Yes, I know, as a public healther I'm supposed to be writing reasoned arguments about why healthcare reform is so critical (it is), why we need a public option (we do), etc. But I'll be honest - I just haven't had the stomach to follow this debate in the sort of detail it deserves. Every time I click through some story about healthcare I can't stop myself from reading before I hit the ensuing comments, and then my little brain tries to crawl out of my ears.
A week or so ago Facebook had one of those days when everyone changes their status to reflect some issue, and many of my friends had up that no one should die because of lack of healthcare and no one should go broke paying for healthcare. A friend of a friend (someone I don't know) commented on the status that no one dies because they can't get healthcare - it's illegal to refuse treatment. And if he has to go broke paying for cancer treatment or something, then that's the price he has to pay. He'll declare bankruptcy and move on. As always, I was floored. How did this person and I live in the same world? Granted, I spent six years at a public health school, so my exposure to this issue is a little biased. But still. How can anyone seriously think that no one ever dies because of lack of healthcare? I mean, he's sort of right - it is illegal to deny care in an emergency room. Guess what? Emergency rooms tend not to be equipped to administer long term chemotherapy or regular doses of cholesterol medication or insulin.
And that's fabulous that this random internet guy is happy to go bankrupt to pay for his hypothetical cancer treatment. Would his hypothetical kids feel the same way when their house was foreclosed on and they had to live in the street?
It's really not that hard to think rationally about this - how come so many people seem completely incapable (unwilling) to do so? Is it really possible that all those people out there protesting so angrily against healthcare reform have both a) always been satisfied with their healthcare and b) never, not even once, known a single person whose healthcare was inadequate?
And how come so many people are so angry about the prospect of providing care for others? First there was the guy with the gun, then there's Joe Wilson's outburst*, and a million other examples in between.
I'm not saying there isn't a place for anger in social discourse - it seems perfectly reasonable to me to be really angry over a US Attorney General who thinks torture is ok (just, you know, as an example from the crazy, unreasonably angry left we heard so much about over the past 8 years). But being this angry over healthcare reform, not the absence of healthcare, or at the fucking insurance companies who are simultaneously killing us and bankrupting us, but this frothing-at-the-mouth angry at the attempt to provide reasonable care to more people, just seems so hateful to me. I can't wrap my brain around it. I know we're all broke, and we're all scared, but what happened to us all being in this together? Is the possibility that your neighbor might get lifted up just a smidge, might have just the tiniest bit of pressure taken off by being provided more affordable (or ANY) healthcare, while yours, say, stays the same, really so horrible? I know I'm a Democrat, so I'm already all "yay! taxes!" but even if your neighbor being able to afford both rent and a doctor's visit for her kid translates into a slight increase in taxes (which isn't even currently on the table but is probably inevitable) would that really kill you?
I've been trying to figure out how to verbalize all this, and then Sid goes and does it for me:
If a person brings a gun to a debate, that says something about them. It doesn't say, "I believe in the right to gun ownership". It says, "I will intimidate you if I don't get what I want. I have force, and I want you to contemplate the idea that I will use it to get my way". Similarly, it's hard... really hard... for me to hold in my head that a person is a good person and simultaneously hold an image of them using the words "survival of the fittest" in discussions about public health care. If you can really argue that people deserve to sicken and die for your low tax rates, what does that say about your character, your priorities, your values?And that's the crux of it, isn't it? So please, stop burying your argument in claims that socialism is scary and evil, or that Big Government is bad, and embrace what we can all already see. You think you're better and more deserving than whomever you consider to be 'other.' At least then we can have an honest debate. Of course, when you predictably trot out some argument that your hard earned tax dollars should never pay for goods and services for those whom you consider lazy I will be forced to a) remind you that health*** is not a good or service but a right and b) point you to this article about the folly of using wealth as a proxy for effort and worth. But that's a post for another night.
I want to be open minded. I want to be embracing of diverse viewpoints. And I know I'm going to get hammered for it, but I have to say--- there is a point where I can't, I can't treat you like a moral agent because I can't believe you'll treat me in kind. If you chose to be ignorant AND vocal about politics, it tells me you can't be bothered to care about how you are affecting other people. If you chose to actively punish people by denying them health care or a fair wage or the opportunity to pursue happiness in the way our founding father's intended, all in the interests of protecting your low tax bracket, that tells me you actually believe you're better than other human beings because you happened into better circumstances.
*the comments on that story kill me too - despite a fact check, right there in the cnn article, that the proposed bill won't provide healthcare to illegal immigrants**, tons of people are happy to pile on the "Obama is lying" bandwagon. I have disagreed with plenty of my presidents (this one included) on plenty of topics, but I like to think that when faced with facts I don't simply choose to ignore them.
**and nevermind that providing healthcare to illegal immigrants is the right thing to do, the cheaper thing to do, and the healthier for you and I thing to do - does it not occur to people who prepares their food, cleans their houses, does their laundry, and cares for their children?
***yes, I sneakily switched from healthcare to health, but let's all agree that one can't have the latter without a minimum of the former, ok?