WHAT RADICALIZED YOU? It’s a question posed by progressive activists online to spur others to action by making you think about why you believe what you believe.

Over the last few decades, believing that in the wealthiest, most powerful country in the history of mankind everyone should have access to affordable health care, clear air and water, food, and shelter — the basics needed to sustain life — is radical. After all, the United States Declaration of Independence states that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights. Without food, water, air, and shelter you cannot have any of those things.

In the modern United States, the Overton Window — the range of policies politically acceptable to the overall population at a given time — has moved so far to the right that believing we all have the unalienable rights laid out in the Declaration of Independence makes you a radical. I’ve been called a radical, and worse, by conservatives and moderates from both parties for years and wear it as a badge of pride.

Personally, I should have been radicalized when I woke up at Dartmouth Hitchcock with a spinal cord injury and no health insurance 20 years ago. To my surprise, my employer was supposed to offer me health insurance at no cost to me. Having previously lived in Massachusetts I assumed I would have to pay large premiums for health insurance. I was making $8 an hour as an electrical apprentice and living on peanut butter and jelly. At 20 years old, health insurance wasn’t a priority or in my budget. It was probably for the better because I’m sure that the cost of my acute care alone would’ve blown through the pre-ACA lifetime limits on care in the first week.

Despite that, I went to UMASS Lowell to study business and still had faith in the “freehand of the market.” That faith started to fade when I tried to re-enter the workforce and that free market told me I’m still not worth a living wage. That is what radicalized me into believing the crazy idea that we all need food, water, shelter and health care. The very bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

That radicalization is not to be confused with the Republican radicals we all watched attack the Capitol on January 6th. Those radicals, urged on by President Donald Trump and led in the streets by some elected Republican officials, overran the police they claim to support and attempted to overturn a fair and legitimate election. The very definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims” and that is what the modern Republican Party is supporting if they continue to support President Trump and pander to his supporters.

In 2016, the New Hampshire Republican Party had the opportunity to put an end to Trump’s marketing stunt of a campaign for president. He lost Iowa and a loss in the New Hampshire Primary would’ve put an end to his campaign. However, enough conservatives saw something they liked in his rhetoric and the rest were willing to sell their souls for a chance at power. Four years later we have 300,000 dead from a bungled response to a pandemic, record job losses, and domestic terrorists attempting a rightwing coup.

I hope to hear loud condemnation of the actions of Trump and his supporters from our local Republican elected officials like Representatives Karen C. Umberger and Mark McConkey, as well as from local Republican Party officials like Carroll County Chair the Honorable Frank McCarthy and Vice-Chair Executive Councilor Joe Kenney. However, as of this writing, their website still has a link to a petition to overturn the November election — one in which both Kenney and Umberger were winners — so I’m not holding my breath.

Erik Corbett lives in Conway.

Thursday, May 06, 2021
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