New York City peace grannies -- the Granny Peace Brigade and its sister group, Grandmothers Against the War -- who have heretofore focused on urging an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have expanded our horizons to the fight for universal health care.
"These are two issues of extreme urgency to the U.S." said Barbara Walker, a member of both granny groups, "and each is at a critical juncture. The issues really can't be separated, as the gross funding for the unnecessary and doomed wars wastes money which could be used to cover all citizens' health needs."
Nine grandmas participated in an action held on Sept. 29, 2009, in front of the Bristol-Myers Squibb and Aetna insurance companies. In addition, there was a gaggle of Raging Grannies singing their satiric new lyrics to old standards. A surprisingly large turnout gathered in front of Bristol-Myers, and after a rally and a picket line which circled in front of the company's building, walked approximately 13 blocks down Park Avenue to the Aetna building, where they again formed a picket line for about an hour. A number of disabled people in wheelchairs participated in the action, adding to the drama of the occasion and demonstrating effectively the need for reform.
Earlier in the day, 16 protesters were arrested inside the Aetna building when they refused to leave until Aetna changed their policies (in both senses of the word). Among the arrestees was another of our Granny Peace Brigade women. She along with the other arrestees, was held in jail for 26 hours.
With the wars and the battle for good health coverage at critical crossroads right now, we grandmothers are busy trying to cover it all. We continue to hold our regular Wednesday afternoon Rockefeller Center peace vigils, with special emphasis on trying to convince Barack Obama to review his Afghanistan policy and withdraw troops there rather than escalate them. This is very important at this time as reports in the media indicate he is conferring on his Afghan policy with the objective possibly of changing it (remember that word, "Change," Mr. President).
We grannies are also holding regular "phone-athons" in public spaces where we offer our cell phones free of charge to passers-by in order that they may call their congressional representatives regarding shutting down the wars.
We are also organizing for our annual No Bases Teach-in Nov. 8, which this year will concentrate on U.S. military bases throughout the Pacific -- Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. It is the grandmothers' conviction that the 1,000 plus installations throughout the world are very destructive and counter-productive, not to mention cost-inefficient, and most should be permanently closed.
Counter-recruitment is another granny focus, in which we distribute Opt-Out literature to students, parents and faculty at high schools and colleges and lecture at PTA and other meetings.
Since our arrest in October 2005, which put us on the map, so to speak, as a significant anti-war force, we grandmothers have engaged in all the above plus many other endeavors. Our grandmother energy, dedication and creativity demonstrate to all that older people can play vital roles all their lives for the betterment of the world and themselves.
And, now we will devote some of that energy and commitment to the desperate need for a single payer health care plan. Maybe we won't live to benefit from universal health care ourselves, but we're going to make damned sure that our kids and grandkids get the opportunity for affordable and decent coverage. Watch for further news on this subject -- we've just begun to fight!