If I had a dollar for every time someone yelled at me–‘Get a job!’ I would not be working two of them. But a flexible schedule is a luxury that never gets old. I wondered who on earth else would be free to come downtown at noon on a weekday to rally for health care.
I made a last-minute decision to take the bus, hoping the driver would let me on with my sign. A woman was waiting at the stop, we got talking and it turned out she was going to the same demonstration. She told me that she is a psychotherapist and spends many hours on the phone with insurance providers, being shuffled from department to department, just to get paid. Since there were two of us I turned my sign to face the oncoming cars, and I was getting honks and waves just waiting there.
Downtown, a small crowd was assembled in front of the monument in Burnside Park. Sen. Whitehouse has an office nearby, perhaps someone spoke for him before I arrived, but my first impression was of a group huddled around a statue. Speakers were using a bullhorn on the monument steps but you had to strain to hear them. I would not have minded making the message more visible. I turned my sign outward toward the people waiting at the bus stops in Kennedy Plaza.
Back to the job thing. I was amazed at the professional people who had taken time out to attend this rally. Among them, Hanna Watson, from Brown Medical School advocating for her patients, Claudia Gregoire, a lawyer, speaking on behalf of small businesses, a nurse who lost coverage for needed care when her insurance changed, a man whose sick wife was evicted from her hospital bed when her insurance denied her. Perhaps we were preaching to the choir. Perhaps not. There was one man who shouted, ‘Who’ll pay for all this?’
‘I’ll tell you,’ I said, trying to be helpful. ‘You see, we’re all paying for it when costs are passed on to…’
At that point he got surly, said a few things about illegals and they can just go to the emergency room and left in a trail of alcohol fumes.
I noticed that a reporter from WPRO followed after him, perhaps disappointed at the lack of action.
Recently I heard a story on the radio, about a woman who went up to Franklin Delano Roosevelt with a list of important reforms.
‘We elected you,’ she said, ‘you need to do all these things.’
He looked at her and said, ‘You have to make me.’
It’s true. The insurance corporations are talking through their lobbyists, and we have to try ten times as hard to be heard. And that’s a reform for another day. But this is a crucial time, the health system is broken. Only we can build a better one.