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Protect the most vulnerable, with Sister Simone Campbell


“Nuns on the Bus” helped pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010, with a letter that countered the Catholic Bishops’ opposition to the bill. This year, as the Republicans make attempt after attempt to dismantle the bill they fought for, Catholic sisters are once again demanding that Congress listen to them and stop trying to make healthcare worse. Sister Simone Campbell was on Capitol Hill Monday and she spoke with me about the latest campaign.

Our organization was founded in 1971, and we opened our doors in ’72 and we worked on healthcare all these years. In 2009-2010 we worked really hard on getting healthcare for people who were left out of healthcare in our nation. In that process, when it was coming up for a final vote in the House of Representatives, I wrote what’s called the Nuns Letter, that was signed by 59 leaders of Catholic sisters’ communities saying that the vote for the Affordable Care Act was a life-affirming vote…
But between the time I wrote and the time we got signatures back our Bishops had come out opposing the bill and then we released our letter in support of the bill, kind of bookending the Bishops, and I’ve been told by many that they were able, with their Catholic faith, that they were able to vote for the bill because of our letter. I know 29 votes that we got. …
This time we’re taking a letter…signed by the sisters themselves, and all calling on the Senate to care for the most vulnerable. It’s outrageous for us as Catholic sisters who work with the most vulnerable in our nation to see that 23, 22 million people could lose healthcare because of this foolishness? That’s wrong. And so that’s the message that we’re carrying today: Stop it.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Healthcare as a moral issue, with Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis


Faith leaders from around the country have joined in civil disobedience to protest the attacks on healthcare in Congress, as the Senate continues to see-saw back and forth on whether it will or will not attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Kairos Center was one of those leaders, and is also part of the new Poor People’s Campaign, which aims to link political attacks on the right to vote with the material conditions of poor and working people across racial and geographic lines across the U.S.

LT: I think that part of why we see it as really important for faith leaders to step up in this is because healthcare and all of these issues are moral issues, for too long morality has been confined to a very small number of issues, many of which are barely discussed in faith traditions and texts, and they’ve been in the hands of folks that are trying to exclude and oppress. And instead, we’re saying that if you look at various religious texts within the tradition of Christianity that I come from, Jesus traveled around the countryside healing people for free. Clearly Jesus had a universal healthcare system, but in this time, in this moment, these kinds of healthcare cuts, this kind of repeal of the ACA is all being done in the name of and with the support of many Christians and politicians who claim to be Christian.
And so it’s really important for faith leaders to say no, this is a moral issue, it’s a moral issue whenever you kill people because you deny them Medicare and Medicaid, whenever you deny people healthcare because they have preexisting conditions, that this is not OK in any of our sacred texts and it is a responsibility of everybody, including our moral leaders, our clergy, to not just talk a good talk but actually to be out there with people who are impacted fighting for the kind of healthcare system that we we want.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Fighting for healthcare in coal country, with Gary Zuckett


The healthcare battle in the Senate has honed in on a few wavering “moderate” Republicans, many of them from states that are heavy users of Medicaid–and the ACA’s Medicaid expansion–for health insurance coverage. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is one of those, and despite the state’s reputation as being the center of Trumplandia, Gary Zuckett of West Virginia Citizen Action Group says that people are ready to fight to keep their healthcare–and maybe even to make it better.

Like you said, we are sort of labelled as Trump Country now and we have voted for the Republican candidate ever since George Bush II got elected. It is easy to paint in broad strokes like that, but I would also remind folks that in the Democratic primary last year, the State of West Virginia went for Bernie Sanders. So there is a hunger for a populist message here in West Virginia. Unfortunately, our current president and his false populism appeal to a lot of people.
….
We have been painted as a backward regressive state and I think that is unfair. One of the things that we saw after the election was a total insurgency of people coming out of the woodwork wanting to be active. Newly minted activists and people that had been active in their youth and maybe are now retired and decided, “Well, I better get back into this because times are rough” and pulled together. There are Indivisible groups in most of the counties in West Virginia now. There are women’s huddles from the Women’s March that are still meeting here in West Virginia on a regular basis and talking to each other. We, out of this office, helped organize a sister Women’s March to the one in D.C. We had somewhere between 3,000-4,000 people show up at our state capitol, which blew everybody away, including us.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Getting through to the Senate to defeat Trumpcare, with Jaron Benjamin


Networks of activists around the country have been training in protest tactics for months; this week they put them to use in Washington, D.C. 80 were arrested bringing their message to members of the Senate, soon to vote on a proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act and slash Medicaid funds. Jaron Benjamin of Housing Works was one of those arrested and has been one of those providing training to groups around the country on how to reach their members of Congress when said members don’t want to be reached.

The day was pretty moving. And I think it was probably as impactful for people that participated as it was for people that saw it on the news. I didn’t expect that. When you get 150 and 200 activists, however many people we had in the room before we went to the Capitol, and a lot of these folks have either participated in protests or, since we had people from 21 different states, you would assume that people were already feeling as many feelings as they could feel, because everybody in that room is dedicated and committed, but one of the themes that I noticed when I talked to people after being released from cuffs was that we all got way more emotional, not only throughout the day but during the demonstration than we thought that we would. It turned out that we were more angry about this attempt to take away healthcare from millions of people than we possibly knew, and we cared more and we were moved to tears more during the protest.
The day started off with about 150 folks getting together and just talking about why we were together and then going over the scenarios, figuring out which constituencies would be able to go and have a demonstration at which offices at one time. To the untrained eye it was chaotic but to a lot of us it was democracy in action.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Shutting down white supremacy in Charlottesville, with Laura Goldblatt and Mimi Arbeit


The Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. The people of Charlottesville were ready. Over 1000 people showed up to counter-protest the Klan, rejecting the violent white supremacist history that the Klan sought to evoke. Laura Goldblatt and Mimi Arbeit are two organizers who helped put together the mobilization that massively outnumbered the white supremacists and made sure that the headlines would read that the city rejects the glorification of the Confederacy.

LG: I think today people in Charlottesville showed up in an act of community of self-defense when the city showed that they would not defend us, nor would the police. In that sense, we celebrated our strength as a community and our ability to stand with each other and provide some measure of safe space in the midst of a really hostile moment.
People showed up at the park early in the day. People started with prayers and more and more people gathered. There was music. There were people with signs. There was this beautiful crane installation of a thousand cranes because cranes are a Japanese sign of solidarity. It is believed that if you fold a thousand cranes, you will be granted a wish. So, people embedded in the cranes their wishes to end white supremacy.
There were thousands of people there. It was a really moving show of the community coming out despite the fact that the city had officially discouraged people for coming and instead organized a variety of alternative events. Then, the police provided safe passage for the Klan to enter the park. They violently removed protestors who were standing at the entrance that the Klan had intended to use in order to prevent them from entering and from endangering our community. Police brutally removed those protestors, but nonetheless, activists remained chanting at the Klan and lingered long after following the police as the police, again, provided safe passage to the Klan back to their cars.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.