Only Nobodies Want Universal Healthcare
On Sunday morning I usually watch This Week with George Stephanopolous and catch up on the political flavor of the week from various political pundit perspectives. The show usually features George Will and Cokey Roberts. Sam Donaldson and Robert Reich are regulars among a long list of others. Yesterday I watched these people discuss the ramifications of universal healthcare and how President Barack Obama is wasting political clout on a fruitless attempt to get a public healthcare option for the masses who continue to do without.
At one point, in order to drive home his argument, the conservative Mr. Will pulled out his Medicare card and told the story of how he presented it to his doctor and his doctor said that it was great that Mr. Will’s children was going to pay their father’s bill. Some of the people around the table laughed. Mr. Will made the statement that no one wanted universal healthcare. I thought that was a stupid thing to say. I would like to see universal healthcare. Mr. Reich was arguing for universal healthcare. There are about fifty million Americans without any kind of healthcare who more than likely would like to see kind of universal healthcare.
All of the political experts around the table with Mr. Stephanopolous had healthcare. They all had high dollar jobs getting paid to express their opinion and help shape the public’s political perspectives. No one at the table felt a desperate need for healthcare. Somebody at the table called the American healthcare system the best healthcare system in the world. They didn’t add the fact that it’s only the best for those people who have healthcare benefits. Otherwise, the people who don’t have coverage or who may have a preexisting condition, the system sucks.
About a year and a half ago, there was one morning I was getting dressed for work. My partner and I were acting silly the way fairly new couples do. She was getting baby boy ready to leave the house for a few errands. She got the baby dressed and turned her back towards him. The baby was sitting in the middle of the bed. He was kind of cranky and wanted his mother’s attention. He suddenly threw himself back and simultaneously kicked his legs up ready to throw a tantrum. Although he was in the middle of the queen sized bed, when he went back, his head was over the edge of the bed. The physical makeup of toddlers is such that something like ninety three percent of their body weight is above their neck. When he thrust his body back and simultaneously lifted his legs, the momentum was enough for gravity to grab hold of his head and pulled him over the edge of the bed head first like a real life Humpty Dumpty.
Talk about time slowing to a crawl. My body took a totally useless adrenaline dump. There was no way given the physics of this universe I could reach him in time. The mother was standing in between us with her back turned away from the baby. My partner could only see the horror in my face. She turned around just in time to see the baby’s feet disappear with the rest of his body. We both waited for the sound of the baby’s head hitting the hardwood pine floors. But instead of the thud indicating head to floor contact, our ears heard the sound of feet hitting the floor. The mother ran around the bed. I braced myself waiting to hear the wail of a baby in serious pain. But instead we heard the cry of a baby frightened and frustrated. As best as we could figure out, when he kicked his feet up and gave his body the momentum to go over the edge of the bed, that same momentum managed to flip him totally over and he somersaulted before he hit the floor. The baby was fine. We laughed. We were both relieved.
As a first time father I saw my baby’s ten months of life flash across my eyes. I thought about our brand new healthcare and thought how fortunate we were that I had a job that afforded us coverage. If the baby was injured we had some protection. But what about all the people that suffer serious injuries from the occasional accidents that are bound to happen when people make the mistake of taking a moment to be less vigilant than they should be?
Even though we are protected the issue of healthcare for others remains an area of deep concern for me. I’d like to think that this concern comes from a sincere interest in the welfare of my fellowman. But I can’t help but think that as a black man living here in America and unwilling to completely conform to the standards of behavior for black people as dictated by the corporate culture that is dominated so completely by a mindset skewed to protect white privilege, it is only a matter of time before I may find myself unemployed and without adequate healthcare once again. Some noble sentiment may sound nice and community oriented. But my concern for the unemployed may just as well be a selfish one based on the possibility of future events.
For the moment my family and I are doing well. I have a job that allowed us to pay back the people that helped us during our leanest of times and buy a house. We are weathering this storm and appear to be coming through the other side after waiting for what appeared to us to be the longest of time. I hope and pray for the wisdom that we never forget the experience of being among the less fortunate people. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. I won’t be retiring from working anytime soon. But we are definitely doing a lot better than a lot of the people who live around us. We are not black community Rockefellers but we are beginning to develop options for the future that many black people in our neighborhood do not.
However, just because we are doing well now and for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean that the issue isn’t still an important one. There are people who need help. As a supposedly civilized culture we should not allow ourselves to develop the false sense of security to think that it is okay to leave such a large chunk of our community unprotected. And more often than not the unprotected part of the community that is most susceptible will be comprised of the lower class that is overly represented by black people.
All too often people want to label people who call for true universal healthcare as irrelevant. No one wants universal coverage except for the cry babies looking for a handout. But the issue remains the same. There are way too many people who don’t have healthcare. There will be parents who will be distracted for just a second and their baby will be injured. There will always be people who will suffer accidents. These people will need medical help. But instead of us acting as a civilization working to help the weakest amongst us we will scold them and discard them for being part of the group of unfortunates unable to help themselves. We are quick to dismiss those who can’t afford healthcare. They are the nobodies who want universal healthcare and who wants to listen to them?