Let's Talk: We Are in the Health Care System Together
Published in the Deseret News yesterday (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765588382/Its-time-for-Americans-to-r...):
It was as though the city was under siege — fire and police sirens could be heard all over town. It was a freezing late afternoon in January 1982. Washington, D.C., had been hit with a huge snowstorm, and federal workers were asked to go home early, causing major traffic gridlock. Little did I know of the things to come.
I was getting ready to leave the Dirksen building when my wife called to say a plane had just crashed in to the 14th Street Bridge and into the frozen Potomac River. She could see the searchlights and the emergency workers from our apartment trying to save the lives of the 79 passengers on Air Florida that had just left National Airport.
I decided to take the Metro to avoid the gridlock, as did hundreds of others. The Metro cars were packed, and as always happens, no one looks or talks to each other. The train left the station and traveled a short distance, then suddenly stopped. We were told nothing. People remained quiet, then slowly we all started stirring nervously, wondering why the long wait. People started whispering that one of the trains ahead had crashed and three people died. Before we knew it, everyone was talking and looking at each other and wondering what we could do to get out of danger. Instinctively, we all tried to help each other. Race or station in life did not mater; we were strangers no more. We were humans in danger and looking after each other.
Thirty years later, we are facing a crisis of a different sort. We are divided and not talking to each other.
The last Thursday in June in front of the U.S. Supreme Court steps there were two highly polarized groups chanting and holding signs waiting for the decision on how the Court would rule on the affordable health care law. It was a decision that would determine if all Americans would be able to access health care and at what cost. The polarization is one of values. Should the cost of health care for the poor be a social cost spread among all Americans, or should the poor have less health care than other Americans?
The problem seems to be, like the metro crash story, that unless people are experiencing the same crisis together, it's hard to know what other people are going through. It may not be out of malice that some Americans don't appear to care about their neighbor. It may be they don't understand, "We are not in the same boat." The polarization over health care is a symptom of the tough economic times we are going through and fueled by politicians who use fear about the future to win their next election.
Americans have always pulled together in time of danger from the outside — wars, floods, etc. It's the common values that are deeply embedded in the American character — work together for the common good, respect the dignity of every individual and care for the those less fortunate among us. It's those values that helped build our nation by early settlers, pioneers and those of the "greatest generation."
Societies overcome crises when their leaders call upon the best and kindness in people to sacrifice and work together. They instill hope about the future. America is strong because of its values. It's our politicians that create the conflict among us.
It's time we recognize the crisis we face from the inside and start pulling together, talking, listening and caring for each other.
A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education.