Friday, April 2, 2010

Shocking Darwin

My mom is very engaged in politics. Me too. But we live in entirely different universes, and sometimes this comes out in strange places, and at inopportune times. This week, I can't possibly recall how, we got into a political discussion at my nephew's high school baseball game. My brother also got in a little, but he is one who makes gentle jokes to make a point. The seating order was this: my husband was on my right, my dad on my left,  my brother to Dad's left. Mom was sitting one level above and behind us. How we got started talking about the health care bill, I can't remember now, but as I commented on Mom's comments on my comments on her comments, my husband kicked my ankle so many times to tell me to drop it that I finally just told him to "STOP IT!" He wasn't being as subtle as he thought, because when I said that my dad laughed. He doesn't get much into these discussions. I guess wisdom does sometimes come with age. Mom, in my opinion, has been sucked into the Fox vortex, and she insists that everything they say is true. She claims that, even though Glenn Beck's theatrics are sometimes uncalled for, his stats are always correct. I am further to the left. I'm actually left of President Obama, especially on health care. But to get to the part of the conversation that bothered me into the night, I had an "Aha!" that night as the conversation bothered me into the night.

My maternal grandmother died in 1998. She was 96, and the last six months of her life were only suffering. She had broken her hip in 1986, and became terribly arthritic after that. She also had a severely arthritic knee, but was told that replacement surgery for her would not be advisable because of her age. She was born the very same year as the Queen Mother of Britain. Who had a joint replacement surgery sometime in the 1990s. This made Mom angry-and she stated then that, "If you have money and status, you can get any kind of medical care you want." It bothered her then. But on this cool, windy evening in North Texas, she actually said to me that insurance companies SHOULD be allowed to drop patients for having preexisting conditions. Interspersed in this conversation was talk of beloved pets we've lost over the last few years. I commented that sometimes I wish someone would have the same mercy on me when I reach a point of suffering that is not bearable or curable. Mom said, "No. You never kill a human." Now, I know that Mom is anti-choice. This is a conversation we had at some other inopportune event several months ago. But there was a time when she believe it should be between a woman and her doctor. In fact, I know of four abortions that happened in our family during the 1980s, two for the health of the mother, and one for the viability of the fetus. In three of those four cases, she agreed with the choice.

This shocked me so much that I didn't think of all the ways I could have continued the discussion. And then my nephew's team tied up the score. But the thoughts of our family's preexisting conditions clouded my thoughts as I tried to drop off to sleep. I have type II diabetes, and inherited my grandmother's crippled left knee. My brother in law had thyroid cancer surgery last month, and will need medication and rechecks for the rest of his life. My dad is a heart patient. My niece was recently diagnosed with type II diabetes. My sister and another niece have bipolar disorder. Would my mother suggest that we should be dropped from our insurance because of our preexisting conditions? My dad has chronic pain-the treatment of which is very expensive. But Mom insisted that the government should not be allowed to force insurance companies to cover sick people because it is anti-competitive, and will cause them to go bankrupt. Did I mention that Mom is also a fundamentalist Baptist? But I guess now Beck and Sean Hannity, the Irish Catholic right wing hatriot trumps Jesus and his calls to love and compassion.

I remember being a Christian, and exhortations to love our neighbors and our enemies. Condemnation was reserved for those who didn't care for the widow and orphan. Jesus told people to sell all their worldly goods and give the money to the poor. But hating the poor is the clarion call of the right. The people who fund the tea party movement are extremely wealthy-Dick Armey springs to mind. If he didn't spend time earning money from insurance interests by fueling tea party sentiments, how WOULD he spend his time now that he's left congress?

The ironic thing is that polls trying to find who the tea partiers are seem to show that they are predominantly working class. So this is a self-hating movement? Perhaps it is a movement secretly calculated to lead the poor to advocate for their own deaths in order to save the government the money of caring for them? It was very confusing. But the thing that made me chuckle is knowing that my mother agrees with those who think that the earth is 6000 years old, and that evolution is a fantasy devised to draw people's faith away from God. If she knew that I'd come up with a theory that the whole anti-health care movement could have DARWIN'S name attached to it, she would be mortified. But this whole thing of social construction through denial of health care IS human devised evolution. But rather than shorten the time people must survive before they die of a preexisting condition, they should suffer the pain of their illness with no access to health care or medicine. Ending suffering is anti-competitive in a free market, capitalist society. We've all seen what humans do to animals when they try to create new breeds or breed to a standard, regardless of the cost to the animal. Millions of dogs suffer with congenital problems that cause pain and short lives. Several breeds are unable to procreate, and in order to breed them, artificial insemination is the only option. Some breeds have been bred down so small, to satisfy some human's desire for furry, living accessories that their skeletons are too fragile to survive the smallest injury. Miniature horses sometimes starve because they've been bred to be small, but their teeth don't breed down in size, and are too big for the horses' mouth. Humans are very bad at this whole creation thing, and so this social Darwinism of trying to rid ourselves of the poor and sick by denying them health care will probably backfire. At least I hope so.

I am an advocate of a single payer plan, such as what Canada has. Doctors I've heard interviewed (who were against President Obama's health care plan) and 85 % of Canadians think it is a good system. So here's hoping that this drive for a new social Darwinism fails. If I pray for Beck or Hannity to have a Pauline experience, and suddenly become enlightened...Nah.