Oh, the Humanity (or, Facing the Ugly Truth About Opposition to Health Care Reform)

I’m compelled to say some things about the reaction to the passage of Health Care Reform, but before I do, I want everyone to watch this video first. It is just over two minutes long, but important that you watch this video before reading any further.

Okay, you’ve watched it. Maybe you’ve watched it twice. Hopefully you’ve thought about the years of history crammed into these two minutes, and the complexity of the challenges that faced America during those times. Now, I want you place yourself in the context of that time. We’ll say, for the sake of argument, that the year is 1963. It is May, and children are marching the streets of Birmingham. These same children are being thrown in jail, fire hoses are being turned on them, their lives being threatened because they want equality. Now, where would you stand on the issue of Civil Rights in 1963?

My guess is that most of you would say that you would have favored the passage of the Civil Rights Act. You would have stood by those demanding equal rights for all Americans. But the truth is that most of you reading this aren’t old enough to have been alive back then, and your answer is based on the hindsight of history. We know now that the Civil Rights Act was the right thing for this country to do, but only after many, many Americans said otherwise and many, many years have passed.

We have reached a landmark moment in the history of our nation this week. This moment is up there with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. And yet many Americans are opposed to the passage of Health Care Reform. They speak of the cost in tax dollars, the infringement on freedom and the interference of government in the private lives of its citizens. They seldom mention human lives. And in doing so, they have cast themselves as all those Americans who opposed Civil Rights. Keep in mind, of course, not every person opposed to Civil Rights was a bigot, at least not in the sense of burning crosses and lynching blacks. These were just people who were opposed to change, and despite what they say to the contrary, were incapable of thinking of other human beings outside of the confines of their family, and to a lesser extent their community. These were people who did not want change because it would affect them too much, and it didn’t matter that it made the lives of other people better.

If you are opposed to Health Care Reform, you are just like the people opposed to the Civil Rights Act. I don’t care who you are, or what your reasoning is—if you oppose Universal Health Care, you are in favor of other people dying because they can’t afford adequate health care, period. There is no middle ground here. And don’t get me wrong, because I know that the legislation that has been passed is flawed and fraught with problems and that it won’t work for everyone, but it is a start. As someone who has gone without health care coverage—and is presently uninsured—I know what it is like to be sick, and not have the money to seek out care. I am one of those people that needed some sort of reform in the current system, just as my father and my grandparents were people who needed some sort of reform in the system as it existed then.

We live in a society that has taught us we are free, and encourages us to look out for Number One. There are many people who can only think of things with regard to how it affects them and their family. Will it raise their taxes? How much will it cost? What freedoms will have to be given up? And while I must admit that these can be valid concerns, they stop short of asking the most important question of all – How does this bring me closer to being a better human being, one concerned with the lives of others, whether or not I know them?

We all hide behind these artificial constructs of identity—race, gender, nationality, political affiliation, etc.—all of which become barriers to remove us from what we truly are, and what we should always strive to be. We are all human beings, joined together by fundamental commonalities that we lose sight of and abandon as the price of admission to this group or that religion. We forsake our humanity, and in doing so, we forget what it means to be humane.

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