My Candlelight Vigil

Posted on 5 min read

Earl holding the bullhorn.It started with an email from–one of my favorite non-profit, grassroots organizations: Candlelight vigil for health care reform at the Mount Soledad Cross in La Jolla. Lately I’d been increasingly frustrated by the national dialog on this very important issue. Instead of preaching to my (converted) friends or to my husband, who wishes perennially that I’d get either a soundproof room or an audience, I decided to put shoe leather to the problem and hike up to the Mount. 

The cross itself is a 29 foot high Latin-style cross that stands 822 feet high. There is an awesome, 360 degree view of San Diego, Coronado and Mexico.  I’d never been to a vigil and this one  was only five minutes from my house (provided my husband dropped me off; the uphill walk would have taken the better part of fifteen minutes, I suppose).  I thought this would be a good place to go and be with other people, like me,  who wanted health care reform.  I just hoped it wouldn’t turn into a town hall meeting filled with insane, gun-totting red-necks spewing their Obama-hate all over everyone. For all the dislike I had for Bush Jr., I never held a sign or wore a tee-shirt with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler.  Don’t make me bite your pinky off. 

I called my friend, who doesn’t want me to use her name, because she is paranoid (maybe because she stays home all day watching Fox TV news and plotting escape routes to Baja California) and asked her to go with me.  She’s furious about the health care debate.  She can’t stop saying how stupid Americans are.  She grew up in country that has universal health care.  I knew she would go with me in support.     

                         What a concept.Assuming there wouldn’t be parking near the place—I was sure it would be packed with clear-thinking Americans hoping to discuss the single payer option—I went ahead and asked my husband to drive. He annoys me so much of the time, I figure, what the hell, let him drive.  When we got to the parking lot at Mount Soledad, the sun was just starting to set.  It was a beautiful night, balmy, clear, complete with an orange glow in the sky. My friends new walking shoes, neon green, evanesced softly in the reflected light. 

Not too many people were there at first, but they trickled in slowly.  We signed in with the local organizer, a man named Earl.  An affable guy, Earl seemed truly concerned that everything was in its place.   He had a table set up and asked us to make name tags–my friend hesitated, but eventually caved to the peer pressure and pasted a name tag on her shirt.  People were wearing their best political tee-shirts and carrying home-made signs and flashlights.  One channel 7 news camera and two police cars were there to witness. If I was a philosophy teacher I’d pose this question to my class—can a demonstration really occur if there is no media on hand to witness it? Eighty people signed in.

   Best poster goes to...  The plan was to begin the vigil by listening to a speech by Ted Kennedy played out of Earl’s boom box.  Unfortunately, the boom box didn’t cooperate.  Since it felt like it was taking forever with Earl nervously futzing with the boom box—and since she was worried about the condition of a frail-looking older woman in attendance, one of a party of five from White Sands of La Jolla, who wanted a chance to air her health care grievances—my nameless friend suggested Earl skip Ted Kennedy’s speech—even though we all recognize him for the lion he was, the last remaining Kennedy  brother, despite that minor detail of the dead girl in his car at Chappaquiddick—and get straight to the meat of this pro-healthcare rally,  the part where people get to stand up and air their grievances.

     And so it was that the speakers stepped up and told their sad and maddening stories of being denied coverage by their insurance companies.  A military man who had great insurance, thanks to the government, said he feels bad for the rest of us who don’t have it.  Other stories were about people who  had lived abroad; they told of their experiences with “foreign” health care.  One woman who lives half the year in France and half in the US said, “My medicine costs 75% less in France than in the US.” As this woman spoke it made me think of an article I’d read at  The writer had recently moved to New Delhi to write for a newspaper.  She wanted to get acclimated to the food and water and so began drinking and eating everything the locals did.  As a result, she got very sick, very fast.  After a few days of suffering, she asked an Indian friend to find a doctor for her.  At 9:30 am her friend called the hospital down the street, and the writer had an appointment at 10am with a gastroenterologist.  She was given an antibiotic.  She left the hospital after paying her bill—a total of $6.00.    The last woman to speak was a San Diego Unified school teacher.  She was told by her doctor that she needed to take Fosomax to increase her bone density.  Her insurance company denied her.

It seems to me the most interesting people (in terms of entertaining reading, at least) aren’t  the ones who want universal health care, but the people who don’t. A nurse at one of my doctor’s offices went off about Obama’s proposal being the wrong thing for America.  “It’s like when Hitler made the car for the common man, the VW bug, while everyone else drove Mercedes’. If anyone can figure out what she meant by this, I would appreciate you sharing it in the comment section below.

     I don’t know what the new health care program will end up being.  My unselfish hope is that people who don’t have health care will have it.   My selfish hope is that I’d like to keep the health care that I have but not have to worry about losing it,  about being denied coverage for things I need, or paying through the nose for it. Do you know that I recently discovered that my husband and I have been overpaying for our health care for nearly fourteen years to the tune of nearly 6,000 a year? I was being covered for another pregnancy even though my husband had a vasectomy. I can do the math but I haven’t. Just to not be ripped off so blatantly would be a good start.

 Nice view.

1 Comment
  • Jan
    September 25, 2009

    I have been fortunate. My medicare card arrived the day before I knew I needed cardiac surgery. I had BCBS, but could have never paid the co-pay. My sister says she can never leave Canada. She has a special need child and could never afford his care in the US.
    Thanks for demonstrating!