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universal heathcare: a basic human right

I try to steer clear from discussion of politics–particularly at social or family gatherings–as I find such conversations, generally, to be in poor form. Politics run deep with people, and to engage in such debate with all but one’s closest friends–or within a context where spirited debate is welcomed, invited, or expected–often leads to rifts between people who have neither the time nor inclination to truly understand and appreciate how the other feels. Having said that, though, I’ve been subjected to some political rants in recent days that have compelled me to this post.

The quality or existence of one’s healthcare should not be a function of socio-economics. It is a basic human right, a matter of life and death.

The topic is President Obama’s universal heath care plan. Now, I don’t pretend to know all the ins-and-outs of the proposed bills. (Hell, I don’t believe most our congress men and women know its ins-and-outs.) I do what I can, though, to pay attention, to seek out relevant, credible, and balanced information from multiple sources and to keep my eyes and ears open. I understand the intention of his plan and I understand the concerns some people have over it. Beyond that, I’m surely no expert. There are a few things I do know, though. Here they are…

  • People (many from the radical right) lie and actively attempt to spread misinformation to confuse the public.
  • A good deal of the people who bug me when unabashedly espousing their positions on this issue rely on a single source of information or, at best, a single set of sources that are hard slanted in one direction (to the right).
  • Approximately 45 million people in this country are without proper health insurance, they are suffering, and this number is growing.
  • The current system is unsustainable and, again, people are dying beneath it.
  • Partisan politics in this country divides people over “looking out for number one” vs. a responsibility to the community (local, national, and global), to each other, to strangers, and to the greater society.
  • The “have-a-lots” are not willing to give to the “have-nots” if it means no longer having a lot for themselves.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
–Article 1 of the UDHR

It’s this last point that I notice most saliently in recent days. When republicans I know talk about this issue they invariably talk about how the broad, sweeping changes in Obama’s healthcare plan will affect them personally. Not once in recent memory have I heard them put themselves aside for a moment to think of the 45 million in dire need. (If they do, it’s only to make some short-sighted comment about pulling yourself up by your boot straps, making it on your own, social Darwinism, or other such nonsense.) There is a social problem at hand whether we like it or not. I fear it’s difficult to understand these social and economic forces at play when one does not feel its weight sitting on his chest squeezing the breath from his lungs.

There is an ideological divide between the right and the left here that makes differences nearly irreconcilable: the right (at least those of whom I have an acquaintance) are concerned with what they individually have and might lose under a universal plan; the left (including myself and those I know well) are more concerned about one’s responsibility to our society at large and to those 45 million uninsured who suffer without proper heath care.

The reality is a simple one, but not one many want to face: We all can’t have everything if we want everyone to have something. A sustainable future means we have to give a little…

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