But not as angry as this one.
I can't believe we live in by far the richest country in the history of the world and there is any question at all about providing health care for people who need it. The idea that basic dental care is out of reach in America is just mind-boggling.
In case you didn't follow the first link, it was a story about a massive weekend-long free dental clinic that serves the people of Appalachia. Dentists from all over the region donate their time, set up a tent, and start pulling rotten teeth. In one weekend, they'll pull more than 2,000 teeth from people who can't afford any sort of dentistry. I think it's a great thing those dentists are doing, but one little detail jumped out at me. A couple is quoted in the story saying they grew up with excellent dental care ... their fathers were union miners, and the mining company provided full benefits. Those days are long gone.
The second story takes place in a Democratic representative's town hall meeting. He was challenged by an angry constituent who demanded to know if he thought that health care was a right. He made the mistake of saying yes. She lambasted him, the crowd cheered, and now the video has gone viral throughout the conservative Internet. The woman who denounced any sort of public health care has become a hero.
I don't get this on any level. I know I'm ranting, and I know this has nothing to do with writing, but sometimes I just can't believe what's going on. I strongly believe that you can tell what kind of society you're dealing with by how it treats the least among them. The rich aren't a measure of a country. Rather, it's how the rich treat the poor. The same is true of families, by the way. You can tell almost immediately what kind of person you're dealing with by how they treat their children.
In my book, this means the United States is measured by how we treat our criminals, our poor people and sick people, and kids. And I think we do a piss-poor job of it. Of course health care is a right. Whether you want to call it "providing for the general welfare" or the "pursuit of life," I think there's little question that an advanced, rich society should first see to its own health. It should make sure its people were able to meet a basic level of health. It shouldn't allow an epidemic of prison rape. It shouldn't allow mentally disabled people to live on the streets.
I get the conservative argument. I grew up a Young Reagan Republican, and I still read more right-wing media than I do left-wing media. When I argue with conservatives, I'm not really bragging to say that I often know their own arguments better than they do. But ultimately it comes down to a question of social justice for me, and I think anyone would be hard put to prove a link between providing social justice and the vibrancy of American business and innovation. In fact, the stronger the safety net has become, the greater our country has been. Being a good corporate citizen is not a competitive disadvantage. But being a bad one is ... just ask any Enron shareholders.
When I look at conservative thought, I'll be honest: I see mostly fear. I see a mindset that is consumed with the fear of loss. Loss of middle-class status; loss of economic well-being; loss of prestige; loss of national position; loss of security. This overwhelming fear threads through every argument—any measure is valid as long as it protects from this dreaded, panicky, ill-defined loss.
I get it. I'm worried too. I'll never have the kind of job my dad had. I might never have that kind of financial security or lifestyle, and I certainly won't enjoy those kinds of benefits. I don't know what kind of job market my kids will face. For that matter, I don't know what kind of job market I'll face in six months or a year. I don't know if China will grow beyond us (ironic, for a Communist country). I don't know if someone will figure out how to pack a nuclear bomb into a suitcase. But I never want to be crippled by this fear of not knowing. I can only hope that this fear will never eclipse my humanity so one day I'll find myself justifying why it's OK to sacrifice people who are less fortunate than me as long as I can stand on their shoulders.