We came to see Speaker Harwell today. We asked her to make the moral urgency of Insure Tennessee an issue in a legislature dominated by political expediency. We asked her to walk in the shoes of the uninsured for a moment. “If it was you or someone you loved what would you want to see happen?” We asked her to be more than the speaker. We asked her to be a good person.
We sang. And then we sang some more. I talked. Many others talked too. We told stories of real people, stories of tragedy and even stories of death. We told stories of people fighting cancer whose biggest enemy was not the poison within but the poison of the system around them. And we prayed.
Tempers were short in the Speaker’s office. You could see it in their faces and hear it in their voices. The Speaker stayed behind closed doors. We know she heard. We are loud. She remained silent.
At one point state troopers tried to shut the doors to her office and lock us out. We refused to yield and they backed off.
It was not business as usual for the speaker today. There was no space for self congratulatory remarks and pats on the back about how well the session had went. There was only people she wanted to go away, words she didn’t want to hear and there was shoes. Lots and lots of shoes. We just asked her to care and she hid.
It is time perhaps for no more business as usual when business as usual means the systematic abandonment of 280,000 people.
When we got ready to leave a friend told me a postscript. She had been waiting for things to end back by herself in a side hallway. A major aide to the speaker came out one of the side doors during the demonstration. He stopped to talk to her.
“He told me how cute I was and then as he was getting ready to leave looked back in the direction of the demonstrators. F…king waste of time he said. ”
Speaker Harwell has forever proclaimed herself the innocent victim of circumstances beyond her control. And she has tried to portray herself the victim of demonstrators and people who care about Insure Tennessee. Even the Governor has come to her defense.
I still invite her to visit the shoes. I still invite her to consider the prayers of someone who knows there life rests in her leadership.
I invite her to consider the real victims.
And maybe consider again the path she has taken. It is the real waste of time.