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What I Have Learned Doing Civil Disobedience for Single Payer

Dr. Carol Paris

"People should go where they are not supposed to go, say what they are not supposed to say, and stay when they are told to leave."
--Howard Zinn   

Well, that quote pretty well sums up "what to do."  But my biggest challenge is "how."  Specifically, how do I neutralize some pretty powerful fear? 

I was scared Friday when I joined Margaret Flowers to attempt to deliver a message to the President.  My thoughts raced.  We're talking secret service.   

"How do I get myself into these things?" 

"This is crazy." 

"This is pointless." 

"I can't even make sensible statements; I know what I want to say but I'm so nervous." 

"Other people are so much more knowledgeable and speak so much more eloquently."

"But I am doing it!" 

We stood in front of the Harbor Hotel in Baltimore clutching a banner that read "Letting you know.  Medicare for all" and Margaret's letter for the President written in response to his appeal for solutions to health reform.  The hotel manager, police and secret service surrounded us and asked us to move. 

If you watch the video, you'll see that there was a point, a moment, which felt suspended in time, when Margaret looked at me and I looked at her and we both knew "we ain't goin' across the street." 

The feeling associated with that awareness was not fear, or anger, or self-righteous indignation.  It was a feeling of quiet liberation.  The things I was saying to myself, thoughts powerful enough to imprison me in a jailhouse of fear, had been neutralized.  In their place was a calm determination to trust my intuition.   

My gut told me "so be it.  You're doing the best you can.  This is a no-brainer.  Gotta do it.  Margaret and I have been needing some quiet time to catch-up; might as well be in a police station." 

My gut has a great sense of humor. 

Fear overcomes me when I listen to my head; calm enfolds me when I listen to my gut. 

So, for what it is worth, here are few tips for "doing cd for Single Payer": 

  1. Ignore your head.  That means, all those familiar thoughts that leave you feeling fearful and bad.
  1. Listen to your gut.  You know it's your gut talking if you start feeling calmness, clarity, and quiet determination.
  1. We need people engaging in "gut-driven" cd to right all kinds of wrongs.  Be authentic; for many of us, the gut issue is Medicare For All.  If yours is the environment, then do cd for that. 
  1. Don't try this alone.  Take a friend. Or several.
  1. Do the best you can.  Speak from your heart.  Once you're in handcuffs, the worst is over.  The "authorities" aren't your enemy; most will treat you respectfully and the ones who don't are just having a bad day.  Don't take it personally.
  1. I like to take a "token" with me, tucked in my pocket with my driver's license. For me, it's a picture of my grandchildren and the holy card from my father's funeral.  It reminds me that he would be proud of me and that I'm doing this for the people who inspire me--my family and my patients.
  1.  If you have the choice of doing cd in the winter or the summer, definitely choose summer!  Wear layers either way because it's cold in jail.

Remember that we all have talents to contribute.  Without Bill Hughes taking the video, our action wouldn't have been as fruitful.  Without Kevin Zeese, we'd have worried about our families and "legal stuff."  Without Mark Almberg, we wouldn't have a press release. Without researchers like David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, we wouldn't have compelling data to support us. We draw support from each other. 

    As Margaret Mead said:

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."


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