Monday, August 31, 2009

The Obama Health Plan

It's such a very small world now. You get on a plane in Miami and by the time you land in Toronto, you've ingested the germs of every passenger on board. Ditto for the subway, the city bus, country bus, the school bus. Go to church, or to the movies, the supermarket, the store or indeed the hospital (often the worst offender!) and you are in intimate contact with a world of germs. There is no homeland security, army, navy, air force or marine corps that can protect you from them. Either you hide in a sterile bubble, or you are at risk.

Your best recourse in this hazardous world of lethal microbes? A community that is in good physical and mental shape, a society whose citizens are cared for by diligent and committed professionals who continually remind it about how best to preserve its health. Folks with good health and good sanitary habits won't get sick so easily and will know how to avoid spreading their sicknesses if they do.

I am glad to be a Canadian for this reason. That is not to say that health care in Canada is perfect, but at its best it is as good as health care anywhere. Also, all of us who live in Canada have access to it, the poorest pay nothing at all for it, and what the rest of us pay is not very much and is directly related to what we earn. It is time intelligent, thoughtful citizens of the USA recognize that it's not a good thing that all Americans don't have decent health care. In fact, in these times, it is a very dangerous thing.

Seems some religious folks, some bishops of my own (Catholic) church included, have reservations about the plan Mr Obama has put forward. So let's clear up one thing. There's no dispute as to where Jesus stood on this issue. He spent the three years of his ministry feeding people, healing the sick, performing miracles to restore deformed, dysfunctional bodies, driving out demons that disturbed the mental wholeness of many. He even raised the dead. His health care policy is in the Gospels and the Acts for anyone who cares to read it.

I'm proceeding slowly on this one, taking thought before addressing what some bishops in the Catholic Church had to say, as quoted in a front page article in Friday's New York Times. Their statements had one member of our family threatening never to set foot into a Catholic Church again! So it's a matter about which people have very strong, not just opinions, but convictions.

As for abortion, which appears to be a sticking point for some - do we cut off people's hands so that they don't steal? As I've said before, I don't believe in abortion, but I understand that it is a complex issue and that if it touched me, I might find my attitude affected. Very few women take this step lightly, witness the many teenagers who continue to have babies, a choice that's easy for me to understand and one I use to help make the present argument. If we truly want women not to have abortions, what we must do is create a social, economic, and moral context that will encourage them to keep their babies. By moral I mean the morality of Jesus, he who enjoined us, in the Great Commandment of the New Law, to love our neighbours as ourselves - not threaten those whom we perceive as sinners with damnation.

My sister recently told me the story of a woman who was read out of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, to which she was devoted, when she went to live with a man to whom she was not married. She had been married prior to that time, and had two children for her husband whom she was now raising alone. She was not afraid to confront the church elders. "Are you helping me with my children?" she asked them. "Are you concerned about their welfare, or about mine?"

Do we really want women not to have abortions? What if we tried supporting the women of childbearing age in our communities? Insisting that all jobs make generous provision for maternity and paternity leave? Ensuring the availability of affordable child care, good schools, free school meals? What about providing these women with quality health care? Might it make a difference? Or could it be that it's easier to condemn, to shake our fists and call down fire and brimstone? To feel righteous, better than our neighbours?

More on the statements from those Catholic bishops shortly. Meanwhile, remember those microbes!


FSJL said...

Perhaps you could explain this Jesus chap's position to the good Xtians who are insisting that he was an extreme individualist who would have nothing to do with communistic ideas like social responsibility. Especially, I'd suggest to the ones who make a distinction between "Catholics and Christians."

clarabella said...

FSJL: I often refer to Catholic exitentialist Gabriel Marcel, who offers a good caution about labels with the comment that it's easy to call a man a communist and kill him. As you know, Catholics believe that the present Pope follows in direct line down from Peter, the Apostle, and so effectively claim that they are the original Christians. There's no escaping Jesus's ideas (matters not what they are labelled -- socialist, communist, anarchist or otherwise) about sharing and being our brother's keeper. Jesus told the rich young man, "Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and come, follow me." Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the Eye of a Needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. The Parable of the Good Samaritan enjoins us to be responsible for the strangest stranger in our midst. And it's in the temple that Jesus loses his cool and evicts the money changers who have made His Father's house into 'a den of thieves'. (MIght not there be a clear Madoffian reference here, not to mention all those bankers with million dollar bonuses.) And we know from the Acts of the Apostles that the property of the early Christians was held in common. But my granny used to say, "There are none so blind as those who will not see", echoing a verse in Isaiah Six (I think) that is referred to again and again in the Gospels. So whe fe do? Speak the Truth and run the Devil! A no dat? Selah!