandemic like the 1918-19 flu couldn’t happen again, even though scientists warned us it was not just likely, but absolutely certain to happen again

But our policymakers knew more than the scientists and, starting with Reagan, we cut funding to public health and the CDC. We denied millions access to care in the name of profit, and allowed tens of thousands of people to die unnecessarily. We cut spending on public health so rich people could get more tax breaks and amass more and more and more money.

Both Republicans and Democrats did it, and now we have a presumptive presidential nominee in the Democratic Party who vows he will not allow Medicare for all to happen, even while 70 percent of Americans want it, and we’re being told that if we don’t vote for this deeply flawed old white man — a man who refuses to apologize for the way he treated Anita Hill or his support of welfare reform and other policies that have proven destructive — that WE’RE the problem.

Since 1980, even the Democratic Party leadership hasn’t believed in Democratic Party ideals of strengthening labor, building up public infrastructure, of government funding of scientific research, of doing things for the common good instead of just for profit. Even the Democratic administrations attacked workers’ rights, refused to take profit out of essential services like health care and education — in fact, they helped the process of de-funding essential services, slashing the social safety net and cutting taxes on the rich.

And now you want to criticize me for saying this nominee is so deeply flawed it may be impossible for him to defeat the most corrupt, the most ignorant, the most despicable man ever to set foot in Washington.

You say I have to get in line to vote for someone who won’t even begin to work on climate catastrophe, which is unfolding before us in the form of global climate change and the unleashing of pathogens like the novel coronavirus because of the way we have encroached upon the habitats of animals we once rarely encountered but now eat.

This candidate is a man who went silent at the beginning of the pandemic, while Bernie Sanders had encouraging words for us and pushed for policies that would help more of us survive.

I’m not saying I won’t vote for him. I waver between saying, OK, I’ll hold my nose and do it, and saying I’m only going to vote down-ticket — although I’m not happy with many of my choices there, either.

I’m seeing people attack me because I think Biden won’t be able to win in November, and I do think he will lose, even if I do cast my vote for him.

The moment Sanders suspended his campaign, I started seeing threatening messages from moderates, demanding we all get in line and not complain about our only choice being this 1960s-era Republican.

I was a Democrat in the 1960s, when the party platform called for universal health care, before Reagan came alone and made “liberal” a dirty word and raised greed to the level of a religion.

I left the party several years ago, when my resolution to include an immediate wage hike to $15 so those making minimum wage could survive on a full-time job, was changed to a raise to $10 an hour over five years. I walked out and never looked back.

This month at home has given me a lot of time to think about where we need to go as a nation, and it isn’t in the direction of do-nothing moderation.

We need to be bold. We need to take the reins away from the fascists and moderates and build a society where everyone can thrive. I will support nothing less, and neither should you.

If we can move Biden to support Medicare for all, a living wage and free tuition for community college, I will be happy to vote for him. Otherwise, I will make no promises, even though I’m likely to be frightened enough by the prospect of President for Life Trump to cast my vote for the slightly-less-bad alternative.

Thing is, I’m not the problem here. The Democratic Party, the Republican Party and all their ultra-wealthy controllers are. Our corporate overlords have stacked the cards against us again.

Grieving one son and worried about the other

This is what I’d like my back yard to look like in a couple months. It’s one of the ways I find peace in the spring and summer since my son died 12 years ago.

Isolation, Day 6: Is everyone still wearing pants?

It feels very strange to be home and know I’m going to be here for awhile. It’s another example of what my grandmother used to tell me: “Be careful what you wish for.”

How many times did I sigh and wish I could just stay home and chill for a few days? It’s beginning to look like it could be a few months. My husband and I decided we probably could enjoy a beer with friends online via Skype or Zoom, so we’re looking into that today.

Meanwhile, I’m going to order some seeds and plants online for the garden. I have lots of work I could do out there, and if I get that all taken care of, I could order some stuff from Home Depot, get onto YouTube and learn how to do some home repair and remodeling.

What makes this hard is that I have little to distract me from this time of year, of reliving the death of one son and fearing the death of my only surviving son.

