Moving Mountains, One Shovelful at a Time

It always seems impossible until it’s done. ~Nelson Mandela

One day, an ordinary man named Dashrath Manjhi stood in front of a 300 foot mountain- a barrier of rock that separated him and his people from healthcare, education, and jobs.

He picked up a simple chisel, and a hammer, and a shovel.

And he went to work.

That mountain made life hard for his people – the Musahar, landless laborers and members of the lowest caste in their hierarchical society. Trips over the mountain took hours over treacherous terrain, and laborers like himself had to take that trip daily for work on the other side.

One day, while crossing the mountain to bring him lunch, his wife fell and injured her leg. As he saw her limp toward him, he decided he had had enough. Rather than waiting for anyone else to solve his problems, he’d do it himself.

As he said shortly before his death in 2007: “This hill had given us trouble and grief for centuries. The people had asked the government many times to make a proper road through the hill, but nobody paid any attention. So I just decided I would do it all by myself.

And so, day after day, he would finish his job as a farm laborer and head to the mountain, to chip away at this barrier that separated him and his people from a better life.

Friends made fun of him.

People called him crazy.

But day after day, week after week, year after year he continued, barely sleeping, finally leaving his laborer job to conquer the mountain full-time.

When his wife succumbed to illness because she couldn’t make the 75 kilometer trip around the mountain to get to the nearest doctor (who was just on the other side), Dashrath redoubled his efforts, becoming “a man possessed.”

But while his motivation began with his wife, he soon saw the benefit that his work would have on his fellow villagers: “My love for my wife was the initial spark that ignited in me the desire to carve out a road. But what kept me working without fear or worry all those years was the desire to see thousands of villagers crossing the hill with ease whenever they wanted.”

Twenty-two years later, he had broken the mountain.

One man with little education and only rudimentary tools carved a road 360 feet long and 30 feet wide, using his bare hands and an extraordinary heart.

That road meant freedom: people from 60 villages had access to markets, healthcare, and jobs that now were just five kilometers away. Children who used to walk eight kilometers to school could now walk three. People’s lives were saved; other lives were made simpler, better, safer.

All because of one man, and his unwavering belief that his own actions could help make life better for everyone.

Friends, there is a mountain in front of us.

It is imposing, and it is treacherous. But it is not impenetrable. And what lies on the other side is worth the effort.

It may feel like we are making no progress, or that you are toiling away on your own. But make no mistake – there are resisters on your left and your right, setting cracks in the rock, shoveling stone, and pushing boulders out of the way.

We can already see the crack in the mountain.

We’re not far from the other side.


Pick up your chisel.

Go grab your shovel.

And let’s get to work.


Tuesday: Break the Internet

On Thursday the FCC is poised to vote to kill “net neutrality” – a principle that requires all internet service providers to treat all sites and all users equally. It’s the same kind of principle that’s used for regulating other pieces of infrastructure, like highways and telephone lines.

Without net neutrality, ISPs have the option of slowing sites (like mine) unless we pay more for “fast” lane usage, or charging users more for access to sites or speeds. Keep in mind that these days a website is a business’s storefront. If a website loads slowly (i.e., if it takes longer than three seconds) over 70% of web traffic goes somewhere else. If ISPs start charging more for “fast lane” access, small companies will lose yet more business.

That should be a reason for the GOP to step in and stop the FCC from killing net neutrality, but so far they’ve been silent.

To advocate against this terrible policy, today is a national day of action sponsored by Battle for the Net, called “Break the Internet.” Head over to Battle For the Net which has a number of resources that you can use to show your support for a free and fair internet. This is a really simple way for you to share your solidarity with this movement, and that you’re paying attention.

You can also call your MOCs to let them know that you’re watching, and that this matters to you, and it should matter to them if they care about small businesses.

Script (can be used with either Senators or Reps): Hi, my name is ____ and I’m calling because I’m concerned that the FCC may eliminate net neutrality. I know that a lot of small businesses could be impacted if they have to pay extra for faster speeds, and I worry about the impact this decision would have on free speech. What is _____ doing to help protect net neutrality and promote a free and fair internet?

Wednesday: Call Your Senators About the Tax Bill

The current iteration of the tax bill – and all of its predecessors – add at least a trillion to the deficit, regardless of the kind of hocus-pocus analysis the GOP attempts. The GOP has now pivoted to talking about how to cut social services in order to bring down the deficit that it just exploded through an irresponsible tax cut.

So this week’s message about the tax bill is different. Let’s demand of our members of Congress: If you’re willing to vote for a tax cut that will explode the deficit, then you must commit to retaining social services – including Social Security and Medicare.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to get a commitment. If the Senator votes for a tax cut that will balloon the deficit in order to give a tax cut to corporations and wealthy individuals, he/she must show his/her commitment to the middle class, working poor and people on fixed incomes by voting against any attempts to reduce social services. We see what’s going on – the increase in the deficit is being used as an excuse to cut programs that help those that need it the most. So if the Senator truly believes this tax cut will jump start the economy, cuts to services shouldn’t be necessary. I want a commitment: if he/she votes to cut taxes, he/she will vote against any efforts to cut what the GOP has been calling “entitlements”. Thanks for your time.

Thursday: Trump Is Not Above The Law

As the Russia investigation has gained steam, the GOP seems to have changed its talking points – and is now trying to discredit Robert Mueller and his investigation. This is a significant shift, and it’s not gone unnoticed.

It’s important to tell our MOCs that we need to protect Robert Mueller’s investigation, but we also need to make a plan about what we’ll do if he is fired.

To put it bluntly, if he is fired, we need to hit the streets. The protest must be massive to show that we understand that this is a constitutional crisis and we won’t stand silent to watch it happen. IF this happens, it’s probably the most important protest of this year. Maybe of my lifetime.

It would be a big deal.

Go to Trump Is Not Above the Law for a list of preplanned events in your area, bookmark it in case you need it later, and send to a few friends.

If we make it clear now that we’ll hit the streets if this happens, perhaps we can better encourage our MOCs to protect the investigation.

Friday: Fund CHIP and FQHC

While the GOP has spent its time and energy trying to pass a terribly unpopular tax bill, it has neglected to restore funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and for Community Health Centers.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program insures over 9 million children. Funding for the program lapsed over a month ago, and much to the dismay of … well … everyone, the GOP has not seen fit to reauthorize their funding. Families are already beginning to receive notices that their CHIP coverage will lapse soon; sixteen states will exhaust their funding before the end of January 2018. The Kaiser Family Foundation has updated their information regarding when states will run out of CHIP funding. Check this link for information about your state.

But that’s not the only healthcare story we need to stress. If funding for Community Health Centers (FQHCs) is not renewed, millions of patients will lost access to healthcare, and 161,000 jobs will be lost. States will literally lose billions in revenue. Head over to this white paper to see a breakdown of how many jobs and how much revenue will be lost if the funding is not restored. (It’s in Table 1.)

Script (you can use this for Senators or for Reps): Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to see what  ____ is doing to reauthorize funding for CHIP and community health centers. I’m really concerned about the priorities I’m seeing in Washington. You know something’s wrong when Congress prioritizes giving wealthy people tax cuts when – over the holidays no less – families are worried that their kids’ insurance will lapse and community health centers might have to lay people off. This is ridiculous! What is ____ doing right now to help the people of our state/district?

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.

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