VACCINE JUSTICE

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on June 21, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor. 

Now that we, Americans, have a surplus of vaccines and monetary incentives allure the vaccine hesitant to get their shots to prevent Covid-19 from killing us, what about the rest of the world?  Delta and other variants threaten the unvaccinated in low-income countries around the world. Halting the pandemic may mean making vaccines global public property, accessible to all. One patent litigation attorney, Ben Bourke, says that “providing public access to vaccines during a pandemic is paramount.” 

In Uganda, where I have led mission trips, they have just begun to vaccinate health care workers and the elderly with vaccines donated by COVAX, a vaccine alliance.   The World Health Organization (WHO) set up this Gavi COVAX pool of vaccines for 92 African and other low-income countries. Their plan is to reach 20% of these countries’ populations with Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. However, it still needs $50 billion more to purchase vaccines from pharmaceutical companies.   The Linda and Bill Gates Foundation and UNICEF have donated funds to COVAX for this purpose.  Global Citizen has set up a Recovery Plan for the World so that any citizen from the global community of nations may contribute online for this purpose. 

            Currently, COVAX relies on donations of surpluses from developed countries. At their recent G-7 meeting, leaders of member countries pledged to donate 870 million Covid-19 doses, half to be delivered by the end of 2021.  Although WHO’s director, Tedros Ghebreyesus, welcomes their pledged donations, he needs 2 billion doses by that date in order to stem the spread of the pandemic.    Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies have been slow to respond to donate to the pool.  COVAX has only been able to contract with Pfizer and Oxford Astra-Zeneca to contribute vaccines. Moderna promised vaccines in 2022. 

           Two factors may hold up the worldwide need for vaccinations even further: a lag in WHO approval of what vaccines can be in the pool and the stalled effort by the World Trade Organization to waive Intellectual Property protections for vaccines. Some companies don’t want their trade secrets revealed. Although Moderna has pledged to not enforce patents relating to its mNRA vaccine, Pfizer has not done so. 

         The United States has agreed to promote voluntary licensing of the Covid-19 vaccines and not-for-profit global production. But promotion alone will not meet the need for vaccine justice. 

        While determination of whether public health interests take precedence over profits is yet unclear, the Covid-19 virus and its variants rage on. You can help today by donating through Global Citizen’s website: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/involved/donate. 

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

A Mom Finds Her Political Voice

Written by Irma Ilustre, Manheim Township. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on May 16, 2021 with permission from the author.

What kind of world do I want my children to grow up in? This question has been one of my guiding principles as a mother and Lancaster SPEAKS Up member. 

I want my children to grow up in a community that reflects the values that our family believes in. After the election of 2016, I realized that I could no longer be a bystander in my community, riding out the ebb and flow of politics. I needed to be an active part of my community. I needed to take a stand to promote the values and beliefs that I was teaching my children. I also wanted to be a better role model for my children and “practice what I was preaching.” 

Like many people, I’m an introvert. Attending a protest or canvassing our community is not easy for me. As a mom my life is very busy, but my urge to participate and add my voice to move my community towards a greater good remains– so that leaves me wondering, how can I make a difference?

Luckily, I found Perry Hazeltine through a mutual friend. Perry is the founder of Lancaster SPEAKS Up, a group that focuses on making a difference using the written word. The idea of writing letters to the editor or emails like this one appealed to me. I have always been a writer and have kept a blog for a number of years, but writing for political purposes was a skill I needed to learn. Perry and the talented writers at SPEAKS Up were very helpful. Not only did they give me feedback, but they also discussed current events and issues and provided multiple points of view that made me re-evaluate my writing. Meeting in the evenings was difficult for me, so Perry and I started the daytime SPEAKS writing sessions for people (like moms) who were not able to join the evening writing sessions.

Working with Lancaster SPEAKS Up fits my schedule and has enhanced my writing. It provided the outlet I needed to be an engaged citizen in my community. Since I have joined Lancaster SPEAKS Up, I have had a letter to the editor published. I also lead the Lancaster SPEAKS Up blog, where we promote and support the SPEAKS writers.

If you’re someone who has limited time or if you’re unsure about how to get more involved, I highly recommend joining a SPEAKS writing session. Come for discussion, writing, and connections with like-minded people. This group provides a great opportunity to be involved and voice your opinions!

Our next virtual daytime writing session is on Thursday, May 20th at 10 AM. Please email lancasterspeaksup@gmail.com for the link. 

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

If God is Love, God is for Gun Control

Written by Rebecca Branle, Ephrata Township . This piece was first published on March 24, 2021 in basicallybeckyblogs.com. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

I think, deep down, we all know what’s right. And if we wonder, finding the answer is easy. Regardless of the God we pray to, or if we pray at all, we just have to consult love.

