Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is This Our America?

Who Are We?

Have we really become a nation that would leave a 30 year old uninsured coma patient to die on the side of the road? Worse, have we come to the point where answering YES to that question in a crowded amphitheater results in cheers instead of stunned silence? Have we really fractured our social contract to that extent?

After 9/11/01, it was impossible to walk down the street without exchanging smiles with people you passed. There was a ruefulness to the grins, a piece of we're here and it's scary but we're in it together, that bound us together as Americans. It was wonderful.

Neither skin color nor a thick accent got in the way of the feeling that we were on the cusp of something new, that we were starting to see one another as members of a beleaguered group, as people who needed one another in order to survive. Bush 43's failure to capitalize on that sentiment is at the top of my Things He Screwed Up list.

I imagined a call to action. I waited for the renewal of the Peace Corps and VISTA. I looked for speeches exhorting us to volunteer and help America heal. Instead, he told us to shop. It was an epic fail, as the kids say these days.

We were kind and we were caring and we were one. We donated dollars but no one asked us to do anything else. And so, we gradually fell back into our individual silos, looking outward for government to fix things but not being pushed to do much on our own.

We argued about Gitmo and renditions and enhanced techniques and I wondered who had hijacked the American spirit. We don't do that seemed to have vanished from our vocabularies. The ends took on frightening proportions and seemed to justify the awfulness deemed necessary to get there. But where is there​?

There used to be that we are better than that. There used to be that's not America. There would never let a coma victim die on the side of the road.

Apparently, individual freedoms are triumphing over the common good. As a well-insured individual with enormous health care costs I have seen first hand how my bill is inflated and padded and creatively constructed to cover the costs of caring for the uninsured. Indian gaming revenues and donations make up the bulk of the hospital's income. The insured cover the rest, whether for their own care or to cover the unpaid costs of the uninsured. It's not a model designed for the long term health of any of the systems involved.

I am infuriated every month when I pay my Blue Cross bill. I pass helmet-less motorcyclists and bicyclists and I grimace. I hear young people talking about saving money as the by-pass purchasing health insurance. I know that I am on the hook for all of it. And that's not okay.

I know that not everyone has enough cash to go around. I know that purchasing insurance is complicated and that hardly anyone understands how to do it, let alone how to do it well. We've grown up in an employer-based system and it's killing our businesses, slowly but surely. I know all that.

But I can't be held responsible for caring for those who refuse to care for themselves. Nor can I let them lie comatose on the sidewalk, suffering without assistance because they didn't plan ahead. I wonder if the gentleman who shouted YES at CNN's Tea Party Debate is insured himself. I wonder if he has elderly parents whose basic health-care needs are met through Medicare. I wonder if he's rinsing catheters or re-using syringes to save dollars.

I doubt that he'd have run out of the Safeway and stuck his hand in my gushing wounds.

That's the America I love. That's the America that President Obama encouraged us to regain. That's the country my grandparents emigrated to. I'm not sure where exactly the Tea Party thinks they are living, but it's certainly not my America.

No, indeed, it's not.


  1. A hard look at a tough reality and I couldn't agree more. I too am an insured person with a long list of major surgeries, treatment, PT and I too see what you see. Doing my part, fair share and all that...absolutely, I don't think twice. Helping people in need...yep, I'm all for that too...some folks need a helping hand in an EMERGENCY. Bur taking care of those who refuse to take responsibility for themselves...I can't do it.

    This is a difficult post to write yet it's our American reality...thank you again for saying it here today.

  2. When I saw that video the other night, I almost fell out of bed. I physically felt sick to my stomach and turned white. My husband was downright angry. I have great insurance that my employer gives me extra money in my paycheck to pay for. I do understand that one way or another, we that are insured are carrying those that aren't.

    I was quite angry when we didn't have a public option passed with the health care bill. And I would be willing to pay more taxes to make sure that everyone has health care. Everyone should have health coverage.

    The thing I find ironic about the tea party is that it's all about THEM. Screw everyone else. And that debate sure showed that is exactly how they feel. They want everything for themselves and everyone else be damned. You cannot tell me that those people take no government entitlements and that they totally live without government assistance somewhere in their lives. Bunch of self-righteous hypocrites.

    I was embarrassed by those people the other night. That is not the America I want to live in. If we have come to this where people thinks it's alright to let someone die because they don't have insurance, we are doomed as a society.

    Megan xxx

  3. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my mind. I am thoroughly disgusted with the ignorance and total lack of compassion in this country.

    I often take to reciting Emma Lazarus' poem on the Statue of Liberty and ask people what they think it means? I get a lot of blank looks.

  4. The tea party people not only disgust and embarrass me, but they also scare me. And the prospect that they will be able to elect a considerable number of our political "leaders" scares me even more.

  5. @Laura, that terrifies me. The tea party used to be some fringe group, but now they are in main-stream politics and getting into real seats that have power. Once they are in, they can do real damage to this country. It's completely terrifying. :(


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