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Report from the Field: We are Not Alone

madamab's picture

Yesterday I, two bloggers from Correntewire (Gmanedit and LibbyLiberal) and a woman who had heard about the protest from the PNHP meeting Libby and I had attended, stood on a chilly street in New York City and talked about half-healthcare for women, the deficiencies of the Health Whatever Bill, and the superiority of single-payer (universal) health care. We were accompanied by two stoic but friendly police officers (you have to let the NYPD know when you're going to publicly exercise your right to free speech), who guarded Representative Maloney's doorway from us dangerous hippie types, in case we decided to get WILD and CRAAAAAZY! I designed an eye-catching poster to draw people in, and Libby gathered an amazing amount of information about the bill and created some fantastic flyers to pass out to people. She made 100 copies, and we gave out almost all of them.

We spoke with many, many people. We learned that there were quite a few out there who did not like the healthcare bill - and who objected on pro-choice, or other liberal grounds. We also got a lesson in how NOT to stereotype people when one woman stopped and said she was the president of the Young Republicans New York Chapter, and that not only did she not like Obamacare because she was a Republican, but because she was pro-choice - and so were a lot of her members. "After all, we are women," she said. She then thanked us for our activism and moved on. I can say with conviction that we were all shocked - and pleasantly so.

Some people saw my poster about half-healthcare for women, looked at us, nodded and said, "I agree," or "I know," and got it instantly. We got some "Good for you!" shout-outs, and some people asked us what to do (we said, "Contact your Congressperson.") Others were confused, thinking we were Republicans (of course, because only Republicans oppose the bill, right?). Many did not know that Carolyn Maloney's office was in that building, and I don't blame them, because it's like a secret lair, with no sign anywhere on the front wall. Speaking of location, we truly lucked out, as there was a health food store right next to our little gathering, and a lot of those who go to health food stores are concerned with...you got it!

We got another good lesson in thinking on our feet. We had to come up with quick answers that would keep people interested in our cause. The reactions to our outreach were as varied as the people. On the one hand, we saw another blogger, The Unrepentant Marxist, who told us how angry he was at the whole Health Whatever clusterfuck. On the other hand, one woman, when she found we were advocating for government-paid healthcare, started screaming "No! No! No! No!" as if we were admitting to sexual congress with farm animals. (Hate to inform you, darling, but we already have government-run health care!) One woman became angry and started asking where the women's groups had been when the bill was being developed. She didn't stay long enough for us to tell her that we agreed with her! Others told us half a loaf was better than nothing, if you're starving; at which point I said, "But what if you can't afford half a loaf?"

At first we were all saying different things, but we ended up with a more unified pitch by the end of the day. "Information on health care?" we'd ask, as the flyers flew out of our hands. The time went by quickly, and afterwards, we all went out to coffee and nosh to plot our next move.

At the little cafe, Gmanedit made a great point: we have to be ahead of Obama and his Republican agenda, and call out its Republican roots loudly and often. It has just started to come out that Obamacare is actually a toxic mixture of RomneyCare and NixonCare, created in that famous Republican thinktank with the Orwellian title, The Heritage Foundation. (Amazingly, it was first developed to counter Hillarycare! Wow - I think our instincts were right on as to why Hillary was denied the nomination by the National Party.) Liberals should begin hammering it home that these ideas came from Republicans, and ask the question: why did we elect Democrats if they're going to give us Republican policies? Didn't we all hate them when they came from Bush and Raygun?! (Ahem. Some of us have been doing this for two and a half YEARS, but now, lefty-type people are actually LISTENING!)

We also thought that we should plan another protest, but this time, get together on our talking points in advance. We got our contact information from each other, and are now cogitating upon our next event.

For a small group, I think we did really well.

That's it for now.

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a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

I regret that I was unable to be there in other than spirit this time. But hopefully next time!

You are so right about getting ahead of Obama (and, for that matter, Congress). And I shall certainly be contacting the "progressive" representatives in congress to ask why we should support them when they are being used to put a "liberal, Democratic" face on what is really a profoundly Republican bill. (They sold their souls in exchange for what?)

