Friday, September 4, 2009

In Search of...a real rally

Yesterday was the big rally for healthcare reform, and I know you are all dying to know how it went.

I spent the time between my phone call from Tennessee Citizen Action and the rally preparing to speak. I filled out the necessary on line form they sent and I got busy formulating my thoughts. Well, heck I've been expressing my thoughts on healthcare reform for months here, so it was really just a matter of whittling it down to bullet points on index cards. Then came the practice of not looking at them. For thirty-six hours I practiced pacing and speaking loudly and slowly and passionately (which wasn't hard). I envisioned myself being Ted Kennedy - well, if Ted Kennedy were a short Jewish woman living in Tennessee.

I was excited and nervous as my friends and I drove downtown together and parked a few blocks away from where the rally was to be held. My friends Tanya and Arnie were excited to hear me speak publicly for the first time, as was the additional unnamed Canadian friend we brought along with us for good measure. This was going to be great. I was ready.

We made our way to the park across the street from Congressman Jim Cooper's office where news vans were already assembled and cameras were rolling. There was a smattering of people gathered and I began to feel like this wasn't going to be what I'd expected.

I found the guy with the clipboard to check in. He wasn't the one I had spoken with on the phone. As a matter of fact he had no idea who I was and I wasn't on his list of people slated to speak. He said, "We'll try to squeeze you in," as he scribbled my name on the side of the paper on his clipboard. I knew it wasn't going to happen. Anytime anyone says they're going to "try" to do something, it's a definite no.

Someone brought huge signs for us all to hold, the only sign of organization that I could depict. I chose the one that said "real healthcare reform is a public option." I stood in the front row as the news cameras squarely captured my sign.

I held the index cards in my left hand behind the big orange oak tag sign, and I scanned the crowd as people began to speak. There were less than one hundred people there, mostly minorities and college students. As a whole, the crowd looked bedraggled in the sweltering heat. This was not a group of affluent people, nor was it well organized.

For their part, the groups in charge tried to make it seem like a real rally, chanting responsively, "What do we want? - Healthcare. When do we want it? Now!" Had they done it with more conviction to a larger turn out, it might of been effective, but instead it just seemed pitiful.

And where was our representative, Jim Cooper? Well, he certainly wasn't at our "rally," but then again, with such a poor response to such an important issue I don't think his attendance would have changed his position - a position that has fluctuated like a ping pong ball according to those at the rally, leaving us with no exact knowledge of how he's going to vote.

As I'd assumed would be the case, I never got to speak. I lost out to the uninsured amputee in the wheelchair and the lady who can't afford surgery for her uterine polyps. I guess that's as it should be.

By the time we'd said the Pledge of Allegiance and gotten to the third chorus of "This Little Light of Mine" led by a Baptist college student, my eyes were rolling in the back of my head. It was an embarrassment that at this critical moment in history when literally life and death are riding on the choices our legislators are about to make, the best my progressive counterparts could do was a handful of people singing folk songs. Believe me, no one appreciates a well placed folk song as much as I do, but this was not the time for self-soothing.

This is the time for patriotism, the kind of patriotism that says that healthcare reform is more than an economic issue; it's a human rights issue. The kind of patriotism that says it is unacceptable to make healthcare a privilege for the fortunate few who can afford it while the rest of our society perishes. It is time for the kind of patriotism that favors human life over corporate profit margins.

That's what I would have said if I'd had the opportunity.

As Congress returns to Washington, D.C. next week, please call them. Email them. Write them. Flood their offices in the kind of way that makes it clear that this issue will not go away and that in the final analysis they do answer to the people.

Here once again are the links:

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment