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Archive for December, 2009

Photo by Danilo Rizzuti
Photo by Danilo Rizzuti

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  These are our inalienable rights, laid down in our founding documents.  That pursuit is what led to biggest movement for change seen in our lifetime. That pursuit is what led millions of individuals to get engaged in politics again for the first time in a long time or even for the very first time.  These are the ideals that Barack Obama so eloquently vocalized into our consciousness that inspired that all consuming thirst for change.  I know that’s what happened to me.  I was inspired enough to spend all of my free time for the better part of two years trying to lend my voice to the chorus of a nation that wanted a better future, opening one mind at a time to the possibilities of a more perfect union.  The peace of mind afforded by healthcare, the dignity of a job that pays a living wage and a rekindled moral conscience that the suffering of others makes each of our lives poorer were the cornerstones of that grand movement that I was so happy to be a part of. Now the debate that could finally see one of the central components of that vision realized is upon us, healthcare for all.  This is not the time for silence and complacency, it is a moment that cries for action.

 

I understand the pressures of life. I understand how easy it is to leave things in the hands of others, I too found myself guilty of inaction.  I had a death in the family at the beginning of the year that turned my life from calm into chaos and I laid down my pen, but after a lot of soul searching and contemplation on just how fickle the spark of life can be, I’ve been reinvigorated to add my two cents worth on what far too many people are overlooking in the health care debate before us, the true cost of sickness and death. 

 

Dollars and cents can be debated from now until the end of time, but in the long run it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  Sickness doesn’t play favorites.  Wealth doesn’t buy immunity.  Even health care for every man woman and child in our great land will not keep the reaper chained to the radiator forever.  Death will always be inevitable. 

 

The one thing that each of us has been blessed with, however, is life … sweet, sweet life.   From our very first days, the wonders of life unfold.  Experiencing all of the “firsts” during our childhood is a magical time.  From our first laugh to our first step to our first day of school, experiences pile up and turn us into who we eventually become.  From our first crush to finding the love of our life, from having that brand new baby to watching those babies have their own, the beautiful cycle continues.  At least that is how the cycle is supposed to continue, but for some of us, destiny has a different plan.  For some of us will have to bear the agony of sickness and pain, the anguish of lost love or the devastation of watching those closest to us suffer, struggling to do the everyday things that we take for granted when we are healthy and vibrant.  Some of us will have our very souls torn apart trying to find a way to close the gaping whole that is left when that special someone is ripped from our lives forever.  Some of us will be the ones saying goodbye to all of those that love us, seeing the helplessness in their eyes while clinging to that last hope that we will never be forgotten. 

 

 What we have to keep in the forefront of our minds is the exponential devastation that comes from every sickness, every tragic death. I have seen this wrecking ball first hand too many times in my life already, although compared to my wife I have led a charmed life on that front.  She lost her father to cancer when she was 17, a brother to illness before he was 40, another brother to cancer when he was 45 and her live-life-to-the-fullest mother succumbed to heart failure unexpectedly and out of the blue. I’ve seen just how far the gruesome tentacles of calamity can reach, twisting from the victim to every life they touched, from family to coworkers to total strangers.   

 

I can’t even count the hours, days, weeks, months and years these events have affected our lives.  The pain never goes away completely and regrets can be a formidable opponent to anyone’s psyche.  All of her loved ones had medical care, so the only shred of peace she can cling to is that everything that could be done was, I can’t imagine how much worse things would be if that were not the case.   Like I said before, health care does not guarantee life, but on the other side of the coin, without it I would have lost her and she would have lost me as well as another brother.  Both of my parents and brother would not be here today either if we had all not received important care at various points in our lives.  We were indeed the lucky ones. 

 

Now that you know a little bit about where I’m coming from, you must understand how pathetic I find it to see these Grand Poobahs and their constant party-line bickering stalling any kind of measure that will bring a peace of mind to those enduring ailments that are robbing them and those around them of their dignity and hope.  No one should be smacked down for trying to stay alive.  No one should be punished for trying to do everything in their power to hang on even one more day to teach their child that one more thing about life that they have to impart, or to tell their soulmate that they love them one more time, or to experience the simplest of things that make life so precious, just one more time.

 

So as the healthy try to debate the unacceptable cost of health care for every American, imagine the costs we pay by not having it.  How many small businesses close when the owner is stricken ill or dies, leaving all those that depend on that income for their livelihoods unemployed?  How many projects collapse when the most important cog is removed because they are sick or worse?  How many jobs are suffering when our minds wander with thoughts of a suffering spouse or child that is not being cared for?  How many hours are lost trying to play Internet doctor for things that a trained physician could diagnose and cure with ease?  How many self-helpers will get it wrong with dire consequences?  How many small correctable problems, left untreated,  will rob a family of a father or a mother, a brother or a sister. a son or a daughter, or even the wisdom of a grandparent?  How many countless things are affected in our everyday lives because of those lost temporarily or permanently to correctable ailments?  How many deadlines will go unmet?  How many promises will go unfulfilled?  How many deals will collapse? How many of us will get inferior service because the best person to do the job is avoidably lost?  How many times will that inferior service snowball and cost us dearly in ways we don’t even want to imagine? 

So does the cost of health care, even if it’s over a trillion dollars, cost more than not having it?  I don’t know of a wealthy person that would not give away all of their treasure for a cure when they are the ones facing the abyss.  I don’t know of a parent or a spouse that would not give away all of their worldly possessions to save the person they love. I think we’ve all heard the sickening foreclosure stories that health care related desperation has caused.

 

The real tragedy here is that opponents to health care are going to see to it that it is so watered down that it will once again amount to no more than a finger in the dam.  The bad news is that none of us can know if we will be the ones moved into the valley that this particular dam looms over.

 

If only we could take away healthcare from every legislator voting on it for just 6 months. No checkups, no dental cleanings, no eye check ups, no emergency room visits, no vaccinations, no cancer screenings, no prostate exams, no prenatal care, no nothing . If by chance something terrible were to happen, they could go to the hospital and be treated as the uninsured, wait 5 hours and cross their fingers. If they do receive care, them or anyone their family…any care during that stretch, it will cost them at least three quarters of their net worth, whatever that sum may be, and if something terrifying were to be uncovered during that time, they would have to look for a new policy with that pre-existing condition. Maybe that would help them along on the road to understanding what it is they are voting on. I fear that the posh lifestyle our politicians are afforded is blinding them to harsh realities that are faced daily by millions.

 

So fight with all your might, write your elected officials and tell them how you feel, flood them with calls, put the power of your voice to the challenge once again.  History has already shown us what the power of a unified voice can do, even while facing impossible odds. There are a billion bricks still to lay on the road to a perfect Union and we can not let the opposition steal even one or the road can never be completed.  Those yelling in your face and spitting in your eye today would be singing a much different tune if they were the ones with a cancer ravaging their body or if they were the ones left to ponder their fleeting existence and that of their families … with no one there to help.  We must succeed, even for them.

 

In essence this is a debate over humanity, it is a debate that we, and those to follow, cannot afford to lose. 

Just think about how you want to be remembered?