Staying Engaged and Active: It’s More Important Than Ever

For those of us who live in the northern climes in winter, it’s important to stay active.  Cross country skiing, skating, snowshoeing.  They all become important for physical well-being.  Likewise, it’s important to work on mental activity.  Too often, as we wait for the days to grown longer, the tendency can be to cocoon, stay inside and wait for the 4th of July parade before we hit the political activism pavement.

This February I chose to actually force myself out – through the ice and snow – and keep my progressive mind engaged.  And much like with physical exercise, I was glad I made the effort.

Earlier this month, Healthcare for All Minnesota held its lobby day at our state capitol in St. Paul to promote its legislative priorities, which includes single payer legislation.  Although most state houses are consumed with implementing the health exchanges that are part of the Affordable HealthCare Act (ACA), the time has never been better to keep single payer front and center for any state legislature.  It’s when the ACA is fully implemented that people will begin to understand that although it takes us a baby step toward improving the most backward health care delivery system in the world, we still have a long way to go.

Healthcare for All Minnesota's Erin Anderson.

Healthcare for All Minnesota’s Erin Anderson.

My role at the legislature that day was to address those gathered about the importance of telling their health care stories to friends and families.  It’s when we tell our stories about the for-profit health care delivery system and how it still denies and rations our health care – even with full implementation of the ACA – that people begin to understand the need for single payer.

In addition, I trooped up to talk to my Democratic State Senator (Ron Latz) and was surprised to find him not supporting single payer legislation.  I have my work cut out for me – educating him on the fact that health care is human right and to find out more about why he thinks health care is a free market commodity.  Tell me, who among us gets up everyday and says, I’m headed to my hospital emergency room to find out what’s on sale there today?  Or, I’d like to know what for-profit insurance company is actively working to “market” to cancer patients.

Look for our March Progressive Profile on Cindy Young, the program coordinator for Campaign for a Healthy California.  We will spotlight her boundless energy as she continues to campaign for single payer.  Everybody In.  Nobody out.  It’s that simple.

In person meeting with  Sister Patty Chappell, Pax Christi USA

In person meeting with Sister Patty Chappell, Pax Christi USA

My next stop – the day after 6 inches of snow fell – was a visit to a local Pax Christi USA regional gathering.  I’d had the pleasure of talking to Sister Patty Chappell, their executive director, about her day-in and day-out work to promote peace in our lives and in our country.  Now I had the chance to meet her.  The inspiration she provided to the group gathered from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota will keep me energized for some time.  How can I say “no” to continuing the progressive fight, when I hear her passion and commitment to promote peace in a world that today seems consumed by hatred and war?

Two small things I did this month, but a reminder that once the limelight fades from a national election cycle is when the real work of democracy begins. Letter writing and phone calling to state and national representatives. Having the courage to talk to friends and family about issues and how they impact us.  It’s up to us to move democracy back into the hands of the people.

I urge you as spring edges closer to find out what’s going on in your state.  For example:

  • Do you know how your state is implementing the mandated health exchanges?  Who will be in charge?  Health insurance executives or those trying to make it consumer-focused?  What can you do to impact it?
  • Has your state introduced an amendment to overturn Citizens United?  If not, why not?  What can you do to change that?
  • Have you read the Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget?  Do you even know it exits?  Here’s a link to find out more.  There are other options besides what the mainline politicians are telling us.

Stay educated.  Stay engaged.  Ask questions.  Read more.  And don’t let someone take away your voice to be heard.

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