In November, Put People First! PA Healthcare Rights Committees held three actions – two in person, one virtual – to connect the genocidal devastation of the healthcare system in Gaza, funded by the U.S. government, to the poor and dispossessed people here are being kicked off of Medicaid by the millions. Here’s some of what our leaders had to say.

Becca, Northeast PA HRC at the Southeast PA HRC  CEASEFIRE NOW! From Hahnemann to Al-Shifa Healthcare is a Human Right Action, 11.24.23

“In a speech crying out against the horrors of war, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed, “A nation that continues, year after year, to spend more money on military defense than programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” The powers that be in America have spent 55 years dedicating themselves to the war economy since King sounded his warning. We have reaped not just a spiritual death, but an ever-increasing physical death toll runs rampant. There is an invisible war being waged against the poor and dispossessed in the richest country in the history of the world. A war that results in mass casualties of 800 people every single day. Up in Northeast PA, where I live, we have many small towns with less than 800 people living in them. I imagine an entire town’s worth of Americans being murdered every day, and I grieve for my people. Then I think of the genocide happening in Gaza, the towns being bombed into rubble daily, the children homeless, orphaned, alone, hungry, crying, dying. I think about how more than half of every dollar of the taxes I pay from the money I struggle to earn pays for the bombs and bullets that took their lives. I grieve for them too. 

Our fight is one and the same. We are all struggling to survive under a system that profits off of our deaths. 26 out of 35 hospitals are currently nonfunctional in Gaza. At Al Shifa Hospital, premature babies died in incubators when power was cut. Ground troops stormed the hospital with only one hour notice, even though there were no ambulances available to transport evacuees, turning Gaza’s largest medical facility into a warzone. There have been 164 reported attacks on healthcare centers in Gaza since October 7th. In the past year, hospitals are under unprecedented attack in Northeast PA as well. We have witnessed the closures of Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock, First Hospital in Kingston, Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, and Berwick Hospital. Many of these facilities were snatched up by private buyers after they closed and “reopened” under niche specialities designed to turn a quick profit. And standing outside of closed Hahnemann Hospital, it is plain to see that hospitals are under attack here too. As we speak, the Medicaid cuts, the largest cuts in 40 years, are robbing literally millions of Americans of access to lifesaving healthcare.

What do we do when our healthcare is under attack? (Stand up, fight back!)

What do we do when Gaza is under attack? (Stand up, fight back!)

It is a lie that Americans support the genocide being carried out by the state of Israel. Over two-thirds of us demand a ceasefire. We don’t want any war. We don’t want our tax dollars going to wage endless wars against other poor folks just like us. We want our money to be spent here at home. We want our money spent on Medicaid for All. We want our money spent on preventing our hospitals from closing. We want our money spent on better staffing in all of our healthcare institutions. We want our money spent on dental care because dental care is healthcare and our teeth are not luxury bones. We want our money spent on guaranteeing healthcare as a human right. We want Healthcare, Not Warfare!

Say it with me!
Healthcare, Not Warfare! (Repeat)
Healthcare, Not Warfare! (Repeat)

How do we make that world a reality? A world where poverty is erased, a world where war is ended, a world where the wanton destruction demanded by Empire is eliminated?

I chased the answer to that question for decades. I tried electoralism. I tried charity. I tried unionizing. I tried protesting. None of these actions alone granted the power that our class needs to enact change.

When I joined Put People First! PA, they taught me a quote from King that I hadn’t heard before: “If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”

The “they” that King spoke of was the 40 million poor and djspossessed of his time. Today that number has risen to 140 million. This is the leading social force of our time.

How then, can they “be helped to take action together”? At Put People First! PA, we say that we need to develop “Many Martins”, many leaders like King, brave enough to take up the call against the interwoven evils of poverty and militarism.

If we are to end the war economy so that our family in Gaza, or Iraq, or Syria, or Nicaragua, or anywhere else in the world can live free, we must break free of the silos that the ruling class wants to trick us into. We will never build the “new and unsettling force” necessary for change when we keep falling for petty culture wars. We need to build permanently organized communities, and unifying issues like healthcare as a human right can bring People together.

The People united will never be defeated!
The People united will never be defeated!
The People united will never be defeated!

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