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Learning from civil disobedience for single-payer health care

Yesterday, Dr. Carol Paris – a psychiatrist from Maryland who was part of the Baucus 8 – wrote a nice reflection on her experience protesting and getting arrested in front of the Harbor Hotel in Baltimore last Friday, where President Obama was scheduled to give a speech. While she held a banner that read, “Letting you know: Medicare for all,” with Dr. Margaret Flowers, and spoke with the police and Secret Service about why they were there, many thoughts were running through her head:

“How do I get myself into these things?”

“This is crazy.”

“This is pointless.”

“I can’t even make sensible statements; I know what I want to say but I’m so nervous.”

“Other people are so much more knowledgeable and speak so much more eloquently.”

“But I am doing it!”

These thoughts are no doubt familiar to anyone who has risked arrested for a cause they believe in. It’s indeed difficult to overcome the fear in such situations, and I appreciate her candor in discussing these feelings.

Dr. Paris also came up with a helpful list of tips for anyone considering doing civil disobedience :

  1. Ignore your head.  That means, all those familiar thoughts that leave you feeling fearful and bad.
  2. Listen to your gut.  You know it’s your gut talking if you start feeling calmness, clarity, and quiet determination.
  3. We need people engaging in “gut-driven” cd to right all kinds of wrongs.  Be authentic; for many of us, the gut issue is Medicare For All.  If yours is the environment, then do cd for that.
  4. Don’t try this alone.  Take a friend. Or several.
  5. Do the best you can.  Speak from your heart.  Once you’re in handcuffs, the worst is over.  The “authorities” aren’t your enemy; most will treat you respectfully and the ones who don’t are just having a bad day.  Don’t take it personally.
  6. I like to take a “token” with me, tucked in my pocket with my driver’s license. For me, it’s a picture of my grandchildren and the holy card from my father’s funeral.  It reminds me that he would be proud of me and that I’m doing this for the people who inspire me–my family and my patients.
  7. If you have the choice of doing cd in the winter or the summer, definitely choose summer!  Wear layers either way because it’s cold in jail.