how do we treat the sick?

There’s been quite the flurry of noise on the Internet about the American Health Care Act that was passed in the House of Representatives today. Something that caught my attention is an interview with Mo Brooks (R, Rep. AL), in which he said:

‘People who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.’

Source: CNN Interview with Mo Brooks by Jake Tapper (around 3.20 of the clip)

His statements imply that people who lead healthy (‘good’) lifestyles don’t have pre-existing conditions, which also implies that people who do get sick or have pre-existing conditions somehow did something to deserve their poor health.

Brooks does immediately add, ‘Now, in fairness, many of the people who have pre-existing conditions have those conditions through no fault of their own.’

It’s the earlier statement that is getting the headlines and the attention, and for good reason. The problem here is in placing a moral value on a person’s lifestyle — whether they exercise regularly or diet or eat well — which is what the first statement does: people who lead ‘good lives’, who have done things ‘the right way.’ How, then, do you reconcile the second statement, that those with pre-existing conditions are not at fault for having them, with the first? You have already established the premise that ‘good people’ don’t have pre-existing conditions. So how can someone have a pre-existing condition and not have done something to deserve his or her condition?

This is not a new question. I am reminded of the disciples asking Jesus when they see a man blind from birth: ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ (John 9.2) We might not express it as outright as that, but we still sometimes have that sentiment that if something bad happens to someone, then they probably deserved it: this idea of, ‘Well, they had it coming.’

But we need to remember Jesus’s answer: ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ (John 9.3)

Granted, in the gospel, the work of God is Jesus restoring the man’s sight, which isn’t exactly something we can expect to happen today (it wasn’t common then, either). That doesn’t mean we can write off Jesus’s answer, though.

Neither this man nor his parents sinned; but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Often I see the focus of this passage placed in the following sentence or in the events after the miraculous healing, to the point that this sentence is overlooked. If this sentence is evoked, it’s usually done after some misfortune or tragedy, along with the platitude, ‘All things happen for a reason’ (with which I politely disagree, but that is another subject).

What are the works of God and how might they be displayed? What does that look like today? Right now, in the wake of the AHCA passing the House, this is what I hear from that passage:

The works of God are displayed in how we treat the sick, the poor, and the needy.

Our words, our thoughts, and our actions: what are they when we encounter someone who is ill? What are they when we encounter someone who is chronically ill or differently abled? Not just how we treat that person as an individual; but how do we treat them as a group when we shape our ideas about health care and when we vote? Are we treating the sick, the poor, and the needy in such a way that it displays the work of God?

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enough!

Women are speaking out using a different hashtag now, #notokay, but it’s #YesAllWomen all over again.

  • I have been catcalled, whistled, and honked at — not just by older men, but by boys as young as 10.
  • I’ve had a man repeatedly come into my workplace to flirt with me, who followed me with his car and talked to me on the street, and who got my e-mail address from my work’s website and e-mailed me. During none of this did I “encourage” him. (When I complained about this to a male friend, he actually said I should have been “nicer” to the man because “it takes a lot of courage” to express interest in a woman!!)
  • In high school, one of my male classmates said that his goal that year was to get me drunk. He was later suspended/expelled for grabbing a girl under her skirt.
  • I’ve been leered at in at least five languages.
  • I’ve been followed when walking in a public park. Now I walk with a walking stick, not just because I have rheumatoid arthritis.
  • I’ve been cornered in my residence hall’s laundry room by a man who “loves America and Americans” and wouldn’t let me leave until I told him which room I lived in. (I lied.)
  • I have stayed late in my shared office when a female colleague was having a student conference with a male student that had made inappropriate comments to her, “just in case.”
  • Years later, I still feel uncomfortable eating ice cream in a cone after a man made a lewd comment about what else I could do with my mouth.

And more. Almost every woman I know has these stories and worse. This is #notokay. #YesAllWomen have these experiences. To be told that “you must have done something to get their attention” or that you are “overreacting” dismisses the validity of these experiences. To have Trump’s comments be glossed over as “locker room talk” and that “every man talks like that” does not make that speech or that behavior acceptable. Instead, it reinforces the victim-blaming rape culture in our society and trivializes how this kind of speech and behavior strips women of their humanity.

I am reminded of this (paraphrased) quote from Margaret Atwood:
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

Why else was I taught to carry keys in my fist to use as a weapon? Why else was I taught to park my car under streetlights and to check beneath the car before getting too close? Why else was I taught to always be hyperaware of my surroundings, noting where the men were and reading their body language? I was TAUGHT these things. This is the information passed from woman to woman to keep ourselves safe.

When will enough be enough?

This year, I vote

Earlier this month I posted links to a few articles about what is important to me in this 2012 U.S. Presidential election. I have already voted — the privilege of getting an absentee ballot, I guess — but because one cannot escape the election campaigns, I still think about how and why I voted the way I did.

My fellow OBU-alum Mary writes it better than I could. Her reasons are very similar to mine. Read her blog post here: This year, I vote.

This year, I vote as a Christian; as a woman; as a liberal; as a beneficiary of socialised healthcare.

I have cast my vote; now I wait.

Voting early

The U.S. presidential candidate debates have started this last week. Living overseas, however, I have already received and sent off my absentee ballot.

I want a president who:

Considering I have three pre-existing conditions that require medical treatment, I work in museums, and have a strong interest in the U.S.’s international relations (being as I live overseas), these three issues are important to me. As are fair pay, women’s health, improving public education, and subsidizing higher education, among others. In short, I want the candidate who will be the president of a country I can actually live in, with a job and health care, should I move back to my home country in the next couple of years.

If not, well, then I’m better off staying in Europe for a while longer. I hope I will be able to. (Job and visa circumstances permitting.)

(This will probably be my one and only blog post on the American Presidential Election. I hope you enjoyed it.)

From a different shore

If you haven’t already, you should read this article from The Atlantic: To Make America Great Again, We Need to Leave the Country

An excerpt:

Young Americans who see this country from different shores can’t help but conclude that something is awry in a political culture that denies what they plainly see elsewhere: health care systems that provide better outcomes at lower cost and for everyone; better airports, faster trains, more extensive urban public transportation–and even, amazingly, better highways; more upward mobility (yes, the American dream is now more real in many other countries than it is here); more sustainable energy policies; elections that work more quickly and inexpensively, with more rational discourse and greater citizen participation. The list is long.

These young Americans usually return with an openness about the world that many of their parents lack. No less patriotic than when they left, they see how curiosity about other ways to do things can only make us a stronger country. They were taught, as we were all taught, that the U.S. was built to greatness on ideas borrowed by the rest of the world and improved here.

This article pretty much sums up one of the main reasons why I chose to move overseas, chose to be an ex-pat. It is, in a way, my form of protest against a governmental system that isn’t working, against an insular or isolationist mindset that plagues not only our politicians’ speeches but also the average person’s worldview. Or so I perceived four years ago, and I admit, it is one of the reasons why I am reluctant to move back to the United States. Various things, conversations, keep reminding me of the end date of my visa and I hate to think about it. (Please. Please people, stop asking me what I’m going to do after I finish my PhD. Let me write the darn thesis first, will you?)

And yet, I cannot help but be slightly convicted by his argument that young Americans who travel and live abroad should return to the U.S., bringing with them their experiences and knowledge gleaned from other shores. ‘True voyage is return, says Odo in The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. But when one has made one’s home in another country, to where does one return?

Observations

The Lammas Fair has come and gone. For five days every August the town is transformed into a fairground. My housemate hates it, but I’m always amazed at how these massive rides can fold out of the backs of lorries. I love how for a brief while our medieval town is full of incongruities. Rides, games, vendors, fortune tellers, various traveling merchants selling their wares, there really is a bit of everything. I’m sure I would hate it, too, if it stayed any longer — but as it is, I enjoyed walking around it, eating fair food and gawping at the ferris wheel, carousel, and other rides that swing and spin perilously close to buildings.

Otherwise not much has been going on beyond the usual work routine. My evenings have been spent knitting instead of reading as it becomes ever closer to certain little persons’ birth dates, which means I’ve been watching more than usual on BBC iPlayer. More recently, however, Ros and I have been watching the news and checking Twitter about the riots spreading across England. It’s completely baffling. These aren’t protestors, but opportunists, looters. What is even more baffling to me is that the repeated phrase seems to be that the rioters are striking back against the rich and showing them and the police that they can do whatever they want. That, as the lower class, unemployed, or marginalized, they are tired of being put down and ignored. But by destroying and looting local shops and businesses they are only disenfranchising others in their own communities, thus perpetuating an unequal system.

But that is easy for me to observe, being some hundred miles away, in the very privileged position of being able to pursue what I want in life, a PhD in such an esoteric field as the concept of ‘fairy’ in medieval romance, especially since I also am now among the ranks of the employed, having applied, been interviewed, offered and accepted a position at a museum in Town. (More on that later once I actually begin working, which will be in a few weeks.) I am glad that social networks like Twitter are also being used to organise clean-ups in the targeted communities — a huge, standing ovation to #riotcleanup and to the police who, despite the criticisms against them, I’m sure are trying their best. And I’m sure we can all agree that we hope this madness ends soon.

Initial reaction

We have BBC Radio 3 play in the morning, which means I didn’t check the news until I got into the office. In fact, it was seeing a comment on facebook that made me switch over to BBC News.

Mixed feelings for my part. It’s good that Osama bin Laden was found. It’s a pity he couldn’t have been brought to trial. It’s concerning the amount of… jubilation there is at the news of one man’s death. It’s unsettling how the U.S. sent an operation within another country’s borders without informing that country what it was doing. I understand the reason given why, but does that make it right? Does the end justify the means? It’s curious that people are demanding to see the body, even though that was the first thing that crossed my mind, too: skepticism wanting proof. But a body is not a trophy. To have an Islamic burial he would have to be buried as soon as possible. How we treat our dead sets us apart as humans. He may have been an enemy, but vengeance should not be allowed to corrupt justice.

The men and women who carried out this operation demonstrated great courage and strength, and I commend them for that. I am more concerned about our reactions to this news, and what happens next.

Finding out so many hours after the fact, since President Obama made the announcement at 4.30 AM BST, makes me feel all the more detached from the news. Ever more clearly I find that no matter what is on the news, no matter what happens in the world, the world keeps spinning. The question is how we move forward.

As for me, right now that means saying an extra prayer for my friends in the Middle East, and continuing my research on Melusine.