One thing that could be useful next time, and forgive me if you did this and I didn't catch it in your report: have some kind of handout with information about whom to contact and suggested talking points. I get the feeling that there are more people than we know about who are upset about this bill (or aspects of it) but are feeling worn down and don't know what they could do. It seems you found a bunch of them.

There has got to be pressure from the left, as people have been writing here and elsewhere, and you are helping to make it happen! Brava!

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

we did have a handout, but it didn't have contacts for Congresscritters or the media. We discussed doing this next time, though. Hope you can make it when we do it again!

We were also thinking that at the Corrente Philadelphia meetup, we could have a discussion session about future actions to bring attention to the single-payer and/or women's equality cause.

In between all the partying, of course. ;-)

Submitted by lambert on

Why not?

I do think, though, that I might add a non-violence clause to the moderation policies. I think that in principle and pragmatically it's the only way forward -- exactly because Versailles clearly wants violence instigated.

Thoughts?

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

NV is the ONLY way.

I think I saw a link here to a site about "Creative Non-Violent Protest" or something. Anyone know what my feeble brain is remembering? In any case, I think we have a lot of creative types here, including me. We should do something different to catch people's attention.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

We wear orange jumpsuits with "CITIZEN" stenciled on the back. Maybe a littlt barcode incorporated sonewhere.
The Citizens Party
You can start to see all kinds of messaging developed from the citizens as (corporate) prisoners campaign.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

that's the type of thing I was talking about! :-)

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

It's the only way to grow this movement in the present climate.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

Thank you for actually standing up for your principles.

Submitted by gmanedit on

One Maloney constituent said, "Around here we call her Carolyn Baloney."

I learned that I had to refine my elevator pitch, because I lost a couple of prospects who asked, essentially, "Are you against ObamaCare?" Next time, I'll say something like "I want to make it better—take this flier to see how." I did make a point of saying "this Administration" instead of "Obama" (as in "This Administration has enacted Republican legislation").

a little night, we had two sets of 8.5 x 11 printouts. We held up madamab's bold, colorful, simple graphic featuring a pictogram of a woman, to let people know that we were not coming from the Right and lead into a simple explanation that we were protesting the pro-choice Maloney's cave-in on women's rights. (Even her constituents didn't know her office was in that building.) We handed out libbyliberal's excellent two-sided fact sheet (see http://www.correntewire.com/issues_new_h...), which listed URLs for Corrente, PNHP, and Single Payer Action.

No surprise: Although many people knew about the reproductive-rights sell-out, there was widespread misunderstanding of its actual provisions (as Nancy Pelosi said, "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it" [http://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/pressrel...). We got "But 30 million people will be covered," for example. I think next time it would help to have a large placard with a big question mark, followed by "What's really in the new health insurance law?" That would let passersby not interested in women's health care know that there might be something in it that could affect them, too.

And, of course, the devil is in the details, which will depend on rule-making by the Department of Health & Human Services, so it will remain a moving target.

In yesterday's thread, libbyliberal mentioned our discussion about us being the "Far Left"; I took that as humor, because when most Americans want single payer, that makes us centrists. Gotta work on a one-sentence explanation of single payer to counter some people's reflexive aversion to government-issued provider payment.

We let some people pass without thrusting a flier at them because they had both hands filled with shopping bags. New York, city of shleppers!

Update: I am particularly incensed by the tiering of the plans. People below the Gold level will be herded into HMOs to limit their care—Death Panels indeed. "Wellness" programs are no substitute for treatment. This is just un-American.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

great round up... was in such a hurry to post did not realize you had too, gmanedit!

I also forgot to mention the guy who got so excited and demanded to know why we were there and not in Ohio or other places... where people just didn't get it. I pointed to the corrente url address and said, "We are everywhere and we are gonna be heard!" That was a good moment and he nodded respectfully and he moved on with flyer (flier?).

