Defending my health care, AGAIN.

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Dear Senator Alexander:

I’m working in a great little café in Nashville today (above), not far from your Tennessee office on Capitol Hill. As you surely know, yesterday hundreds of people gathered there protest the Senate’s latest proposal to trash the Affordable Care Act, known as the Graham/Cassidy bill, and urge you and Senator Corker to vote against it.

The reason I am in town is because my little consulting business, now almost two years old, is going pretty well! I think there are ways for me to collaborate with some of the folks I know here to build my business. It’s been a very productive couple of days.

But I can’t stop thinking – worrying – about how I’ll buy insurance for my family once the insurance I have now runs out in December.

Frankly, it’s exhausting. And infuriating.

I believed you when you said you wanted to find a bipartisan solution to the problems with the Affordable Care Act, and cheered when you sat down with Patty Murray for hearings. What happened? Why won’t you continue to work together to fix what doesn’t work about Obamacare? Why would you consider voting for Graham/Cassidy so quickly when you won’t even know (from the Congressional Budget Office evaluation) what it will cost?

I believed you and other Republicans when you said you wanted to create jobs and support entrepreneurs and innovation. Starting my own communications consulting business has been some of the most gratifying and exhilarating work I’ve ever done. But I may not be able to continue to do this work unless I can find an affordable insurance solution for my family.

It’s hard not to feel betrayed by the craven politics that are being played with our health care options. And I’m well aware that I am one of the lucky ones: We might choose to pay the exorbitant premiums that an individual plan on the exchange demand. Many of my fellow Memphians simply don’t have that choice.

I have written about my anger and frustration about health care before – when I found out how much the rates for a Cigna plan (now the only option available in Shelby County) would go up, I was sitting in my husband’s hospital room.

Please step up, vote NO on Graham/Cassidy, and commit to doing the hard, bipartisan work of fixing our health care system so it is fair to ALL Americans, not just those who have dependable work and enough money not to care.

Why?

Because I believed you.

 

"Do better."

Photo: High Ground News

Photo: High Ground News

I hadn’t thought about him in years, the most awful boss I ever had. He was a condescending and ill-informed bully, hiding behind a shiny educational pedigree in a city – Memphis – where he clearly did not want to be. It was a scary time in journalism, and for a while, his ideas were the answer to every question about how to “save” the newspaper.

I know now that he was also a racist, thanks to a heartbreaking recent Facebook post by a former colleague.  I’m only sorry – and embarrassed – that I didn’t know it then.

As I continue to process the terrorism in Charlottesville and think about my response to the hateful Confederate statues in Memphis, I see and hear often from my African-American activist friends about how I can help, and what they need to keep going.

One thing they DON’T need is to have to keep explaining what white people can do about racism. That’s up to me.

It seems to me that the first thing I can do is own it. My privilege makes it easier for me to step away from the pain and aggression and exclusion and go back to my comfortable life any time I want. (Not necessarily easy, but easier.) But the racism and hatred that fueled the violence in Charlottesville is only a new point on a very long continuum for my black friends. This IS America. I know that now.

The next thing I can do is try to see the world around me in a new way, as it really is. Where is the exclusion? What systems don’t work for everyone? Who is being marginalized and excluded, especially at work?

The Facebook post that has haunted me tells of meeting after meeting where my friend’s ideas and input were ignored, until she was finally physically excluded in a meeting room full of people. I wasn’t in these meetings, but I could have been much more aware of the power dynamics of race that were working so painfully against her. 

Finally, I can take action, especially as a business owner. What messages do I send by where I sit and whom I speak to at meetings and social events? How do I broaden my pool of potential clients and contractors to include ALL kinds of people? If I am helping make a hire, are there African-Americans in every pool of finalists?

I also find power in the prosaic: Where do I choose to eat ... do I seek out black-owned restaurants to try? What neighborhood might I explore on my way to an appointment to get a new look at my city? Whom should I call for coffee to find out how she’s feeling about things?

To admit privilege and complicity in racist systems and seek understanding and growth is difficult and uncomfortable. But the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King is fast approaching, and here I am in Memphis. 

I have a lot of work to do.

Thank you, Donald Trump.

The first time it happened, I was about to graduate from journalism school, and I needed a favor from a professor. He invited me into his office, then closed and locked the door.

“Sit here, next to me,” he said, gesturing to a spot on the worn couch. For the next 15 minutes, while I explained what I needed and asked him to help me, he moved closer and closer to me, finally putting his hand on my leg. I jumped up from the couch and got out of there as fast as I could.

No, it wasn’t assault. He didn’t push me up against a wall and try to kiss me (the People magazine reporter) or reach his hand up my skirt while also touching my breasts (the female executive in the first class airline seat).

But it was inappropriate, and scary. This was the person who would decide if I would graduate on time. Who, exactly, would I tell about his behavior? What would I say?

Of course I told my girlfriends, and many of them were sympathetic – this guy had a well-honed reputation for this kind of thing among the women in my class.

That’s why what Michelle Obama’s words in her amazing speech in New Hampshire yesterday had such resonance for me. The national discussion of “locker room talk” and how the Republican nominee for president has used, degraded, and objectified women over many years has been painful, much more than I realized before I heard Michelle say the words yesterday.

It hurts to remember the times when perfect strangers on the street in New York where I lived early in my career touched me inappropriately, and how mute I remained each time it happened.

It hurts to think that the professor from my undergraduate days went on to make advances on other women, and I never spoke up.

It hurts that it took all this time, and a national debacle of a presidential candidate, to bring this kind of a discussion out in the open.

Michelle is right: Enough is enough. I will no longer be silent about men who take advantage of their position and power. I will teach the young people I know best – my teenage son and his friends – to respect all people, and especially to respect and encourage the power of women and girls.

It feels good to tell these stories, after years of ignoring them. I am only sorry it took me so long.