Healthcare is a Human Right

Although disputed, Gandhi has been widely quoted as saying “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Whether Gandhi actually said this or not, the point remains that there are many supposed Christians who do not actually follow the teachings of Christ. Being Jewish, I’m no expert on these teachings, but as far as I understand them, Jesus was what many would consider a left wing “hippy” today. He believed in taking care of the poor, sick and aggrieved, loving your neighbor as you would yourself, countering hate with love, etc. In other words, he was preaching for social and economic justice. Jesus, and all those who follow him (or at least claim to), would most certainly believe that Healthcare is a Human Right, right? Right?

Maybe not everyone, but most people would agree that Healthcare IS a Human Right. Spreading that message is key to getting real healthcare reform. It’s how the Vermont Worker’s Center won a statewide Single Payer system, and it’s how we intend to establish one here in Oregon.

In Vermont, they started with the idea that transforming the debate around healthcare reform would require a message that is indisputable, and therefore based on morality, not facts and figures. Sure, you need the facts and figures to back you up, but if you don’t have morality to frame the debate, your organizing will not be as quick, sure and cohesive. The real key was getting everyone to accept this frame, once it is the accepted frame, how can anyone oppose a universal system? What kind of immoral jerk would do such a thing?

So the Vermont Workers Center organized for 3 years to pass their system, organizing in every corner of the state around five human rights principles; universality, equity, accountability, transparency and participation. By getting these principles enshrined in the law, they were able to achieve an extremely high standard in the final product. The principles will be used as a measuring stick to judge proposed implementation procedures and assure they meet these high human rights standards.

By including these points in all their organizing efforts, they were able to successfully prepare and inoculate their members and supporters against the “divide and conquer” tactics of the opposition. Uniting people around the concept of universality (since healthcare is a human right, nobody should be excluded) and teaching anti-racism workshops, the movement was able to overcome a proposed amendment to exclude undocumented workers from the final legislation. The amendment was stricken after an overwhelming number of constituents called, petitioned and rallied at the capitol.

The truly critical work in how this was achieved is in the organizing. In Vermont, they organized statewide, educated their members, trained leaders, told their personal stories, and created their own press to put the required pressure on the politicians to make what was once politically impossible into the politically inevitable.

It was through the work of thousands of people that this happened in Vermont, and it can happen in your state too, if we organize and build a real movement. Here in Oregon, we’re currently raising money to hire an organizer to help this movement coalesce. On April 14, some of the best blues musicians in Portland will be helping to Heal the Healthcare Blues at the Inner City Blues Festival Reunion. Proceeds will go to funding the Oregon Healthcare is a Human Right campaign, so get your tickets here!

To all my Christian friends, I wish you a Merry Christmas. To all my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah. To all my friends who celebrate other things, Happy Holidays. To the Wiccans out there, I hope you had a great Solstice. And for the rest of us, Happy Festivus!

Cross Posted on Daily Kos.

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