The GOP Is Our Health Care Disaster

We are in the middle of a great struggle. These are historic times. No one knows when this period of struggle will end or how it will turn out. Too many changes seem to come too fast. We can’t keep up with it all. Some days, the challenge feels overwhelming and it’s difficult to focus enough to fight effectively.

I’ve spent a good portion of 2017 consumed with the fight to protect the ACA from being repealed. I currently purchase health insurance for myself and my kids via the ACA marketplace. Although my husband is retired, our household income is still fairly high, so I receive only a very modest tax credit and our insurance is not at all cheap. But we are guaranteed coverage for routine exams and immunizations, and we have some security knowing that we’ll get help paying for those unexpected illnesses and injuries that all parents of kids deal with. I have the security of knowing that I can’t be turned away or charged more due to chronic conditions I was diagnosed with twenty-some years ago. We have some security knowing that, even though our out-of-pocket responsibility is substantial, there is a limit to what we’d be expected to pay in a crisis year. And, we have the freedom to structure our life in the way that suits us best without needing for me to obtain a full time job solely to get health insurance.

I supported the ACA when it was passed, not because I thought it was the perfect solution, but because I saw it as a step in the right direction. I never considered it a final solution. I always assumed it would be tweaked over time so that our nations’ health care accessibility and affordability would steadily improve.

I was devastated by the House GOP vote in favor of their AHCA bill. And now, this week, the Senate GOP is determined to take a vote on . . . something. They aren’t even sure what. They can’t agree on what a health care bill should say or do, yet they will vote.

I’m afraid for my future, for my kids’ future, for my friends and family members. I’m afraid for everyone with a pre-existing condition and everyone who depends on Medicaid. I’m afraid for every person whose financial health will plummet due to rising premiums and deductibles and copays. I’m afraid for all of us. I abhor the idea of reversing the small strides we’ve made toward better, more comprehensive protections. I don’t want to go backwards. Progress should not be a dirty word. Progress should be what we’re all striving for. I’m angry that the GOP has conned America into believing they are pro-life when they promote policies that hurt living, breathing human beings.

The GOP is more concerned about profits and their own personal wealth than the health and well-being of American citizens. They badly want to repeal ACA’s tax on the wealthy. They want to restore insurance company profits while maintaining their own personal wealth. And they want to gut Medicaid to pay for their own pet projects. If Medicaid falls, Medicare and Social Security are sure to be next in their crosshairs.

The GOP believes that poor and sick people in this country deserve what they get, that their situation in life is due to laziness or immorality. They feel those who are healthy and financially successful shouldn’t have to pay for those who aren’t. They believe in capitalism at any cost, every person for themselves.

The GOP fears angering their narcissistic president. They know he wants a win, any win. They are focused on winning to the detriment of their constituents and this country’s democratic safeguards. They’re so focused on winning, they’ve resorted to crafting bills in secrecy, dodging public hearings, and telling flat-out lies.

The GOP desires to eradicate all of President Obama’s legacy, to repeal every one of his policies, to make it as if his presidency never existed. They nicknamed the ACA “Obamacare” precisely so that it would stir the wrath of their most racist party members. They would like to humiliate Obama, to prove him a failure, to erase him from history, to cover him over with dirt as in a grave. The GOP wants to reclaim the kingdom of America for white men, and repealing a policy called Obamacare fits with that goal.

Here I must admit that it’s partly because of people like me that the GOP has been able to amass the power they now have. I am 49, and I am only beginning to pay attention closely. I am only beginning to understand how my government actually works. I, along with many others like me, have been conned into believing we could put our heads down and worry about our own lives, our own families, and those we elected would take care of the rest. We were conned into complacency. We weren’t looking around very much at the larger world around us, so we didn’t notice the storm clouds on the horizon. We didn’t realize we were being played. I regret not paying closer attention sooner. I regret all my earlier years of sleepwalking.