For me, God is love and love is God and Jesus’s life is love in action. For you, the God stuff might be different, and I honor that without judgement. The cool thing is that regardless of where you stand with God, love is the same. Love is good. So lately I’ve been wondering what would happen if instead of looking for answers from the politicians or political parties often assigned to us by houses of worship, we consulted love. Because Republican, Democrat, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist…these are all exclusionary labels, but love, love is accessible to all. A Christian can lead with love while standing alongside an atheist doing the same, and love can be the tie that binds. Love can be the litmus test we use to answer our most urgent problems. Like gun violence.

I wonder if 10 people in Boulder, Colorado would still be gone, still stolen from their families, if politicians and people had come together and consulted love after any of the previous mass shootings. What if, after Sandy Hook, after 27 people, mostly children, were massacred, lawmakers and citizens alike used their their love and not their political labels to respond?

What would love do?

Image courtesy of the author. (c) 2021 Rebecca Branle. All rights reserved.

Wouldn’t love choose life over assault weapons? Wouldn’t love be happy to have to pass a test to earn a license, to prove responsibility, in order to own a weapon too often meant to murder? Love would. Because love is patient. Love is kind. And love would know that while their heart was pure, some hearts are damaged and dangerous, and so love would say okay to licensing their gun, to background checks that might take time. Love would be willing to do the work to end this madness.

Can you imagine a scenario where love said, “do nothing?” Can you imagine love holding on to an assault weapon and refusing to let go? Can you imagine love saying the time it takes for a thorough background check is a bother or that gun control won’t save 100%, so we might as well save none? Can you imagine Jesus carrying an AR-15?

When you cut out all the noise and just meditate on what’s right, guided by love, the answers are so easy.

And if God is love and love is our compass, why do some Christians seem so confused? Because the Bible tells us to welcome the stranger, just as love does. Because the Bible calls on us to feed the poor, just as love does. Because Jesus was an activist for peace, just as love is.

Apply this reasoning to any question of our day. Would love deny healthcare to the sick, to freelance writers or small business owners, or mechanics or the un- and under employed? Would Jesus? Would love look a family fleeing violence in the eyes and spit, “Go home?” Would love say black skin has less right to life than white? Would brown-skinned Jesus? Would love scream “perverts!” at hearts joining hearts, regardless of their gender? Would Jesus? Or would Jesus have shown love to love? When did Jesus ever model exclusion, or hate?

He never did. Not once.

Because love is love is love.

Love is for gun control.

And God is love.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

On May 18th, Vote NO on these Primary Ballot Questions

Written by Perry Hazeltine, Lancaster City. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on May 2, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor. 

The next election is upon us, though it hardly seems like a blink of an eye since the last.  Though typically thought of as a Primary election, the May 18th election has four important ballot questions which all Pennsylvanians can vote on, regardless of party.

I am addressing the first two questions. Both significantly limit the Governor’s emergency declaration powers. I urge you to vote “No” to both questions.

A “No” vote on question one will prevent the general assembly from taking on power that is traditionally and wisely given to the executive branch. The last thing we need during a pandemic, hurricane, or flood is legislative gridlock. An important role of the executive branch is to act quickly in emergencies.

A “No” vote on question two will keep the duration of an emergency order at three months instead of decreasing it to three weeks.  The response to almost every emergency lasts more than three weeks. Calling back 253 legislators when we are amid a statewide crisis is like calling a family meeting when the house is on fire.

Though no governor is perfect, I felt comfort in looking to one leader who I knew was making crucial decisions.  A novel threat like COVID-19 fosters opinions and rumors, so we need one source of information to keep us from chaos and division.

Join me in voting “No” to the first two questions on the ballot on May 18th.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

The American Rescue Plan is as Good as it Gets

Written by Perry Hazeltine, Lancaster City. This piece was first published on March 28, 2021 in LancasterOnline/LNP. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

I am grateful to Senator Bob Casey for his leadership in the passing of the American Rescue Plan.  We’ve had enough bailouts for banks, automakers, and the airlines—finally, a bailout for people. It’s a shame that Senator Toomey and Representative Smucker didn’t join Senator Casey. I think that they downplay the economic impact of the pandemic on the average working family. For example, in a March 19, 2021, LNP article, staff writer Tim Mekeel reported that when compared to January of 2020, Lancaster County had 13,400 fewer residents with jobs in January of this year.