What makes this hard is that I have worked for a dozen years to try and convince legislators and policymakers how important it is to get access to health care for everyone, only to be called a commie, a radical and countless other names. I tried to speak to them, only to be arrested time and again rather than have anyone hear me.

And here we are, facing a genuine health care crisis with one of the most broken systems on the planet. We could lose 2.2 million Americans — twice as many as would die if we had done the right thing and fixed this.

Twelve years ago today, all hope of any serious time with my son was dashed, as we learned the chemo wasn’t working and there were no more options.

Mike had his third chemo appointment this morning. His doctor had told him at the previous appointment that he needed to gain two pounds before today. I had gone into the Duke Chapel to find a quiet corner and pray for those two pounds. It seemed like so little to ask. Two pounds. Two fucking pounds.

I slept on the couch at his apartment the night before so we could get an early start, and when we settled in with a cup of coffee, he sat in the easy chair across the room and sighed.

“I’m ready for this to be over,” he said.

Maybe he was, but I wasn’t. I would never be ready to lose him.

We went to Duke and he stepped on the scale.

He had lost a pound. I still remember the look on his face as he turned to me and said, “I tried. I really tried!”

This was it.

His doctor’s eyes began to tear up.

“I want you to know you’re a good person and you don’t deserve what’s happening to you,” he said. I wished his original doctor in Savannah had felt that way — it would have saved his life.

There would be no more chemo. There would be nothing but Hospice.

The physician assistant advised him to come home with me.

“Go today,” she said. “Let people take care of you now.”

As we headed back to the car, me pushing Mike in a wheelchair because he was too weak to walk, he turned to me and asked, “So, how much time do you think I have left, two weeks, maybe?”

“Oh, I hope we have more than that,” I said.

We did not.

His heart would stop, and mine would break, two weeks later, almost to the moment.

Self-isolation, Day 5

The perfect fit for a day of self-isolation. The only problem? No pockets.

Two words: Yoga pants. I’m surprised it took me five days to see this. I don’t have to wear uncomfortable clothes, although I’m not so far gone I won’t put on a bra.

I’ve been saying for months I need a week with no obligations. So far, I can’t complain. If I’m here for a month, I might actually get the inspiration to clean out the closets and the garage.

I always thought I was an extrovert, but I think I have become more of an introvert. I’m sitting here in my office, by myself, sipping coffee and thinking about what I’m going to need for the garden this year. Compost for sure. I need to order a load.

Trying not to think about what’s left of our life savings and how we’ll cope if the stock market doesn’t come back. The garden is part of that plan.

And of course, my mind goes back 12 years, to a day when I still had hope my son would be with me a little while longer.

On this day, I was driving to Cary, a four-hour trip, so I could take Mike to his third chemo infusion the next day. I had arranged for an interview in Raleigh for a story on the mental health system. I didn’t dare take a day off because my boss was charging me with vacation days, and I only had a few left. I couldn’t afford unpaid leave, so I was scheduling interviews at state agencies when I was in Raleigh and writing stories in the evening. I didn’t have the luxury of just concentrating on caring for my son.

I think about this now as many friends face weeks or months without a paycheck as they try to avoid getting sick without access to health care.

Norway has asked its college students to come home from the US because of our Medieval health care system.

Until now, the death rate from lack of access to health care has been one American every 8 minutes. It was one every 12 minutes when my son died, but a new Yale University found it to be higher now, and it’s about to really spike as we turn people away from hospitals that are unprepared for the influx of desperately ill people.

For the last 12 years I have worked relentlessly for a system that benefits people over profits, and I have been called communist or just plain crazy for suggesting that even unemployed people deserve health care. I have been driven from a job I loved by right-wing Tea Party fools, and arrested for trying to speak to fascist lawmakers who don’t care that people without access to care are dying.

We’ve made progress in public opinion over these last dozen years, but not in action. The Affordable Care Act left the system in the hands of the profit-mongers, who subverted it to meet their own needs. Nearly three-quarters of employer-sponsored plans are high-deductible ($1,500 or more) at a time when 40 percent of Americans say they can’t afford a surprise bill of $400.

Do you have any idea how much worse this pandemic will be here than it has to? Do you think about how many people will die who should have survived?