For too long, many of us have had this blind faith that we were living in the best country on earth, that we were the most free, the most prosperous, the most fair. It’s been shocking to realize how little we really knew about our own condition. It’s such a shock that some of us still prefer not to see the trouble our country is in.

Maybe this is why so many people want to believe in a god—a being who is all-powerful yet entirely good—because this ideal of goodness combined with power rarely exists in humanity. It’s an ideal we would like to believe is achievable. We would like someone in control of things who would love and protect us, who would always have our best interests at heart. People like this exist in the world, yes, but they typically lack power, because they are not power-seeking. In our society, money equals power. Those who would do the most good too often don’t seek money because there’s a connotation of selfishness that goes into seeking money, an association with greed and ruthlessness. To often, the powerful in our world are exactly those kinds of nefarious people—the selfish, the greedy, the ruthless—because they are the ones who’ve been most successful at accumulating wealth. It seems the GOP has been mortally infected with these nefarious types.

Since the House vote, some GOP representatives have tried to defend their position. One said “no one ever died for lack of health care.” One said the AHCA is good because he knows it is; he just knows. Paul Ryan has claimed taking away billions from Medicaid won’t doom the system. Mitch McConnell insists the Senate will vote this week, regardless of what devastation the BCRA or a straight repeal bill would wreak on our health care system. Why? Because governing to these people has become a game they must win at all costs. It’s become about territorial pride, about the appearance of victory. It’s about staying on top. Long gone is any desire to serve the best interest of the people who elected them.

Many of us have, until lately, had the luxury of turning away from political news, because it hasn’t directly affected us. Now we find ourselves in the class of people who will be hurt, so we can’t afford to turn away. We have been too complacent in fighting the takeover of our country by the selfish and the toxic. We have averted our eyes while the GOP morphed into a party of hate and deceit, a driving force of power at any cost.

There are enough resources on this earth that no one needs to suffer, yet, let’s face it, most of us are not inclined to share what we have broadly. We hoard the resources we have. We think mainly of ourselves. We assume those in positions of power know what they’re doing and that they give a damn about other people unlike themselves, even though we ourselves don’t always give a damn. We rely on other people to do good things on our behalf. And now we are smack up against the reality that those we elected don’t worry about other people’s lives any more than we have. Now we are those other people they don’t care about.

I cannot turn away from news about the health care fight. I feel myself drawn toward trying to make some kind of difference in all this. It’s simply become impossible to stay inside my own bubble any more. How wonderful it was to be able to not constantly worry about the state of my country, to be able to trust that the balance of power between my elected officials would protect against any one bad actor creating too much havoc.

How wonderful it would be to believe that most of my elected officials want the best for the people they serve, even those very different than themselves. How wonderful it would be to know that everyone had the basic resources they need to live a healthy, productive life. How I long to be to be able to turn away again, if only for a moment.

The worst part of all this is how transparently the GOP does not care about the effects of their actions on us, the people who elected them. They do not care that we don’t support what they’re about to do. They blatantly swipe away every indicator of our very real pain and suffering, physical and financial, related to this health care battle.

The GOP must believe they are invincible. We must prove them wrong.

I refuse to become demoralized and turn away. I refuse to relinquish everything good in this world to the greed of these monsters. I refuse to sit down and shut up.

I’m thinking, too, about the very real possibility that things could get much worse before they begin to get any better. Things could get very bad very quickly for a lot of people. We will need to hold each other up. We will need to create our own systems of help. We will need to practice what we preach about assisting those needier than ourselves even as our criminal representatives reinvest in their own personal wealth and power.

We will need to rise up and stay wide awake.

 

__________________________________

I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge. This is #14 of 52.

The Perfect World We Do Not Have

If I could stand up and say This Is My Right and receive in response agreement on that statement from all who consider it, then I would never need to explain or fight or beg. In this perfect world of imagination, every person would be born with the knowledge of the complete set of rights due to each of us, and each of us would be treated equally, without necessity of debate.

