Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Earlier today I was watching CSPAN with my sister and my housemate. CSPAN were airing a countdown to the House Health Care Bill debate, showing the motley protest in front of the Capitol and taking calls.

One call especially caught my attention. The caller, who was opposed to the bill, declared: “Health care is a privilege, not a right.” He didn’t sound the least bit crazy. He was just stating what he felt was a natural born fact. In this world, the caller figured, some had and some didn’t. He didn’t happen to have health care at the moment, but he didn’t trust the government to do it right. If he got sick and died, he figured that was the way it was supposed to be. It was what he deserved.

“Poor deluded man,” my sister said. “Society’s really brainwashed him.”

“Did he really say health care is a privilege?” my housemate asked in disbelief. “Did he actually say that?”

“Why are Americans such idiots?” I lamented.

The caller was an easy guy to laugh at, but on the way home, I thought about it.

I have my own health care horror story of sorts. It’s quite a tale of woe, but I’ll give you the short version here. Almost exactly three years ago, I tried to push my car out of a snow drift. Afterwards, I felt a pain above my right knee. After the pain persisted for more than a week, I had the leg x-rayed. The doctor said I hadn’t broken anything and gave me some naproxen, saying whatever it was should clear up in a week.

It didn’t. Gradually, my body fell apart until it got to the point I could only get around with a walker. (Actually I probably should have used a wheelchair, but I stubbornly refused. Pride, you see.) I was in mind-numbing pain. But somehow I always managed to get my butt out of bed and go to work even as my legs grew as twisted as the roots of an old oak tree.

It eventually took four surgeries over one year and six days to rebuild me. I avoided the surgeon’s knife for as long as I could. Part of the reason was because I’d never had surgery before and hadn’t spent much time in a hospital since the day I’d been born. But the main reason was because I was scared to take the time off of work and admit I was that broken.
Because once I admitted that, I was vulnerable and I knew it.

I’m better now, though not perfect. I walk with a cane and a rolling limp, but at least I’m not in pain. But my sickness cost me my job — and in a little over a month — my health insurance.

And even though I don’t want to admit it, there’s a part of me that believes, just like that CSPAN caller would, that somehow this is all my fault. It wasn’t just my body that failed; it was me. And my personal failure was a drag on everyone else’s premiums and so it was right I was kicked to the curb. Sickness is expensive, y’know, even evil, stifling sacred profits. I was the bad guy.

It’s hard to live in a country all your life and not be brainwashed — at least a little. Yes, I can be an American Idiot, too.


Right now Congress is debating the Health Care Bill. They’ve been at it for at least 90 minutes. (Or they could be done. I don’t know. It was too nerve-wracking to watch in real time. I’ll check the post-mortems in morning.) Hopefully, they will do the right thing and pass the bill. It’s far from perfect, but at least it’s in the right direction.

Someday in this country healthcare will no longer be a privilege; it will be a right that seems just as natural born as the status quo does today. And someday a serious illness will no longer make you feel like you are somehow less of a human being — and that you should be thankful for whatever little you get.


  1. Thanks for writing this Franetta, we are so susceptible to internalizing the controlling and dehumanizing information coming at us from society. Maintenance all the time huh? Love always to hear from your searing intelligence and insights. karoline wileczek

  2. The civilized world looks at the U.S. in wonder and bemusement. The most powerful country in the history of the planet will not provide health care for its citizens.

    The U.S. has seen fit to engage in military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq for the better part of a decade. When all is accounted for, these wars of choice will have cost many lives, damaged many more lives, families and communities, and have exhausted trillions of tax dollars.

    These misadventures have coincided with a deepening trend, begun about thirty years ago, of redistributing much of the nation's wealth from the lower and middle classes up. It is as if a nostalgia for the 1930s gripped the decision-makers in the three branches of government. They have about gotten their wish.

    The drumbeat started even before the Reagan presidency and the message was repeated and eventually found its way into policy: government agencies charged with overseeing the public's welfare are incompetent and should be dismantled. By shifting funding away from the institutions that were designed to "level the playing field" and to protect the small and weak from the excesses of the large and powerful, the message became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course the FDA is incapable of keeping food safe and inadequately tested drugs off the market. Its back was broken and its teeth extracted long ago. Substitute the FTC, EPA and/or any number of other amalgams of alphabet and the pattern is the same.

    Somehow, many U.S. citizens have been induced to swallow all of this, along with the message that health care is best left in the hands of profit-making entities. Among the means that health insurance corporations use to increase profits is to make certain that as little care is provided to premium payers as possible. The handful of executives atop these corporations benefit handsomely while supposedly enhancing the portfolios of their stockholders. As a lifelong stock market investor, I am not convinced that is really what has happened. Rather, I see many CEOs and board chairs enriching themselves at the expense of anyone they can. They use legal means to the same ends that motivated Bernard Madoff.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. expends more than 1.5 times as much of its GDP as does England on health care and 1/16th of its people are without coverage. Many more live in fear of losing theirs. When pundits of the right proclaim that many of these 45 million or so choose to go without, it rings about as true as saying that people who choose to dine from dumpsters do so by choice, not necessity.

    I have, as usual, been long-winded. No one "deserves" to be kicked to the curb when taken ill. Illness is not a judgement upon the character of the afflicted, any more than good health is a sign of morality or the lack thereof for that matter.

    Rather, the casual rejection of those who have lost their livelihood and their resources due to illness reflects poorly on the judgement of a people who are willing to believe a big lie, repeated ad nauseum.

    Eventually, the pendulum of public sentiment will swing back from its long arc to the right. The problem for many is, it will be too late. No one deserves to be thrown away because time ran out.

    David P. Kozinski
    Wilmington, DE

  3. Someday in this country healthcare will no longer be a privilege; it will be a right that seems just as natural born as the status quo does today. Yes, When Pigs fly!

  4. The pigs have grown their training wings.