March 2, 2008

I woke up thinking about the reason I am a solid Democrat, philosophically speaking, and I could hear the voice of my first midwifery teacher in my head. I can sympathise with republican and libertarian ideologies about independence and survival of the fittest and freedom. Its not as though I don't value personal liberty. Its not as though I don't enjoy the dream of living tax free. Then lo and behold, there were two articles awaiting me and my morning coffee in the New York Times today. One frames the health care debate beyond Obama/Clinton minutiae. The other is an article about doulas and their role in our health care system.

I am a democrat because of the bell jar phenomenon in nature. For any biological system, let's take human health for instance, it is a mathematical fact that there will always be those that are completely healthy, those who are moderately healthy, and those who are gravely ill. If you take a snap shot of the whole spectrum of healthy to ill people in any society at any moment and graph them from healthy to ill, you will generally draw the shape of a bell jar. What does this tell us? It is a mathematical fact that we will always have illness, misfortune, and failure. We can see this as math, it can be draw as a picture. Its not psychology. Its not choice. Its not laziness.

It is true that psychology, choice, and laziness exist. But that truth does not deter that fact that life happens on a spectrum from ideal to horrid. This is an indisputable mathematical fact. I review this fact in my mind periodically. It dovetails with my spiritual ideas about duality here on earth. And that's when I hear my teacher-midwife's voice speaking to me when I was 20. "Katherine, when I was a young woman I decided that I would live my life according to the values I want to see in society around me. So I wondered what the most important values would be and then I vowed to live them. I value kindness, compassion, and honesty so I try to live according to those values."

So today when I read "Polling suggests that at least 9 of every 10 voters in November will be insured. Many will not see universal coverage as a matter of self-interest. The complex economic argument that the uninsured impose hidden costs on everyone else may be difficult to convey in sound bites." I set aside arguments about the definition of "self-interest," and the broader implications of self-interest in society, to wonder.

I wonder why it is that people can't understand that suffering is a mathematical fact. Given the truth of suffering, why is it so difficult to embrace the concept of help? If we are the most powerful nation on earth, economically speaking (or at least if we were 8 years ago) and if suffering is scientific fact, why wouldn't we address that? We can't change the fact of suffering but we can value compassion and offer help, if only so that we live in a compassionate and helpful society.

The democratic platform, while it has its serious inefficiencies, vows to address the scientific fact of suffering without judgement as to the reasons for suffering. Suffering exists, so lets choose values as a society, that address suffering.

You can go live in a cabin alone and hope suffering won't find you. You can claim that you have no time to worry about others suffering because you are busy being lucky, working hard, and living without pain. But suffering still exists. So when you claim to live above that fact, what values are you choosing? And what do those values look like in the invisible society around you?

I find that Republican values tend to blanch in the face of suffering. It's all fine a well to complain about taxation when you are a hardworking 38 year old. But these same hale people tend to arrive in old age full of complaint about medicaid and the cost of pharmaceuticals. And they are worried. And they know their failing bodies may soon begin to suffer. Help is possible, but only if its affordable. For most, affordable is a receding equation in old age. That is another mathematical fact, and only one example.

So why not set up a kinder system? Why not put help and ease into the plan? That is the platform of Democrats. That's why I vote Democratic. Can we help? Yes We Can.

No comments: