Sunday, February 12, 2017

The most terrifying words...

In 1980, while running for US President, Ronald Reagan described the nine most terrifying words in the English language. "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." This was a libertarian battle cry, and it described a world where the free market reined supreme.
It also told the people of my country that we were on our own. That the government was not here to support them, that it didn't care whether we worked or starved, lived or died. That our incoming President of the United States did not care whether we worked or starved, lived or died. Being eleven years old in 1980 I remember watching this speech on television, but I don't remember my grandparent's reaction. Probably because they had left the room in disgust. Being of the Greatest Generation, they knew exactly how much of a lie that was.
In 2003, I heard nine words over the telephone that terrified me. "The results came back, and your cancer is confirmed." I have never been so scared in my life. I was actually at work, and so the first person that I was able to talk to was my supervisor and department director. They could see how scared I was. And they had my back. My employer based health insurance covered it. Without that insurance, my wife and I would likely have had to sell our condo. But not everyone has an employer with the resources and willingness to provide great health insurance to their employees. And so many of our people don't have employers at all, either self employed or not employed. What were they supposed to do if they ever got a phone call like that?
That's why I started getting politically active in 2003. That's why I worked my way up the ranks within the Democratic Party to Chair of my local party organization, and that's why when Bernie Sanders put out the call for Medicare for All in 2015, I dropped everything to help him. Longshot, yes. But my fight with cancer was a shot across the bow, and I wasn't going to take no for an answer.
At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I stood watching and listening on Thursday night hoping that the winner of the Democratic Primary would say the right thing. These are the words that she used: "If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care, join us." I sat down, devastated. I said then and I say now that we need to do better than that.
This morning I was checking my phone, and someone I got to know during the campaign told me the four most terrifying words in English language. "I don't have insurance." This is a mother with kids, someone who cares about her community and wants to build her community. And she is worried about getting sick. This is not acceptable. This is not tolerable. This is why I fight, and will not stop fighting until we never, EVER, hear those words from anyone in our country again.

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