"I sent my brother away. I gave him to the dark people passing. They taught him to wear his hair long, to glide about naked, drinking water from his hands, tether horses and follow the faint trail through bent grasses. I took my brother to the other side of the river, then swam back, and left my brother alone on the shore. On 66th Street, I noticed he was gone. I sat down and wept." These soulful words were written by poet and consciousness-raising activist Robert Bly from his essay "A Dream of my Brother."
I can only guess what Robert Bly had in mind when he crafted this touching essay, but today, it reminds me of how Congress attempts to deal with heath care for our poor, homeless and mentally ill population. Our recent debates regarding the disassembling of the Affordable Care Act have been carelessly re-cycled three times by a Republican-dominated Congress. Now, President Trump has signed an executive order that some advisers say will sabotage the ACA (Obamacare) and will negatively affect our most troubled and downtrodden citizens.
I feel saddened by these rushed and reckless decisions led by a chaotic administration. I heard the elephant in the room (common sense) tell me that putting America first should not come at the expense of putting our most oppressed and vulnerable citizens last. In attempts to improve health care, whoever thought that it was a good idea for Republicans to go behind closed doors without consulting Democrats, physicians and other hospital staff members?
Whether you agreed with Obama's health care plan or not, I admired his strategic preparation for passing this ambitious and important bill. First, he began with the concept that health care is a human right for all as opposed to a privilege for a few. Second, he showed a willingness to ask for input from Democrats, Republicans and various other experts from the health care field. If you or I had a serious medical concern, wouldn't we want to seek the advice of knowledgeable people first?
If this administration were really serious about improving our health care system, there are other industrialized nations that have developed working templates for health care i.e. Australia and Sweden. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. However, this would require diligent effort and time. Unfortunately, this president lacks the empathy or the willingness to do what is required. He seems more concerned about scoring a "win" and lowering tax rates for the wealthy than he is about repairing health care.
To be clear, we have good people on one side of the aisle who believe that health care is an expensive privilege and one that should be earned by people willing to pay their fair share. On the other side, we have good people who believe that health care is a human right that is necessary for people's well-being. Conservatives are criticized for ignoring people's needs while liberals are criticized for ignoring potential costs.
Most informed citizens of this great nation believe that everyone should have access to clean water, air, police security, fire protection and disaster relief. No one is asked before turning on their faucets if they are worthy or deserve the water they drink or the air they breathe. Likewise, when sick people do not have equal access to health care due to lack of insurance, they cannot work and are unable to achieve personal independence.
We don't have a political dilemma here regarding health care; instead, we have a moral crisis of the soul. We all risk losing our health within a matter of seconds due to injury, or over time due to illness. Without affordable health care for everyone, we deny the least among us their "Unalienable Rights" given to us by our creator and our government as a designated birthright for "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Bowling Green resident Norma Davenport is a former mental health worker and advocate with the Family Service Counseling Center of Wood County. She contributes to the Sentinel-Tribune monthly.
Opinions expressed in "Norma Unleashed" are the writer's own.