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.