Submitted by gmanedit on

Now that I have my reading glasses on, I see that libby also included "Sources" that provide further links to fdlaction, the ACLU, and Paul Street.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

madamab, you portray things so well.

Thank you, gmanedit and madamab ... it was a pleasure doing activism with you and our pnhp friend.

It was a great experience in reviving my spirit and sending out those truth ripples. And amazing how many the four of us impacted during the course of that one and a half hours, including each other.

We were educating "them" and they were educating "us" and we were also coaching and educating each other. And I was amazed at the degree of engagement. And of the 100 flyers, we only had maybe 5 left. And who knows how many will read them, an awful lot of words.

And yet we spoke to many. And many who did not take one saw us there, we who were concerned enough about the bill, angry enough about the abortion restrictions against women, to be out there with two cops as escorts on a Saturday afternoon to show our conscience and distress. And to point out this was Carolyn Maloney's office. One of our Cong. reps!!!

I had thought of listing Congressional addresses and then got so involved in issues flyer and it was so overloaded on both sides of the page I forgot to do that. Next time. I think it was a great opportunity to learn and do something at same time.

What an eclectic sampling, and I needed to see how after breathing in so much in the truth-to-power sites, though we met many sharp people, there are many out there living in suspended confusion thanks to the media and the politicians with their omissions and disinformation as to WTF the 2500 page monster bill actually is and does. Clueless even to the degree of bribery and selling out of our Prez and Congress. My flyer was just catching some of the early talking points of it. But it showed the message, question authority and be ready to protest for change of this sucker.

And among the four of us, we had our own priorities, styles of approach, etc. And in a way we were far more approachable than if we had been a louder and larger protest group, we would not have been approached as readily or people may have crossed away from the busy sidewalk. It would have been a diff experience.

And the police presence in that small area, on both sides of Carolyn's entrance like the two lions at the main branch of the NY public library to protect Carolyn, not there, from little old us (!) gave us a certain cachet for the passersby. Some people asked us why the police were there and took more respectful notice. I saw one woman ask the police why we were there before coming near us, though she did take a flyer. Some people deliberately came by twice. They were curious but did not take a flyer the first time.

One man went off, read it, and came back to talk to me about it. He was excited and angry and wanted to know what to do and what could be done now. I wish I had responded to that with more confidence and authority, though I encouraged contacting reps and I pointed out correntewire url address at top and single action payer and pnhp and sites referenced, too, at end of flyer.

One young Asian man kept saying, so what are you telling me to do??? I looked at him. I realized I wanted to spread my distress about the bill and wished I had included more info on protesting with him, too. One young guy was a med student so disgusted with the bill and I realized I had a hole in my awareness as to the issues the docs will have.

I appreciated the Republican woman who was pro-choice. I appreciated the obvious activists and bloggers who gave us the thumbs up for our efforts. The one guy who obviously had done serious time in activism and was bitter and refused to read the flyer. Had loudly given up.

I appreciated those who were earnestly willing to hear more, and showed how obtuse I was dropping words like Single Payer that I assumed the world is clued in on... and they are so not. The press and pros did a good job, and also I needed to empathize harder. Madamab was great at coaching me or stepping into my enthusiastic rush of words to translate... Medicare for All...when they looked dazed at my Single Payer references, etc.

Only that one woman who when she heard the concept of universal health care began wailing NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. That was quite a show for a few minutes. We could have had more action perhaps at another time or place. We were not yelled at for being baby killers. We had quite a benign group we spoke with and those who ignored us looked more timid and shy than hostile. A few hostile men walked by and hurled insults but kept on moving. And I realized the cops were there for us, too, hopefully. (Though ever since that one Puerto Rican Day parade when women were being mauled and the cops did not respond... I do not make that assumption and also having been close to wearing those plastic cuffs during a march with permit at Republican Convention... when people were rounded up and spent the night in jail... I missed that but it was close. I had to go to work and left a group marching to Madison Square Garden that were soon and illegally ambushed.)

