Melanie Shouse didn’t plan a memorial service so much as a memorial rally. And the last speaker, Amy Smoucha of Jobs with Justice, delivered a rousing call to action. She spoke about health care reform, but the core of her message could just as well apply to climate legislation, financial reform, or any other progressive cause. I’ve quoted maybe half of her talk below. I recommend watching all of it, both for inspiration and for information.
Smoucha started by likening Melanie’s attitude to Mother Jones’s: “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.” After describing Melanie as generous and fierce in telling her personal, powerful story, Smoucha emphasized the importance of personal narratives:
“Her story has been so powerful and so compelling and so clear that her life is a beacon helping to guide the movement now throughout the country. So there is going to be a national march–and I didn’t do this, there’s no one in Missouri who did this–there’s going to be a national march that starts this week in Philadelphia. And folks are walking to DC and they’re calling it the Walk to the Finish Line for Melanie. (Applause) And for the most part, the people who are marching are people who, like Melanie, have their own stories–who have lost their loved ones, who themselves are uninsured or suffering with a pre-existing condition or are unable to afford care.
So I’ve got some really important news. … Health care reform is not. dead. (audience member: “That’s right.” Applause.) But more than ever we need a disciplined movement and leaders and activists who, just like Melanie did for many years, stay on message, always show up and always be ready to fight. That’s what we need for the next few months. So John Prine has this folk song that I really love, where it’s like ‘blow up your teevees, throw away your papers.’ Blow up your teevees, throw away your papers and just fight for health care reform. Don’t listen to everybody trying to disorganize us. We’re closer to comprehensive health care reform than we’ve ever been in the history of this country. I also want to be very clear. We’re also closer to losing than we’ve been in the history of this fight, and that’s because Congress is stressed out. They’re afraid of the election and they’re paralyzed because there’s mistrust between the House and the Senate.
At a national level, the president himself is calling them together trying to organize Congress, trying to organize the House and the Senate to come up with a firm plan to get this done, to get comprehensive heath care reform to the president’s desk.
So here’s what our job is. The president’s organizing Congress to … Here’s what we have to do: two things. We have to keep the yes votes in Missouri’s congressional delegation. And we have to poke at the no votes. All … as it comes down to the final moments of this struggle, all the powerful forces–those insurance companies, those for-profit corporations–are going to be trying to peel off votes and turn votes. We have to be vigilant in keeping our Missouri delegation on the side of our families, on the side of comprehensive health care reform. That’s the role that we have. The other thing we have to do is educate and mobilize the public–talk to our friends, talk to our families, talk to our co-workers. I know we’re tired. I know this has been a long fight. But we have to create a huge buzz around: health care reform must get done, a bill must go to the president’s desk
So ask your pastor to pray for the uninsured and for those who are struggling with medical debt at services. Call in to talk shows. And call your congressperson daily until a bill lands on the president’s desk.
Very quickly, the basis for reform is the Senate bill. That bill has to get passed by the House. Then it can go to the president’s desk and become law. We’re one House vote away from health care reform that is the most sweeping legislation that will ever have been passed in this country. In addition, there are some fixes that can be put into a separate bill and can pass through the House and go to the Senate. And all it needs is a simple majority. (inaudible) So there is a path. There is hope. Don’t let all the naysayers cloud your mind.
What’s in the Senate bill? I’m only gonna tell you that in all the years that I’ve done this and in my three years in this fight, I never expected to get reform as far reaching and comprehensive as what’s in the Senate bill alone. Even before we fix it.”
At 7:30 in the video, Smoucha begins listing what the Senate bill has that she is so proud of. She finishes that list at the beginning of the second video and concludes:
“All of these are things that we have to fight for. And if this bill wouldn’t land on the president’s desk, it would take us years and years and millions of dollars to try to get piece by piece. All of those things are one House vote away from becoming law. One House vote. (…) All of these significant victories have powerful opponents and that’s why this bill has been so fiercely attacked. So Melanie wanted a political rally (inaudible), so the call to action: in her honor and memory, each of us must make passing comprehensive health care reform a daily task until the bill is on the president’s desk. We must call Congress daily. We have to create such a mandate and buzz that Congress reallizes the dire political consequences if they walk away with nothing. If they walk away from this opportunity without a bill, without any changes to our health care system that significantly advance the situation we find ourselves in, then Congress should be afraid to come home. (Applause)
Smoucha listed two events in St. Louis this week and the march from Philly to DC that begins Sunday the 21st and ends on the 24th, the day of Obama’s summit on health care. She urged everyone to sign the lists on the clipboards in the foyer so they could get up to date e-mails about events. Here’s how you can sign up to get the most current information:
The two local events this week are:
Wednesday, the 17th, at 4:00: a rally outside the Wellpoint offices at 18th and Chestnut. Melanie spoke at two rallies there and tried to speak to Wellpoint officials, who were afraid to let her inside to talk to them. We’re going back a third time on her behalf.
Friday, the 19th, at 11:30: a rally at Shaw Park near S. Brentwood and Bonhomme in Clayton. Activists will build a monument to Melanie and others like her who have suffered at the hands of our broken system. Please bring items for the memorial-pictures, notes, mementos, flowers, and items to honor our loved ones. NOTE: You will not get items back. They will become part of the memorial.
Dress warmly for both of these. They’re outside.
If you can’t make these events, you can still call your congresspeople. Because that is how we can get health care reform.
By the way, John Prine’s song, which has always been one of my favorites too, isn’t actually about health care reform.