Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Critical MASS

Some of you may remember that in Bill Cosby's version of the story, God tells Noah "I'm gonna make it rain for a thousand days and a thousand nights and drown 'em right out." Noah replies, "Why don't you just make it rain for forty days and forty nights and wait for the sewers to back up?"

Well, here in New England, we're proving that it doesn't even take forty days. Nevertheless, I intrepidly headed out in my amphibious vehicle yesterday to the Critical MASS conference in Shrewsbury, where a determined crowd of fellow water rats met to carry on the movement to eliminate health disparities. That's right, a lot of us think that this ought to be, can be, will be, the next big crusade to make this country better.

Let's not forget, in spite of the appalling state of politics in this country right now, and the descent of journalism into the lowest depths of whoredom, in my not yet terribly long life we have traveled forward a long way. We had the Civil Rights Movement, and while racism certainly hasn't gone away and the right to vote is under assault, racial discrimination is illegal and far fewer people are disenfranchised today than in 1960. We had the Women's Movement and while we are still facing a backlash anybody who doesn't think it made a huge difference hasn't been paying any attention. We passed Medicare and Medicaid and again, they're under pressure, but they aren't going away. Even the Gay Rights Movement has changed the terms of discourse, and made a major difference in the culture in some parts of the country. Our leaders still lie to us, but we're less tolerant when they do. It took the people too long to catch on to the ways they had been deceived and manipulated into war in Iraq, but it happened much faster than it did in the case of Vietnam.

Now we happen to think that if we can raise consciousness enough, organize effectively, frame the issues in the right way, the American people won't tolerate the huge differences in health, life expetancy, and the adequacy and quality of health care that people get because of their race, ethnicity, culture, or the kind of work they do and where they happen to live. It just isn't right, and I happen to think that the American people are good people and most of us won't put up with it.

We have a coalition here in Massachusetts, and even political leadership in Rep. Peter Kotoujian, Sen. Diane Wilkerson, and many of their colleagues, who are ready to take on this fight. There isn't any reason why we can't find people to join with in our neighboring states, and the rest of the U.S., to make this an effective national movement. How about where you live?

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