Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One more day

Eight months and one day ago, my dearest and closest friend, a dynamic and phenomenal man with a spirit and intellect unparalleled, died tragically and unexpectedly. I still have no idea how he died, why he died, and what I should now do without him. I wake up every morning and somehow drag myself out of bed, more often than not excusing myself from showers and meals, and pleading with the universe for that reprieve from the sadness that has a depth so severe I can't blink without tears falling from my eyes. Ryan Christopher Goskie, RN, BSN was an advocate - for women, for men, for children. Ryan faced evil daily and even in his death, was the object of vile hatred that resulted in a memorial service attended by friends, family, and police officers charged with keeping protestors at bay. Because Ryan defended a woman's right to choose every day by entering an abortion clinic and providing the best nursing care a woman could ever hope for, he was made a victim of this brutal assault of hate even after closing his eyes one final time. And so, in the last eight months and one day, I have watched the fight for women's reproductive health freedoms wondering how he might have reacted to this vicious assault on, what most reasonable people consider, the inherent right a woman has to choose how her health should be managed from a reproductive health standpoint. Would he have marched on the state house in Missouri when Representatives began supporting laws that would have eliminated funding to Planned Parenthood? Would he have written letters and made phone calls of protest to lawmakers insistent that mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds without medical basis were in a patient's best interest? What would Ryan have said to us when the Susan G Komen Foundation voted to discontinue funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood? How would he have celebrated the decision of that same organization to overturn their vote in favor of popular opinion and common decency? And what would Ryan have said when Sandra Fluke was denied the opportunity to testify to Congress about her experiences regarding birth control or the subsequent personal and egregious attacks Sandra has endured from politicians, conservative political pundits, and the King of Cowardice himself, Rush Limbaugh?

We can't know for sure what Ryan would have said because we were robbed of our precious time with him too soon. But as one of his closest confidantes and friends, I believe in my heart that Ryan would look upon all of this turmoil in the fight to keep choice and reproductive health rights both relevant and legal, and calmly advise us by saying, "One more day. One more day to make your voices heard. One more day to defend, one more day to fight, one more day to remind America that choice is here to stay and so are the people willing to stand up for it. One more day, Joey."

Ryan was famous for his witty one liners, his love of the sarcastic. But when it came to choice, Ryan didn't joke. He had been the victim of harsh, hateful words from his "Christian" opponents. He had been forced to end leases and move to new homes thanks to protesters' harassment miles away from the clinics in which he worked. Ryan had suffered a stabbing and near suffocation, believed by law enforcement to have been at the hands of a protestor so protective of "life" that he followed Ryan home, waited for him to walk his precious dog, and then attacked him in the dark driveway behind his apartment, leaving him to die when Ryan fought back and broke free of his attackers grip. So Ryan knew the hate that lives amongst us. Ryan knew the depths of this fight and perhaps more than any of us, Ryan knew the cost. And so I have to believe that "One more day" would be his advice. Which is to say, we have been given one more day to show our adversaries compassion, one more day to defend choice, one more day to remind women that they are not alone, that their voices can be heard, that their bodies are not the property of a government desperate to stifle their needs. We must not look at this mission with tired, hopeless eyes but instead with the courage and strength to believe that it can, in fact, be won. Men like Rush Limbaugh are feeding off our fear that we might lose. They can see our desperation and sense that even we don't know how much hope to have about the success we will have in defending these rights. Otherwise, men like Rush Limbaugh wouldn't have the guts to call hard working, faithful women like Sandra Fluke "sluts". Men like Rush know that if they keep kicking us down, we will be afraid to get back up. And that is what Ryan would have hated the most about the last eight months and one day, I think. Not that our rights were systematically being attacked. Not that women were being crucified for demanding equality. And certainly not that choice was being attacked once more. Ryan would have hated all of that, mind you, but what he would have hated the most was the assault on our *conviction* to always defend choice and our *conviction* to always defend women. Because the fact is, Ryan didn't go to his clinic every day, walking through a crowd of God fearing "Christians" who attacked his sexuality and family and values, simply to see women lose faith and give up. No. Ryan walked through that blanket of putrid hate every day because he believed that by standing next to women when they needed support the most he was defending not only their rights but their voice and faith too. Ryan knew what it might take others a lifetime to discover - giving up is not an option. We have to say it over and over, day in and day out. We have to demand of our elected leaders equality in legislation every day. We have to denounce infectious hatred from people who have radio and television platforms like Rush Limbaugh every single day. We must bear witness to the years of work done by those before us every single DAY. This is no time to give up or give in. This is no time to allow name calling and ignorance to diminish our resolve. Each day we read of a new law being voted on or another woman being called a whore for no reason cannot be a reason to back off our commitment or passion for what seems a never ending fight for what we know to be right. One more day.

One of the last conversations I had with Ryan was about his health, ironically. We discussed the options he had in dealing with a (non life threatening) health problem he was facing. We talked about how each choice would affect his work, his relationships, his quality of life. At the end of that conversation, I jokingly said to Ryan, "Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could have discussions like this, even if it were about abortion?" And Ryan laughed and said, "But they can, Joey. They just don't know it yet. Which is why you and I are going to tell them, every day, until we're blue in the face."

Ryan knew all along what it seems America is learning the hard way - we CAN have those conversations. We just can't forget to have them. We can't forget to lift our voices. We can't forget to demand equality. We can't, simply put, give up on choice. We have to have the conversation every single day. We have to insist that people listen. We have to remind this country that attacking our liberties will not defeat or silence us. Because choice is more than abortion or birth control or mammograms. Choice is a human right to do what's best and the responsibility to never lose faith that our voices matter.

One more day.


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