That was the main meta-story in the US of the mid 1800’s. Except it wasn’t just the Northern abolitionists saying that about the Southern slave states. It was how Southern plantation owners framed the struggle to their poor white neighbors. “If the slaves were free, they would take all of your jobs, rape your wives, be a drain on the economic system, raise your taxes to serf-like levels. A free negro is a threat to our great civilization and will end your freedom as you know it, as well as their own.”
Any of this sound familiar?
Yesterday I realized, for the first time, that my daughter has what could be described as a “pre-existing condition.” After several months of a persistent, standing pneumonia that doctors could never quite figure out, over Thanksgiving weekend we found out she has bronchiectasis. There is no cure. We have to treat her half an hour three times a day by hooking her up to machines. Each day. For the rest of her life.
I lay awake at night and hear her struggling to breathe. I can feel her air trying to go through her airways, while they’re blocked up with mucus that she can’t get out of her system easily and automatically like most of the rest of us.
There are others who are in worse situations, of course. And I’ve long advocated for universal, affordable health care (preferably Single Payer, the system Canada uses). But now it’s intensely personal. If the little gains we received under the recent health care reform bill were rescinded (without a better plan in its wake), my child’s health will be affected intensely.
I wish that the current Republican crop weren’t just trying to score cheap political points by comparing health care reform with slavery, or death panels, or whatever current lie is fashionable. Because it seems obvious to me that 1) universal health care works in every developed nation but this one; 2) leaving one-tenth of all Americans without insurance is disgusting, uncivilized, and un-neighborly – it leaves tens of millions of Americans without recourse but intense debt and allows easily preventable diseases to build until they become lethal; 3) arguing against universal health care is immoral and indecent.
We can argue about the means to the ends of universal health care. Many of the suggestions for reform that Obama and the Democrats brought up last year were, in fact, originally Republican ideas – including the mandate. Including the public option. But then those suggestions were labeled toxic and slave-inducing by the same people who supported them some fifteen years prior.
But much of the rhetoric being used against the new reforms assume that covering everybody is murderous. It’s the double-speak of the 1840’s all over again. And again, the people that profit most from these lies are not those that are defending them (with their votes or lives), but those at the top that spew them. Those that are defending the lies actually have the most to lose. Consider the white sharecroppers who barely got by on the sweat of their brow but were led to believe it was the Africans’ fault that they may die as poor as they entered into the world, if not worse.
The lie was, if the dark-skinned ones get free, the white worker will become their slaves. Forget the fact that they were just a step above the slaves themselves because of the practices and policies of the ruling class…
The lie is, if the uninsured are covered, there will not be enough medicine for the working class and the senior citizens. Forget the fact that the cost of insurance is rising astronomically every year so that businesses cannot afford to keep up anymore. Forget the fact that insurance companies employ teams and teams of numbers-crunchers to figure out how to deny care costs. Forget the fact that it’s a public health issue. Forget the fact that we spend twice as much of our GDP as other countries (that actually cover everyone) do on health care, yet still 1/10th are uncovered, a significant fraction is under-covered, and many more claims are unfairly, unjustly denied. Forget the fact that racial and economic disparities in coverage lead to tens of thousands of deaths a year.
And I can’t help but feeling that every time someone argues that any viable progress in reform leads us all to slavery, they are arguing that my daughter doesn’t deserve to live.
Please explain this to me.