Do No Harm

(Natalie Oxford)
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
- Dylan Thomas

In North Kensington, west London, sits the charred husk of Grenfell Tower. Deadly flames engulfed the building after a small fire was quickly fueled by a type of siding known to be highly flammable and banned in the US and throughout Europe. Latest reports suggest 79 have died as a result of the blaze; the many public housing tenants living in the building are effectively homeless. Only thanks to the efforts of the Labour government have families recently been relocated to vacant luxury apartments purchased by the government.

In the wake of the flames, thousands of friends, family and political supporters of the victims have openly called for the resignation of the Prime Minister after she neglected (i.e. ignored, avoided, refused) to speak to the victims and face their demands. There are now investigations underway for criminal charges of manslaughter. The embers of Grenfell have ignited a fire in the British public, one poised to spread quickly in the wake of a decade of “austerity” that has stolen the hopes and security of the most vulnerable. The Prime Minister and the Conservative party are learning that austerity breeds discontent; if the government is for the people, it must seek to fulfill the needs of the people as they emerge.

This seems to be a lesson the United States Senate has not yet learned.


(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The healthcare proposal forwarded by the Senate yesterday will, in no uncertain terms, hurt the most vulnerable people in America. Cuts to Medicaid will slowly price out poor and lower-class Americans. The bill will cap coverage for states and impose arbitrary limits on care, forcing people to pay out of pocket in the middle of treatment. Medicaid covers almost half of the births in this country and 30% of cases requiring long-term care for disabilities, meaning this bill is anti-life in every conceivable way.

The Senate, even more cynically than the House, has hidden their proposal from public view. The Senate Majority Leader has determined that “entitlement” reform (that does little more than restore wealth to the wealthiest Americans) takes precedence over saving people’s lives.

This is the tragedy of austerity, of so-called “reform.” It generally cannot be defeated until its harmful effects are plainly visible. In North Kensington, it required 79 deaths, thousands being displaced, and a fire fueled by corporate greed and negligence. What will it take in America? Will it require chemo patients veing taken off drip lines mid-treatment? Alarming rises in infant stillbirths? People dying im the streets?

Or can we fight back?


(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Already some of the boldest protesters in America, the disabled, have shown the abject cruelty of Mitch McConnell after being arrested and ripped from their wheelchairs, using their bodies as a powerful metaphor for the pain this bill will inflict. Does the middle-class suburban Democrat have the same mettle? Are the youth ready to stand up? Are we ready to fight?

I have become convinced that the secrecy of this bill is calculated to do one thing and one thing only: create apathy. Senator McConnell wants us to despair so much that we accept this bill will pass and prepare for the inevitable. It’s not just about the votes — the GOP wants us to lose our resolve.

Don’t let them.

Call your Senators and Representative. Blue or Red.

Show up to their office to protest.

March in your city or in Washington.

Organize.

Action is the only solution for apathy. We cannot stand by and allow austerity to choke our resolve and our message. We have to fight as long as we can. Our Senators and Representative hear our collective voices and are well aware of how their constituents feel — so let’s turn up the heat. Let’s force Congress to agonize over this decision, and make them feel vulnerable in the next election. Let’s expose the cruelty of the GOP and its oppressive austerity. Let’s take the oath our medical professionals take and force our politicians to respond: Primum non nocere.

First, do no harm.