By Donna Smith
NASHVILLE–We’ve been on the health care road show for five days now, and we’re finding this road full of interesting souls,from Chicago to Nashville . In a 1980 school bus painted with bold black lettering announcing our single-payer, universal health care movement, we’ve been making our way from city to city spreading the best news of this holiday season: We can fix our health care mess and bring a message of hope to those Americans who think the system is too far gone.
I began this adventure while still on my hunger strike for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but within a short time of joining in a conference with other caring folks working on health care, some of my most trusted friends and associates in this effort convinced me that my continued fasting was not going to be noticed or cared about by the Congressional members who needed to put the real effort into the program. So on the very first day of the road show, I broke my fast and began eating protein first and then juices. My stomach screamed as I left Chicago . Even the 10 days without food changes the body’s ability to digest food, so I am still readjusting to food.
Friends said if Congress didn’t care enough about sick and dying kids to act, why would they care about a few moms hunger striking for health care? It was a point I could not deny. And I keep thinking about the 2,300 Americans who will die in the weeks while Congress breaks for the holidays. Those people will die because they didn’t have access to health care in arguably the richest and most powerful nation on earth. So we keep going on the road show bus.
The five people on the bus are as diverse as their histories and cultures might suggest but we all believe in a health care system with the simple message: “Everybody in, nobody out.” And so far we’ve only had one person tape a little hand made note on the side of the bus that read: “Socialism.” The note was quite colorful, and we kept it aboard for the ride to remind us of all misinformation and myths we have to overcome as we take the message deeper into the south and across the nation.
Many of the folks I’ve met in Indiana and Kentucky so far have amazed me with their grasp of what needs to be done to fix our health care system. But through the real bonding we have done with average Americans from place to place, I’ve once again learned how much more alike we all are than we sometimes think. And we all need health care.
We’ve had great fun and some challenges meeting with the Congressional office staffs in four separate districts so far. But even in those meetings it becomes painfully clear to me that many of our elected officials just are not living in the same world the rest of us are — worried about our health care futures and frustrated that the people who could change that reality for us have not done so. There is a smug disregard for the people who so need their leadership, and many are protecting their political futures in an election year rather than risking standing together with the American people.
We’ve laughed about our bus with only half of its original seats and heat that doesn’t quite make it all the way through the whole bus. When we stop to eat we talk with waitresses and others who will listen and we often leave printed information behind so the local people can get involved after the SiCKO road show bus leaves town.
So on we go… to more adventure in the heart of America . I suspect we’ll have much to be thankful for in a few days when we share our holiday with complete strangers who are our American family members who join us in the need for a health care system that heals and helps.