Phyllis & I were arrested yesterday (Tuesday, Dec 5) as part of nonviolent direct action in DC against the Tax Deform bill.
There were hundreds of people yesterday who moved from office to office of 10 members of the House of Representatives who had voted for the tax bill but were from districts of probable strong majority opposition to it. (We passed the office in the Longworth Building where in 1959-1960 Marc Raskin & I had been legislative assistants for Bob Kastenmeier of Wisconsin, whose memory is a blessing,)
At each office, about 80 to 100 people clogged the corridor and chanted for about 15 minutes before the Capitol Police arrived and ordered the crowd to disperse. Then in each place 10 to a dozen of us refused to move or leave when directed by the Capitol Police and were arrested.
Phyllis and I chose to focus on Congressman Meehan of suburban Philadelphia. We were able to bring to his office letters from his own district; we left “pink slips” saying he will be fired from his job in November unless he votes No on passage of the tax bill; we helped lead and took part in chanting outside his office (“Heal America, Kill the Bill; Kill the Bill, Don't Kill Us!”; and then we were arrested.
A documentary film-maker interviewed the two of us: Why were rabbis involved in this? I said because of one Big and one small reason:
The Big one: Beginning with Hebrew, I chanted, " Sh'sh'shma Yisrael, Hallelu-Yahh elohenu, Yahhh echad." "Hush'sh'sh and listen, all you Godwrestlers who live within all peoples; hush and listen to the still small voice of Breath; we celebrate the Interbreathing of all Life; the Breath of Life is ONE."
For me this means that all life holds and shares the spark of God and must be honored and protected in all our interwovenness -- all humans and all other life-forms, all shaped into ONE and shaping ONE. That "echad," that ONE, is what weaves together whst modern scientists call an ecosystem.
But the Tax Bill deforms, distorts, and destroys this Unity, this Interbreathing, by treating some humans and some other life-forms and all of Mother Earth as disposable, destroyable -- and others, a very small number, as Hyper-powerful and Hyper-wealthy, to rule over all the rest of us.
The small reason: In 2011, I need to deal with a throat cancer. It required radiation and chemotherapy, all covered by Medicare. Under the new bill as passed by the Senate, some coverage of high expense items under Medicare is blocked. Why? To make it possible to give even bigger tax cuts to the Hyper-Wealthy. The result: I would probably have been either impoverished or dead five years ago. Multiply me by millions, and multiply that particular lethal element of the Tax Deform by dozens of other analogous provisions, and you get back to the Big answer.
We discovered that many of the Capitol Police who were arresting us already understood these realities of the Tax Deform, and quietly agreed with us about opposing it. Their parents and their kids (interest on college tuition loans will no longer be deductible; free tuition for graduate students when they act as teaching or research assistants will become taxable income) are at serious risk.
That understanding may have strengthened what I have observed before: that the Capitol Police often act remarkably caring and courteous -- as indeed they did to to all of us on Tuesday. They even arrested me without handcuffs and transported me to jail in a wheelchair because the exhausting hours of travel through three different House Office Buildings had left my back and knee hurting a lot.
About 150 people were arrested – – an extraordinary miniature America, of every color, many ethnicities and religions, ages from 22 to 84, a wide range of work and jobs, of sexualities & genders, of places from NYC to Kansas, Arkansas, and Arizona, a number with very serious medical conditions that are now being held at bay with financial help from Medicare or Obamacare or Medicaid but might well lead to their deaths under the new tax bill."Kill the Bill, Don't Kill Us!” was a dire reality, nut just metaphor.
The House pilgrimage went from 1 to 5:30. Booking and release (on $50 each forfeited collateral) of those of us who got arrested took till 9. Our bus home had to leave at 4 pm. Phyllis and I took Amtrak back to Philadelphia, got home at almost 2 a.m.
Exhausted & exhilarated.