I initially wrote this blog/story last year, but in light of repeated conversations on this topic and the fact that recently the movie “Atlas Shrugged” was released I’ve decided to revisit this tale once again and actually relay it to you fine folks out in the blue nowhere. I hope you enjoy it and please know it is not my intention to offend anyone.
“Don’t you think everyone deserves health care?” the grandmotherly lady asked me as she peered over her reading glasses at menu the hostess had given her just moment before.
“Skip, don’t you think everyone deserves to have proper health care and be taken care of when they can’t take care of themselves?”
“That depends.” I answered, only to see a frown form on her face and the glint of hunger that was in her eye fade to a minor peckish annoyance.
“Well, yeah.” I said as I glanced from her to her dining partner, an elderly man in a wheelchair with a plethora of medical issues. She was his caretaker; she’d been escorting him on daily walks/rolls through Olde Town Portsmouth for at least ten years. I’d seen them on just about every street and alley for almost as long as I’d been working and living in Portsmouth. Usually she would hold the control of his battery powered wheel chair as they walked down the cobblestone streets and brick laden sidewalks. In the winter she wore a full length coat and a Russian Sable hat, in the summer it was usually jeans and a loose fitting shirt. He wore slippers, jeans and a t-shirt, the only exception was that when the weather turned cold he donned a goose feather coat and hat.
Almost every Saturday they show up at the restaurant I work part time and order the same food. I could recite if verbatim here, if I wanted to divulge more identifying information about them but I am trying to protect as much of their privacy as I can. I don’t know why either, since I am sure they do not read my blogs, but it is the same respect and courtesy I try to afford to all people in my lives unless they give me permission and as of this writing they have not given me permission.
“You really don’t want to hear my opinion on this topic do you? I mean, I am sure I’m in the minority on this topic and you have clearly stated your opinion. What would you need my perspective for?”
“Skip, please, humor us. I insist. Besides, we both like you and your opinion, while it may be controversial, it needs to be heard.”
I looked around the restaurant, it was pretty empty, and the rush of early birders hadn’t quite made it in yet. I looked down at my watch, 1710 it read, yes, I’m still on military time twenty five years after I was honorably discharged from the United States Navy. I shrugged my shoulders, took my black American Express bi-fold receipt book and tucked it into the back of my dress slack, folded my hands in front of my crotch and recited something to this effect.
“Since you asked, and I tried to politely refuse, but you insisted, I shall give you my opinion on what I believe you are asking me. Which is the topic of Universal Health Care. A topic that is invariably tied to everything in America and a topic that is most likely, in my eyes at least, going to cripple my generation and the generation of my child and grandchildren.” I paused, looked at my customers, she was staring up at me as if I were suddenly speaking a different language, he was looking at me with tears in his eyes and the white whiskers on his beard slowly withering as if I had insulted him.
“Go on.” He rasped “She wants to know how you feel.” And nodded towards his table mate.
“Alright, first, let me state, I am not saying that I am against helping people who NEED help, making sure that proper medical care is given to people that can’t provide for themselves. People that are unable to work, people that have crippling diseases or medical malady’s that prevents them from at least making an attempt at performing a task that not just affords them an income but also makes them feel as if they are doing something for not just the good of society but a task that makes them feel as if they are part of something bigger. A job or career that makes them feel useful in a manner that they can live with themselves and be able to look back on their life and say, “At least I tried! I did something. I was not a burden on my family or society!”
“ I truly believe people, not just Americans’ need to feel useful and that they are contributing to a larger scheme in life. Helping themselves and their neighbors to become better in the overall outlook of mankind as a whole. I believe that in each and every human there is an inherent need to be a part of a community whose goal is to improve the lives of our offspring. Now, with what I have just stated and shared with you, I want you to understand this, I am a person who for the better part of twenty five years has worked a minimum of two jobs at least four days a week just to provide for his family. When I hear a person complain they cannot find a job or have been unable to secure a career position for their future and the future of their family I say to their face “You are not trying hard enough.” I then explain to the complainer that I’ve worked a myriad of jobs all my life. Jobs that include rock picker to machinist to security guard to air conditioner helper to driver to exhibit technician to waiter. I try to explain to this person or persons that as long as they are being paid to perform a duty or task they are on the road to improvement to not just themselves but to their family and how others perceive them.
