By Donna Smith, American SiCKO and communications specialist for CNA/NNOC
Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Boston -- The movement to reform healthcare in this nation is growing, and it is edging its way out of the quiet, borrowed conference rooms of social justice organizing meetings and into national labor headquarters, community centers, state houses and the streets. This week alone, I saw Americans from 9 to 90 in three states and six separate venues stand up and even jump in the air calling for true reform.
In Washington, D.C., a noontime showing of Michael Moore’s ‘SiCKO’ at the national AFL-CIO building as part of the 2008 Labor Film Fest and within several hundred yards of the White House drew a great crowd. Rep. John Conyers, chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, addressed the crowd and continued to push for his bill, HR676, The National Health Insurance Act, which now has 90 Congressional co-sponsors and which would create a national, single-payer healthcare plan. It was a significant step forward for a film about the travesty that is the current U.S. for-profit healthcare system to be shown in this location at this time.
If national labor organizations would take the endorsements of Conyers’ HR676 by more than 400 labor locals more seriously, the national labor movement might well revolutionize the future of healthcare for its members and the entire nation. Healthcare justice marched forward a bit on that screen at the AFL-CIO headquarters last week.
In Minneapolis, less than 24 hours later, Conyers told attendees of the “Healthcare is a Human Right” conference that we will win single-payer in the future, and we will win it with “love and with logic.” We are so lucky, Chairman Conyers said, to live in a nation where to disagree does not mean we must hate one another. As we go forward, he noted, we will continue showing that not only is HR676 the right and just way to reform healthcare but also the most logical and sensible and sound means as well.
The people attending the Minneapolis conference were largely poor people fighting for all manner of economic justice and good sense. Many shared stories of pain and suffering, and Conyers listened patiently and compassionately. Healthcare justice nudged forward on that cold and snowy April Saturday at a Minnesota community center where one of the nation’s most powerful lawmakers honored the struggle and uplifted the fight.
Then in Boston, fists were blasted into the air and voices raised to acknowledge Tom Morello’s 2008 Justice Tour stop supporting healthcare for all. Morello performs as The Nightwatchman but also played for ‘Rage Against the Machine’ and ‘Audioslave.’ Morello brought with him Gary Cherone of Extreme and rapper Boots Riley of the Coup – and even Wayne Kramer of MC5. The crowd was filled with every imaginable age group, and the concert fired people up and gave them voice and gave them dignity. And Morello donated all of concert proceeds to the movement.
After ‘SiCKO’ was shown in the same auditorium in the Boston state house where the healthcare is a human right amendment to the Massachusetts constitution was buried forever just months ago, Morello convened the Justice Tour performers again on the Boston Commons.
In spite of rain, driving wind and falling temperatures, Morello and his fellow tour members played on. He performed “Alone Without You,” which was written for ‘SiCKO’ as American SiCKOs Adrian Campbell of Detroit and I embraced each other and finally mourned for one another and for all who still suffer at the hands of the broken healthcare system.
As the show wrapped up on the wet and windy Commons and a child tossed a ball in the air as guitar strains wailed and drum throbs pounded, Morello and the other artists led the crowd in a defiant and proud rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” A park police officer sang next to a protestor and an 80-year-old jumped up and down on stage with Morello.
And last week the movement for healthcare justice marched forward with love and with logic and with a little rage all across this land.