We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Thomas Jefferson’s words kick started this great experiment we call the United States of America. Our country is founded on the notion that we have a right to live. Tonight I watched MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” in which he devoted the entire hour to a “special comment” on the health care debate raging right now in our country. He presented the issue in stark and easy to understand terms. We are talking about life and death.
The truth is that Barack Obama has made a mistake. He has framed the health care debate in dollars and cents. Reform will lower our deficit. Baloney. Maybe reform, done properly, will lower costs down the line but that is NOT the reason to pursue health care reform. This is a moral issue. By focusing on finances we obscure the fact that it is morally criminal to let people die because they cannot afford to get well. Quite frankly if we double the deficit, so what? Isn’t it time that we stepped up and ensured people their unalienable right to live?
A close friend made an observation tonight that really resonated with me. She asked about our military spending. She pointed out Conservative’s eagerness to throw more money and more bodies into Afghanistan. Why do we fight wars? Ultimately, we fight wars because we do not want to die. We fight wars to preserve life in America as we know it. Yet these same hawks do not want to spend a dime of government money to fight the enemy right here at home, namely disease.
Near the end of Keith Olbermann’s impassioned plea for empathy among his fellow Americans, he told a heart breaking story. On the way out of the hospital visiting his father, he ran into an old childhood friend whom he had not seen in some time. The friend said that his daughter was in ICU with a case of Lyme disease that had gone from bad to worse. He would now have to sell his farm to pay her medical bills. Olbermann contrasted that with his own case where he could afford the best medicine money could buy for his father. This brought to the fore a question plain as day. What is wrong with a country that decides who lives or dies based on one’s position in society? That is India with its caste system. That is not America.
There is a small amount of momentum building toward changing this shameful state of the American health care system. We can only hope that the momentum continues to grow and that our politicians forget about the deep pockets of the insurance industry and do what is right for our country.
Liberty and the pursuit of happiness may be lofty goals but is it too much to ask that we just get a chance to stay alive?