Friday, September 9, 2011

They Make a Difference

If you thought people-hater and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor looked a wee bit wan and chastened as he listened to the president's speech Thursday night, it was probably because he was still smarting from the whipping he got at Recess.  
Of course, he'd  not held any public town halls in August, and made sure to call the cops whenever constituents came to ask him a question.  He even has hired thugs at Holiday Inns for the sole purpose of ejecting activists. (see "Eric the Dread").
But he more than met his match when a busload of National Nurses United (NNU) members converged on his Richmond office last week to demand that he pay attention to the suffering people in his district and in the whole country for a change.

 A friend who blogs under the name DreamsAmelia was part of the contingent bused in from Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. and confronted not by the congressman -- but by the usual squadron of police officers.  But this time, Cantor's chief of staff relented and met with the group rather than run the risk of appearing foolish by handcuffing a bunch of nurses rallying in behalf of poor people. The Cantor Squad is, it seems, capable of feeling shame.  Actually, since the nurses were actually blockading the office, it was probably more that the "Can'tOrWon'ts" were simply protecting their own skins. Bullies are invariably cowards.

The Cantor protest was just one of scores across the nation on September 1, as part of the nurses' ongoing campaign to tax Wall Street and save Main Street.  They're calling for a half-percent federal tax on Wall Street transactions, which the union says could generate up to $350 billion a year.  They set up soup kitchens outside congressional offices, including those of Michele Bachmann and Nancy Pelosi, to highlight the devastation wrought by Wall Street greed and malfeasance.

Trouble Comes to Cantorville (photo by "DreamsAmelia", R.N.)

DreamsAmelia sends the following published account of the Cantor extravaganza:

In Richmond, VA, 120 RNs and allies descended on the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and were greeted by a squadron of police. The RNs responded with singing and a large picket line.  Cantor's office invited a delegation to meet with his chief of staff.  Fifteen constituents lead by NNU nurses held the meeting.. Cantor's staff heard moving testimony and said the congressman would "respond." The local CBS and NBC stations filmed outside, as they were not allowed in.  A "Lady Liberty" character greeted the delegation on Cantor's office lawn as it exited the meeting, and heard stories of the pain caused on Main Street by Wall Street.
"America's nurses every day see broad declines in health and living standards that are a direct result of patients and families struggling with lack of jobs, un-payable medical bills, hunger and homelessness. We know where to find the resources to bring them hope and real solutions," said NNU Co-president Karen Higgins, RN, outside Cantor's office. (PR Wire).
 DreamsAmelia explains why activism works:

I think the thing to remember when we study history is that most of the movements and people we study are small in number relative to the societies they lived in.  How pathetic did the seamstresses union feel before the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire?  The wealthy matrons of Manhattan joined their cause, and the seamstresses sold copies of The New York Times to make ends meet while on strike.  But they resumed work under grueling conditions, doors and stairways and exits locked, despite the full approval of the NYC fire marshall at the time, who had declared it  a "fireproof" building.  That is, when the exit doors weren't locked. 
Only 3 days of New Yorkers gawking at the unrecognizable bodies lined up in coffins on the fisherman's wharves finally goaded the community and politicians into action, aided by the still relatively newly minted technology of newspaper photography, which helped produce the concept of the front-page sensationalized news story.  But I don't think the response would have been as strong had they not previously been out protesting the conditions and demanding better ones in their supposedly "failed" strikes.  (Really great to see all these stories  in the archived Times, which I get through my local library free online with my library card).


Denis Neville said...

Faux populist Republicans do not like real populist outrage…

Arrests at Republican Paul Ryan events…

Republicans charge fees for town hall meetings…

Republican restrictions on voting…

Republican-controlled statehouses in many states are changing voting laws, imposing stricter rules for those who can register to vote, requiring valid photo identification, restricting early voting. An example, in my state, Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The Case for Voter ID - You can't cash a check, board a plane, or even buy full-strength Sudafed over the counter without ID. Why should voting be different?”

Kansas enacted its “Secure and Fair Elections Act,” drafted by Kobach, this summer.

The Brennan Center for Justice rebuts Koback’s case for voter ID.