It’s about to get real, folks, partly because our public health systems are so broken after decades of pillaging by Republicans and the refusal of Democratic neo-liberals to reassemble it when they had the chance.

A lot of people are going to lose loved ones in this pandemic, and a lot of them will be people who would have been able to survive if we’d only had the leadership we needed to get our health care systems in order. This virus will not spare the wealthy, although they can afford to stay out of work a lot longer than poor folks. Still, they seem to be the ones least willing to isolate.

I’m not talking about people who were on vacation or visiting family when this started to get real — I’m talking about people like the owners of the Biltmore Estate who want to squeeze every dime they can before they’re forced to close (yes, the tourist attraction is partially open still), hoping to attract tourists when they should be closing down entirely. I’m talking about restaurants advertising how clean they are to try and attract diners.

People are not concerned enough, and plenty of people will die who shouldn’t because there is no leadership coming from the White House. Again, our government is falling down on the job and the upshot will be tragic.

I know how this kind of tragedy feels because on this day in 2008, I had just 15 days left with my precious son.

Yes, this is real, and yes, it’s political

The novel coronavirus is a threat. It is real. It is not being exaggerated to harm the current administration.

The novel coronavirus is a real thing.

COVID-19 can kill you and it’s likely to kill a million or more people in the United States.

These are facts, not some made-up fantasy to defeat the current occupant of the Oval Office.

It is not safe to gather in groups or to travel. If you’re in a high risk group, you need to be at home. If you’re not at home, you need to wash your hands with soap and hot water often and avoid touching your face. Hand sanitizer does not work as well as washing with soap and hot water, so quit hoarding it.

It didn’t have to be this serious here, but the current administration took no steps early on to mitigate the spread. The current administration, in fact, denied the seriousness of this pandemic and turned down testing kits that could have tracked the pandemic’s path and slowed the progress of the virus.

But, no. Instead, the current occupant of the Oval Office pretended nothing was wrong and kept claiming that everything was OK, assuming his followers would believe him.

I have seen denials of the seriousness of this as recently as yesterday, and I have answered each claim that it’s no worse than the flu with the fact that it is 10 to 20 times more lethal.

These claims are often followed by appeals to not make this political.

Well, here’s the thing: when politicians cut funding for public health for 40 years, shit happens.

Funding for public health (national, state and local health departments, research efforts and response personnel) has been cut by every Republican administration — especially this one — since Ronald Reagan because for some reason the science deniers tend to affiliate with the Republican party, and Democrats have lacked the spine to stand up and fight.

Politics could have prevented this, but Americans wanted to believe Reagan’s attacks on government. Remember when he said the most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”? I remember it clearly.

Government — politics — is there to mitigate disasters like this on behalf of the people it serves. Except Republicans have perpetuated the lie that government is bad in every instance. So, our infrastructure crumbled, and public health was part of that infrastructure.

Now we have a government that lies every day about what’s happening, and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who shouldn’t die, will.

If testing had begun in earnest two weeks or a month ago, we would know where we stand. But people who are showing up in the emergency room with symptoms of COVID-19 are being sent back home with no test, unless they have traveled to China.

If you think the virus isn’t in your community because there have been no confirmed cases, that’s because there are no test kits, so it’s not possible to confirm cases. That’s one way to make the total look lower than it actually is, which makes it easier for this administration to lie about the spread of the illness.

The illness is in your community. People are carrying the illness into public places and it’s spreading like wildfire because we insist on listening to the most dishonest administration ever to exist in Washington.

Let me repeat: The illness is in your community already.

If you’re going out into public places because you don’t think you’re at high risk, you’re risking infecting people who are at risk.

When you go into a restaurant, you’re asking wait staff that likely have no real access to health care and no paid sick time to take the risk that you’re not carrying the virus.

The reason that waiter has no access to care, no paid sick leave and a $2.35-an-hour wage is all about politics as well. Again and again, Republicans have refused to pass legislation that would fix any of this, and Democrats have yet to get enough spine to stand up and rebel against it.

