Sunday, June 17, 2007


I'm in the habit of listening to Democracy Now! pretty much every weekday—or rather, since it's not on the radio at the most convenient time here, I'm in the habit of downloading it and listening to it as I exercise. This can come in quite handy if you lift weights, let me tell you: Amy Goodman and company routinely dredge up stories that conjure up a visceral rage that can help one shatter a bench-press plateau to smithereens. I distinctly remember, for example, cursing and howling my way through extra reps as I listened to these reports on guestworker abuse, full of gems like this:
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Mexican guestworkers in Louisiana labor, hired by Redd Properties in Sulphur, Louisiana, Saket Soni?

SAKET SONI [head of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice]: Yeah. Redd Properties is a real estate group owned by a local real estate mogul named Matt Redd. Matt Redd’s case is very interesting. Matt Redd went off and started Louisiana Labor, LLC, which is a little shelter company that is the formal employer of the workers.

Matt then went to Mexico. He, himself, became a recruiter. He went to Mexico, recruited workers, promised them that for $400 they would be transported to Louisiana in airplanes -- charged them $400 for airfare. When he received the $400, he then packed the Mexican workers into vans like sardines and confiscated their passports and essentially trafficked them across the border to Louisiana.

Once they were in Louisiana, through LA Labor, they then lived in buildings owned by Redd Properties, sequestered, ten or twelve people to a little house, and Matt Redd then leased them out for a profit to businesses across the Calcasieu Parish, including car washes, restaurants, casinos and a prominent local fabrication shop. So the workers essentially had no other choice.

It is good to have heavy chunks of metal to move around when you listen to stuff like this, I can testify.

Anyway, this weekend I finally listened to last Thursday's broadcast, and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs either a dose of muscle-fueling outrage or a renewed sense of hope. There's an excellent speech by Michael Moore (transcript included), who is just beginning what promises to be an awesome round of agitation ahead of the release of Sicko, his new film about the American "health care" industry, and there's testimony from some Sicko interviewees about some of the horrible things they've witnessed—or done. Moore's speech is the hope-inducing part; the testimonies are the outrage-fueling part:

AMY GOODMAN: Dawnelle Keyes daughter died in 1993. Andy Bales of the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles testified on how hospitals dump patients on Skid Row.

ANDY BALES: Unlike some unfortunate souls who are dumped or dropped off on Skid Row, I worked my whole life to end up on Skid Row, and I finally made it. I want to make sure no human being is left on the streets of Skid Row. Three years ago, my predecessors found that a woman had been dropped off by a hospital. She walked in with an IV in her arm, sat down in our guest area and died 10 minutes later from pneumonia. We set up what is now called a hospital dump cam out in front of the building. And in the fall of 2005, we had a gentleman show up in a gurney, having seizures and the hospital attempted to drop him off, but the captain of the police force, Andy Smith, happened to be at our place in a meeting, he ran down, intervened, made the man – the ambulance driver - put him back in the ambulance and sent him back to the hospital. Shortly after that, in December, an undocumented day laborer showed up covered in blood. He’d just been released from a hospital in Arcadia, brought all the way to downtown Skid Row, walked in, we took him back to our guest area and shortly thereafter, he became so ill from the beating he had taken right before he went to the hospital, that we had to call the medics and haul him back to the hospital. He stayed there for several days.

That was publicized. I think eleven hospitals were documented as doing drop-offs. It was somewhat publicized. But in March of 2006, I was standing outside with the moms from the Mission, waiting for their kids to return. Their bus had been in an accident, so I was out much later than I normally would have been. I couldn't believe my eyes as the cab pulled up and did a u-turn. And a little lady in a nightgown stepped out of the back of the cab, unassisted, was given no directions to our door. She's several hundred feet from our door. She started walking northward on San Pedro to some of the meanest streets in the United States. Fortunately, I was there. I called the Captain, Andy Smith. I sent a staff person to rescue the lady that I later found out was Carol Reyes. Hospital document showed she had high blood pressure, a low-grade fever, had dementia so bad that she didn't know time or place. Yet she was brought 20 miles to be dropped off on to the meanest street of our city.

Every good thing that happened to Carol Reyes after it hit the national and world news, every good thing that happened to her could have happened had she been treated like a human being in the first place. She was given a checkup by a social worker and doctors. She was deemed not to be competent. She was given a public guardian. She was given a lawyer. She was put into a group home. Today, she's being cared for in a wonderful way. But, every one of those good steps could have been done in the first place rather than after she made the national news.

Unfortunately, there have been over 35 hospital drop-offs since Carroll Reyes made the news. One man, a paraplegic, dropped off without a wheelchair without a walker, dropped himself out of the van onto the curb with his clothes in his mouth and colostomy bag ruptured. Fortunately, one good thing that came out of this was that twelve homeless witnesses stepped forward and said enough is enough. No more of this kind of treatment for human beings.

I would like to just share a scripture from the Old Testament. As the Jewish people were heading back to set up their city, they received instruction from God through the prophet of Isaiah. It says I’ll take joy in Jerusalem, take delight in my people. No more sounds of weeping in the city, no cries of anguish, no more babies dying in the cradle or old people who don't enjoy a full lifetime. 100th birthdays will be considered normal. Anything less will seem like a cheat. I want to steal an idea from Michael: That we need to move away from the “pull yourself up from the bootstraps”, winner-take-all, me-centered society and move to a we-centered society. That is why I am here to encourage you today. Thank you.

No, thank YOU. If America finally manages to shake off the "free market," maximizing-profits-is-all-that-matters siren song that has lured it toward the civilizational rocks for the past 30 years or so and finally embraces the kind of sane, humane, single-payer healthcare system enjoyed by, oh, most other industrialized democracies in the world, it will be because of people like you—and Michael Moore, who will be dishonored in his own time (the usual suspects will remind us that he is "fat," a "propagandist," etc., never mind their own legions of tubby whores) but who, I am more and more confident, will go down in history as a kind of culture hero for our odd, media-saturated times. Moore certainly seems charged up for this battle—and now, with Bush/Cheney's poll numbers in the tank and a majority of the country disenchanted with the plutocracy's record on Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, Katrina, etc., might be the perfect time to wage it.

Listen, read, and/or watch. And let's pack the theaters on June 29.

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?