Letter: Tuesdays with Toomey, inspired by Bowie
When David Bowie passed, a piece of my heart broke. He's been a key voice in the soundtrack of my life, and I am better for it. David Bowie was a man unafraid to be himself. He didn't conform to society's standards: not in his gender presentation nor in what his music was supposed to sound like. And by being relentlessly himself, he allowed us to envision ourselves as more than what society said we had to be.
In a time when segregation in the music video industry was taken as a given, Bowie went on MTV and asked them why they weren't playing black artists like Prince and Michael Jackson. He was polite, but he didn't back down. He neither relented nor appeased. And with a chorus of voices like his, things changed. He was, in his own words, a hero, if just for one day.
We can all be heroes, if just for one day. I see this in my work with Tuesdays with Toomey, a group of local Philadelphians who decided after Nov. 9 that even though our voices — the majority — were not heard in the election, we would keep speaking until someone listened.
In the first week, there were only eight members. The second week brought twenty. At our next meeting, we are expecting over 100 at the Philadelphia office and dozens more at Sen. Pat Toomey's Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and Allentown offices as well. Every Tuesday we gather at Toomey's office, and, provided the staff "privileges" us with a meeting, we share our deep worries about the future of this country. We are polite. We are respectful. But we will not relent nor will we appease.
Last Tuesday, despite locked doors and disconnected phones, we spoke up for the environment. We asked Senator Toomey to support bipartisan legislation to deal with Pennsylvania's lead and air pollution crisis. We also asked him to oppose Scott Pruitt for head of the EPA. In previous meetings, we've spoken up for healthcare.
We want Toomey to defend the right for all Pennsylvanians to have affordable healthcare by fixing and not repealing the Affordable Care Act, especially with no plan in place to protect constituents like my mother who have survived cancer and thus have a "pre-existing condition." We've spoken out to defend our city's funding and safety, asking Toomey to rescind his dangerous "Stop Sanctuary Cities Act." We've stood up for women's reproductive rights. We've shared research and personal stories. We've shared laughter, anger and tears. And we keep coming back.
Today, on the anniversary of David Bowie's death, we are speaking up for civil rights by asking Toomey to reject Jeffery Sessions for attorney general. Like last week, we may be locked outside in the cold. But we'll be there. We do these things, in the words of President John F. Kennedy, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard." Because we believe that eventually, if we keep speaking, if we are relentlessly ourselves, we can go farther than we ever imagined. We believe that we can all be heroes. Even if it's just on Tuesdays.
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