This disaster could have been mitigated much more effectively than it has. Look at how South Korea has dealt with this. Testing is available everywhere and people are staying out of public places. In the end, their mortality rate will be a lot lower than ours. We’re going to look more like Italy, or even Iran, where the mass graves can be seen from space.

All of this is happening at a time in my city is struggling with its hospital having been taken over by a for-profit corporation. HCA has laid off large numbers of CNAs and other support staff — especially housekeeping, which is the department that cleans your room — and cut back on nursing staff as well. Nurse-to-patient ratios are dangerously high and getting worse as nurses quit in disgust. The nurses who remain are fighting to establish a union so they can demand improvements in patient safety.

And, yes, this is political, too. We have no laws mandating safe nurse-to-patient ratios. We have no regulations regarding how many cleaning supplies must be on hand to guarantee patient safety. There is no law mandating that patient safety has to come before profits because Richard Nixon signed that away in 1973.

We are in this mess because of the dishonesty and utter lack of leadership of the current administration, and because of decades of politically motivated cuts to public health to funnel ever more money into the pockets of the wealthiest and the military.

So, let’s be clear about this. We have to make changes — serious changes — to our system. We need to send the current crop of do-nothings home in November — well, those of us who survive that long, anyway — and elect people who will start to rebuild our public health systems.

The truth is that each one of us stands a small chance of dying from this, but we likely all know people who will die. The death rate is about 3.4 percent, but the infection rate could be as high as 70 percent. These are the real numbers.

So, yes, this is a real danger and yes, politics could have made it better. Instead, politics has made it far, far worse than it needed to be.

Stop pressuring people to vote your way. Your privilege is showing.

He makes a lot of us uncomfortable and you don’t have a right to demand we vote for him.

I have something important to say, and I need to be heard.

I don’t agree that Biden is the answer to any of our problems and I don’t want to be forced to vote for him.

I also don’t want to have you calling me names and telling me to fuck off because I don’t agree with you.

First of all, he is not yet the nominee, so trying to force me to pledge fealty to the failing candidate of a party that is fast becoming irrelevant before he’s the nominee is just cruel.

Let me tell you why. Twelve years ago today, I was trying to prepare for a life without my beloved son. I was facing every parent’s worst nightmare and I was terrified. And I am forced to re-live those final six weeks of his life every damn year.

Here we are, a dozen years after I promised my son I would fight like hell to prevent other people from dying the way he did and you’re calling me every name in the book for refusing to swear to vote for a man who won’t do a damn thing to fix a health care system that’s even more broken than it was 12 years ago.

When my son died, an American was dying every 12 minutes from lack of access to health care; today it’s once every eight minutes.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t working and Biden has said he won’t move toward a real fix for it. He has said things will stay the same.

So, here I am, grieving for my son with a pain that has not gotten any better since he breathed his last, and you’re screaming that I have to get in bed with the enemy.

So my choice is a man who doesn’t care that someone dies once every eight minutes or one who’s pretty close to gleeful about it.

Stop telling me to shut up and vote for someone who thinks things are fine, especially since the nominating process isn’t half over yet.

Stop telling me I have to vote for a man whose actions toward women are disrespectful of their personal space and dismissive of their concerns about dominion over their own bodies.

Stop demanding I vote for a pro-war, pro-Wall Street candidate when it violates everything I stand for.

Stop disrespecting who I am and what I stand for.

I have not said I won’t vote for this demented old creep; I have said I don’t want to.

I understand about the Supreme Court and all the rest.

But we don’t have time to waste on climate action and he will waste time. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I want them to inherit a planet they can inhabit.

We can’t keep putting off giving low-wage workers a chance at a decent life with a living wage, paid sick leave and access to quality health care.

Your insistence on everyone getting in your boat assumes that we all have ladders to climb, and too many of us don’t. As the saying goes, you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have boots.

Your intransigence proves your level of privilege. You can wait four years for things to get better. Too many of us can’t, but that doesn’t matter to you.

It isn’t enough to vote for Trump-lite. The status quo is not good enough, and if it is for you, then you need to open your eyes and check your privilege. You need to see how too many around you are suffering. Open your ears and listen to the stories of people who can’t provide for themselves even though they’re working two and three jobs.

