A teachable moment for us all

January 15, 2015

St. Albans Messenger:

Mr. [Jim]Fitzgerald: There is something much bigger going on here.

It is unfortunate that you chose to belittle these folks for trying to improve our current health care system. A system that is dysfunctional, at best - inaccessible, unsustainable and that you yourself, given the right circumstances, could find yourself unable to access or pay for in the future if things continue as they are.

First let me make clear, I do not speak for the Vermont Workers Center or any other group working for universal healthcare. This response to you is mine alone. With that said, let me explain my reasoning.

When you make comments like this: “As I watched this circus unfold yesterday I could not help but wonder why these people were not at work like most Vermonters. Perhaps they should find a job and pay for their own insurance like most of the rest of hardworking citizens do.”.

And this: “We have reached the point where these people feel we are obligated to provide for them while they parade around violating the law.”

And this: “...remove these jerks “ It is indeed, unfortunate. I have been working for accessible universal healthcare for many years now. I consider myself an independent and support the work of many groups working for this common goal. I have supported the efforts of the Vermont Workers Center in their Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign. They were an integral part in the passing of Act 48. The Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign gathered and shared hundreds of stories with legislators and Governor Shumlin. The very real, raw and compelling healthcare stories of Vermonters, highlighting the insurmountable odds of obtaining affordable and accessible healthcare with the current status quo.

What you fail to see is the Vermont Workers Center is made up of an array of society. There are educators, writers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, college students, people with disabilities, business owners, parents, retirees, college professors, unemployed people, religious leaders, state employees, people of varying political beliefs, white/black/brown and so forth, rich, poor, young, old, etc. To insinuate that people who are involved with the Vermont Workers Center “have no jobs”, are “law breakers” and are” jerks” is well...

unfortunate, mean spirited and not true. You imply compassion makes one a real loser. If that is true, then Jesus was the biggest loser of all. I think even Jesus took some time off from his carpentry job to help make people’s lives a little better.

Now if you disagree with how the Vermont Workers Center expressed themselves yesterday at the statehouse, then make that point. Your opinion is yours and can be whatever you want. But please sir, do not make false statements about something you obviously know nothing about. In fact, I would even suggest you go and learn about the Vermont Workers Center. Go and see what they do and how they do it. Most importantly why. If you open your heart and your mind you might just get a different perspective.

So about Thursday’s protest. I have mixed feelings. I was at the statehouse to hear Governor Shumlin’s speech, to show my support for the forward motion of universal healthcare and to speak to my legislators. I purposely chose to observe and not participate in the actual protest. Does that make me more respectful or just a big chicken? I don’t honestly know.

Like I said in the beginning, there is something much bigger going on here.

The political climate today is very different from when Act 48 was passed.

Income inequality has grown. The feeling that our government has been bought and paid for by corporations and we are helpless to do anything about it because we will never be able to outspend them, pervades daily life.

The cost of college is becoming prohibitive for many.

The stock market goes up and down everyday; only having meaning to the few, not the many.

The cost of housing is going up. The cost of food is going up.

Wages are going nowhere quick and won’t catch up to the housing and the food anytime soon...if ever.

People who are working full time jobs are being told they don’t work enough if they can’t pay for the basic demands of a stable life. They’re losers, free loaders.... takers. Jerks.
We hear any movement toward livable wages, affordable housing, affordable education, affordable universal healthcare will hurt business. Even to stick a few words on a label, it being GMOs or carcinogens in children’s toys, is going to hurt business.

Seems any attempt to move toward a balancing of business and society is always met with resistance by many Vermont businesses and all their associations. National Federation of Independent Businesses (Repeal Act 48) and the Grocers Association, etc. With the exception, of course, of some businesses and associations like Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility that are trying really hard to balance the two, who understand one is stronger with the other and that in the long run it is better for us to succeed together rather than leave one or the other behind.

It’s pretty tough for the average person to go up against all the really well dressed, well behaved (respectful) and well moneyed lobbyists that business sends into the hallways and committee rooms of the statehouse on a daily basis. These are what I like to think of as the “Elegant Protestors”. And their message is always the same.... “This will be bad for business. You must not do these things.”

And many people begin to wonder about businesses in Vermont..... “Must we suffer so they can succeed?”

Is that where we are today? Because if it is not....it sure feels that way to many.

Oppression is stressful. It produces pressure. Pressure builds...and then it blows. And it’s never pretty or orderly or convenient. It’s usually not respectful.

Haven’t we all been there? Hasn’t there been a time when perhaps the pressure just got to be too much and you felt disenfranchised, unheard....as if you were being pushed to the back because you just didn’t matter. It’s a scary place. Especially if you feel your life and the lives of others are really at stake. Fight or flight. Flight was not seen as an option Thursday.

So fight, peaceful protest, was all there was left to do. Fear produces anger and anxiety. It’s a natural human response. And anger sometimes can go a little wacky. Be it personally, professionally or politically....haven’t we all been there?

If you answer this truthfully, the answer is yes. So Thursday’s protest was a symptom of a bigger problem and it is my hope that the legislators will calm and see this.

Some mistakes were made. Yes. But if the legislators are wise, and God I hope they are, they will see beyond the show “of what they perceived as disrespectful” and look past it. Forgive if that’s what they need to do and reach out. Listen. And communicate. Start anew. Right now nobody, but maybe a very few, knows what a plan forward looks like. Communication is key; because the mind has a tendency towards all sorts of imaginings when it is left to wonder what is going on.

I know we like to stay within the confines of “civility” as we like to call it. But truth is, that doesn’t always work. We feel safer there. It’s orderly and prettier. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes things need to get a little messy.

That’s life. And life happened at the statehouse Thursday. It was like one big family nervous breakdown.

We’ve all been through a big shock. Governor Shumlin and his team tried. He and they were disappointed. The legislators who have worked so very hard were disappointed. The Green Mountain Care Board was disappointed. All the advocates from all the different groups were disappointed. Ok, we were all disappointed.

But we’ve got work to do. And we can do that work best together; because we also have opponents who would like nothing more than to see us eat each other alive. So united we must stand....because divided we will surely fall. Let there be no divide and conquer here please. Let’s pick ourselves up, forgive each other, reach out, unite, communicate, include, listen and move forward.

This is not a time for cowards or grudge holders. Strong and straight.

Of all the things that happened Thursday, the one thing I remember most....was Reverend Potter, who marched with Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement, talking about love. I have a feeling he knows a lot about that. I heard him loud and clear. I hope we all did.

If we want to truly show respect to the good Reverend Potter and his message on Thursday, let’s honor him by all coming together and moving forward...together. I think he would like that. I surely do.

He blessed us ALL, with a teachable moment. The Lord does indeed, work in mysterious ways

Kelly Cummings, Fletcher