- Posted by Guest Author
- On October 4, 2018
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Monday, October 22, GBIO Action at the ISBCC
The seeds of compassion and indignation at injustice sown last spring in TI’s Community Conversations For Such a Time as This are bearing fruit, certainly in TI’s own justice initiatives. In addition, the power of the stories we told, joined to those shared in the 40 other congregations of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, are shaping and compelling action in the public sphere to make change on matters that concern us all. Your presence at the GBIO Pre-Election Action will increase our power for change that’s possible at Such a Time as This.
Action in Such a Time as This
By Michael Rubenstein
Today, I find myself in the middle of civic action, negotiating for affordable healthcare with the power of hundreds of people behind me. I didn’t start here and getting to this point for a 56-year-old man who hasn’t been very outgoing in his life thus far feels like a big change. While each of us is unique and finds our own way to contribute, my experience teaches me that the ability to engage in civic action makes me a better and more joyful person.
I am learning that organizing for power to act for our common good is both a skill and an art. We talk a lot about power within GBIO: How we build power, how we exercise power, how we share power. But it’s really important for me to remember that power is not good or bad itself. The judgments that each of us makes are what imbues the power that we exercise with value.
I have watched people within GBIO and public figures, such as the District Attorney candidates at the GBIO Action last August 23rd, wield power. There we sat, along with the DA candidates, and listened to Firdosa Hassan tell her story of Somali mothers knocking on the doors of their friends and neighbors, asking for the bail money they needed to release their sons caught up in our criminal justice system. Firdosa came into that action with a group of 40 other Somali women from the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and left with the power of all of GBIO pushing the DA candidates to engage with us on bail reform and other reforms of the criminal justice system.
These Somali women have not been sitting still. They have been continuing to exercise their power and engaging with local officials to improve their lives and the lives of their children. Now they have a new story to tell at our next GBIO Action on October 22. Their example of local action is inspiring to me.
I have also been part of teams that have built power by making judgments and acting on them together. Our GBIO Healthcare team, concerned with the stories we’ve heard about rising costs and inaccessibility, has been engaged for over a year to stop the merger of Beth Israel and Lahey Health. There have been many decisions of which I have been a part. First, there was the decision to take on this merger. Then we decided to meet with public figures and learn who had the power to change the course of this merger. We submitted testimony to the Department of Public Health, responded to Boston Globe editorials and spoke with the press.
You might think we had some grand strategy all mapped out in the beginning and then deliberately executed that strategy as the process to approve the merger unfolded. However, action doesn’t work like that. Instead, it was one action at a time, learning at each step how others reacted and changing our actions accordingly. For me, it felt like every decision was critical, because the hopes of so many who shared their experiences with me depended on staying at the table.
At this moment, Governor Baker’s Department of Public Health is weighing what additional conditions might satisfy their requirements to approve the merger and the Attorney General is weighing whether to file a lawsuit to stop the merger or, more likely, negotiate her own set of conditions for the merger to go forward. We are still in this fight, standing together to be recognized as the voice of consumers in Massachusetts who deserve to weigh in on this deal. We still believe that consumers and taxpayers should not have to pay Beth Israel Lahey Health an extra $230 million every year just so they can merge.
Each time we act, others react, so we continually have to adjust our actions as the world around us shifts. This cycle of action, reaction, evaluation and deciding on the next action has been exciting, meaningful and productive in the deepest sense. We are producing change in ourselves and our world. I believe that doing this work makes both a little better.
When we gather with other congregations at GBIO’s Fall Action on October 22nd, I can’t tell you exactly what will happen that evening with regard to the Beth Israel/Lahey merger, the power of 40 Somali women to make local change, or with any of the public figures we engage on the issues that matter to us. However, what I can tell you is that there will be amazing power in the room. We will have the opportunity to learn and grow. We will be doing the work of democracy in a deep and meaningful way. I can hardly wait.
Michael Rubenstein is a member of TI-GBIO Core Team and co-chair of the GBIO Healthcare Team.