Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
It has been an odd week for those of us who believe in an end to war and also believe in a progressively financed single standard of high quality care for all.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio spearheaded an historic debate and vote on the House floor on Afghanistan war funding and then also announced he would vote “yes” on the current health reform bill he finds so flawed. News reports on both issues are plentiful so no need to expound on the details again here, but the process in Washington, DC, is bruising and citizen activists are sometimes left confused.
But make no mistake, the deep convictions of those advocating “Healthcare Not Warfare” is growing in an ever-increasing wave of Brown Bag Vigils held on the third Wednesday of every month outside Congressional offices from coast-to-coast. On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the number of vigils swelled to 89.
In Washington, DC, the media turned out to film the Brown Bag team assembled across from the Rayburn House Office Building but seemed more interested in stirring anger toward Kucinich or toward the President or Congress or certainly toward the Tea Party efforts that the mainstream media has done so much to promote and encourage by its intense coverage since the dog days of summer when one right-wing screamer chased a Congressman across a parking lot following a town hall meeting.
But from Massachusetts to Ohio to Florida and on to Colorado and Washington State and California and many more, Brown Bag Vigil attendance grew and the voice for peace and healthcare justice grows ever louder. At some vigils only one or two brave souls held their signs up, at others vigils included dialogue with Congressional staff members, and at still others, and dozens gathered and chanted or sang.
In Washington, DC, those assembled serenaded to tune of Oh, Danny Boy, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day:
Verse 1: Repubs and Dems, the people they are calling,
For Medicare, improved for one and all.
The bill you have is not healthcare justice;
It's a pot o' gold for profits not for us.
Verse 2: Around the globe, our US troops are fighting,
And lots of cash is causing lots of war,
It’s time to stop the killing and the war machine,
All we ask is more healthcare not more war.
Whether the current reform bill passes or not in the 111th Congress and whether or not the current troop surge in Afghanistan continues, those who advocate for real change and real hope for everyone in this country are continuing their grassroots work aimed at harnessing the anger many citizens feel for the current state of affairs and re-energizing the millions of people who worked so hard in the 2008 election cycle and who know that this nation spoke loudly and clearly for shared dreams of more peace and more healthcare and a distinct change of direction from the previous eight years.
The Brown Bag Vigils will continue, and it seems they will grow as word spreads to so many who have been frustrated by the lack of media attention beyond the vitriolic and staged Tea Party rantings for the concerns of the vast majority of people in the nation who continue to believe we can change this system for the better. To do so we must be louder, larger and gather longer than those who feed on fear and hatred.
The vigils are hosted by members of Progressive Democrats of America and co-sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. Other organizations supporting the vigils include members from Healthcare-NOW!, Physicians for a National Health Program, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, After Downing Street, and many others.
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