In the world of actuality, we live in a nation of vast numbers of diverse people who do not all agree on basic human or civil rights. Is every one of us entitled to a living wage, to health care, to education? Is every one of us entitled to marry whomever we choose? Is every one of us entitled to relieve ourselves in the public bathroom that best suits us?

We don’t agree on how basic services should be paid for, who should run them, or what those services should include. We don’t agree on who should be forced to live or be allowed to die, or on who should be able to decide these questions.

When we talk about human rights or civil rights, often an assumption is made that these are so basic, so intrinsic to every person’s well-being, that every person should, of course, at least agree on how these are defined. Except, this is not our reality. We do not all agree even at this basic level, and the fact that we disagree so deeply is the reason each of us must fight for those rights we feel should be basic tenets of our very existence as human beings.

Each of has been born into a particular circumstance and raised in a certain way and experienced certain occurrences in our lives, and all of these things contribute to our individual set of values. Each of us sees our own views as being most correct and most just, and this is the crux of the problem. Those who hold views diametrically opposed to mine think their views are most correct and most just. Each of us wants the world to function in the way we think is best, but reality is that we can’t all have everything we think we should have. One way or another, one or both sides must compromise some aspect of our opposing views in order to coexist peacefully in this world we share, even if that compromise is simply each of us deciding we’ll look the other way and choose not to allow the odd behavior of those “others” to bother us or to keep us from enjoying our own lives.

Of course, there are many times when we cannot simply accept an opposing view, because that view has the effect of damaging our lives or the lives of someone we love in a significant way, and then we have no choice but to fight for what we believe is correct and just. Always, though, we need to remember that there will never be a time when every other person will agree with us about what is correct and just, that this is true even when the alternative seems to our thinking to be incomprehensibly wrong or cruel. There is no great truth that every human being on earth adheres to. Not a single one.

It will never be enough to stand up and say This Is My Right because there will always be someone who disagrees and who is willing to put up an equal fight for their opposing view.

In this country of millions of people who never all agree on anything, who will never all want to live exactly the same kind of life, we still need to be able to get things done. We developed a system to accomplish this whereby each of us gets a vote and those votes carry power to achieve goals en masse. We vote to elect representatives, and our representatives vote to make or change or enforce the laws that determine what rights we are granted in this country. We’ve developed complicated procedures in order to deal with the fact that we will never all agree, nor do we wish our country to become a place where everyone must agree in order for important things to get done.

In order to get things done, we must interact with those who disagree with our views. We vote to elect people to represent us in our government, but even these representatives we’ve supported do not always agree with us on every issue. There is no such thing as the perfect candidate, perfect representative, perfect official. There are only degrees of agreement with those we’ve elected to represent us. Sometimes our representatives agree with us on very few issues, because those who voted in support of them agree with us on very few issues. This is the system we created. This is the system we must operate within in order to get things done.

This is why progress is often exceedingly slow and is frequently incremental. We often do not get everything we want, nor do we get anything we want very quickly. The millions of people living in this country who do not all agree with each other vote to elect representatives. In order to get things done, we can try to persuade representatives, or we can try to persuade people who vote for representatives. Persuasion can take many forms: evidence, advertisements, appeals, payment, shame, threats. A change in viewpoint can happen naturally or can be coerced. When we fight for a thing we feel should be our inherent human or civil right, we must use some or all of these methods to accomplish our goal because everyone will not agree with us. Those with an opposing view will use the same means to thwart our efforts and to achieve their own goals.

There is no absolute right or wrong, there is only what a particular group of people decides is right or wrong. Every person will not ever agree on what is absolutely right or wrong. If I choose to interact only with those who agree with me, things will only get done within that small group of those who agree with me. Big things that I would like to get done, things that affect the greater society I live within, will not get done if I do not communicate with those who do not agree with me.

