Thirty three years ago this coming December, I was sitting in a hospital bed, holding my first born child. I was in awe, mezmorized by this amazing gift. The intelligence in his eyes, the sweet smell of his skin, the seashell curves of his tiny ears. He was all things wonderous. Then the curtains at the foot of the bed suddenly parted and there was my baby's Pediatrician. He just stood for a moment looking at us. Then he began to speak and said there was a problem. Not to worry. He knew the best specialist in the country. He was right about the specialist. Terribly and completely wrong about the worry. My boy even gave the world renown surgeon a run for the money and a few more grey hairs. We pushed the frontiers of medicine to save him and consequently helped others. It was a long, painful process. Mutiple surgeries, multiple tests and procedures, all of which took place in a society unable or unwilling to understand. And still does not.
Sixteen years ago, President Clinton gave a masterful speech about the state of this nation's Health Care. http://millercenter.org/... In effect, the speech was about this Nation and what it valued. He didn't lose the battle for Health Care Reform because he was arbitrary or the First Lady attempted to grab too much power. We lost sixteen years ago due to political ambition and Corporate lust for power. The American people lost because of lies, fears and manipulation.
A year after President Clinton's speech on health care, my son walked through the kitchen door. I took one look at his face and knew that something was wrong. He looked at me and said, "I just heard Newt Gingrich speak about his Contract for America. Mom, there is no place in his America for me."
My baby, my first born child, my son, the bravest person I know, was feeling abandoned by his countrymen, by his government. For he was born with rare, forever, life threatening health issues. Issues that proved the lie about the just work hard, study hard, pull yourself up by your bootstrap individualism mythos. No where in the Contract for America was mention made of overwhelming circumstances. With the stroke of a pen and a well turned phrase, my son and millions like him, were made invisible.
Nothing much seems to have changed in the intervening years. At least politically. The big changes have been with the American people. There are more people with either no insurance, my son being one, or at risk of losing what they do have. The stats say that 14 to 18000 people a year are dying from lack of health care. Is that figure true for the last sixteen years? Could that mean almost 300,000 Americans have died due to lack of health care since President Clinton's speech? 200,000? 100,000?
Political parties yawn and go about their politics and the next electoral grab for power. Corporate America is alive and well, busy buying policy, while Americans struggle to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and hope a health care crises doesn't hit. Sixteen years after President Clinton's speech, things are worse. More people are uninsured or underinsured. More people are going bankrupt because of medical costs. The economy is being dragged down because of the costs of insurance. Small businesses are being crippled. The lies, fears and manipulations continue. Political ambitions and Corporate greed still attempt to drown out the realities of far too many Americans.
It's taken well over thirty years for me to arrive here. Years of barely dared hopes and far too many disappointments. Last November after months of excitement, faith and effort, I voted with real hope, only to see it slowly whittled away once again. Tonight, there'll be another speech on health care delivered by a President to Congress. But it will take more than one speech, no matter how elegantly put, to change my dismay and heartbreak. It will take far, far, more than calls for bi-partisanship to make me trust again.
I won't sacrifice my child up to maybe or someday or if we only had more "real" democrats. I won't risk his life on trigger's or insurance company profits. I won't agree to mandated slavery to insurance companies for anyone. I can never find common ground with someone who would seek agreement with those who would discard my son's life. And that means I'm having difficulty agreeing with the man I voted for and his insistence on bi-partisanship.
My son's working and going to school. He's been on the Dean's List since he went back to school as a non-traditional student. He'll be 33 this December. In January he'll be appling to nursing schools. He wants to be a Pediatric Nurse, because he knows what it's like to be a small child in the hospital, scared and in pain. He knows what it's like to be a teeenager and struggle to fit in. He's going to be a great nurse. He'll make a huge difference in the children's and their families' lives. But he might not be doing it here. My god-son and his good friend lives over seas. My son has an open invitation to come over. We're all ready talking about him moving to a country that has a place for people like him. That knows there's much to value in a human life beyond health care costs. A country that perhaps knows courage and worth when it sees it. Unfortunately, we can't wait another sixteen years for America to be that country. We can't wait two years. We can't wait one. His life is on the line, like its always been. We've hoped and waited long enough.
Update: I can't begin to express how profoundly grateful, deeply humbled and extroadinarily thankful I am for all of you. Your support, your humor, your wisdom, the sharing of your own stories have all been such an amazing gift. From the bottom of my heart - thank you so very much and all blessings to everyone of you. I have to go help my youngest daughter out for awhile. Three hours chasing the youngest grandtoddler around! I will be back and respond to as many of your comments as I can. Please know I'll be thinking of all of you. Peace!