As part of our series on “Interviews with the Resistance” we interviewed Dr Keith Pochick, physician and self described “full-time solider for the First Amendment”.
What are the three most important issues facing The Resistance today?
I think right now, there is a fury which is both serving us well and shooting us in the foot. We are so damned mad about Trump, how we got here, the thinly veiled push toward totalitarianism, the assault on women’s rights, etc., that it is difficult to even organize our thoughts, let alone establish priorities. This fury can galvanize us if it is properly focused, but it can potentially drive wedges between us. Right now, there are pretty heated arguments between those who supported Bernie Sanders and those who saw him as a reason Hillary lost. I think if we can focus on a common and simple goal first, we can unite to ensure that Trumpism is a very short-lived, failed movement. So, establishing unity is probably the most crucial thing we can do right now.
To do that, we need to be inclusive. I grew up in Appalachian Virginia, and the county of my childhood went 80% for Trump in November. We have to understand that not everyone who voted Trump is a bigot. The hopelessness of certain areas of the country is crushing. There are people who felt so powerless and forgotten by Washington that were willing to risk tossing a match into the gas tank. They were duped, and many are already terribly frustrated with Trump because it is becoming clear that his policies not only won’t help them, but that they will be worse off. A lot of these people were the bread and butter for the Democratic Party for decades. If/when they want to come back, we should welcome them with open arms. This doesn’t mean we want hateful bigots to join our movement, quite the contrary.
We aren’t always going to agree on everything, and we will have varying priorities. Some of us are focused on healthcare, some on the attempt to criminalize Muslims and Latinos, some on the preservation and advancement of women’s rights, and so on.
While there does appear to be evidence of systemic racism by police, calling someone in the Resistance ‘racist’ when they empathize with an individual police officer placed in an incredibly difficult single situation is wrong. I believe it is possible to be ‘pro- Black Lives Matter’ and pro-police, instead of having to choose between the two as if they were polar opposites. Honestly, I think we will be more effective at tearing down institutional racism by empowering people with enhanced means for social mobility. Slavery was still legal a century and half ago. It was perfectly legal to treat a person as if he or she were livestock. Freeing the slaves didn’t pull them out of poverty one bit. I believe this is the battle we must fight — empowering the impoverished with high quality education and life skills to enhance their mobility. This is in no way restricted to the African American and inner city communities. The rural south and Appalachia are full of black, white, and Latinos trapped in sad situations. We will always have our poor in America, and while entitlements are absolutely necessary to support them, empowerment will take them and their progeny much further. We used to be ‘The Land of Opportunity,’ and I think that should be our goal again.
Likewise, though males have historically and wrongly suppressed female opinions, to assail the validity of the opinion of a male with whom you disagree as ‘mansplaining’ is unfair and closed-minded. I’m about as feminist as a straight guy gets — I grew up with two sisters in a matriarchal family; I have been married for 12 years and have two daughters (and a girl dog). I coach a 3rd grade girls basketball team. I’ve written pieces strongly supporting women’s contraceptive rights. I think a straight guy can say he’s a feminist, but he doesn’t REALLY become one until he has daughters. I cried with my five year-old when I had to tell her that Hillary lost — she really wanted to have a ‘girl’ President. So did I. The path to equality is a long and winding one, and we probably won’t get there in our lifetimes. But look back at where we started and realize just how damned far we have come. That is incredibly inspiring to me. As long as we keep moving forward, my daughters will have it better than my wife and sisters, who had it better than my mom.
Third, we can’t win if we aren’t organized. Millions of voices shouting various messages at different times produce noise. What we need is signal. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to contribute and join resistanc.com – it provides a means for me to connect with, even influence, others with similar (but not the same) views. The contributors come from diverse backgrounds, and I’m sure we will disagree regularly. We already have, but we do it respectfully. I think outlets like resistanc.com can be a touchstone to help condense us into an organized movement.
What does it mean to be part of The Resistance?