If a person stands beside me and says they are unable to perform a task that I, a high school graduate, a Navy Vet, and a man who is willing to take on just about any task no matter how menial. I look at them and ask them to either explain why they are physically unable to perform the task at hand. If they cannot give a viable reason and walk away from me, which most do, I look at their back as they fade from my vision and wipe them from my memory. They are not worthy of my thoughts nor are they worthy of the fruits of my labor. Meaning, they most definitely do NOT deserve any of the money I earn through my sweat, nor do they deserve any of the tax money the government tries to give them. However; if said person IS truly unable to perform a task, is handicapped in such a fashion that prevents them from either assisting me in the job or me assisting them, then THEY do deserve to have as much assistance that not just I can give them but WE as a society can give them.
I am not callous nor am I absent of heart and feelings. I do believe that there are people in our society who need assistance from us. I also believe there are people that will readily take advantage of the generosity which is so freely given. The latter people, the moochers, the hanger ons, the lazy and loop hole driven leeches of society do not deserve anything.
Yes, I agree, there needs to be reform in the medical industry that has machinations in all areas of our lives. There needs to be radical change in not just how medicine is distributed but how a person receives their medical care. There is no easy answer or solution; this is not a mathematical formula which can be solved by the greatest minds on earth. This is problem that requires a well thought out plan which can be implemented at a pace that will not destroy our economical basis. A solution that can be formatted and adjusted to the individual citizen of the United States, on that note, I do not believe an illegal immigrant deserves to be treated to the same health care a person who is actually paying for and working for a living. A person who is an illegal alien is here illegally which to me means they are breaking the law. A law breaker, by my way of thinking, who is not attempting to resolve their illegal status or in a position of restitution for what they’ve done, does not deserve to have the same treatment as someone who is working for fifteen thousand dollars a year. Or for that matter someone who is working for thirty five thousand dollars a year and trying to make a mortgage payment, pay for food, gas, medical insurance, credit card bills and whatever else constitutes life in our country today.
Should we turn these people out? Close the door on them at the hospital? No. But on the other side of that coin, should we write off Billions of dollars in medical expenses each year to treat people who have not assisted in their own health care? No. See, no easy solution. We as a society want to do what we believe is right, even if what we do bankrupts our nation for future generations. If you don’t believe me let me ask you to look at the Social Security Administration. Right now, I know I will never be able to retire because the money I’ve been putting into the SSA will not be available in 30 years when I am ready to retire, nor will any time of economical health care.
So you see, for me at least, there is no easy solution. I do believe that some folks need help but at what cost to not just me but all workers in our society? What happens when there are more folks that either refuse to work or believe they are unable to work? What happens when a person who has the flu or common cold can’t get medicine because it is too expensive or the manufactures of the medicine are out of business because they can’t afford to pay the taxes of doing business? What happens to our society when it is only the politicians who are able to afford a living in this country because they’ve bankrupted the middle class and the wealthy class? What happens when there is no one left to work hard and others able to live off the sweat of that person’s labor?”
“Skip, you’re being a bit ridiculous and defeatists aren’t you?” She asked me.
“Not at all. Everything is connected. The laws of today will affect our children’s children. Just like the laws of Truman, Lincoln and Jefferson affect us today. We are only as strong and successful as our fore-fathers allowed us and as successful as the current administration deems necessary. If the government outlawed fish today then it would cripple the country tomorrow. Just like the Health Care conglomeration is crippling us today.”
“You really believe all that?” She asked. I looked at her table-mate, he was nodding his head with a gleam in his eye.
“Go ahead Skip, tell her.” He said to me.
“Yes, I believe every word I said, and I will believe it until I see proof to the contrary. Now, what would you like to eat?”
She looked at me with a blank stare, shook her head and said “The usual please.”