Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Health Care War Day on Facebook!

There are two things I do every morning when I wake up.

The first, involves the bathroom. The second is turning on my laptop. It might be a sad state of affairs to you, but it's force of habit. I *have* to check my email. Have to, have to, have to. I hate the phone, so if I can communicate electronically, I will. If I don't check my e-mail, I just don't feel quite right. The two exceptions to this rule are:

  • if I'm on vacation.
  • if there's no internet connection available.
I digress.

After I check aforementioned e-mail, I go to (you guessed it) facebook. Facebook has replaced my coca-cola addiction single-handedly. I think I've maybe blogged more about the goings on of facebook than I have about anything else. Except, perhaps, top 10 lists.

At any rate, when I opened facebook, this is the status message I saw on (literally) the first 7 friends on my feed:

[your name here] thinks that no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

Brilliant. I agree with that! I'll post it too! So I did. And so did 50 of my other friends and relatives (and continue to do so through the day, exponentially). And I thought, "What a clever way to discuss and/or unite about an issue! Hooray for grassroots forums!"

But you know, not everyone DOES agree, and whether we like it or not, that's the basis of the US Republic. I respect everyone's opinion ... to a degree. The two sides of the argument are quite polarizing ... much like marriage rights. The Conservative side seems to think that if/when the public health care option is instated, the world will crumble (ahead of schedule), Obama will magically turn into Adolf Hitler, and there will be "death panels."

Death Panels?

As a liberal, I've heard this term thrown around, and regard it with a high amount of confusion. Death Panels? It sounds like the material used in the making of the Death Star. Why would Conservatives be afraid of make-believe building materials? So I went to go look up what in the blue blazes these people are talking about. Note: It took me four different Google searches to get a viable, informative, fact-based explanation. (Thanks, New York Times!)

So apparently, the latest fear-based tactic by the media machine is reporting that if there's a public health-care option, the government will get to decide which of the elderly or infirm patients gets to live or die. Literally, a panel of people choosing the life-fate of old people or the terminally ill.

Wait, what?!

Let's take this step-by-step:
  • Government issues public health-care option for individuals without health care
  • People who can't afford health care now have a more cost-effective option
  • Government then creates a death panel to eliminate the elderly and seriously ill
That seems like a far-fetched and outlandish leap, with Sarah Palin and her down-syndrome baby as the poster child. But are we surprised? Wait ... this smells familiar. I ... I think I might have experienced this all before! Wait ... wait ... it's coming to me ...

Mr. Rove? ...are you there?

His monster machine that is so good as scaring the bajeezus out of the (quite large) percentage of the American Public who doesn't research for themselves, has folks up in arms about these damn "death panels." To be fair, I read a few articles from moderate conservatives dispelling the "death panel" hysteria, but are worried about the effect public health care will have on the national debt. This is at least a rational argument I can handle discussing.

But back to facebook.

The beauty about social networking sites, facebook now being the largest of these, is that we are all friends with at least ONE person who doesn't exactly share our own views. I personally enjoy this... most of the time. I like to debate; I like it when someone gives me an argument to really think about - an argument that makes me pause in my tracks and think about *why* I think what I think, or feel what I feel. Inevitably, it either makes my arguments stronger in the process, or it redefines the structure of the issue. This can only be a good thing! I dig change, I dig redefinition! And I can admit when I'm wrong, or if my argument needs a rethink.

What I DO NOT appreciate are preposterous arguments based in fear and ignorance. But there were a few of my facebook buddies who were aligning to the fear present in the "Death Panels" claim. I absolutely believe that they believe that death panels will come to fruition. I do NOT believe, however, that they have read anything other than the twisted stories reported on by the likes of Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, or Ann Coulter. I'm not saying these folks need to suddenly switch to the Huffington Post or Keith Olbermann (oh how they HATE Keith Olbermann!) ... but search for things like this. Or this. Or even this.

Meanwhile, I engaged in verbal combat with a friend of a friend in status comments, relating to the public options and programs that are already in place. This individual, I believe, works in the health care industry, and was rattling off programs already in existence that she claims currently fit the bill to what is proposed in Obama's proposed public health care option. The problem, as I told her, is that most people don't know about these programs, because no one has bothered to tell them. And with the programs as they are, they are so specific as to who they can help, that they don't help the Average Joe.

When I left my very nice, steady "day job" to pursue the life of a full-time artist, I also left behind the health care insurance that was so kindly provided to me. I currently have no health insurance. But when I ended my employment, I received a letter from the Cal-COBRA program, telling me that I could, in fact, continue my health care ... for $315 a month. I wouldn't have been able to afford that when I *did* have my nice, steady bi-monthly pay check, let alone as a poor, hungry artist (emphasis on poor ... and on occasion, hungry).

A man named Don Hayes, whom I've known for most of my life, died at the beginning of this year because he couldn't afford the medicine for his heart condition. Sadly, he didn't tell anyone that he had a heart condition, let alone that he needed money for drugs. One of the arguments that isn't getting debated in this private/public health care battle, is the issue of money. Money is an incredibly powerful element in the United States. We bow to a have/have not system (sorry, but that's essentially what purist Capitalism is). The American dream is based on a have philosophy. There is shame in admitting that something can't be purchased or owned or provided for. I have no doubt that this kind, empathetic, sweet man, who used to play with me when I was very small, was shamed into keeping silent about his struggle in paying his health bills. Would people have helped him were the problem communicated? Absolutely. Would that have solved the problem? No. The cycle would continue, pending the status of his health, and his quality of life would have remained poor and desperate.

That's no way to live.

My friend's fate is not the only story like this. This is continuing, and WILL continue until an effective solution is reached. Reform needs to happen one way or another, but how many lives need to be lost before we change it?

I am 110% certain that this change will happen without "death panels."

By the by, I think this video is a great argument as to WHY the public health care option is a good thing:

This blog is brought to you by:

iced coffee
Flogging Molly
Karl Rove
Death Star building materials


H said...

What an *excellent* blog entry!
I find it very frustrating when people try to undermine efforts by creating "fear." (They do this because they are desperate and unfortunately...fear is a strong motivator.) I would like to think that we would give future generations HOPE instead of fear.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends wrote the following: "Honestly, I don't understand the, 'I've got mine. Get your own.' mindset. I would gladly give 3.5-4 % of my gross to know that every citizen of this generous country would be spared the emotional devastation and financial ruin of crushing health-care expenses. For me, it's bigger than politics. It's about love and compassion for strangers whom I'll never meet." I couldn't agree more!