DreamsAmelia explanation of why activism works… seamstresses union before the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire…recalls the seamstresses recitation of Shelly’s poem to each other during those oppressive, turbulent times…

"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few."
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy: Written on Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester

James F Traynor said...

Lions hell. Bobcats would do, but we've got a passel of pussycats.

Jay - Ottawa said...

I used to be a health worker in big hospitals, so allow me to speak with authority about those nurses you dismiss as irrelevant pussycats.

First of all, forget the Hollywood image of nurses from 1950s movies with their starched caps, spotless white uniforms and glorious capes walking beside leading men nursing broken egos. Forget, as well, the TV funnies of today depicting nurses as life-support systems for their boobs. BTW, a lot of the RNs and NPs of today are guys, big strong guys. I caution you not to call them pussycats within their hearing. In fact, don't even try it among women who are RNs today; some can make you say "uncle" with a word or a look.

Guess who catches the traumas -- like "big burns" from an industrial catastrophe or the leftovers from car wrecks -- that are dropped on their doorstep by firemen, cops and EMT techs: those RNs you just called pussycats. Ever seen cancer going ugly? Nurses stand beside them 24/7/365. Or the elderly brought in with organ failure and not a clue as to what county they're in? Or the heart attack or stroke that calls for fast thinking, fast work and the management of high tech instruments?

Before doctors enter the scene with their special skills, it's the RNs who are first to catch the patient and prepare him/her for the next level of technical procedures and surgery. After surgery, RNs take the patient back with all those tubes and complicated follow through. In Open Heart units the patients are virtually coding when the RNs take over. RNs today do a great deal of the work only doctors used to do. In case you haven't been in an ICU in recent times, the RNs are continually adjusting powerful drugs and monitoring unusual machines and exhausting themselves on twelve-hour shifts. Lots of them have recurring half-nightmares about falling behind the killing pace they work on a tough shift. Something special inside keeps them working at the bedside close to patients instead of skittering off to a desk job or a doctor's 9-to-5 office routine.

It takes a lot of schooling and continual updating and long experience and lots of guts before you get to be a full charge RN. James, you should be thankful and intimidated by their work. Doctors and administrators who know the territory relaize how valuable the RN staff is. On nights and weekends when the medical staff and administrators are home decompressing, nurses, according to writer/doctor Lewis Thomas, are "the glue that holds the hospital together." And if a night nurse deems her patient going south, she's the one who wakes the doc and tells him to get his ass in ASAP. Good docs don't resent the call, they count on it.

The heroes of today are not cage fighters, bomb throwers and suicidal fanatics. Bad as our leaders may be today, there are lots of people in the land doing unassuming and heroic work with tough brains and tender hands. Among them, you should count Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.

Tell us sometime -- with a tad more specificity than you've provided so far -- about your diagnosis of our political culture and your prescription for correcting the sickness in DC and other power centers.

William said...

I think James was just talking about all of us lefties as a whole. If I recall correctly, he's sick and tired of us bitchin' all the time and wants to take action--just like the nurses! Very interesting and informative post, though.

Jay - Ottawa said...

I'm open to the possibility that I misinterpreted James' point. But Karen's article is entitled "They Make a Difference." Then comes the 'pussycat" remark. Let's see what James has to say.

Valerie said...

Outstanding comment, @Jay! And so true! My Dad was a surgeon and he said most nurses were worth their weight in gold. You are absolutely right, they get a lot of the shit work and little of the glory but nurses hold a hospital together.

God Bless these nurses - as if they don't already have their hands full with their normal (exhausting) jobs, they are the ones who have taken to the street to show us how it is done! I am totally impressed!

We should all take heart and take notice. These nurses have been effective in their peaceful demonstration. Let's hope it inspires others to do the same. My hat is off to them!

Anonymous said...

History tells us that Federal recognition of Labor Day only came after federal troops brutalized Pullman Car Company's strikers. 30 some state had already recognized the holiday. That was the "fire" then and you reference the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as the spark or catalyst for triggering change. Although Cantor and his like take relief from the fact that at present we have a slow smolder happening across this country in the disenfranchised and relatively powerless poor and uninsured, something will happen and there will be a spark that will get this country's attention and meaningful change will happen. We cannot know what it will be, but the likes of Pahlen and Perry and Cantor will not get their agenda across the finish line. Someone or some group will push too hard and the spark will happen.