Joe Biden is NOT good enough.

If forced to vote for him, I will, but he will not win. It will be a replay of 2016, and we will get four more years of the current mess. And then you’ll blame the people who just can’t bring themselves to vote for more of the same.

I refuse to get angry with people who can’t face a Biden presidency because the thought of it leaves me utterly without hope.

So before you yell at me to shut the fuck up, maybe you should try to understand that I don’t want your child to die the way mine did. Maybe you should look and listen to the 140 million Americans who live in or near poverty, who have no hope of a better life if they have to live — and all too often, die — without the changes we need.

We talk a lot about getting in line, but nowhere near enough about where that line is headed.

Yes, I am pissed off. You bet I am.

This is my country, too, and I’m just trying to make it a better, more moral place for the people I care about. And I care about everyone.

It’s my vote, not yours

We can’t afford to do this anymore. It’s time for Medicare for all.

I’ve taken a lot of criticism lately for saying I won’t vote for anyone who doesn’t support a single-payer health care system.

Here’s the thing: You don’t get to decide who gets my vote, not in the primary and not in the general election.

I have good reason for my position. I call it the Dead Kid Card (only because that’s what my son called it before he died from lack of access to health care). I suffered a loss most parents only have nightmares about. I sat beside my precious child as he breathed his last, and his cause of death was neglect for profit.

My son should not have died, nor should any of the half million people who have been murdered by our profit-driven “system” since his heart stopped beating.

Universal access to care was proposed by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago, and we’re still waiting. The rest of the world has found ways to do it, but we still prostrate ourselves before the altar of profit. We spend twice as much per person as any other system in any advanced nation, and our outcomes are always the worst among the industrialized nations. Hell, Cuba has better outcomes than we do, and that’s because everyone has access to the care they need.

I’m not willing to wait any longer. I believe enough people have died, and it’s time to stop the unnecessary deaths so some insurance executive can take home another few million dollars and stash it in an overseas tax-sheltered account.

Health insurance companies are parasites. They add nothing of value to our system, but they suck billions of dollars out of our economy, and they deny lifesaving care that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of people every year.

OK, so now you’ll argue that some people love their plans. Well, I have a couple of problems with that. First of all, Medicare for all will get care to everyone, not just the few well-to-do people who have their access to care but don’t even think about people who have little or no access. That’s called selfishness, or greed. Remember, Jesus never said, “I got mine, get your own.”

Secondly, we know that 70 percent of employer-sponsored plans are high-deductible — meaning you have to spend $1,000 or more before you see a penny in coverage — The average deductible is $3,000. This is in a society where nearly half of the people say they can’t pay a surprise bill of $400 without borrowing money.

No one can make me believe that most Americans love their health insurance in light of those statistics.

And it’s getting worse.

According to a study by The Commonwealth Fund, (https://www.commonwealthfund.org/ ), median household income in the United States between 2008 and 2018 grew 1.9% per year on average, rising from $53,000 to $64,202. But health care costs rose 6 percent per year in the same time, and the Affordable Care Act has been in effect for about half of that time.

“The most cost-burdened families live in southern states,” said Sara Collins, lead author of the report and vice president for health care coverage, access and tracking at The Commonwealth Fund.

In general, those states tend to have lower median incomes, so even if the sticker price for premiums and deductibles is lower than in higher-income regions, health insurance costs take up a greater share of Southerners’ income.

The next argument I get is that people who work for insurance companies need their jobs. Well, jobs administering Medicare will be plentiful. Even managers will be needed, although the CEOs who have been skimming billions in our national treasure can go and live on their blood money because they won’t be stealing any more from us.

The longer we wait to do this, the worse things are getting, as for-profit companies take over health care systems, especially in rural areas.

Rural hospitals are cutting services or closing altogether, especially in states that refuse to take the federal Medicaid expansion money that their citizens are already paying for. Here in Western North Carolina, women in labor have to travel up to two hours to get to a labor and delivery facility. Ambulance rides can cost up to a whopping $40,000. People are dying because they have to call an Uber because they can’t pay for an ambulance.

