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On September 22, the Vermont Workers' Center held a public forum on health care reform at Montpelier High School. In attendance were eight local legislators, a handful of Workers' Center volunteers and a roomful of incensed and impassioned residents.
I am proud to say that I, as well as several other residents of Waitsfield, were among them.
Sitting on the edge of our seats in the auditorium, we listened to the stories of local residents who have suffered under the current, profit-driven healthcare system. They were stories such as the one told by Liz Zundel -- a Barre resident, registered nurse, mother and Lupus sufferer -- whose health care benefits have been cut off, leaving Zundel over [her] head in debt.
Or take the story of Montpelier resident Walter Carpenter, whose life was saved by an MRI that his insurance deemed unnecessary, and who likened dealing with the insurance magnates to "negotiating like I was buying a used car."
The mood in the auditorium that night was clear; the people of Vermont want meaningful health care reform now.
Several of our local legislators were in attendance: Representatives Paul Poirier, Mary Hooper, Janet Ancel, Tony Klein, Tess Taylor and Francis Topper McFaun and State Senators William Doyle and Ann Cummings.
But as Poirier suggested at Tuesday's forum, the problem may be that our legislators themselves may be an impediment to progress.
Sometimes, it takes more than just showing up.
"I think that the problem is us, the elected officials," Poirier said, as the crowd gave its biggest applause of the night. "We as politicians are afraid to step up. You've never had numbers like we do today to move an agenda. And what are we doing? We are doing zero."
But if our legislators are not serving the will of the people, what recourse do the residents of Vermont have?
The answer is simple; we need to get angry. We need to make our voices heard -- vehemently -- for these are vehement times. The matter is not out of our hands as citizens, and we are not dependant on our legislators. They are dependent on us.
Maybe it's time that we remind them.
Because, as Rep. Tony Klein so candidly put it on Tuesday, if meaningful health care reform is not forthcoming, we're going to have a revolution in this state.
Eric Kiefer of Waitsfield is a Vermont Workers' Center volunteer.