Friday, October 20, 2017

I Made a Grown Man Cry

OFA asked me to shepherd a group to Congresswoman McSally's office this morning.  We were a small but vocal band of three retirees, each with a story to tell.  OFA does provide fact sheets with talking points; our voices amplified them with a personal point of view.

Bill talked about gun safety and DACA and his experiences in the field.  JannyLou talked about insuring a loved one with Type 1 Diabetes before and after the Affordable Care Act.  The Congresswoman's staffer nodded and sighed and took notes.  He was properly sympathetic and bemused by a system that forces long time partners to skip marriage in case health care costs should bankrupt their family.  He heard what they were saying. 

I asked him if he'd visited the Gabe Zimmerman room in Congress, the one dedicated to Gabby's staffer who was killed on January 8, 2011.  After all, Gabe was employed in the same capacity, meeting with constituents, before he was murdered by a Glock wielded  by a man even the United States Army didn't want to equip with a gun. 

By this point, his pen was down and his eyes were locked on mine.  I was on a roll.

Next time you're sitting next to your employer, my Congresswoman, ask her why she is not interested in keeping you safe.  If I were your mother, I'd call on your behalf.  I was sorry to shock him, but getting shot myself was pretty surprising; it can happen to anyone, anywhere, even in front of a Safeway on a sunny, Saturday morning.

He volunteered that he was driving the Congresswoman to an event this weekend.  He looked a little green around the gills as he said it.  I pressed on.

She's MY voice in Congress, and I don't think she is listening to me.  I told him about my op ed and her response on her telephone town hall and about my repeated, unsuccessful attempts to ask for an explanation.  I reiterated that her vote was a personal insult to her community, an insult exacerbated by the fact that her vote wasn't needed to pass the legislation.  She was tone deaf to her constituents, at least the ones who know me, or know of me, or of any of the others in our circle of horror.

We talked about the Venn Diagram of being-one-step-away-from-a-gun-violence-victim/survivor, about how many people are invited into the club no one wants to join each and every day.  We talked about Las Vegas.

And then we were back on insurance and the fact that I would have been uninsured and financially devastated had I been responsible for my medical bills before the ACA abolished lifetime caps and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.  He was aghast.  His face, already blanched from pea soup to vaguely nauseated, was white. 

Yes, uninsured after participating in democracy, with a 9 year old by my side.  Injured while being a good citizen, just as Gabe was killed while working to enhance my experience, at the side of an elected official.  Injured while waiting in line with those who didn't agree with Gabby at all, and were there to tell her so.  I told him that being scared to meet with people is not the way to make us feel heard, that shaking hands and paying attention would be a good start.

I paused, took a breath, and told him that I felt disconnected from ....

"YOUR representative," came out of his mouth, strangled by emotion. 

She may be one of 435, but she's my one.  She's all I've got and she's not hearing me.  Will you tell her, asked JannyLou? 

We all took a breath.  We shook hands, he took our picture (to be uploaded to the OFA site), and promised to pass along our comments.  As we left, his face had regained a rosy hue, though his eyes had the look as he bid me goodbye.  He definitely heard us.  Whether we can make a difference or not on the larger stage, I do not know, but today we made a small dent. 

After all, I bet he didn't go into work today thinking that his was a dangerous job.  I bet he goes home with a different mind set. 


  1. Good for you--hope it does some good.

    1. He definitely heard me, that's for sure! Whether my Representative gives a damn is another story, entirely.

  2. I cannot imagine the roil of emotions that you must channel to convey the story that is uniquely yours, but reflects flashes of insight and glimpses of recognition even in the eyes of those with intentionally self-inflicted blindness. Thank you.

    1. It's an experience, that's for sure. I had JannyLou with me, and she's sensitive to it, too. We all do what we can, as you know (and do!)


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