Under the current administration, the Affordable Care Act’s protections have been weakened. Premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed. Since the mandate that everyone buy insurance has been lifted, people of moderate means have dropped their coverage so they can afford to pay for food and shelter.

Meanwhile, plans have become more and more restrictive, putting drugs and care on tiers so that if a doctor comes to see you while you’re in the hospital and they are not on Tier 1 in your plan, you could be faced with thousands of dollars in uncovered care. That lifesaving antibiotic could wind up costing you $300 per pill.

So, when I hear a candidate say we can wait for Medicare for all, my response is, “Nope.”

Our corporate overlords may not care if you die from lack of access to care, but I do.

I will not vote for someone who thinks people can wait for health care, and you have no right to tell me I have to. People are dying NOW, and we have to fix this NOW. I really don’t care if the rich don’t like it. They’re not the ones I’m worried about.

My vote will ONLY go to someone who’s ready to fix this.

Forgiveness is a tricky thing

The killer of Botham Jean is embraced by her victim’s brother, who tearfully told her he forgives her. Photo by Slate

Christians believe we are redeemed — forgiven for all our sins — if we believe Jesus died for us.

Some Christians seem to interpret that as license to commit sins, knowing God’ll forgive because, well, Jesus.

I’m not so sure. On the one hand forgiveness is more about me than you. I never sensed any remorse from my grandfather for molesting me throughout my childhood, but I had to forgive him. I had to let it go so I could cease allowing his abuse to define me. But I also kept my distance from him because I knew he wasn’t safe.

I would love to see the doctors who refused to treat my son, knowing he would die, suffer some consequences, but that’s not going to happen. I can’t allow them to live, rent-free, in my head, so I have let go of my anger and outrage. If any of them approached me and said they wanted to work with me toward Medicare for All, I would stand with them as brothers and sisters in the fight.

But, as my mother’s pastor once described it, sin leaves a scar. He pierced a piece of paper with a pencil (the sin), then removed the pencil to show a hole — a scar. The sin is gone, but the damage is still there.

Watching an African-American man hug the woman who murdered his brother in cold blood sent a chill up my spine. I didn’t feel comfortable thinking, “Awwww, that’s so Christian of him.”

And my mind went back to the young man who murdered nine African-American people in an act of racial hatred in Charleston, SC. The survivors of the massacre, family members and others stood in front of microphones and offered forgiveness to the unrepentant racist.

That made me uncomfortable, too.

It seems people of color keep forgiving the people who murder them, but the other side of the coin — the remorse on the part of the killers — is blank. A blog post by Rev. Karyn Carlo that I read yesterday called it “cheap grace.”

Cheap grace is a scenario where someone is called to forgive again and again and again, but the object of forgiveness keeps committing the same sin. The phrase keeps spinning in my head.

We keep allowing black people to forgive white people for killing them, and all too often the white people walk free. Systemic racism continues while black people are still called to forgive. Jail sentences are more common and more lengthy for people of color. Schools are poorer and still segregated. Access to health care is worse. Access to the vote is far less and getting worse.

If Botham Jean had walked into her apartment “by mistake” and shot her, he would be on Death Row. But we assuage our collective guilt by saying “Awwww …” when we see his brother embrace and forgive the woman who murdered him.

I can’t quite force myself to say, “Awwww…” anymore. I want to see issues of racism dealt with. I want to see real justice.

As a white woman, it’s not my place to forgive the killer of Botham Jean or the racist who slaughtered nine people in Charleston. It is my place to listen and follow. It also is my place to work toward racial economic and social justice.

Why do I feel so angry all the time? Why doesn’t everyone?

With my vacation half over (I spent a week on Cape Cod camping with my sisters and leave tomorrow to spend a few days with friends before my granddaughter and her husband and daughter come to visit next week), I feel rested and restless at the same time.

I had an argument with my sister over whether we should shoot for an immediate move to Medicare for all, or whether it should be done gradually.

“I’m done with gradualism, ” I told her.

During the 12 minutes we’d been talking about this, another person died the way Mike did. I’ve heard every argument, and in the time it will take you to recite them to me, another person will have died the way Mike did. When you add them all up, it’s about a half million human beings, just in the 11 years since Mike died.

