The personal is political

I know I’m basically two days late on this, but I wanted some time to collect my thoughts about this whole Jimmy Kimmel thing. Also, life.

If you’re living under a rock, and haven’t heard about Jimmy Kimmel and his son’s health problems, here’s the video

If you can’t see it (like me) because you’re at work and the network is a little paranoid about security certificates, then I’ll give you the tl;dr: Kimmel’s wife just had a son who was born with a heart defect. A couple observant nurses, two doctors and a surgeon later, the little guy is doing fine and is at home with his family. At the end of the story, Kimmel sent out an appeal to the people (and leaders) of America: don’t decrease health care funding. These people do good work, and we need them.

For some reason, this has been taken as the worst kind of partisan attack. Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois was a particular douchebag about it, tweeting, “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.” Not to be outdone, Charles Hurt of the Washington Times devoted an entire column to Kimmel. The final paragraph is especially gross:

Actually Jim, if you were a “decent person,” you would shut your fat trap about partisan politics and go care for your kid, who just nearly died, you elitist creep.

I’m not a huge fan of Jimmy Kimmel. I don’t watch much tv, and when I do, it’s not late night shows. But he seems like a pretty good guy, and I’m glad that his kid is going to be okay. I’m sorry that he had to go through this. I’m also glad that he was able to use his platform as a way to tell his story and to get his message out. Honestly, he humanised the health care debate (I can’t believe there’s a health care debate). It looks like it won’t have had any noticeable effect, in the short term, but perhaps stories like this will get those heartless motherfuckers in the GOP out of the House and Senate next year.

There were many striking things about this whole situation: politicians are voting to take health care away from their constituents, other politicians are publicly going on the record as not wanting all of their constituents to have access to health care, a (presumably) wealthy man is advocating that everyone get the kind of health care that he can afford, and an outpouring of public support for a man who seemingly has all kinds of advantages, but is still subject to the whims and follies of fate.

What surprised me was not the conservative backlash. It’s no surprise (though it’s completely baffling) that they hate the oppression of universal health care. I was kinda confused by the nature of Hurt’s complaint: that Kimmel took his personal situation and used it to illustrate a political point.

The political is personal, and vice versa.

Cutting funding for health insurance for millions of people is a political decision, but being sick, paying insurance, or going bankrupt are all intensely personal things. Black Lives Matter is a political movement, but getting killed by a policeman is a very personal issue. Approving a pipeline is a political act, but drinking poisoned water is pretty damn personal. Legalizing marijuana is a political act, but getting arrested because you’re carrying pot is very personal.

You really can’t separate the two. Every political act has consequences for people. Gun laws, abortion laws, declarations of war, criminalising a behaviour, protecting religious freedom — all of these things will affect real people and have real consequences. So why shouldn’t Jimmy Kimmel use his personal story to illustrate a political point?

Go ahead and hate Jimmy Kimmel because he thinks that people shouldn’t die because they can’t afford the necessary medical treatment. Feel free to believe that poverty is a preexisting condition which excludes you from medical care. Take the money from insurance companies and fuck over your constituents. Pass the bill without reading it. Lie about what it contains. But don’t try to say that his personal story was somehow tainted by a political message. That just makes no goddamn sense.

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