Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Empath

The Empath When I was reading the Sunday paper (a little late in the day, but I did read it...okay, I skimmed it), it really bothered me to read this letter to the editor:

My neighbors' health care is not my responsibility. Engel [a local doctor] can be generous with his money if he will; he shouldn't project his morality upon me.

While I appreciated the author's correct use of the possessive apostrophe, I was appalled at the sentiment expressed.

I was pleased to see the vote in the Senate this weekend, in which it was agreed that the health care bill would move forward for debate. I was honestly perplexed by all the "nay" votes from Republicans. This wasn't a vote to pass the bill; this was a vote to debate it on the Senate floor. I think that's very indicative of the mindset of the GOP right now: don't discuss, don't propose solutions, simply pull a Nancy Reagan and "just say no." (And we all know how well that worked.) I've come to believe that rather than striving for true reform and working on making things better for all American citizens, the GOP simply wants President Obama and our country to fail. That's...that's really kind of warped, don't you think?

To top off my puzzlement at the "nay" votes, reading this letter to the editor appalled and disgusted me. It made me quite sad, too.

There is a practical aspect to it, as pointed out by my friend Tim on Facebook: it is a matter of public health. It is part of the greater good to ensure that everyone receives proper health care. If your neighbor gets sick, you might get it, too. If your child's classmate has parents that don't believe in vaccination, or simply can't afford to get proper care for their kid, your child is at risk of exposure. If there are millions of people who do not get preventive care or cannot pay for a doctor's visit to check out that pesky abdominal pain or to figure out why they have blurred vision or to have the doctor listen to that lingering cough...we all end up paying more for the care needed when the problem has gone beyond the easily treatable.

But even more importantly to me is something that made me think of an episode from the third season of "Star Trek," "The Empath." In this episode, Kirk, Spock, and Bones encounter a lovely young mute woman, Gem. Gem is a rarity, a true empath; when others are in pain or hurt, she can touch them, take their wounds into herself, and clear them. This takes its toll upon her, causing her great pain, but she cannot stop being what she is. (Sort of like John Coffey in The Green Mile, now that I think about it.) As the story unfolds, we realize that this is an experiment conducted by aliens to see if Gem is willing to harm herself in order to help others. They plan on taking care of her, and will treat her well, but Gem proves herself by being willing to almost die in order to save Bones.

Granted, most of us would draw the line at dying to save a stranger, depending on the situation. Notable exceptions would be soldiers serving their country, or the Secret Service agents who will die to protect their charges. I think most of us would die to protect our loved ones. But we're not talking about giving up our lives here. We're simply talking about finding a way to help our fellow citizens; to help them be healthy and not die miserably because they don't have insurance. Help them not lose their home because they receive a diagnosis of cancer; help them live as pain-free as possible if they have a chronic illness. We are talking about having empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings.

I am dismayed by the lack of compassion for others that I am seeing in this debate. I'm getting an attitude of "Hey, I've got my health insurance--fuck you." What has happened to people that they feel nothing for others? Do they really not care if some kid dies of an easily treatable infection because his parents can't take him to the doctor? Do they really not care if a little girl goes deaf because she wasn't treated for meningitis in a timely manner? Do they not care if their elderly neighbor has to choose between a decent meal and their blood pressure meds? Do they not care if their parents have to make that choice?

I have said this before, and I have not changed my feelings on it: I believe health care reform is not merely a financial necessity for our country. It is a moral obligation. We must not forget our humanity and our compassion for others.

We must remember the concept of empathy.


  1. I hope that those that do not approve of the health care bill in its current form can come up with circuit breakers to alleviate potential consequences, and then vote to approve a bill that needs to be done (both sides agree on this) and also have limits to ensure that if it does not work as planned, then it is self regulating.

  2. Sad to say as I mentioned to Sheria, I think there are some people bound and determined to block this from passing as a jab toward Obama. We've come so far by electing a black president. Why they want to see him fail so badly is beyond me. I wish they would understand it's not only Obama, its the country at large here.

    I truly hope they can check the agenda for fail on Obama's part at the door and look at the common good before all else. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. I am afraid that we are going to see a lot more of this type of selfishness on a world-wide scale.

