Man with Parkinson’s Sign Responds to Teabag Hecklers

Man with Parkinsons Sign

Robert Letcher

I’m the person you all are writing about. Let me tell you a bit about me. First of all, my actions were NOT about me, NOT for me either. My parents raised me to think about other people; like:

  • “Whatsoever you do to the least of us…”
  • “He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.”
  • “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”; and, especially in our large family,
  • “Share, and share alike.”

One of my brothers said that if our parents would have written a book about how they raised seven kids on so little money, they would have been rich. But they didn’t, and we weren’t. We shared a lot and handed stuff down a lot–and our parents did without, often, and a lot.

Last Tuesday, i got up,, made my sign, went to the demonstration, and came home. I thought it was over. But I guess i was wrong on that! My sign borrowed from the “Got Milk?” ad:

Got Parkinson’s?
I DO and YOU might
Thanks for helping!
That’s community

Medicare paid for brain surgery that significantly mitigated my suffering. When I got my brain implants turned on, life became almost ordinary for awhile–and we all cried tears of happiness. That’s why I can honestly say that I am not driven by “EGO”; rather, I am driven by “I-OWE”.

But Parkinson’s is still eating away at my nervous system, and some day I’ll die from it. In the meantime, I have dedicated myself to thanking my family and friends, and the broader public for helping me. I do so mostly by writing, and occasionally by putting myself in harm’s way, to bring attention, not to me–i’m the luckiest guy since Lou Gehrig–but to people who need help so badly and couldn’t make the rally.

My hope is that my Mother and deceased Father would be proud of me.

Robert A. Letcher, PhD

Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D describes himself as “an academic with a disability instead of a portfolio, a writer, and a Qigong practitioner who tries to help people learn”.


  1. Evelyn Goodman says

    There will ALWAYS be those who scam the system, but think of the ones who truly need the help being offered.
    The ones to go after are the Drug companies who make inordinate amounts of money on drugs they sell and payoffs to doctors to push them, which is only part of what is wrong with the system.
    Please don’t punish the ones who are in need of help, who have no other recourse.

  2. Robert A. Letcher says

    SK — Here’s my reply, in the form of a Letter to the editor, printed in the Home Final of the primary local paper, in the home final on Sunday, August 22, 2004
    in the EDITORIAL & COMMENT section, page 4C
    [To the Editor:]

    Having Parkinson’s disease changed my view on prescription drugs. For decades, I was boringly healthy. I had medical insurance, sometimes including drug coverage. Back then, affordability was not a big issue for me.
    Still, I argued passionately that a community should make sure its members got medicines without having to sell the clothes off their backs.
    Now, affordability is a practical problem. Getting my meds is on my mind all the time. I do everything I can to keep my meds coming, hoping that nothing will jeopardize my supply.
    Unfortunately, President Bush isn’t that concerned. If he were, he would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of people like me. He would allow us to buy drugs from Canada. And he certainly wouldn’t leave us alone to deal with huge insurance companies for our drug-discount cards.
    Above all, he wouldn’t want to privatize Social Security so his buddies at Enron and Halliburton can keep gambling away our pensions.
    [END Letter to Editor]
    My purpose in bringing up a six-year old letter is to say that my position feels as consistent and morally defensible to me now as I imagine your view of those events does to you. That is what “democracy” is supposed to be for, i thought. Former Senator John Danforth said that democracy requires compromise, and added that religion requires adherence to principle. If he’s right about compromise, then it seems to me that we’d need to have some criteria for which groups should compromise how much.

    One thing is sure: it’s so difficult to imagine how helpless it can feel to be completely reliant on medications that you can’t afford on your own. It’s like you just want to pour cement on everything, because getting by becomes all that is important. What is there to fall back on? Also, the rules are made to create “traps”, as that is one way that bureaucrats can defend their programs from critics such as yourself. SK, I hope you never get Parkinson’s, and for those of you who share SK’s view the world, i hope you are able to remain healthy and independent.


  3. Robert A. Letcher says

    SK — thanks for your thoughtful comment and for your thoughtful way of presenting it. I apologize for the passage of time since you posted it. I’ll have to do some thinking before attempting to reply. bob

  4. SK says

    If you listen to the guy who gave the two $5 bills, you’ll understand the anger better. Here is someone who has Parkinson’s but who got free treatment through Medicaid, which is a clear example of “the system” working. In fact, Parkinson’s disease even makes you eligible for Social Security monthly payments and Medicare as well. This country has great programs for helping those who are hurt by diseases of this sort. Granted, we could certainly increase the funding for Medicaid so more people are covered, but in reality, every free or welfare-type program we create turns into a huge monstrosity because so many people scam the system.

