October 20, 2020
A 29-year-old mother of four from Kansas wants U.S. senators who are refusing to pass a just COVID stimulus package to know this about her life: She had decided last year that she would have to die because she couldn’t afford the $4,000 she needed to start treatment for stage 4 uterine cancer.
“In the richest nation we should not resign ourselves to die because we can’t afford to beat our cancer,” Shelby Fedrenbacher said during the national Moral Monday Digital March on McConnell’s Senate held by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
People from several battleground states spoke during the program, along with actors/activists Alyssa Milano and Bradley Whitford. In addition to Kansas, people from Mississippi, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas and Kansas talked about their lives during COVID-19 and why they’re determined to vote, no matter the obstacles presented by the pandemic or voter suppression tactics.
People have flooded McConnell’s office phones in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., with calls for several weeks. This week, the Poor People’s Campaign asked them to flood the offices of all U.S. senators on the same Monday as when the House and Senate were negotiating yet again over a COVID-19 relief package.
Fedrenbacher, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, said she “was so depressed I would look at my four children every day and just decide that I am just going to die as peacefully as I can. I don’t know what else to do here.”
Friends rallied around her and raised the $4,000, but Fedrenbacher wouldn’t have had to rely on their goodwill for her healthcare if Kansas had expanded Medicaid. It’s one of 12 states that has not taken this basic step to guarantee health insurance to millions of more Americans.
A lack of healthcare, a pandemic, the stacking of the Supreme Court. None of this has to happen, Rev. Barber said.
“Everything we see now is man created, even the way in which this pandemic is hurting us is man-created,” Rev. Barber said. “The fact that we are talking about stacking the Supreme Court and not passing a stimulus. All of that is created by politicians, by a human being, by the president, by Mitch McConnell: It does not have to be.”
“Not only does it not have to be, we have the power to change.”
The 8 million people who have fallen into poverty during the pandemic are on top of the 140 million who were already poor and low-income, Rev. Theoharis said. And “that’s on top of the growing sections of people who are one fire, one storm, one healthcare crisis, one job loss away from deep poverty,” she said. And this is in the richest country in human history, this is with a Senate that has the means, has the power to make it all better and make it all OK.”
Both Whitford and Milano decried the state of the country and urged people to vote.
“I have watched in horror as over the last decades the Koch brothers have pumped money into my state to suppress the vote,” Whitford said. “At least 100,00 people who wanted to vote in Wisconsin were disenfranchised all because of Republican chicanery ….we need to be talking about a long active strategy by Republicans to suppress the vote.”
Milano described voting as one way that Americans protect each other.
“We need an America where everyone can afford rent, can put food on the table and set aside some savings for a rainy day,” she said. “We need an America where people don’t perpetuate these injustices and continue to march forward” each day.
Martha Waggoner: firstname.lastname@example.org