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Bold Plans Need To Be In Steady Hands. That's Why I Support Ed Markey

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., after a debate with primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., at the studio of WGBH-TV in Boston, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Charles Krupa/AP)
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., after a debate with primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., at the studio of WGBH-TV in Boston, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Charles Krupa/AP)

En español traducido por El Planeta Media.

My arms have been paralyzed for a while now. I can’t hold my 4-year-old son. But I can watch my wife Rachael reading to him at night. I can see him play with his baby sister. I can feel his love when he climbs onto my wheelchair, rubs his nose against mine and asks me if we can watch firetruck videos.

Three weeks before America’s national catastrophe in November of 2016, I experienced a disaster of my own: At the age of 32, I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Decades of possibilities — from graduations to grandkids — disappeared.

The milestones I can be here for have become more precious. First smiles. First words. First steps. I’m enveloped by my kids’ joy and curiosity as they grow. At the same time, I pass milestones of my own. I can no longer move, talk or eat through my mouth. The melodious, baritone, nasally Jewish voice I would have used to sing to my son and daughter has been replaced by the California cyborg accent of the computer I use to communicate.

I’m not sure how much more I’ll live to see. I’m on year four of the average two to five my diagnosis dictates. Though I’m a staunch progressive and therefore exceedingly stubborn, it’s taken more than willpower to enable me to witness my children’s early years: Expensive medical interventions and round-the-clock care gift me with more time.

Medicare for All is the only plan that can deliver high-quality care for people like me, our families and every person in America.

A ventilator helps me breathe. A wheelchair helps me move. A computer helps me talk. And incredible caregivers, both professional and familial, help me navigate my new reality.

Rachael and I have struggled to get treatment approved by our insurance company. The 24/7 home care I get is exceedingly expensive, but it keeps me out of a (dangerous) nursing home where I’d be apart from her and our kids. In the past few years, I’ve heard from hundreds of people who have experienced crippling debt, anxiety, wasted time and bad outcomes because our healthcare system is designed to make money rather than make people healthy.

Medicare for All is the only plan that can deliver high-quality care for people like me, our families and every person in America. It will empower people to stay in our homes and communities with our loved ones, save enormous sums of money by eliminating bureaucratic inefficiencies, and put an end to pharmaceutical companies’ unashamed price gouging. It will recognize healthcare as a human right, not an employer-endowed privilege.

I’m glad to see that Medicare for All is gaining traction in the Democratic Party. But the political moment we’re in calls for more than just stated support. Millions of Americans are unemployed. More than 160,000 are dead from coronavirus. A racist, sexist plutocrat occupies the Oval Office and uses a bullhorn, not a dog whistle, to motivate a morally destitute Republican Party.

In that kind of climate, we need progressives we can trust. Not progressives with a trust fund. We need leaders who forge their own legacy. Not ones who run a campaign on a family name. Bold plans need to be in steady hands. We have a chance to curb the excesses of American capitalism, confront our country’s racist past, establish justice, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty. The stakes are too high to sidetrack progressive action for some people’s political ambition.

Instead, progressives should look to Sen. Ed Markey as the benchmark for the kind of candidate we should strive to elect and re-elect. An original co-sponsor of Medicare for All, Ed has long been a progressive champion for universal healthcare as well as the environment, equity and dozens of other issues.

As my neurons have disintegrated, I’ve found hope in organizing, advocating and protesting for the world I want my children and everyone else’s children to grow up in.

What makes Ed different, however, is that he actually delivers and passes laws. And he can empathize with the issues he champions: Ed comes from a working-class background, he paid off student loans while in Congress, and he helped his father take care of his mother, who had Alzheimer’s, for 13 years.

The writer Rebecca Solnit comments that “to hope is to give yourself to the future — and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” As my neurons have disintegrated, I’ve found hope in organizing, advocating and protesting for the world I want my children and everyone else’s children to grow up in.

This year’s elections will reverberate for decades. My request to you: Vote for public servants like Ed Markey who have the personal experience and track record to bring progressive policies to life. Your vote can make you a hero. You can help ensure that millions of families like mine can live with the dignity and security we deserve.

Editor's note: Ahead of the Mass. primary on Sept. 1, Cognoscenti is featuring supporters of both candidates for U.S. Senate. You'll find the case for Rep. Joe Kennedy here. 

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Ady Barkan Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Ady Barkan is an organizer with the Center for Popular Democracy Action and the co-founder of the Be A Hero PAC.

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