Amy Goodman spoke to healthcare activist Ady Barkan on Thursday ahead of the premiere of the new documentary, “Not Going Quietly.” Barkan, who is dying of terminal ALS, talks about why he has dedicated his life to pushing for Medicare for All.
AMY GOODMAN: Ady, I wanted to start off by saying this is one of the great honors of my life to be talking to you. So thank you so much for making this time, right before the documentary is airing about your life.
Let me start off by asking you about the enormous emphasis on healthcare in this country right now, even in the corporate media, because of the pandemic. Yet there is very little talk about Medicare for All, an issue you have dedicated your life to. Can you talk about why you have dedicated yourself to this issue?
ADY BARKAN: That is so generous, Amy. Thank you for your career of leadership.
Only a truly radical departure from our exploitative, for-profit model to one that guarantees healthcare as a right for all will ensure that we no longer live in a nation where people go bankrupt on account of their medical bills. Take this last year as a prime example of the breadth of cruelty possible in our for-profit healthcare system. COVID disproportionately devastated poor communities and communities of color. Death rates in Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities were over twice that of their white counterparts. Millions lost their jobs and, as a result, their health insurance. Hospitals that primarily serve Medicaid patients shut down, prioritizing profits over people. Meanwhile, private insurers saw their profits double, because Americans delayed much-needed care. A system that profits off of death and people forgoing medical care is a system that is beyond repair. We need Medicare for All now.
AMY GOODMAN: What gives you the strength, Ady, to be the relentless activist that you are?
ADY BARKAN: You know, building a progressive movement means having your heart broken all the time. This comes with the territory. We organize for a better world, not in spite of our own pain, but because of it. We push forward because we are faced with no other option but to struggle for our freedom.
These last five years have been really tough, both personally and also collectively as a society. But take a breath and look around. You will find evidence of the profound beauty that our society has forged from the depths of pain, especially this past year. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done. But placed in this context, it means there is also more community, more creation and more healing that is bound to emerge from our labor.
AMY GOODMAN: Ady, what gives you hope?
ADY BARKAN: I’ve learned that hope is not a lottery ticket that we cling to. It’s a hammer that we use in an emergency to break the glass, sound the alarm and spring into action. I am asked this question a lot, and so I want to be clear here. I don’t believe in latent hope. Hope, as I have come to know it, is the result of hard work. Hope is action in the face of despair. Hope is born out of our insistence that a better world is possible, and formed in our coming together in collective action to realize this better world of our imagination.
AMY GOODMAN: I’ll just say once again, Ady, what an incredible honor it is to be able to speak with you and to just say what an enormous difference you have made, not only in this country, but around the world, as the persistent, compassionate, brilliant and extremely funny activist that you are, about an issue of life and death, that you face every day. So, thank you so much.
ADY BARKAN: Thank you. I am grateful for your solidarity.