It began innocently enough. I was having a conversation in the laundry room with one of my neighbors down the hall. He’s a single guy in his 40s who works as a security guard.
I asked him how his new career as a real estate agent was going, and this led to him saying, “With so much uncertainty now, thanks to this administration, people aren’t buying homes.” Normally, I avoid having highly charged discussions with people whose political persuasions I don’t know, but I decided this time not to just let the comment pass. When I asked him to elaborate on what he meant by the administration‘s role in all this, he launched into a diatribe on how terrible the new health care law is. Turns out he also erroneously thinks that 47% of the American public is on “welfare” (thank you, Mitt Romney). I guess he meant food stamps, but I was in no mood to argue the point.
The part of the conversation that I found most disturbing was his feeling that if someone else was unwilling to take “personal responsibility” for his or her life, he shouldn’t be forced to pay for that person’s health care. He says he takes care of himself and that should be enough. He claims he doesn’t eat junk food, exercises regularly and only thinks “peaceful thoughts,” and thus he doesn’t need to have health insurance and resents being forced to pay to cover other people who do eat junk food, don’t exercise regularly and presumably have less peaceful thoughts than he does. When I tried to point out that a person can’t opt out of his body and that no one can know what will happen in the future, he acted as if I were talking Martian and accused ME of being the illogical one. I said that this is the whole purpose of insurance, to minimize risk to the individual by spreading it over a large pool of people (I would have thought this wouldn’t need to be explained to a man of his age). I also pointed out that, no matter how many vegetables he might eat, that isn’t going to help him if he slips on the ice and lapses into a coma for six months, leaving him with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of unpaid medical bills. When I said that society would then be responsible to pay that bill for him (mainly through higher premiums on the rest of us), he shut down the conversation, saying that he didn’t want that kind of negative energy in his life. Apparently, he really thinks that living a “good life” will make him invulnerable to the caprices and exigencies of life on this planet. It’s all a part of this myth of “rugged individualism” that should have gone out with the advent of the transcontinental railway. (It also occurred to me that he might be a Christian Scientist, but that is just speculation on my part).
I knew that people like this existed, but I’d never actually met one before. Hey, I get it if a person doesn’t have the money to purchase health insurance and is willing to run the risk of going without it for that reason (which is where the subsidies come in). I don’t agree with that viewpoint, but I can at least respect it. But to claim I DON’T EVEN WANT health care coverage because I’ll never need it strikes me as the height of irresponsibility (ironically, from a person who a few minutes earlier was decrying the lack of personal responsibility on the part of all those lazy-assed chip-munchers).
I think this incident reveals a much broader problem that goes far beyond just the issue of health care. It’s this pervasive feeling that everybody out there is some kind of moocher and leech on society, and that everyone’s trying to get something for nothing and I don’t want to pay for it anymore. In the minds of people with this attitude (from a man who touts his Christian spirituality, yet!), the ACA is just another manifestation of everything they see as wrong with the world.
I guess my question is how many people like this guy are out there, and how many may simply choose to pay the fine rather than get themselves covered (I also wonder, if he had kids, would he apply this attitude towards them as well and refuse to get them covered?).
It kind of shows what we’re up against. Talking to this man was truly like hitting one’s head against that proverbial brick wall. How does one counter such an absurd, irrational view of the world?
Anyway, thanks for letting me rant.
6:29 PM PT: Thanks so much for the recs and the comments. I needed to be in the company of sane people again after that head-spinning experience earlier today. Plus, am listening to Nat King Cole singing Christmas music. No better tonic than that!