July 10, 2017 by Southern Maine Workers Center

I’m moving on, but I’ll do so carrying the light you’ve given me

Dear SMWC members, leaders, and friends,

I’m writing to let you know that I will be leaving the HCHR organizer position in mid August. My partner, who is a writer, was accepted to an MFA program and she, our many cats, and I are shipping off to the San Francisco Bay Area to follow the call. Deciding to leave Maine was a very difficult decision for me because my partnership and SMWC have quickly become the two most important pieces of my life. I’m so grateful for my time with SMWC and I’d like to leave you with some reflections I have about this wild work we do.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I see it, our campaign for healthcare justice is all about power. Each of us has seen and felt the ways that power is sourced from money. Every day more wealth is created from our healthcare needs, so that the sicker and poorer we become as a people, the richer they become as a private, privileged class. I’ve imagined the healthcare system as an oppressive system not so dissimilar from the dozens of interconnected oppressive systems that steal from and harm our people. As poor and working class people, we can’t hope to fight their fire with fire. We can’t transform everything that’s so wrong with this world through transactional means. So we build power in our own way.

There is a mass of people in this state (country, world) who have no money to spare for us, but who hold within themselves deep untapped wells of power. We draw from these wells when we tell each other our healthcare stories, when we march, rally, and clap together, when we listen to each other and resonate with each others’ experiences of oppression. It’s probably no coincidence that there are sometimes tears involved. With every connection I’ve made on this campaign, I’ve tried to steal a few drops from that neglected well of energy and carry it back to our shared pool. This is the pool we need to pull from in order to put out the fires.

In nurturing and facilitating the connections between SMWC members, I’ve come to hold many powerful and personally significant relationships with you all. Now, leaving far too early, it’s like ripping off a bandaid that covers my heart. It’s these same relationships which have driven me to do well at this job, because the search for new connections speaks to a deeply rooted desire within myself to change the unjust conditions that my loved ones and I have faced, and to finally feel powerful amongst others in a world that works so ruthlessly to make us feel helpless and weak. I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with this organization, and it makes me think back on our working definition of transformative organizing – about how organizing changes those who commit themselves to the work.

The chaos of the statehouse, the parties, and the national and local media has few new lessons to teach us. Our people stand where they’ve always stood, and it’s up to us to transcend the norms and embrace a longterm vision for social justice. We can bend narratives, we can empower the disaffected and alienated, and we can absolutely make universal healthcare a winning issue in this state. As we continue to build our base we continue to build up our movement muscle, and it won’t be long before common people are too mighty to ignore.  If we do it right and hold to our principles, there’s nothing this movement can’t change.

I want to express my gratitude again to the leaders of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center for investing so much leadership development in me. It feels impossible to quantify all the ways that you guys have impacted and shaped me. In time, I’m certain I will look back at this year as one of the most important of my life. Rather than feel guilty about taking so much leadership from SMWC, I’d like to feel happy in the knowledge that this is what SMWC does. I know that someone is going to replace me and that person is going to be empowered in similarly important ways. Our theory of change comes from the grassroots, from the “trans-local.” Please know that wherever I land in the future, I will always work to contribute to our interconnected and shared movement for essential human rights. I will do so with the knowledge I’ve gained from you and in thinking back on the many powerful experiences I’ve shared with you. I’ll do so carrying the light you’ve given me.

Fight, Fight, Fight, Healthcare is a Human Right!

-Ronald Flannery

HCHR Organizer

PS. We’re looking for someone who loves Maine, social movements, and supporting grassroots leaders to fill my position. Is that person you? Learn more about the position here. Please share it with people you think could be a good match!