If everyone had to agree in order for things to get done, something big would have to happen to make us all accept the exact same kind of life. Usually this kind of change happens over the course of a very long time and is the culmination of many, many slow, incremental changes that have spanned decades. To speed up this process, we would all have to be coerced in some way to agree to things we didn’t actually believe in. This is how a repressed society operates. A domineering leader decides how everyone will live and demands citizens comply, or else. There is no debate, no consideration of individual desires or values that contradict those held by the leader. No one can even suggest an alternative without serious consequences. This is the exact opposite of the freedom we Americans claim we hold dear. This is why the system we developed to get things done includes complex protections against one side or another always being able to get what they want without negotiating with their opposition. Our system protects against one side or another perpetually being able to force their concept of right vs. wrong on everyone. The millions of diverse people in this country will never all agree on what is right or what is wrong. There is no perfection that isn’t illusion.

If I believe that This Is My Right, I must do my best to persuade as many of my fellow citizens as I can to agree with me, so that they also vote for representatives who agree with me, so that laws are enacted to define this thing I believe is my right. I can never expect that my views are universal or that my rights are permanent. I must always be prepared to fight.

 

__________________________________

I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge. This is #13 of 52.

Practice

Those who have been following me here this year know that I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challengewhich means I’ve been *trying* to write one essay, no matter how small, every week during 2017. Alas, I have fallen behind, but I’m going to continue this practice regardless. The act of attempting to produce something worth sharing every week is helping me to get into a writing groove that I think is sustainable long term, even though there will be occasional breaks. That’s just life.

This practice is also inspiring me to share essays in places besides here on my personal blog. Today I’ve posted my essay #12, a distinctly adoptee observation, at Lost Daughters. I hope you’ll visit there to read.

Middle Place

The closer I get to turning fifty, the more age obsessed I find myself, including with my own writing progress. I’m noticing how often I read stuff written by much younger people. Twenty- and thirty-somethings are publishing all over the place, in confident voices that make them sound worldly, wise, and fearless. How did they acquire so much swagger, so much knowledge, while I feel perpetually timid and inadequate?

It’s probably not true that everyone publishing anything is younger than me, but sometimes it seems that way, just as it seems that every writer worth a damn is flitting off to residencies or conferences. Either they’re young enough to not yet have many commitments other than to themselves and their work, or they’re old enough that their downsized empty nests and ample retirement income allow them great freedom. I try to push away the nagging worry that they’re more invested in their writing than I am in mine. Continue reading “Middle Place”

Correlations

On a recent episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Erika had a full-on meltdown during dinner with the other ladies. Unlike most of the housewives, she has been very reserved—not unfriendly to the other women but not chummy either. Throughout this season, she’s clashed with a newcomer to the cast, though she kept her feelings mostly to herself until this particular evening. In a deluge, all the hurt she’d held inside came rushing out. When another cast mate tried to say something helpful, Erika overreacted, lashing out at her, too. She reminded me very much of myself.

Forty-five-year-old Erika Girardi joined the cast last season. She’s a self-described homebody and tomboy who’s married to a high-powered lawyer, but she has an alter-ego—she performs as the dance club musical artist Erika Jayne, wearing ultra-sexy, ultra-glamorous outfits during her somewhat risqué shows. It’s a seemingly crazy contradiction: quiet, shy Erika Girardi vs. flamboyant Erika Jayne.

Recently on the show, she revealed that her mother had been hard on her while she was growing up. She called her mother a “disciplinarian” and said her mother had been very critical of her. She pointed to her mother’s treatment of her as the reason why she seldom cries and finds it difficult to connect with other women. Others have described her as cold, but she sees herself as tough. She was forced when very young to buck up, to handle things on her own, and she’s carried that directive inside herself all this time.

I can’t help wondering about the link between the child Erika not having a mother who was a solace to her and the grown Erika who tries to conceal her vulnerability from other women. This makes sense to me. It’s something I’ve recognized that I also do. Vulnerability often feels to me like a weakness that shouldn’t be revealed, and other women feel the most unsafe to me, probably because I want to avoid experiencing again the pain of motherly criticism or rejection. Continue reading “Correlations”