Today we took some downtime. We’d spent the previous 2 days on the road moving at a pace that left even the healthier members of our crew wiped out, but today we recuperated in the great hospitality of Candice and Klaus, two MoveOn members in Raleigh, NC.
Reform has been debated against a background of artificial deadlines, every day the news cycle churns on with its daily crises‚ it’s hard for us to not feel rushed by the pace of politics. But today reminded us of what gets lost in the shuffle.
We have a health care system that not only lets people get sick, but also lets them become invisible. Some of us fighting for health care reform have the luxury of walking away from the issue after the workday ends or a bill gets passed, but the people who need change most — like Dawn — are still stuck with the day to day exhaustion of their illness.
It’s up to the well to make sure the unwell have a place at the table when we decide what should be done. That’s the ultimate importance of Dawn’s journey‚ making the voice of the ill present once more in the machinations of CIGNA’s corporate offices and the halls of Congress.
In a breakfast cafe in Asheville, NC, Dawn heard from others who are fighting their own battles for health care. Though it was not the first time I had heard a mother speak of losing a child to an illness because he could not get the necessary treatment, I still found it impossible not to feel pain and frustration at what seems to be such a senseless and avoidable loss of life. That kind of loss leaves you at a loss for words, not to mention a loss for what you should do next.
But Dawn reframed and refocused my thoughts when she said, “Because we have to go through what we do, it makes us stronger, more powerful than any CEO.” Wow. Power. It seems that while we often praise those who share their personal stories to fight for what is right as strong, brave, or courageous, rarely do we ascribe to them power. That is usually left for those who hold titles and offices.
But Dawn is exactly right. With each city we visit, an energy is beginning to build. Voices that were once isolated, are speaking together; personal struggles are forming the basis for a collective battle.
The story of David and Goliath is a story told by the weak, about how they can defeat the powerful. What makes the story work is that, when the weak tell it, they become mighty, because they realize that one person can defeat those who have all the armors and trappings of power. While Dawn’s story is the same way, her journey goes a step further. With each person she inspires to join her, what I see is a band of Dawns and Davids not just battling the insurance Goliath, but rather, becoming their own Goliath that can defeat the forces that inflict so much pain on our country.
Today I could feel the momentum building. We met larger groups as we moved from city to city, beginning in Asheville, stopping in Charlotte, and then ending up in Raleigh-Durham. Every time I see Dawn speak, I’m left a little speechless — about everything.
We live in a wealthy country that makes big promises to its citizens — but life, liberty and happiness are hard to come by when walking leaves you exhausted, or shooting electric-shock type pains keep you up all night. The United States fails to make good on its promise when we leave folks in Dawn’s position. Along the way, I felt a growing sense of wonder at CIGNA’s lack of care.
Every stop, we meet more people who connect with Dawn’s journey, and you can immediately see the force of her presence. Her story is deeply powerful, and relates to too many other stories on our trip. It feels incredible that anyone could say no to her care. After you feel that baffled wonder that anyone could deny her care, you realize that to CIGNA, Dawn isn’t a person like we know her — she’s a claim number and a potential drag on their profits, and thus undeserving. It’s precisely this decontextualizing, dehumanizing force that we need to stop with real health reform.