  4. Indigo has touched on something that goes unspoken but is still only a relatively small factor in why there is so much anger about health care. We have so much discord in society today where as big as race being an issue would have once been, I think that is merely added fodder to those who oppose each other.

    Selfishness of the rich and powerful who fear that without the status quo, they won't make ALL the money. Then you have the ignorance of those who simply believe what they are told, failing to make an attempt to understand the ramifications of not having a national health care plan means to them as an individual.

  5. I am sickened by the lack of debate by the GOP. I find it disgusting that they won't even discuss health care.
    The GOP does not care about health care, they care about the insurance industry, and if one of your Repugnant Senators voted No to debate, vote No the next time they run for office.

  6. All this lack of empathy in the world makes me think about my parents. They were lifelong Republicans but I feel that, were they alive today, their political affiliations would be taking a big flip-flop. There's no way my wonderfully compassionate parents would be able to go along with this selfishness.

  7. You all have great points. The bottom, very bottom line, our dirty little secret, if you will, is that we are no longer a Rupublic, we are an oligarchy, controlled by corporations. Our citizenry are fodder for those corporations to make money. They earn, and spend their money on the crap we sell. the Repubs are behoden to Big Business and Big Money. They always have been the party of the rich and the party of business. Only since Regan have they started to "court" the poor and uneducated, using fear and hatred to gather their support because they cannot promise them a better life. They can only tell them that their life will be better if we all make sure no one else has what we have. Only the truth is that does not make life better. It just makes your life better than someone else's life. And those uneducated fools who believe sh!t like healthcare refore will create deathcamps and the President is a fascist, are just puppets. They never will get the benefits of voting Republican. There are only a few who will. Repubs don't, and never have, supported any social agenda whatsoever. They cannot afford to create social concord or mutual respect (if not love) between people of different -insert whatever character here-. I think the fly in the ointment is the internet. People are starting to figure out what's happening because information is so plentiful and easy to get. SO now, the tactic is to start to spread lies and panic to the very stupid, in hopes of swaying the fence sitters. It is never been more critical to make our voice heard, and to continue to bug our Congresspeople, and call people on their lies than right now. We are at a crossroads. We can stop the oligarchy from gaining a foothold, or we will fail as a society. We can't have both. Idiots like that woman in Beth's story are a perfect example of what our society will become if we let the corporatioins win. FOr a more visual example, watch the film "Idiocracy". Brilliant satire if not scary when you think it could happen exactly like that. We are already on the path.
    Those are my two cents (maybe three!).

  8. Beth I look on with absolute amazment at how so many people are looking at your health reform bill...I pray to God daily that the majority and I am sure it is the majority of good caring Americans will make sure by all means possible that the bill gets through the next stage. We over here will be having an elction early next year and already the two main political parties have started their retoric..I so much agreed with what Sran in NY has said the remarks about the Republicans could very well be remarks for and about our Conservative Party...

  9. Sorry that should be Stan in NH ...also it will be our ELECTION next year...must have left my spelling brain out in the rain to much this week !!!

  10. Without empathy and compassion for other human beings, the creatures that inhabit our planet, and the Earth itself, I'm sure we are doomed as Gem would have been in that Star Trek episode. We may go on for thousands of years, but eventually our corrupted spirit will kill us. Those two things make our species special and worthy of survival. Without them I'd rather we perish and give another species a chance to develop, gain sentience, find a way off this planet, and populate the universe. Maybe, given the chance, they could honor the gifts of life self awareness, and intelligence.

  11. Dear Beth,
    a very interesting post..
    I was reading another blogger here who has been on Meidcaid and has been seriously ill...
    she is wondering if we should expand existing Meidcaid and Medicare.. this would be a proposal..
    what do yuo think?
    Happy thanksgiving!

  12. this country is full of hypocrites and selfish people who truly only care about themselves. Many feel an entitlement for just about everything in life. This is one awesome entry--i agree with all of it. I have a list of politicians, esp. the local ones, who are not willing to change or even listen just because of their party and they have lost my vote.


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