Here are just a few ways that the rescue plan relieves economic hardships. It puts money in the hands of people who need it at the same time the economy needs for them to spend it.  It puts money in the hands of landlords on behalf of their tenants who are unable to pay. Many landlords are mom-and-pop businesses that rely on rent payments for their mortgages.  The renter assistance program keeps families and landlords off the street.

It’s not perfect. Progressives fought for a $15-dollar minimum wage and lost. Conservatives feel it comes too soon after the last stimulus bill. In my mind, legislation that supports working families who lost work due to a historic pandemic, rescues small businesses, and stimulates the economy as a whole is about as good as it gets. Besides, it’s refreshing to see something get done in Washington for a change.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

More than Shovels and Black Lung: Miners and Factory Workers Deserve Real Assistance

Written by Laurie Hess, Warwick Township . This piece was first published here, theLancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on March 10, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as an Opinion Editorial. 

Salina Zito, a columnist for the Washington Examiner, wrote a recent article in LNP featuring the story of two miners. In it, Ms. Zito laments the decline of the mining industry and the resulting hardships visited on the two miners and their families.

I can remember traveling to West Virginia to visit my Uncle Dave and Aunt Lucy when I was a child. Riding in the back of my parents’ Chevy Impala, I would watch the wild, beautiful West Virginia countryside slipping by.

Uncle Dave was my dad’s brother. They grew up with their 10 siblings on a hard-scrabble farm in Little Britain Township during the Great Depression. When Uncle Dave married a West Virginia girl, they moved there to be close to her people.

Dave became a coal miner. It was the only game in town. Uncle Dave was clever and resourceful, hard-working and proud.

Ms. Zito scoffs at the idea of retraining miners so they can transition to other jobs, showing special contempt for President Biden’s suggestion that displaced miners can learn other skills, including coding.

Instead, she paints the miners and the mining industry as victims. Describing how the local newspaper blames mining for everything from “the growth of the deer tick population to last year’s mild winter.”

Zito seems to advocate keeping the miners employed in mining because they deserve our sympathy, but that is not how capitalism works. We didn’t prop up Photomat when digital photography became popular so Photomat workers could keep their jobs. Nor did we subsidize blacksmiths when we transitioned from using horses for transportation to automobiles.

Changes in energy economy reduced the need for mining jobs, not the liberal elite.

Ms. Zito  seems to indicate her support for the government to step in with financial aid for the ailing mining industry. Isn’t that a hallmark of socialism – government-subsidized businesses?

She writes about the populist political movement both miners in the article support. She believes the movement was not started by former President Trump, but it did help him win the presidency in 2016. She states, “if you always thought [the movement] was about Trump, you never understood who they were and why they vote the way they do.” 

Trump did not initiate the populist movement. He merely co-opted its objectives. Trump is the politician most closely associated with its growth. People who work in the mines, on the assembly lines, and in other jobs requiring manual labor have largely cast their political lot with Donald Trump. 

Maybe they see their well-deserved sense of grievance reflected in Trump’s frequent airing of grievances. Maybe they were first attracted to Candidate Trump because he promised to bring back manufacturing and mining jobs. Maybe Trump’s mistrust and contempt for liberal intellectuals appealed to them.

Whatever the reason, by supporting Trump and other Republicans, they championed candidates who actually made their situation worse, not better. Campaign promises to the contrary notwithstanding, the Trump administration did not institute economic policies that benefitted most U.S. workers.

Even before the pandemic, there were fewer coal miners employed in February 2020 than when Trump took office, during a time when 6.4 million jobs were added to the economy. Between January 2017 and July 2020, manufacturing jobs decreased by over 200,000, and nearly 30,000 factories closed in the U.S.

But here is the good news. By rebalancing trade agreements instituted by the previous administration, investing in infrastructure, and (yes, sorry Ms. Zito) clean energy, the current Biden administration has the opportunity to rebuild the American economy. These moves could provide good jobs, begin to shore up the eroding middle class, and initiate the reverse of the growing income inequality that exists in America today.

Biden’s proposed “Buy American” clauses would help prevent many benefits of the proposed investments from drifting overseas. 

We have the opportunity right now to implement policies that could actually help workers facing job loss in mining and manufacturing. We can’t do it, however, by clinging to outdated technologies and environmentally damaging energy sources, no matter how much empathy we may have for workers impacted by the transition.

My Uncle Dave died more than 30 years ago of black lung disease. His death was slow and torturous. I believe he would have preferred a good-paying job in an office with comfortable surroundings and clean air.

Even if it involved coding.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

The Lessons in Exodus

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa Webb, West Lampeter. This piece was first published on March 8, 2021 in LNP/Lancaster online. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments for us. One specifically states, “do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold” (Exodus 20:323).  Republicans at their weekend CPAC conference in Orlando, did just that when they introduced their golden statue of Donald Trump. They lined up to have their selfies taken with the statue and cheered when he repeated his grievances and vilified his enemies, holding out a carrot that he could be convinced to run again in 2024. 

