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As a news and Internet junkie, I've read so many articles on the health care debate, both for and against, that my head want to explode.  I've also read some wonderful diaries here on dKos about personal experiences.  May I join the party?

I attended a healthcare rally in Seattle recently and realized that the only way to move opinion is with our personal stories.  A lot of us have heard, "I don't like [insert "other" political group, racial group, etc. here], but So-and-So... well, HE's okay".  It's different when you know someone, right?  

So let's get to know each other.  Let me tell you about my niece.

My sister and her family live in the small, conservative town in Arkansas where we grew up, not far from Bill Clinton's hometown.  It's mostly white, Bible Belt, and insular, but I like going home to visit, even if only to remind myself why I don't live there any more.

My sister, "Annette", and her husband are not impoverished, but they live pretty close to the line on occasion and don't have it easy, but they have three happy children (one married, one in college, one ten-year-old) and a good life.  For most of their marriage, they have had little or no health insurance.

Annette's daughter, "Belle", was born ten years ago with Down Syndrome.  Belle's one of the "fortunate" ones; she has no major heart or digestive issues, she's attending a regular school with an assistant, and is happy and engaged.  And let me tell you, that kid is the fastest little girl  you've every had to chase after.  We're all blessed by her.

In Arkansas there is a program that provides health care for disabled children based upon income level.  After a lengthy application process, Belle's medical expenses have been covered and she gets excellent care at the Children's Hospital in Little Rock.  Annette has to be vigilant about paperwork and deadlines to keep her on the program, but it's worth the trouble.

Now you have to understand that Annette and her husband are staunch Christian Conservatives. They're not terribly political (unlike me) - they just want to be left alone to live their lives in their quiet little town.  They don't attend rallies, write their congresscritters, or work phone banks.

But when former governor Mike Huckabee proposed cutting funding to this program to balance the budget a few years ago, Annette went into orbit.  She called, she wrote, she marched. "How DARE they try to balance the state budget by taking healthcare way from disabled children?"  She was outraged.  "How can he call himself a Christian?!"

The kicker was that the state is obligated to post a public notice if it wants to cut programs like this.  They posted it, all right - in the very back of the Little Rock paper, buried in the classified section.  If another parent had not seen it and raised the alarm, hundreds of disabled children would have suddenly lost their health insurance... and their families would not have known until they were informed in the emergency room.

Often a person doesn't think an issue is important until it affects them or someone they know.  My own position on marriage equality didn't evolve until my sister-in-law came out more than 20 years ago.

So let's help others evolve as well.  Tell your stories.  There are many excellent diaries here on DailyKos with personal stories - on a wide variety of topics - that will make your heart break; they must have been difficult to write.  But unless we talk about how policies affect real, live people, it's too easy for opponents to shrug.  How can a moral, thinking person look someone else in the face and say, "Sucks to be you, doesn't it?"  

Don't let them get away with it.

Originally posted to on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 02:36 PM PDT.

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