And now you want me to wait some more. Are we waiting until my other son dies? Maybe one of his kids or grandkids? How long are we supposed to wait?

I didn’t get all this out before she yelled at me to let her finish her argument. In that time, another person died. and since that time, another 100-plus people have died. I turned my head and started reading something on my phone because I didn’t want an ugly scene, but I knew I couldn’t convince her I’m right. She pays through the nose, but she has access to care. She had surgery in the last year for a condition that would have killed her had she been uninsured.

I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for that.

I tried to tell her all this, but I just started crying instead because even after 11 years, the pain of my son’s death is as fresh and raw as ever, and in the time I took to try and explain that, another American died from lack of access to health care and his or her family is plunged into the same endless grief I experience every day.

Meanwhile, children languish in filthy cages with no sanitary supplies and no beds, separated from their parents in a strange land where they don;t know what people are even saying to them.

Meanwhile, the Earth continues to burn, hurtling us toward extinction in a few short generations.

Meanwhile, we contemplate war on Iran.

Meanwhile, the water in Flint and dozens of other American cities is still poisoned.

Meanwhile, the election districts are still gerrymandered and the elections are controlled by two utterly corrupt parties.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest of us continue to steal and hoard our wealth while half of our families live near or below the poverty level because those with the most money won’t pay a living wage for a week’s work and then they get to call poor people lazy because they don’t have enough money to meet their basic needs.

Meanwhile, we all go about our business, taking care of ourselves but not noticing how much trouble we’re in as a nation, as a species.

Meanwhile, a third of our nation continues to defend the hatred and ignorance spewing from the Oval Office, and we have yet to rise up in sufficient numbers to prod our so-called leaders into action to remove this criminal from office.

All the while, complacent people scream at me to “VOTE BLUE, NO MATTER WHO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

No. No to all of it.

I will not shut up. I will not wait. I will not be patient. And I will not vote for another Wall Street-sponsored candidate.

I’m done with all of it. This is more than a national emergency, it’s a planetary one. It’s about our continued existence as a species, and you’re asking me to wait patiently?

Every day we wait, dozens more people die.

Every day we wait, children in Flint and other cities face irreversible brain damage from lead in their water.

Every day we wait, people languish in jail, losing their jobs and homes and children because they don’t have $500 bail money. So they wait in jail for months to be tried for a crime they may not even have committed.

Every day we wait, we edge closer to extinction.

Wake up. Stop waiting for somebody else to save us. We have to save ourselves, and we can’t do that by being patient.

They are not defeated


Capitol Police were ready for the insurrectionists this time.
Saturday’s rally in support of the January 6 insurrectionists appeared to be a bust. Hardly anyone showed up and the press far outnumbered participants.
This apparent failure sent the left into spasms of laughter and derision.
Do not be fooled. This was not the failure so many of us think it was.
Organizers realized late in the week that the Capitol was prepared for them this time and advised people to stay home. They claimed the rally was a government trap to identify people who still support the efforts of the former president to regain the White House. Thousands of people obeyed and stayed away
We don’t know their true numbers, and we honestly don’t know what they’re up to. Look at your social media feed and you won’t see their plans because they don’t do it all on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Besides, you likely have blocked most of them to avoid having them troll you, or to resist the temptation to troll them.
While hiding them makes our lives easier, it also makes it more difficult to keep track of their lies and their plans, and that’s dangerous.
All day yesterday, I saw posts about how the planned rally was an utter failure. It was not. It was a practice run for the next one, which we’ll all think will be another bust, and for which we might not be as prepared. That’s what they’re waiting for.
These people are bullies, and bullies back down when people stand up to them. They don’t necessarily stay down, though. These people are waiting for us to look away.
When more than one-third of Republicans still believe the former president will be reinstated , and half of Republicans still think Biden lost the election, we have a much bigger problem than the attendance at Saturday’s rally would suggest.
Before you celebrate the demise of Trumpism, look at the polls and what these Republicans still believe. You can’t argue facts with them because they operate with their own set of “facts,” provided by the hard-right. They do their research on Fox (or Newsmax or whatever right-wing source they prefer)-approved web sites. They don’t believe mainstram news sources because their right-wing conspiracy sources tell them these news organizatons are “socialist.”
The former president and his people are quietly replacing election officials with people who will help them overturn the next election. They have worked for years to make us believe elections in this country are corrupt as they also have worked to corrupt the system.
The joke of a recount in Arizona was actually not a joke. When they normalize such outrageous behavior, they bring us one step closer to fascism and dictatorship. The first thing fascists and other dictators do is foster doubt in the validity of elections, and in this country, a third of voters have bought into their narrative.
We are not out of danger. These QAnon folks are a real and present threat to our nation. If we are to survive as a Democratic Republic, we need to wake up and pay attention.