Well, we wouldn’t need the resistance if we didn’t have a powerful opponent. We have a man in power who has brought a very destructive set of ideas to the Presidency. I resist so many of the things he stands for, but his most offensive policies are those which fly in the face of the US Constitution, and particularly the Bill of Rights. Never before has a President wished to trample the First Amendment like Trump does. He admires Vladimir Putin for a reason – Putin has made it nearly impossible for Russian citizens to dissent against him. Trump wishes to be a modern day totalitarian, and all Americans should be absolutely infuriated by that.
Which disenfranchised groups do you have personal experience in and can you describe these?
In my line of work, I often deal with impoverished Americans struggling to make ends meet. It is quite common to see people cutting pills in half or forgoing needed medications altogether because they simply don’t have the money. Many of these patients are wage earners who are being chewed up and spit out by the system. I saw a patient recently who was middle aged and having chest pain. He begged me not to direct him to the ER because of the $750 co-pay his insurance charged for an ER visit. This was a patient buying his own insurance, working, and trying to keep his lights on. In many ways, these patients have a worse deal than those of the poor on government insurance plans. To watch Big Pharma get rich while patients are driven into the poorhouse is nauseating. Your point on ‘disenfranchised’ groups bears special mention. If Trump or Trumpists remain in power, an assault on voting rights will intensify. He “won” by the narrowest of margins and has an abysmal approval rating. If he and his minions are to retain power, they MUST limit the number of dissenting votes against them. If we think a man as unscrupulous as Trump won’t cheat to win an election, we haven’t been paying attention.
As a physician, what concerns you most about the Trump administration’s health care policies?
Honestly, the sense that he is just “winging it” is most terrifying. Health care is complex and costly, but absolutely necessary for our citizens. Suddenly revoking insurance for 25 million Americans is a crime, pure and simple.
The administration have been vocal that they intend to let Obamacare “implode”, do you think there is an idealogical difference that is irreconcilable?
I think healthcare exists on a spectrum between ‘basic human right’ and ‘free market commodity.’ Americans’ views on healthcare are definitely windows into our varying ideologies and identity crisis as a nation. We have to get the balance right. A basic level of healthcare MUST be available to all citizens. What we need to realize however, is that there are people in every society who have the means and will to buy more than what is given away for free. Even in Canada with socialized medicine, there is this cohort of Canadians who can, and do pay for better access and increased services. This segment will exist in America as well, regardless of changes to the laws. Just like the best housing, food, and other material goods are more available to the wealthy, so it is with healthcare. To me, it is about taking that basic level of healthcare and bringing it up as best we can.
Who do you think are the most vulnerable today, and what are you fears and hopes for their future?
I think that Latino and Muslim Americans are the most vulnerable. We have a man in power who openly paints them with broad brushes which criminalize and alienate them. America has a proud history, but there are also many shameful moments we all should remember so that we don’t repeat them. In 250 years, consider America’s treatment of non-white races. We exterminated the Native Americans, subjugated the African Americans, imprisoned the Japanese Americans, alienated the Latino Americans, and criminalized the Muslim Americans. Those past tense verbs soften a bit as you read through the last sentence, but each of those acts and eras were appalling. It’s why “Make America Great Again” is such an infuriatingly ignorant slogan. The question is whether we can move forward and accept all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations as American, or if we slide back into the past.
How can the Resistance make a difference? What is your vision for the Resistance?
I think we can be a strong voice of and for dissent. We have this extraordinarily sacred right which sits atop our Bill of Rights, and we should not only use it, but celebrate it. It may be a stretch to use the term “grassroots” to describe a website, but that’s what I think we can be.
What do you think will happen over the next few months? Do you think Trump will be impeached?
I think a resignation is more likely, especially if impeachment or indictments loom. He won’t want to face the humiliation of a trial. I want him out, but I won’t be satisfied with just that. Trumpism has to be completely crushed, and that will take Democratic victories in the mid-terms and 2020 elections.
Is there a single message most important message you want to communicate to The Resistance right now?
There is a place for any dissenting voice which delivers its message respectfully. It is your birthright as a natural-born American, or earned right as a naturalized citizen.
Also, I love this borrowed line (although I don’t know who to credit): “If you don’t vote, it’s not a protest. It’s a surrender.”