This is a difficult post to write..
The news tonight has not been great. Both Senator Ramsey and Rep Harrell have statements in the paper tonight saying they do not have the power to suspend the rules and call Insure Tennessee to the floor. It takes, they say, a vote of the members. My response is great. Call the roll. Just call the roll. But the fight is uphill without question. Neither has shown any indication they want a vote. I wonder if their statements were more about what they won’t do rather than what they can do.
For me it is immense personal tragedy. Linda and I will be separated for probably 2 more years if things go as they appear. 2 years. And that is if all goes right. I don’t know right now how we will do two years. I don’t know. I hope for a roll call, for something but for my own sanity I need to realize this run, this time may be over. Thousands of others face far more than heartbreak. Lives will be forever altered. And some will be lost. So much is ahead. So much bad seems necessarily ahead.
I have been up most of the night. What happened? Some things seem clear. There are many legislators like Overby, Briggs, Massey, and Yarbro who had heroic presences. There are others that if they had a chance would have stood tall. But for too many their greatest nightmare was not the death of innocent people, not even the specter of closed hospitals. It was the fear of a primary challenger accusing them of being soft on Obamacare. I wonder, hope I am very very wrong, but still wonder how many really want to go on the record.
The Governor just seemed to have left the building. He worked to get the plan and present it then he left. He just seemed so ineffectual. He didn’t seem to fight back. It didn’t seem like he felt it was worth fighting for. I wish he had trusted his constituents enough to turn to them and ask their help. When the history of this is written I wonder if his overriding shame will not be he gave birth and then left the child to die on the doorstep.
Without him I wonder if many people felt like there was a wider banner to stand under. Most surely there was no pressure to stand under that banner. Those that stood really were heroes. They stood at great risk, because it was the right thing and they give me hope in the future more may stand.
Even if the battle is lost, even with so much bad ahead I think there has been a victory, an important victory. The victory may or may not be in the battle. It is most assuredly in the war. The question was never supposed to be asked. There was never supposed to be an Insure Tennessee. There were never supposed to be 800 in the hallways of the legislature. There was never supposed to be a challenge that mattered. There was never supposed to be editorials in virtually every newspaper saying vote yes. Clergy were never supposed to be there. They were. So much has happened that was not supposed to happen.
There was never supposed to be any real sense of possibility or hope. There was….No there is and keeping that alive and real and growing is the task and challenge before us. The victory in the end is not simply that we were here but that we did not, will not, will not ever let them turn us around. Human rights matter no matter how many times the poor and vulnerable are left to suffer their cry matters. We won not because we fought a battle. We won because we started a war.
I remember a year ago when I started writing letters to the governor everyday asking him to expand healthcare being told it was pointless and unrealistic to even hope it would be considered. But for months a voice has been building. We have moved from dream to expectation. Across the state, across all divides and circumstances there has been a growing demand for justice and that Tennessee can and should treat its people regardless of class, race, or financial status equitably and fairly. No one should die because of health care deferred. Poverty should not kill. And the voice has became a roar: No more should die.
For Linda and I, like many others, it has been a long walk. A very long walk. We started back with Bredesen and met people finding out their government thought them too expensive and was willing to let them suffer and even die in the name of financial management. I remember talking when Obama was first elected whether a government of integrity was finally possible. I remember when the ACA was passed and I remember when the Supreme Court told Tennessee they could choose. And sadly I remember when they did.
The choice is now ours. I think Insure Tennessee may have been the vehicle of our concern but this is about more than how were going. It is about where we are going. This is about our anger and rage at what is but also our hope and faith at what can be. This is about a call to a better Tennessee, a call that can not be killed in committee.
Do not give up. Contact Ramsey and Harwell and ask that they call the roll. For something this important call the roll. But regardless do not give up. Let a new vision, a new song spring from this that changes this state.
There may be sad times ahead. I know there are for me and Linda. But remember this is about more.
Sing for those who know no song
Speak for those
Seeking new voice
Walk for those
Who can no longer walk
And above all
Care for those
Who are still
God bless and keep you.
Thank you for all you have done and all that you are about to do.