On December 16, 2009, I stood in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building with about a dozen single payer supporters. We were holding signs and standing vigil on the eve of the first time in U.S. history that a single payer bill would make it to the floor of either body in Congress. Senators Sanders, Brown and Burris introduced an amendment that would have substituted a national single payer health insurance for the health bill being created in the Senate at that time.
We celebrated that night because it was a victory, though a small one. Despite all of the corporate dollars and the teams of industry lobbyists opposing single payer, our persistence in pushing for the amendment, which included lobbying, letters, emails and protests at the Senate building, had paid off. The amendment was introduced on the floor of the Senate on December 17th, although it was pulled before it came to a vote.
One year later to the day, I am standing in the snow with hundreds of people, my arms linked behind the bars of the fence in front of the White House. Inside, the President is holding a press conference to report the progress being made in Afghanistan which we know is based on lies. Outside, we are protesting to end the wars in the largest veteran led act of civil disobedience since the beginning of the war on Afghanistan. In all, 131 people were arrested.
We can make some progress working within Congress, but we will never achieve our goals of peace and social and economic justice this way. There are a few like Senator Sanders who are willing to speak out against injustice, but their voices are mere whimpers against the giant winds of the corporate political and media machines. No politician, no matter how strong their understanding of and desire for real social change, can succeed in this hostile environment.
To succeed in creating the social change that we desperately need will require acts of protest and civil disobedience, a new culture of resistance as called for by leaders such as Mike Ferner of Veterans for Peace. It is time to recognize that our advocacy for peace, jobs, education, health, housing, human rights and environmental and economic justice is insufficient. We face the same fundamental obstacle: corporate control of our country.
Together we have the strength and the resources to shift power away from the rich corporations to the people and we can demand social justice. We have the solutions, but they are not being heard. We must cause enough disruption that our voices and our solutions cannot be ignored. And we must organize actions of nonviolent civil resistance. Otherwise growing public discontent in this nation may turn to violent means.
That is why I stood in solidarity with the veterans on December 16th, 2010 and joined them in the action that led to our arrest. As I sat that day in handcuffs on the cold concrete floor of a holding area in Anacostia, a veteran turned to me and said, “It means a lot to me that you are here doctor because you don’t have to do this.”
The truth is that I do have to do this. For me it is a matter of professional integrity to refuse to cooperate with the current system that results in the growing wealth of a few at the cost of great human suffering and death at home and around the world. I call on you, if you love your country, if you want a peaceful and healthy future for your children and grandchildren, to join in the culture of resistance.
Speak out about injustice wherever you see it. Join or organize actions of nonviolent protest to demand the change that we require. Speak out against the wars that cause so much human suffering and undermine our economic and national security. You can fight foreclosures, the closing of health centers, the closing of schools and poisoning of our air, land and water by factories and power plants. There is much to do. Your voice is needed.
We see the dawning of a new age – the end of corporate domination and the rise of a peaceful and sustainable society. This is a fight for our lives and our future. Join us.