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Caring for Others Is Legal -- Still

Bob Letcher: In any case, people were screaming slogans at each other, as though volume alone would determine who was right. No nuance. Little listening, little worthy of being listened to.

Comments by Bob Letcher, the guy who has Parkinson’s and “sat down” at the HCR rally in Columbus in March, 2010. As given at ProgressOhio’s RootsCamp, Nov. 13, 2010.

Bob Letcher

Let me begin by letting you in on a secret: We Americans used to care about each other—and… we used to share. Shhhh! Among other things, our great-grandparents used to share food, barn-raising, and two-holers.

More recently, Americans have shared bathrooms (nine of us shared one)—even telephones (“party lines”), and difficult as it may be to imagine: Televisions… Within a family and among families: one to a family, somehow.

Mom was no Commie, despite her insisting through the McCarthy years that we all “Share and share alike”. As some of you may know, a movie got blacklisted in the late 1940’s for the line: “Share and share alike; that’s democracy.”

I still prefer Mom’s way--of course, I do still have a heart, and I think people should come before both profits and prophets.

Which brings me to my main topic: HOW I came to be the guy you may know as “the guy with Parkinson’s who sat down in front of some T-party members, and got some ugly treatment in return.” It wasn’t rocket science; more an instance of the aphorism, “90% of life is showing up.”—to which I would append: “prepared”.

That wasn’t the first rally I had ever attended. Of course, every rally is different, and this one was especially so for me.

You see, I used to get by mostly on my own, but now like many Americans I get by only because I get a little help from my friends—including my friends at Social Security and Medicare. I went to that rally to demonstrate my care for people less fortunate than myself.

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I had a feeling that that rally was going to be special. So, I sought advice from a trusted organizer friend of mine, Ted, beforehand. Presciently, he cautioned me against sarcasm. Eventually, we agreed to one affirmative sign and one sarcastic sign.
When I arrived at the rally, I tried both signs, but showing the affirmative sign felt better.

I think it was particulars on the ground allowed “sitting down” on it to occur to me. Perhaps it was fond memories of my Grandfather, an immigrant and a bricklayer. Perhaps my having lived near the scene of the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike disposed me. Perhaps, my readings of Gandhi and King inspired me. Perhaps my study of Alinsky helped me see opportunity presenting itself. Perhaps it was equanimity my Kung-Fu master imparted to me. Perhaps it was the Taoist teaching, “The unresisting Force cannot be overcome.”

In any case, people were screaming slogans at each other, as though volume alone would determine who was right. No nuance. Little listening, little worthy of being listened to.

In that context, it occurred to me that the combination of “Bob the Parky”, and my sign made my argument effectively AND silently. As long as I remained calm, I felt safe, especially with so many cops and cameras around. I saw a relatively safe opening, and I took it.

I should add… Now that head-stomping has been approved by at least one Senator's security people, and with the increasing popularity of Second Amendment remedies, I’m not sure whether I’d feel safe enough to risk the same action again.

One last bit of advice: if Fate ever gives you such an opportunity, it’s very important to accept it forcefully and humbly; that is, avoid both “letting it go to your head” and “heading back to the hills”. And, remember: caring for others is legal in America—still.

Thank you, and I hope to see some of you at the breakout session later, where our main focus will be to develop leverage for civil discourse, perhaps beginning with some lines excerpted from Gordon Gee’s essay on the “incalculable value”of public dialog:

robert letcher

“Think about the incalculable value of a public forum on immigration that incorporates historic, economic, legal, demographic, business, and sociological perspectives. And how might our nation have profited from a real-time symposium on health care that included experts in clinical care, politics, economics, finance, insurance, law, psychology, and other pertinent fields?” --E. Gordon Gee

Bob Letcher