Any Christian or Jewish person who still believes Trump won the 2020 presidential election, because of fraud or miscounts, please reread the Exodus passages. The Israelites in the valley became tired of waiting while Moses was receiving Ten Commandments from God on the mountain.  They convinced Aaron, Moses’ brother, who was in charge during Moses’ absence, to build a golden calf statue for worshipping (Exodus 32). 

When Moses returned and saw the people celebrating worshipping the golden calf, he threw the Ten Commandment stone tablets on the ground in disgust where they broke into pieces. Then, he asked people to choose. Did they want to worship God or their golden statue? Those who chose the statue contracted a virus that turned into a pandemic. That group perished.  

If people of faith continue to follow and worship their golden image of Trump, they will just see their desires and fears reflected in the sheen of that image while refusing to wear masks or be distanced.  Then, they too might perish.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

Come join us! Lancaster SPEAKS Up – Writing Sessions

Lancaster SPEAKS Up hosts two writing sessions a month – on the 1st Tuesday at 5:30 PM and the 3rd Thursday at 10 AM. Each session usually lasts 90 minutes which gives time for announcements, idea/topic sharing and refining, a 15 minuted writing session and feedback on your draft.

Anyone who has an idea for a letter to the editor, (LTE) opinion editorial (op-ed) or a blog post is encouraged to join. Or if you’re curious about what we do, we would welcome you as well!

Currently, all writing sessions are conducted via zoom due to the pandemic.

If you’re interested in joining, please email lancasterspeaksup@gmail.com and request the zoom link.

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent” 

― Madeleine K. Albright

A Moral Failure

Written by Eric Kearsely, Willow Street. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on February 11, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor. 

NOTE: Update from the author added on February 16, 2021.

Vaccines are being distributed throughout the county by relying on private institutions such as hospitals, pharmacies, and retirement communities, all institutions one would think were committed to the well-being of the public. 

Unfortunately, as we learned in Sunday’s LNP, some of these same institutions have chosen to vaccinate their own employees, regardless of the type of work they perform, rather than working to ensure that the most vulnerable receive the vaccine at the earliest possible time.  It was shocking to learn that all three hospitals in this county have provided the vaccine to “their employees, including those working remotely.”  The owner of a local pharmacy is even planning to hold a “friends and family vaccination event” while presumably turning away needy individuals. 

On Thursday, January 28, Willow Valley Communities (2400 residents, 1400 employees) announced that they had made the vaccine available to its employees, not just those who provide support in their healthcare buildings.  This action bypasses residents in independent living, many of whom are well over 75 years of age with many chronic illnesses qualifying them as the most vulnerable.  I hope the LNP will investigate and report those institutions that have so flagrantly failed us in this way.  

Update: Shortly after this letter was shared with Willow Valley executives, they repeated their policy that all 1400 Team Members, regardless of the jobs they hold (e.g., marketing, management, etc.) were considered healthcare workers and were considered to be immediately eligible for the vaccine.  However, for the first time, they began to offer the vaccine to a large group of independent living residents.  They also announced their goal of completing the first round of vaccinations for the rest of Willow Valley residents by February 19.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

Judicial Districts Aren’t Logical

Written by Steph Schreyer, New Holland. This piece was first published on January 30, 2021 in LancasterOnline/LNP. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

I am really scratching my head when it comes to state House Bill 38, a proposed amendment to the state constitution to organize the state judiciary into geographic districts and further provide for residency requirements.

It’s been a while since my civics class, but I believe our state legislators are the ones who are supposed to reflect their constituents. I am not a legal scholar, but I believe judges decide cases to resolve controversies in accordance with the rule of law. They are supposed to interpret and apply statutes passed by the legislative branch and determine whether those acts violate the state’s laws or constitution.

I think the measure of a good judge is not where they come from in the state or if they are similar to me in any way. Judges are supposed to be unbiased experts in the rule of law. This is not the best analogy, but when you are really sick, it doesn’t matter where the doctor is from. What matters is the doctor’s competence and expertise.

State House Bill 38, sponsored by state Rep. Russ Diamond, is, in my view, an insult to the citizens of the great state of Pennsylvania.

According to the National Center for State Courts, only two states use these sort of regional, partisan elections that Diamond is proposing — Illinois and Louisiana. Only two! Pennsylvania is considered the birthplace of our nation’s democracy. Write your representative and tell them Pennsylvania can do better than this!

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

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