Typically, when people wearing white coats and stethoscopes walk toward me, my overwhelming response is not joy.
Usually, when I encounter men and women in surgical scrubs, I am wearing a blue cotton gown and hooked up to an I.V. drip. For me, the sound of hands sliding into surgical gloves is the sound of surrender to circumstances beyond my control.
But Wednesday’s protest in Hearing Room B was the opposite of all that.
You showed up! You dropped everything, set your alarm for a pre-dawn hour, hit the road, and arrived, before anyone else, at Hearing Room B to witness the testimony of DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah and his questioning by our elected representatives.
You traded street clothes for medical garb to remind our legislature of the importance of science and medical knowledge in political decision-making.
You sealed your mouths with duct tape to symbolize the dismissal of that knowledge in the current decision-making on fracking. The sound of your hands snapping into surgical gloves was the sound of never-give-up resolve.
And then you wordlessly occupied the front and central seats in the hearing room directly in front of the camera’s eye. And when Dr. Shah spoke–“[The health review on fracking] is actually not a health study. It’s very specifically not a study” and “My review is related to just the public health aspect. That does not include food”—you held up hand-lettered signs that called for bona fide study and bona fide science conducted with transparency and public participation.
You held that space for hours while the camera’s eye recorded your can’t-fool-us tenacity for all the world to see. I saw you again in the pages of the newspapers the next day.
Never has silence spoken louder.
So, I am writing to say that I’ll always remember the thrilling sight of all those white coats—even when, and especially when, I next find myself wearing a backless, blue, cotton gown.
And, of course I’m writing to tell you that, next Monday, February 4, we need to do it all again, in spades, with TEN times as many people. Same time, same room at the end of the same marble corridor. The NYS Budget Hearing on Environmental Conservation legislature will be questioning DEC Commissioner Joe Martens as part of the NYS Budget Hearing on Environmental Conservation. Let’s occupy every seat in the house.
So drop everything and come. Bring your neighbors. Get on the bus. Fill up your car.
And arrive early. We want the front row. Wear blue to symbolize water—the waters of our lakes, rivers, streams, and aquifers that we will not allow to be used as weapons of mass destruction against our own bedrock. Bring jars of water from your own kitchen taps to hold aloft at appropriate moments and, of course, some signs—small enough to hold comfortably while seated with words large enough to be read by the cameras.
Stay for the press conference and noon rally on the Million Dollar Staircase in the Capitol Building. Then, let’s walk together, bearing water, to the War Room outside Governor Cuomo’s offices where we’ll exchange silent protest for the loud kind.
Unless you have a chemotherapy appointment, there is no more important work for you to do on Monday than take a seat in Hearing Room B at 8:30 a.m. (And if you do, please use the hand not hooked up the chemo drip to write a letter to Governor Cuomo.)
This is the last waltz. And this is its refrain:
NOT ONE WELL. NOT ONE WELL. NOT ONE WELL.
Monday, February 4, 8:30 am. Hearing Room B. Wear blue. Bring water. See you there.
to the unfractured future,