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A reminder. And lest we forget, while Andy was dying, Bev Harris sat at FR [View All]

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-04-07 11:53 PM
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A reminder. And lest we forget, while Andy was dying, Bev Harris sat at FR
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and called him a drama queen. A real team player, our Bev.


* * *

I have lived for the last ten weeks with Andy Stephensons cancer. And in the most useless way. I couldnt take it away, couldnt relieve him of it, couldnt mind it for a few hours so he could be freed to do the work he so loved.

Andy was one of the most luminous people I have never met, because we never shared room temperature. I read his posts to a discussion board, then exchanged email with him. Later, when he was casting around for medical care, we had phone contact, increasingly as his situation became more obviously urgent.

And through the unfolding of our friendship, I understood that the being on the other side of the keyboard or the phone line was remarkable, was a gift walking among us. Sometimes a prickly gift or a demanding one but, all gifts have their particular qualities, if only to soften brilliance that laid bare would be blinding for most eyes.

I have heard Andy jubilant and terrified, laughing and sobbing. Playful and petulant. My deepest regret is that I wont hear him again.

When Andy suspected his ill health was serious, I offered to make calls for him. I have made calls for families unable to find resources for over a decade. The public health care system nearly killed my husband, and when we were given a reprieve, I swore I would work to help anyone to find the care they needed.

I had little real success in finding resources for Andy, except in the sense that we widened the circle of friends who helped us look. One of them struck gold, and was able to get Andy taken on as a patient by a respected doctor at Johns Hopkins. This seems no less than a miracle to us. There are many cancer patients in the world and no matter their net worth, they are not taken on easily by doctors at Johns Hopkins.

That left only the money. Out of state patients must be prepared to pay the full costs of their surgeries in advance. So, a group of Andys friends set out to try to raise the funds needed, armed with only love and hope and a very short window to come up with the cash before we were all turned away.

That we did indeed raise $50, 000 in 11 days, in small donations and in many currencies is a measure of how beloved Andy was. None of us had the skill to open wallets, per se. This was for Andy.

And at this point, the story becomes bifurcated. One fork is the progress of love and hope and generosity that he elicited among the progressive community who shook junk drawers and upended sofa cushions and did without one trip to the mall to send in a donation. They made Andys surgery possible. And it is true that when I announced to an incredulous employee at Johns Hopkins that we had raised the money, Im sure she heard me say, we found Monopoly Money and would she accept that? Paypal and Amazon accounts seem not to be used very often by Johns Hopkins clientele.

But the other fork of this story is the profound disturbance it created in the Bush right wing. I didnt understand this until much later. But, the watchers saw our effort, watched the community response and were inspired with what can only be called hatred. Because only such a reaction could account for the vicious attack that was set into motion.

The first weekend of my fundraiser was without incident, but our jubilation of raising $25K in only one hundred hours must have goaded the Bush right. Before the week was out, the rumors of fraud and malfeasance began. I began to get anonymous email demanding to know Andys most personal information. During the second and last weekend of our effort, the contact information I had made available to donors resulted in my email box being spammed with hate mail. I at that point ignored it. It simply never occurred to my that our effort for our friend would become a political death match.

I was in no way prepared for what followed. And, although I have no proof, what followed was a concerted political attack on Andy, on our progressive community, and in specific on our ability to raise funds for our projects as well as, an attack on Andys productive work as an elections reform activist and watchdog.

What followed was a coordinated effort to block Andys medical care or his benefit from the medical care we could secure for him. In specific, the Bush right had its agents make small donations so they could then call Paypal with allegations of fraud that froze Andys account. They also called Paypal, misrepresenting themselves as the hospital to verify that this effort was a scam.

And it got more vicious from there. Due to the frozen funds and the confusion it caused us all, Andys surgery date was cancelled by Johns Hopkins. It was with great difficulty that we were able to persuade the doctor to be put Andy back into the surgical rotation. That cost him two weeks while he suffered from the most aggressive, invasive form of cancer.

The smears and the rumors were seeded all over the internet, to many sites. Ill, on hold waiting for his surgery, Andy and the rest of us cast about trying to answer questions that were more often simply calculated accusations meant to discredit us all, meant to make Andys health care as difficult as possible.

Andy called me one day, happy because hed been given a new date. Then again, because theyd moved the date up. He was terrified, sobbing and I was caught flatfooted. Torn between trying to mind Andys care and trying to stop or answer the horrible accusations being sown all over our community, I had very little to offer his terror, dealing with my own.

After Andy was admitted to the hospital, the rumors turned into threats. A bounty was offered by the Bush right for anyone who could sneak into his hospital room. It was said he was getting a face lift. A telegram was sent just to see if it could be successfully delivered. The harassment was nonstop. And we tried to shield Andy from it, with less success than we would have liked.

A day or so after his surgery, Andy called me from his bed in ICU. I picked up the phone and he began to sing to me, Come out, come out, wherever you are. I started crying. And when we hung up, I offered that bit of good news to our on line progressive community at the Democratic Underground. Immediately, the opposition took that as evidence that Andy was not in fact recovering from a surgical marathon. And this was their pattern. Every specific I offered to comfort the community was taken up by Andys stalkers and used as evident that we were frauds.

Andy left the hospital and spent two weeks recovering at a friends house, learning how to eat again, learning how to move, weaning himself from the morphine that hed needed post surgery. During this time, one of his supporters in Baltimore had her car vandalized a message was sent. Shortly after he left to return to Seattle, his second East Coast hostess was stalked to her home and watched as someone tried to open her front door. His supporters everywhere were systematically intimidated and all the while, they tried to keep it from Andy.

Andy then went back home to Seattle, looking forward to a medical course of chemotherapy and radiation. Once he arrived, he found that an anonymous tipster had managed to get his Medicaid shut down. It took us two weeks to get him back in the system. Andy had anaplastic pancreatic cancer and was again forced to wait weeks for follow up care.

By this time, Andys stalkers had set up a website. It purported to be concerned that the funds for his surgery were raised fraudulently. Thankfully by this time, Andy spent very time on line. But it wore on his core advocates who were repeatedly attacked, defamed and baited.

We were threatened with everything from the FBI to the Washington State Attorney General. And of course, because our first concern was Andy, his attitude and his care, our response had to be measured or none. On a good day, we didnt want Andy logging in and reading that he would soon be visited by federal agents to answer for the mythical hundreds of thousands of dollars wed supposedly raised.

As late as week before Andy died, we couldnt keep the poisonous campaign from him. He felt well enough to log into to his email and found a multipage denunciation, supposedly being filed with his states attorney general. He called me, not so much in a panic. Panic was no longer a speed Andy had. He called me in despair, because he could no longer fight the barrage of hatred being leveled at him. I dont remember what I said to him but I hope it helped for a moment.

The attack from the Bush right never paused, not even through the agony of Andys last days. Not at all. Even the fact of his death is being disputed. Two days after his passing, his advocates are still being harassed, still receiving anonymous hate calls, It was a scam. The friend planning his service was visited by two men impersonating sheriffs on the morning after Andy passed. They were there to ask about fraud, they said.

Andys physical death has not stopped the attack, has not slowed the hatred, has not stemmed the steady stream of intimidation.

But, were not afraid. And we take up Andys work to secure our elections in his honor and in your face.

Elizabeth Ferrari
San Francisco
July 12, 2005
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