Thanks for the wonderful article to remind us that people are out there raising relatively polite hell about these issues. So far there is smoldering across the land but it hasn't reached a combustible mass. It will. The MSM does not cover this like it should. Keep up the wonderful writing.


Pat Reynolds said...

As a beleaguered postal worker, I was delighted to see your spot-on comment to Gail Collins column today. The Truth Out article gave a very good synopsis of what ails the Post Office. Interestingly enough, the PO was scheduled to put out a "big announcement" on Thursday which was to name the 300+ mail processing plants targeted for closure. It seems that the day the president gives a major jobs speech is not a good day to announce to the country that you are shedding 120,000 middle class jobs. This info will be released next Thursday the 15th, so stay tuned. For what it's worth, I work in one of those processing facilities that will get the axe. Despite working for the PO for 26 years, I'll be joining the growing unemployment line. So thank you for your comment. It's a nice change from what the tea baggers and anti-union zealots are spouting off about the PO and its workforce.

Karen Garcia said...

@From the Heartland,
Thanks! Little protests have a way of growing exponentially, even if they only contain a few people... or even one person.

I am so sorry to learn you are losing your job, and that it is all so avoidable. I hope between now and then, enough people will make an uproar to change this. In any case we will continue writing about it. Please stay in touch and let us know how you're managing.

Pat Reynolds said...

As a follow-up to my earlier post I have posted a link to an article from my union that details postal legislation that is now before congress. Please join our effort and contact your representatives to urge support of hr 1351, the anti-Issa bill. America needs is Postal Service!

James F Traynor said...


William was right, I meant the leftists, not the nurses. I'm married to a nurse, have been for 47 years. She is (as she has often said I am) a pain in the ass, but my respect for her and her profession is profound. It embarrasses me that they appear to be the only ones willing to fight.

William was also right about the bitchin' bit. I'm really sick, sick, sick of it. I also abhor violence and am afraid of it. I'm also, when I call up the 'other' that is in all of us, rather good at it. It is addictive and depraved. I read somewhere advice to the warrior given by a Greek (I think it was Xenophon) that this aspect of the craft of war must be controlled or it would consume and destroy. He was right. That is why I fear the Republican Party. They have become, in their way, very like the Taliban or al Qaeda.

Kate Madison was surprised to be on a list. I know about lists, my mother was on one, as was a good friend, a medic, who was, ironically, killed in Korea. Those particular lists were made up by right wingers. We are in greater danger than you all think.

Jay - Ottawa said...

@ James
I love it when you speak in paragraphs. William was right after all. Sorry to have misinterpreted your remark about pussycats. Faute de mieux, at least the misunderstanding served as a launching pad for me to ignite fireworks in celebration of nurses like your wife.

The little boy who loudly declared the emperor to be wearing no finery was doing something -- something important. The "lists" you referred to are still being kept by the national security state. Speaking out like that little boy is no small feat of bravery, especially when, as you suggest, some of those right wingers are in power and dangerous.

The endlessness of the calls for justice by the Left, which you complain about, is unavoidable, given the noise that distracts so much of our population. Biblical prophets didn't have it any harder than our present-day critics in pulling the people away from modern idols.

As you suggest, the "Left" -- what little remains of True Left among the verbalists and the activists -- must do more. However, if it weren't for the critics we now have, like those appearing in the blog roll, I would feel more at sea, alone with the sharks. Some of those listed in the blog roll exist mainly for discussion. Others really are hell-bent for action.

Follow me to the NPA site; they are putting out the call for volunteers. The NPA has an established network and a detailed platform. Their 2012 campaign has begun.

Parallel to those developments, "Dr Joe Mason" has come along with a stump speech that would fit right in with the NPA platform. We should all memorize "Joe Mason's" folksy lines of patient persuasion, the way we once memorized the Gettysburg Address. In that stump speech you have, reduced to fifteen easy minutes, everything you wanted to know about what's wrong and how to fix it. We have to hope that one real man or woman in the US with the right credentials can be found to step into the shoes of "Joe Mason" and lead a Third Party ticket.

In the meantime, have patience with those of us who do what we can while waiting for a leader and the spark mentioned above by 'From-the-Heartland.'