A Ramble, More Or Less About Health Care

There’s a loss of mental focus which comes with being ill, and another which comes from your child being ill. I’m well now, but my son’s still sick, and I’ve discovered that the latter is far more diffusive than the former. Forgive me if I lack a bit of focus.

Now, mind you, the thing my son is ill with (and, for that matter, the thing I was ill with) is a pretty minor viral infection. He had a sore throat, and now he has an ear infection. Since he’s hard of hearing anyway the latter is more worrisome than the former, but he’ll be completely, completely okay in all likelihood.

It’s minor for him. It’s minor for me. Someone probably died of it earlier today. Some foreign kid, in a place without decent medical care, or maybe a place with decent medical care the kid’s parents couldn’t afford. Detroit, maybe.

Maybe Summerville, South Carolina, too. Election Eve, 2008 I had a knock on my door and answered to a total stranger. Big fellow, several inches on my 6’0″, and quite athletic looking – someone I would have regretted opening the door for if he’d turned out to be a bad fellow. (Yeah, that occurred to me afterward. I’m not that bright sometimes.)

He’d just moved in to the complex, had a daughter with asthma, needed $19 for the meds. He could take her to an emergency room, but he’s been there before, it takes hours, it’s an OTC medication, he thought he’d ask… I gave him $20, didn’t take his name.

There was another fellow asked me for a lift once, at a gas station; had a nice bicycle, a toolkit, said he’d just moved into the area. I gave him a lift to another apartment complex, one I’d rejected when I’d moved to the area. He worked his way almost up to asking me for some money for food. I gave him $20 as well, didn’t ask for his name or address.

Now, there’s every possibility that I was taken for $40 by these two gentlemen. I honestly don’t think so, but it’s possible that the money didn’t go for food or medicine, but rather for some drug or another. You know what, though? I don’t care.

I have been homeless. Briefly, admittedly, and due more to a temporary mental illness of my own than any real necessity, but I know what it is to huddle under a railway culvert eating something (perfectly edible) someone else threw away. The shame of it is something you have to experience to understand. What I have never experienced is having to beg for a necessity, and most especially for something my child needed.

I can only imagine how big a lump of pride that one man swallowed for his daughter’s meds. Maybe it didn’t happen in that case, for that matter… but you know that somewhere in America today, some strong man swallowed his pride and begged a stranger to save his child’s life.

I am talented enough, trained enough, connected enough that I have only ever starved through my own fault or personal illness, and have never had to suffer my family going hungry. That that is not the case for every adult in my country is a source of shame for me. That there are parents in the United States of America, one of the richest countries in the world, who are looking at their hungry children this very day and telling them that there is no food for another meal, that they must hope for better luck tomorrow, puts a taste of ashes in my mouth.

If I personally could make a single law, I would have every Senator and Congressman in this country have to personally deny, face to face, every child who asked for food, shelter and health care and didn’t get it.

I was in an automotive collision a couple of weeks ago, and while my pickup was in the shop some good friends of mine gave me transport to work. I was a bit appalled at the level of respect they showed Glenn Beck and his ilk, but I’ve always been aware of the minority status of my liberal opinions here in the South. A moment came though when my hosts were talking about ‘welfare queens’ and people who abused Medicaid and Medicare, and I said “But that just means we have to administer it better – it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea to care for the poor and the elderly.” To my surprise their response was “No, and that’s why the Republicans today are no better. Someone needs to help people, and no one is.”

I would love to have been able to jump in at that point and claim that electing Democrats was the solution, but it isn’t. I don’t know what the solution is, but that isn’t it; electing Democrats is better than electing Republicans, I remain convinced of that, but it isn’t yet a choice between good and bad, only between bad and worse.

I’m dead tired of my choice being between the heartless and the spineless. Given only that choice it’s fairly obvious what the better choice is, but how can I be full-throated in support of the spineless? I like to think that my choice makes a difference. I’m willing to accept the risk that I make a mistake. Tell me that my twenty dollar bill even *probably* went toward making some little girl somewhere breathe better, that it filled some guy’s stomach so that he had a chance to make a life for himself and his family, and I swear to you that you will never hear me regret its passage from my wallet.

I want to believe. I didn’t support Barack Obama because I thought he was handsome, or Michelle looked good in sleeveless dresses. I supported him – money, time, phone calls – because I thought he was the best chance of making good on America’s promise that this can be a land where success is an option. Health care reform is a big part of that.

If you have a brilliant idea, an entreprenuerial spirit and adequate funds and you want to start a new company, what could stop you? Well, lack of health care for your children comes to mind, doesn’t it?

I honestly believe that if health care were affordably available to everyone, as it is everywhere else in the industrialized world, that there would be more entrepreneurs in our society, and everyone would be better off.


~ by B.T. Murtagh on March 14, 2010.

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