I heard they were at the corner of San Ramon Valley Boulevard and Sycamore Valley Road, in front of the Livery, so I grabbed the camera and rushed over from our office in the nearby McCaulou's shopping center. I arrived just at they were heading north to Rakestraw Books on Hartz Avenue to demonstrate their grievances to Sen. Barbara Boxer, who was doing a reading and signing of her new book, "Blind Trust."
"Hello," I said stepping up to walk alongside them. They were friendly and happy to hold up their signs and pose for photographs. "It's about time you showed up," one said. That puzzled me: Had they called me? Had they sent a press release or e-mailed? Not that I knew of.
Someone pointed out the leader to me, a woman named Heather, and she, too, made it clear that I should have been there earlier, either at that demonstration or at any of the demonstrations they apparently have been holding since January. She said they are out on various street corners in the Danville area late every Friday afternoon, and each time people stop to add their e-mails to the contact list so they can join the protest with their signs. On Friday, she had already gathered four sheets of e-mail contacts. She also handed me an information sheet.
It railed against being ignored by the government, and at having a healthcare plan rammed down their throats. "In addition," it read, "the media which is supposed to be objective and non-biased is engaging in name calling of American citizens. ... The more the media and the govt. label us right wing extremists and crazies the stronger we get. So go ahead and pile on us. We can take it. But don't be surprised when we turn on you and we are. We are canceling our subscriptions to all local newspapers and we are encouraging all of our friends and neighbors to do the same. Maybe this will get your attention!!!! Keep reporting the same biased trash and you'll be out of business soon!!" We have not had any cancellations of the Danville Weekly over this - yet.
I agree there is plenty to question - government inefficiencies, wasted tax money and our military deployments. But health care is a subject for planning, debate, serious discussion and brainstorming, not accusations and anger. The people in the demonstration apparently are happy with their healthcare. I'm happy with my healthcare, too, except that I'm all too aware that it depends on staying employed. If I lose my job, I will join the 45 million Americans who don't have insurance coverage unless I can find some that I could afford, which would be doubtful if I'm unemployed. Or I'd have to quickly find another job that offers insurance.
The World Health Organization has ranked the United States No. 37 in its comparison of healthcare in countries around the world. One reason the U.S. did so poorly is because the WHO report penalizes us for not having a sufficiently progressive tax system, because all of our residents are not provided with health insurance, and due to our lack of social welfare programs in general. If we are judged by how we treat the most unfortunate in our society, then we'd better be ready for a harsh verdict. The wealthiest nation in the world should be near the top in providing healthcare for its people, whether run by the government or otherwise.
On Aug. 11, doctors and dentists with an organization called Remote Area Medical volunteered their time to treat 1,500 uninsured and underinsured patients in Los Angeles, which is hardly a remote area. Such volunteer medical groups usually travel to help out in developing countries but more and more the need is right here at home.
The Commonwealth Fund reported in 2007 on an extensive study it did comparing U.S. health care with five other developed countries - Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It found that we consistently ranked last or next-to-last for quality, access, efficiency, equity and healthy lives. To make matters worse, we pay more for our health care than any other nation. So obviously we need to spend our money better. Something needs to be done.
The demonstrators made the point again and again with their signs that they did not want the government to be involved with their healthcare. One wonders if they are going to reject Medicare when they turn 65. And one also marvels that President Lyndon Johnson and the Congress in 1965 were able to pass the Medicare bill. Let's hope our president and Congress stick with it and mold a healthcare bill that will benefit all of us.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.