Years ago, I mean decades, I went in a car with some friends to see this folk singer a friend was so excited about. His name was Pete Seeger and he was performing at some ski resort during the summer on a mountain top. And as we went through the small town, and came to the base of the mountain, four friends all excited about our road trip, a huge group of the angriest small town people with signs and fists swept over and around the car, not only ours, but all those lining up to finish the drive to the concert, and we locked the doors and closed the windows, as those people screamed at us through the glass, yelling vile things at us, and rocking the car and carrying signs about Pete the communist. And except for one friend, the rest of us were clueless as to what hell we had just moved into and why these people hated four girls going to a folk concert. The memory still is sobering. You hear about the hatred of people, but to feel the threat of it.

I did see one of my neighbors in the area, but was surprised that was the only familiar face It was interesting though standing in a neighborhood in a political context and stance and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. When madamab and I were in a Duane Reade pharmacy later I felt I wanted to automatically hand flyers to the customers and begin my pitch one more time. Activism as healthy addiction? Also having the great support and company made it easier.

At one point there was not much pedestrian traffic, but our pnhp friend, a very gentle and sharp woman, had moved 4 inches in front of the unused door at that moment of the health food store, not blocking it since NO ONE was there, and one of the officers came over dramatically and told her to move. This was early on. This was a bit sobering and a reminder of their authority I suppose. Their flexing and reminding us to "behave"? More cops would come later on the edges, a few we thought for us, but no, for nearby pizza supposedly, and then the commander of these guys to check out how things had gone. I was impressed that our madamab had created a stir in the circle of NYC power with this demonstration. As a citizen she was flexing and it made me proud of her and us.

It took some courage to be there. As the police interviewed madamab initially, and the two of us were, comically in a way, outnumbered by the initial police presence -- in their white suv. They showed up as we were starting, and I only then noticed the pile of blue wooden sections of barricades that had been deposited on the curbside in front of the health food store I didn't even put it together with us, I figured we would be a small crew. What, did I think they were left over from St. Pat's parade? Who knows.

I had left a huge bowl of dry food for my cats, which I had done with other political demonstrations.. a superstitious ritual?... laughing at myself nervously and telling myself and the cats I am not going to wind up in jail for a night but just in case, after all... who knows.. And having read in information clearing house how "radical populism" is such an enemy, especially now in South and Latin America, and how the US is so "chummy" with those trying to squelch it by calling the "peasants" trying to fight for rights, mostly for the ill-paying of jobs, terrorists, narco-terrorists, revolutionaries, whatever, who knows. Four smart and friendly NYC women standing on a Saturday afternoon sidewalk in a mixed commercial/residential upper east side neighborhood. And yet, America has much darkness and xenophobia and jingoism and cruel religiosity and corporatist elitism and sponsors horrifying militarism and covert black ops, etc.

I thought of the courage of those in a non-blue city and state, standing on the street and protesting the abortion restrictions (I confess, I was far shyer than madamab in launching with more specific angry talking points about the abortion restrictions, though her hand poster was VERY dramatic and compelling and helped assert that issue and as she said, and I didn't even think about it at first, that my verbalizing we had issues with Obamacare would encourage people to assume we were tea party women ... until they saw the pro-choice poster and then got it... well done, madamab!)

oops... getting late... and gotta get ready for work, but it feels good to process this experience and share it here.

madamab... I think I do owe you a couple dollars, from earlier. :) I'll spring for the coffee after our next activism?

The post time coffee was also terrific and part of the experience.

What next I wonder? But I feel there is a next and I feel re-inspired.

Thanks, madamab for the leadership and corrente for being a base camp for this and more!

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

I was so happy to be in your company. Loved reading both of your roundups!

More, more, more! Action IS addictive. Unfortunately, so is INACTION.

I was talking to Libby after the coffee and I mentioned how I think the blogosphere is an incredible resource, but that it is not necessarily conducive to feet-in-the-street action.

