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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THIS IS WHAT GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM LOOKS LIKE

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Less than 48 hours after the “Tea Party” at Mall C on Wednesday afternoon — one of a series of such Fox News-promoted “display your resentment” type events around the country — about 800 people gathered at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights to hear Senator Sherrod Brown and a host of spokespersons for various unions and community organizations speak about health-care reform. This audience was as vocal and passionate as the so-called “teabaggers.” Like the tea parties, groups worked to turn out supportive people — only the groups were unions and community-based organizations such as ACORN, not a media corporation like Fox News.

The many speakers who preceded Brown to the podium at the health-care forum, representing a spectrum of community groups, had specific experiences that they believed required specific changes. Many of them told personal stories — and they are stories we’ve heard all too often recently: the woman who had worked all her life who lost her job and health coverage following a health crisis, another woman who must choose between her pain pill and her osteoporosis pill. These people weren’t flogging vague resentments: They were asking that profits not be put before access to health care, and that solutions be crafted that would grant everyone affordable access.

The Right would probably dismiss this gathering as tools of SEIU or ACORN, their enthusiasm for stronger unions and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act as delusion, but they’d be missing the point. Those groups earned supported because they made a difference in their members’ lives. When a woman who works at a Kroger store told the audience that she now had vacation, health care and even a small pension thanks to the union, she was speaking from her own experience, and that of so many others in the room. Fox News can stir up ire at false targets, mislead people or misuse their discontent — but that leaves people wandering around their local “tea party” in a daze, not quite sure what they are pissed off about, or unwilling to expose the real roots of their discontent.

Senator Brown has said that he will fight to craft an affordable, comprehensive public option for health care to compete with overpriced, exclusionary and often limited private plans. Health Care for American Now, a coalition of organizations supporting such plans, organized this event and similar ones around the country. — Anastasia Pantsios

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