Op-Ed

Get out and protest for what matters, and bring the young

People protested health care bills considered by the U.S. Senate when Vice President Mike Pence visited Lexington.
People protested health care bills considered by the U.S. Senate when Vice President Mike Pence visited Lexington. cbertram@herald-leader.com

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I traveled to Lexington to be at the planned protest for Vice President Mike Pence’s visit. Pence had come to speak to a select invited group of businessmen to hear of their misfortunes with the Affordable Care Act.

We wanted to remind the veep and his guests that quite a few people are expected to have trouble doing business without it — likely far more than those who have been inconvenienced.

We arrived early to join about 50 to 75 protesters there, but as the afternoon wore on, the crowd swelled to 250 to 300 people who were passionate about health care for everyone.

This, of course, was in direct contradiction to what Pence wanted to hear. While he listened to people tell him how they struggled to cover the increased costs of complying with the law, we were loudly reminding him that people are dying because of lack of access to affordable health care and, if the ACA is repealed, another 22 million could face the same future.

One thing that has caused me pain is that the younger generations have not felt the pressure to take up this cause or any of the other causes that were sufficient reason for those in the past to take to the streets.

The fact of the matter is that change will not come until the people speak loudly enough to be heard, loudly enough to cause someone sitting in a safe seat in Congress to become worried that he or she may have to get a real job — one where production is considered important.

In May of 1970, National Guard units at Kent State University in Ohio opened live fire on students who had gathered to protest the war in Vietnam. Four students were murdered. That lit a fire that burned nationwide within 24 hours, and campuses across the nation went out in protest (including the University of Kentucky, where I protested) about both the murders and the war in Vietnam.

It was the catalyst that began the long downhill slide to withdrawal from that war.

There were some from the current collegiate generation protesting Pence and I asked a few of them why they hadn’t become a force. Most often, I heard that those generations have grown up with the notion that the individual is powerless and that politics is crooked.

Those of us who are older have to ask ourselves: How did we let that happen? How did we become fat and lazy enough to allow the will of the people to become something that can be ignored?

How did we fail to pass our passion on to our children? How did we allow our government to become so devoted to the rich and powerful and so neglectful of the great people of the republic?

It is not enough to just know what is happening and go vote. I have to speak up. That is what motivated me to leave my comfort zone and go to Lexington to carry a sign and chant slogans in unity with those who feel as I do.

It was over 90 degrees and no cloud cover, and I thought wistfully of my air-conditioned home. But I emphatically believe that our creature comforts are in danger, and the time is near when medical access may be considered unnecessary for people like me.

Forty-seven years ago, I was a much younger and more passionate man. It was easy to see what was right and what was wrong. Now I’m an old man, although I hate to consider it. Regardless of age, one must speak out for right when wrong is on the attack.

Four citizens were killed at Kent State. Vietnam took some 58,209 of our best. If the ACA is lost, it has the potential to kill millions. Which side are you on?

Robert F. Moore of Science Hill is a mechanical contractor and columnist for the Kentucky Commonwealth-Journal.

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