The jury's still out on that one, since three bloggers showed up, and only one person from the PNHP gathering did!

To be continued.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Thanks for getting out there for us all and doing this, and thanks for all the very good accounts and the color and the detail. You folks did great.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

It really is the least I can do...when I think of what Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony and Alice Paul went through to get women the vote, I truly feel inspired and awed. I hope that in my tiny way I am helping awaken women (and men) to the evils of the warmongering, hateful, socially unjust patriarchy.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

It was a great experience... and shows how proaction is mostly about intention ... hardest part is making the decision (and with the inspiration of another person who already took the step, like madamab) and making (not finding) the time ... and two or three or four people even can really make it work!

Submitted by libbyliberal on

FYI-abstinence education funding

WAPO:

A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage.

The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama's first two budgets.

"We're very happy to see that funding will continue so the important sexual health message of risk avoidance will reach American teens," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, a Washington-based lobbying group. "What better place to see such an important health issue addressed than in the health legislation?"

But the funding was condemned by critics, who were stupefied by the eleventh-hour rescue.

[MY emphasis]

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

He was all "oh wow Barack's on fire, are you 'back with him?'" I stated no, first of all because he threw women's rights under the bus by codifying the Hyde amendment into law. Then I said "watch out for what he's planning on Social Security". Press said "well he isn't going to privatize it"..I said "why not, the healthcare bill was a giveaway to insurance companies that was written by the Heritage foundation"..at which point..I was cut off, and he went on to rapsodize about Obarfma. Still, felt I got a point or 2 across. :-)

Submitted by lambert on

Well done. Wasn't there a guy over at DK who made a career of getting on Rush Limbaugh?

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

radio are exactly analogous to Rush..they are all sticking to the "HCR" talking points and spreading misinformation far and wide. One could make a career just attempting to correct all of the BS and spin being spewed by our so-called "fellow travelers"

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

After reading about your protest, I was again motivated, after being so deeply disheartened and disappointed by recent events. But this site (TY Lambert) can create such positivism through education, dialectic, motivational speech and anecdotes! It feeds the soul's hunger for the search for righteous and empathic guides for thought and action.

Submitted by jawbone on

--and the power to control the discourse and subjects.

But...Bill Press did this to you? Grrrrrrrrr.

When is his program on and does it have live streaming over the internet?

I wanna call that guy; really, really bad wanna call that show.

And, since I dropped Verizon I now have unlimited long distance in the US and Canada, so --whooohoooooo!-- I can call without additional cost. And my handsets have little speakerphones so I don't have to get a crick in my neck waiting on hold....

(Oh, my, I was so stoked I didn't notice I was still on Preview and lost the first iteration. Heh.)

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

streaming, but you have to download something, (he also has a subscription podcast-as IF) here's his site:

http://www.billpressshow.com/

And when you listen to him, if you're in your car, make sure the steering wheel is padded..at least it helps me prevent CHI (closed head injury). This guy has turned into a raving Obamabot, who brooks no dissent on the position that "The Great One" (forgive me Jackie), is soo wonderful and smart and progressive (retch), and on and on..seriously, as I stated above, he reminds me of Rush Limpbough.

Submitted by gmanedit on

"the healthcare bill was a giveaway to insurance companies that was written by the Heritage foundation"

Perfect.

Ellen of the Tenth reported on a single payer meeting that has advice on crafting messages (hence my bolding). I think I'll put up a post on her post.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

..just before Air America went off I was stunned by the very pro-Obama propaganda coming out and zero tolerance for anyone left of him ... foreshadowing ... some of the more aggressive people I wanted to call up and confront but I also appreciated how they control the questions and the hang up time. Great you said what you said. Excellent!

I miss hearing from Robert Kennedy Jr.'s Ring of Fire, I learned so much from that, and also I liked Ron Reagan Jr.'s air style. He was beginning to drink the kool aid imho... but still... he would get all kinds of callers who liked his father, so they cut him slack and he cut them slack and there was sometimes real communication without the defensiveness. He was best at talking to the rightwing callers about creationism. He just cut to the bone and left people stammering. It was great to behold. And he had to be tactful but firm about how he did not endorse his fathers perspective at all.