    Surely, everyone reading this article knows people who receive food stamps, Section 8 housing and/or free health care, but who could pay their own way if they wanted to. I know hundreds of people who keep their work hours low, or who work under the table so they can receive these social service freebies. That’s where the problem occurs. When some of us work hard to pay the rent and feed our kids, and we have neighbors who have nice cars and great clothes and free college because they’re “poorer” and therefore eligible for welfare programs, the cheating causes resentment. I personally know people who have lived in publically paid housing for over ten years. Every few years, the mom has another baby and receives WIC, free healthcare and welfare for her new kid. Is it society’s job to help her have more babies (and encourage her to keep having more kids), or did we just intend to help people get back on their feet when they need a hand?

    My point is that we have good programs already, but they are abused by cheaters who deliberately impoverish themselves, just as dead beat dads choose not to work much in order to avoid having to support their kids. We’re going to have criticizers of our welfare programs as long as these programs can be easily abused, and I DO think living in Section 8 housing year after year as you have more and more babies is an abuse of the system.

    Listen to the guy tossing the money. He’s saying he’ll give to the needy when he wants to, not when society forces him to. Look at it from his perspective a moment. Given that we already have systems in place that have clearly helped the Parkinson’s patient, did we really need Obama to stick us with the “Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act” that will force all of us who are able and WILLING to work to pay for healthcare for everyone else, including those who CHOOSE not to work?

    That is the crux of the problem: Social programs that allow many to cheat and suck off the system will anger those who pay taxes to support the cheaters. When they’re angry about being cheated, the vote Republican. And Obama’s policies clearly cheat them. Making us pay Obama’s fat cat supporters in the insurance industry for a bad product that will now be expanded throughout society is cheating us. As long as we keep denying that our Democrats screw us with these programs, and as long as our desire to help others translates to forcing everyone to pay for charity, we’ll continue to see Republicans and Demicans get elected over progressives.

    The extremists are the ones that come to the Tea Party protests, but the rest of the electorate that will vote against Obama and the Dems are the ones we need to be concerned about. The question is, are we sensible enough to hear what at least half our country is angry about right now, or will we just pretend they’re all rich, racists who just don’t care about the “poor” people?

  5. O. Shin says

    Thank you, Dr. Letcher. You speak for those of us who are too afraid, and unable to speak. I am humbled by your courage.

    • Robert A. Letcher says

      Shin –thank you for writing. Please don’t be too humbled: there have been times in my life when i was too afraid and unable to speak. Most people are like that! Your courage will come, possibly when you least expect it–as happened to me. Please note: i was comforted by the many cameras there, and i’m not sure whether i would have done what i did in their absence, I might have. Some day, you might. The challenge is to retain equanimity without falling into non-reflective righteousness. bob

    • Robert A. Letcher says

      The cap said “Union”, and I think everyone who is Pro-Union should wear one. My maternal grandfather was a bricklayer. One day, he was hauling some bricks up a plank walkway… in the rain. In those pre-OSHA days, I imagine that the planking had only rudimentary anti-slip capacity, and gear drives on cement mixers didn’t need to be enclosed. Whatever the specifics, you can see the perfect storm coming. He slipped and his left hand made its way into the open gear-drive of the mixer: the gears ate his fingers off completely, and left only a nub of a thumb. I always tell people that if there had been an OSHA back then, my grandfather would have died with a whole left hand. And that’s why i wore my “Union” hat. Lest anyone else wonder, I also earned a Bachelors from Case Western Reserve University, and took courses part-tie at Pitt, Ohio State, Allegheny [PA] Community College, and The College of Steubenville (OH).

  6. DeLand DeLakes says

    Mr. Letcher,

    I can say honestly that your words–and your perseverance in the face of the most ugly kind of hatred–have brought tears to my eyes. My great-grandfather died of Parkinson’s disease. As a girl, I loved him very much, but I never knew him before he grew too ill to talk. I wonder often how we might have better known each other had some of the technologies that you and other Parkinson’s patients have benefited been available to him. Thank you for all that you do.

    • Robert A. Letcher says

      DeLand–For me,the worst part of the ugliness has been people questioning my integrity, claiming that i was a Parkinson’s imposter. But compared to your loss of time with you great-grandfather, mine was mere discomfort. I did what i did to help people who couldn’t be there themselves, for lack of medical care. Finally, my i say : there are some things that are worth crying for.

  7. AL IN STL says


    • bob letcher says

      What i did was like water flowing down hill. me being who i had become: a person doing what i did. bob

  8. Diane Noland says

    Mr. Lechter, I’m sure your parents are proud of you. I know I am! You were the coolest, most respectable, absolutely the best person at that rally. You are awesome! And you are loved now by so many people. I wish you all the best.

    • bob letcher says

      Diane — thanks for your kind comments. I assure you , though, that there were other people there who are at least as deserving of them. bob

  9. Jerry Lobdill says

    What has this nation come to? These people are diabolical, mean, and proud of it! Where did we go wrong? Oh wait! I know…the election of 2000.


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