It’s no secret how The Wellness Way feels about personal healthcare freedoms. Frankly, we believe all freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution need to be defended and exercised. While many people find themselves fresh in the fight for some of the freedoms they’ve taken for granted before, namely healthcare and personal freedoms, today’s political landscape seems to be a bit more volatile. But change will only come if enough people continue to defend their freedoms, continue to speak out, and continue to exercise those constitutional rights. So, how do you get involved? How do you defend those freedoms and exercise those rights?

Of The People, By the People, For the People

Know who is representing you, or not representing you, as the case may be. From city council members and school boards to county executives, state legislatures, and U.S. senators, and representatives. Each of these people are put into place by elections. Constituents vote them in. Guess who can vote them out, who they are responsible for representing, and who pays them while they are in that role? You and your neighbors!

It is your responsibility as a voting member of society to know who is in office, what they are doing there, what they are spending taxpayer money on, and how they carry out their duties. What are they voting on? You can find all of this on public websites or by asking for meeting minutes. As a taxpayer, this is your responsibility and right.

Whenever possible, it is wise to attend meetings and hearings. Especially when a change in policy is possible. You can also call, email, or write frequently to voice your concerns, support, or displeasure with how they are doing.

A Word About Elections

When it comes to elections: research, ask questions, don’t go for a party line. Who is going to represent and not go rogue on the constituents? Who is going to stay within the bounds of the Constitution and not let ego get in the way? Who has leadership experience and the ability to make hard, right decisions? There is a lot to think about when heading to the polls. It’s easy to get caught up in mud slinging and party lines. Don’t.

Focus on Local and Get Vocal

In reality, getting involved at the local level is much more urgent and impactful. The Constitution was set up to keep the governing of people close to the people it impacts. The role of the federal government, according to the Constitution, should be relatively small.

It also takes fewer votes at the local level to make a difference that can set a precedent up the line for higher ranking elected to see what their constituents are watching and speaking up for.

Local electeds may hold an office or seat, but they are also your neighbors. They live in the same communities, their kids go to the same schools, they attend the same events. They are much more likely to want to support their community than follow lobbyists and political influencers for their own gain when they know who they are representing.

Speak Up!

This past year we’ve heard about more and more people going to school board meetings and voicing their concerns. One of the best things you can do is to attend one of these meetings, or hearings on bills in your state house. This may sound intimidating if you’ve never done it before. As the saying goes, you have to start somewhere.

Last week, two of our own went to our state’s capitol to watch a senate hearing and to testify. The bills we showed up for were to add vaccination status as a protected class from discrimination, just like sex, race, religion, etc.  Here’s what that looked like:

How did we know when and where to go?

We stay informed by checking out the state’s website and from active groups that are like-minded and share information. We researched how to register to testify on behalf of a bill. In our case it was at a kiosk on site the day of the hearings. We knew ahead of time where to park, which rooms the hearing would be in, and overflow rooms for those who wanted to watch the proceedings when the hearing room was full. One of the groups had also reserved a room in the capitol so that we had a place to leave coats, take a break, grab a snack, and regroup. Remember, the state house belongs to the taxpayers. It’s our house! There are likely rooms available if you ask. A representative or senator’s office may be able to help you with this.

Who was there?

In the hearing room: This will depend on the bills, the rooms available, and any other number of criteria. In this particular case, we were in a much smaller room than expected or could hold our audience. The room was set with two big wooden tables in a T-formation with senators on the committee and a clerk. Each speaker sat in a seat at the end of the table with a microphone facing the committee. There were additional chairs in the room for those who would be speaking soon or who were choosing to stay to offer support. A camera was streaming statewide for those watching remotely, including the overflow rooms. Applause and other signs of support are limited; be sure to check on the rules for your location.

Overflow rooms: There were three overflow rooms for this set of highly represented bills. Each room was filled with people waiting to speak, offering support to those who testified, and listening to the testimony via streaming. This room would be on the ready to give standing ovations and encouragement to those who returned from their testimony.

In the reserved room: This looked like a family gathering. Parents, professionals, teens, children of all ages were listening, snacking, supporting, encouraging, and building community.

Helpful Tips to Keep in Mind

Not everyone present may agree with you. Be civil. It’s okay to be passionate and make a point, but don’t loose your cool and destroy your testimony. Be willing to listen to the other side. You may learn a thing, or you may learn how to use their argument to build your own case or help them to see your perspective. Either can be valuable.

Sometimes senators and committee members may have a bit of an ego and try to egg people on, as was the case in the hearing we were in. One senator sat directly in front of speakers signing post cards. We’re still not quite sure how he was so loud about it, but he certainly wanted to make it apparent he wasn’t convinced by the testimony he was hearing. For eight straight hours. That’s a lot of post cards. He would occasionally try to intimidate speakers by his tone of voice and line of questions. In the end, he couldn’t defend his point of view either and, to be honest, lost credibility as he let his cool slip many times.

There were several parents who also had children who testified. From a nine-year-old there for a homeschool experience to a 14-year-old who shared her own testimony of how damaging current policies were to children and students. There were professionals: doctors, researchers, scientists, concerned parents, business owners, all representing the many demographics of our state.

Whoever is in the room, remember, don’t be intimidated, they can’t hurt you. Don’t be rude, they are people too.

In this particular case, the testimony went on all day. It is important to be prepared with food, snacks, water, etc. One of the groups had pizza delivered to an overflow room and snacks set up in the reserved room. While it’s important to be respectful, it is also a public building. Know the guidelines and be prepared to spend the day if needed.

It was obvious, based on who the governor of the state is and the policies that have been attempted, that these bills would be vetoed. But, that day was crucial. For eight straight hours, not one person testified opposed to the bills. Not one. A vote will be held where each senator will have to go on record and the governor will veto it. This information will be recorded and made public during an election year. So, while this battle may not have been won, and in reality, may have never stood a fair chance even before the first speaker, a huge line was moved forward in the war for freedom. When people head to the polls for the primaries and the election in November, they’ll know who stands for them, who listens to constituents, and who is there for their own gain.

This Land is Your Land; This Land is My Land

In the American Revolution, only a small percentage of people fought for freedom. But they won. The freedom they fought was against the rule of a king and parliament without representation. It is up to us to be sure that we are still represented today. The excuses of too busy and uninformed don’t hold water. If you value your freedoms, you must defend them. Ronald Reagan said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

If you value your personal healthcare freedoms as well as all constitutional freedoms, you must be prepared to defend them. To do that you need to be informed and participate in the system we have. It may not be perfect, but if we the people make it known we are participating, it will work. Do it for your children and their children.

For more tips on how to get involved, tune into A Different Perspective as we interview people concerned for our freedoms and follow Jamie Barke’s Mothes’ Moments on getting involved locally.