If anyone knows of some good progressive radio stations and people would love to hear of them. Now if I get a chance at work I search for podcasts from Moyers, or KO, etc. But would like to ritualize a radio program at some point during my work nights. I miss that.

Submitted by hipparchia on

the podcasting, not the singing. i do prefer talking to typing, although it's possible that no one will understand my accent.

lproyect's picture
Submitted by lproyect on

Jon Flanders wrote:
> This is from the Labor Campaign's latest communication on the question
> of the Obama bill. I agree with it. In fact, now that the bill is passed
> we will have an opportunity to reach the Obama bills erstwhile
> supporters when all the loopholes become exposed. As they are already.

Returning from shopping, I spotted four women passing out leaflets
downstairs from the ballet studio upstairs (I once ran into David Harvey
escorting his daughter from a lesson.) It turned out that they were
protesting Obamacare. At first I couldn't figure out whether they were a
tea-party brigade or what, especially since I heard one of them say
something about "choice". When I asked if they were anti-abortion, they
said absolutely not. They were protesting Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
who was speaking there. (2 cops were at the door downstairs.) They were
pissed that she voted for a bill that discriminated against women. At
that point, I jumped up and down whooping with glee and told them that
it was great to see people finally taking action against the sell-out
"reform". It was the first time I saw activists out on the street in my
neighborhood since around the time the US was threatening to invade Iraq
8 years ago or so.

I told them that I had been blogging about Obama and health care for
months now and was happy to see people finally waking up. They asked me
what my blog was called and I replied the unrepentant Marxist. One then
said, "Oh, you're Louis Proyect". Wow! I always wondered who among the
1500 to 2000 visits per day to my blog were. Now I know.

Their leaflet mentioned their own blog: www.correntewire.com, which was
interesting considering the mix of electronic and traditional print
media that represented. They also urged people to go to www.pnhp.org and
www.singlepayeraction.org for more info.

I'm really stoked now.

Submitted by gmanedit on

(said in my best Joan Greenwood voice).

"It was the first time I saw activists out on the street in my
neighborhood since around the time the US was threatening to invade Iraq
8 years ago or so." We're in the vanguard!

—the One with the Sunglasses

PS. To our knowledge, Maloney wasn't there, or we would have gone upstairs and asked why she voted for a bill from the Heritage Foundation with extra anti-womanness.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Louis, you were the highlight of the demonstration! What great validating energy you gave to us! Madamab warned me about how we may be perceived as the tea partiers since the media totally blacked out ANY protests of the left. But glad you picked up the message quickly.

It is important to see people committed enough to leave their daily comfort zone to stand up for their beliefs. Thanks for reflecting that and thanking us.

And you made use of the flyer, that is cool, too. I wondered how many got seriously read.

What a great name for a blogsite. Will have to visit. You have quite a following apparently! See you on cyber campus or IRL maybe at Starbucks, etc. :)

Submitted by gmanedit on

This was a small demo, but rewarding in that it was all ours—we were not just bodies at a mass demo with other people's messages that we might not agree with, and we didn't have to worry about provocateurs. It was heartening to hear from passersby who already knew of problems with the new law. I got to add Louis Proyect to my list of celebrity sightings. On a personal level, we got to put faces to pseudonyms and names. We were able to try out different pitches and refine our approach collaboratively. Quite satisfying.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

True, true grassroots. Just us, doing our thing, with no big party mechanism (hidden or otherwise) behind us.

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

Without such real grassroots actions the "true" progressives will never move the Overton window , be taken seriously or be able to affect change! Every small action of dissent can contribute to a larger, coalescing change, but it has to be in RL, not just on the intertubes, and here, we are encouraged and inspired to do just that, by the fellow correntians that are doing such marvelous groundwork.