Still waiting for health care

My late son, Michael, with his niece, Meghan.

Today marks 13 years since my son called me to say he was feeling better because the doctor found and drained a couple quarts of fluid from his abdomen.

We didn’t know why the fluid was there, but in the back of my head was the fact that fluid like that is a symptom of end-stage cancer.

A week later, we found out that was the cause, that the cancer was back and nothing could be done to cure it. He had, at most, a year to live. He would die just six weeks after getting the news.

This year is the 13th time I have relived this seven weeks, and I still have to lament that we are no better off than we were in 2008, when I promised my son I would work for access to health care for every human being.

In fact, things have gotten even worse. Where some 45,000 people were dying every year from lack of access to care in 2008, that number has been revised upward to 68,000 now — and that estimate is from before the pandemic began.

We had 35 million people with no insurance. We still have that many, plus another 45 million or more who can’t gain access to care because of sky-high deductibles. In a time when nearly half of Americans say they can’t pay a $400 surprise bill without borrowing money, 70 percent of employer-sponsored policies have deductibles over $1,500, and the average deductible on a health insurance policy is over $3,000.

That is not access to care.

Today, I live in one of 12 states that have so far refused to expand Medicaid to cover everyone living in poverty. I have tried calling, writing, visiting and pleading with the Republicans in charge to accept the billions of dollars in federal money to cover people whose incomes can’t cover insurance. These are people making minimum wage. Many of them already have chronic conditions that they can’t manage without care, and that will kill them prematurely.

In North Carolina, three of them will die today.

Three more will die tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, just the way my precious son did 13 years ago on April 1.

I have been arrested three times in Raleigh, trying to talk to legislative leaders about access to health care. I was not violent or even threatening. I asked to speak to leaders and was told they weren’t there, even while I could see them sitting there. I offered to wait because what I had to say was so urgent. Instead, I was arrested and hauled off in zip-tie cuffs.

I am forced to relive these last days of his life year after year after year with no end in sight to the carnage caused by our broken system.

I had hoped to see some improvement by now, but the Affordable Care Act has been so sabotaged by insurance companies and other monied interests that we’re actually seeing more people die from lack of access to care than we did 13 years ago, and we have more people who don’t have access to care.

I promised my son I would work for access to care for everyone as long as I have breath in my body. I have kept my promise. But I really hoped we’d have seen some progress by now. Instead, we’ve been skipping happily backwards, giving insurance companies, Big Pharma and the rest of the crooks everything they want, while keeping us fooled that we’re doing better because pre-existing conditions have to be covered and young people can stay on their parents’ plans — as long as their parents can afford to have insurance plans.

I’m exhausted. I’m stressed. I’m grieving. I’m frustrated. I have all but lost hope that we can get anything done.

But I will not stop.

Everyone deserves care.

You can help in this fight. Every one of you can call legislators at the state and national level and let them know you need to see improvements if they want to keep their jobs. Demand that every candidate tell you how they plan to improve health care access.

Then, you need to vote as though health care matters to you, because health care needs to matter to you.

You need to care that people are dying every day from curable and/or preventable causes.

My son would be a lawyer now if he had survived our broken system. He would also be a proud jackass, a master of inappropriate humor and practical jokes, a dedicated volunteer helping people get and stay sober, a man with a brilliant mind and a kind heart.

Those of us who loved him still grieve every day over this hole in our hearts that won’t ever heal.

This has to stop. We have to demand better, and we need to demand it now.