Ady Barkan is a fierce activist fighting for democracy, health care, and his own life. He suffers from ALS and will need a ventilator shortly to keep him alive and breathing while his 18-month old son grows up.
Barkan is also the campaign director for Fed Up and Campaign for Democracy, and has been fighting in the halls of Congress to keep this Republican tax scam bill from passing because he knows it will trigger automatic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid services which are keeping him alive now and into the future.
He talked to Ali Velshi this afternoon about his hopes, his dreams, his son and the dehumanization of people in need by Republicans desperate to serve their masters.
"So what should I tell my son, or what should [Republicans] tell my son if you pass this bill and he has to pay for my health care and I can't get a ventilator," Barkan asked Jeff Flake earlier this month. "Do you think people with disabilities are just slackers?"
"Medicare Disability provides for the health care that I'll need to see my son reach his third or fourth or fifth birthday," he explained to Ali Velshi. "And the tax bill that was passed by the house an hour or two considered by the Senate in a few hours, would lead to $400 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare. That could put my life at risk and the chance that I have to see my baby boy learn to read or that I could have him play chess with me."
" I don't want to lose that, and I don't deserve to lose that, because I paid into Medicare, just like you do and everyone else every two weeks."
Velshi asked Barkan why he thought this happened, especially after Republicans realized how unpopular repealing Obamacare was. "Why are people not understanding the very real story that you're presenting to them?"
"The answer is, the Republicans who are voting for this are refusing to see my humanity. They are refusing to acknowledge that I am a human being with hopes and dreams and family members and friends..."
"Just like last night, I was downstairs in the basement of the Capitol and I rolled up and Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina was there with five big TV cameras on. And I rolled over there and I said Senator Graham, you were talking about John McCain, his beloved colleague, who like me is dying of a brain disease, and he was talking about John McCain."
"And I said, Senator Graham, will you talk to me for a minute about this bill? And he ran away into a place where i'm not allowed to go as a civilian. I know that NBC and MSNBC have footage of that, and you can try to find it. He ran away."
"And that exemplifies, that moment I was there with Megan Anderson, a woman who was almost totally paralyzed, that moment exemplified that Republicans are treating this legislation and treating the American people. They are afraid to see our humanity and if they were in fact to stop and look us in the eye and hear our story and hear our voice, their legislative agenda would become untenable."
"He doesn't have the heart to look me in the eye and say, yes, I am voting to cut your Medicare. I am voting to raise your taxes, so that real estate developers and hedge fund managers can get huge tax cuts."
"So the answer is that the reason this is happening is that the Republicans in Congress have stopped listening entirely to their constituents. Lindsay Graham ran away from me. I'm in a wheelchair. What does he think i'm going to do to him? Beat him up? He's afraid of my humanity and that is why we have to retake our government, reclaim it for the people, reenergize the American people to participate in this -- participate in this thing we call American democracy."
"And if the Senate passes this bill tonight, we will retake our country next year. In 2018, the American people will rise up and say that we reject the politics of division and oppression. And that's why I think it's happening, and I think the only cure for it, Ali, is more democracy and that's what I hope to contribute in the coming 12 months."
He ended the segment by vowing this: "We may have lost the vote today, but we are winning the moral argument today, and next year we'll win the political argument and then we'll start getting a government that is actually accountable to the American people. We will reclaim our democracy together."
Ady Barkan, you are a true American hero. May you also be a prophet.