The Privilege of Rights

So, what do you think? Is universal healthcare a right or privilege? For those who think along the lines of laziness and people wanting to mooch off the system, you probably think healthcare is a privilege. For those of you who have empathy and compassion for your fellow man, you probably think healthcare is a right, right? I personally believe healthcare is a right and should be readily accessible to all. This concept doesn’t apply to just Americans, but the whole world. Not all people don’t work because they’re lazy. Some people are born with disabilities, so from the time they’re a baby, life is working against them and making it harder for them to work and make a substantial income to support the high costs of personal healthcare. Should that person have to live with sickness because they can’t afford to go to a doctor?

It’s easier for people born to married, financially secure parents, who have a normal, happy childhood — with no hereditary or acquired disabilities — and are given opportunities, which set them up for a better life. Some people are blessed with good fortune and fortunate circumstances from birth. Some people are born to a good family cycle (i.e., financially successful parents who went to college.) Those family traits tend to repeat from generation to generation. The same can be said about the opposite of everything stated above. For everyone born to success, there are people born to failure. For every person born to wealth, there are more people born to poverty and will live a life prone to poverty. For every person born to financially secure, married parents, there are people born to poor, single parents — women who get pregnant out of wedlock — or parents who divorce, leaving the child to be raised and financially supported by one parent and one income, with or without the financial supplement of the other parent . Just as there is a positive cycle for those born to fortunate circumstances, there is a negative cycle for those born to unfortunate circumstances. Many times, the latter cycle is difficult to break. This is not an excuse, but this is the way it is. Some people never get out of poverty because they were born into it. Some people never go to college because no one in their family went to college. Some people commit crimes and go to prison because their childhood involved having a parent in prison. Some kids never get out of the “hood life” because the influence of their environment defines who they become. Demographics and where a person is born and lives plays a big part in how much success that person will achieve. For those who never get out of the “small town” life with limited opportunity and little industry, blue-color jobs are the only reality they’ll ever know. For some, no matter how hard they work at their minimum-wage jobs, it will never be sufficient to live a better life, no matter how much they save out of their paltry paychecks, it will never be enough to get ahead, no matter how much they study or how smart they are, they’ll never go to college. That is real life. Those are the odds against many, and many never beat the odds.

Sure, there are people who are lazy and don’t want to work even though they could, but those people give everyone else a bad name. My mom, for instance, is a good example of why I think healthcare is a right. She was born with hereditary progressive nerve deafness. She was deaf by the time she was six years old. Her step-father molested her until she was a teenager. To get away from him, she married my dad when she was thirteen years old. My dad, an alcoholic for the greater part of his life, beat her and cheated on her the entire twenty years of their marriage. My mother finally divorced my dad and got away from him too, but not before permanent physical, emotional, and psychological damage was done. Irreparable damage.

She has psychological issues, as she had two nervous breakdowns following her divorce from my father, emotional issues because she never had a man in her life who didn’t abuse her, and physical issues because the trauma she experienced from domestic abuse not only left her a nervous wreck, but also, with chronic pain from broken facial bones and the effects of being beat on a daily basis for two decades. In addition to all of that, after divorcing my dad, she turned to food and alcohol as a way to “eat away” and “wash down” the pain. Though she kicked the alcohol dependency over twenty years ago, she’s been battling morbid obesity for the better part of thirty years, which causes a slew of physical and medical issues in other parts of her body.

You could say my mother has lived an unfortunate life. She has never believed anyone loves her. The molestation during her childhood caused her a lifetime of emotional problems, especially regarding men and relationships. She has low self-esteem, insecurities, and trust issues. Being deaf, she was dealt another bad hand, as it causes her severe isolation issues, lack of a social life and connections, lack of friends, and loneliness. She never remarried after my father and has since lived her life alone. I have watched the toll it’s taken on her. I know why she can’t work, and it’s certainly not because she’s lazy. Does that mean she shouldn’t be able to go to a doctor because she’s now elderly and lives on a fixed income? Does that mean she shouldn’t be treated like a human being?

My mom was medically deemed fully disabled over thirty years ago. She receives disability and my dad’s social security after he passed away. Still, in this day and age, that’s barely enough to get by. She has just enough each month to pay for her home, a vehicle, utility bills, and necessities for everyday life. She lives check to check and is almost always broke. There is no extra money to pay for the exaggerated costs of personal healthcare. She goes to a sliding-scale-fee clinic for low-income patients and receives sub-par care. She receives Medicare but it pays for little, and she still pays a fee every time she goes to the doctor. As well, there’s a deductible which she gets billed any time she has to go in the hospital or to a specialty physician. That ends up leaving her in medical debt with a monthly burden of payment, which ends up hurting her credit if she can’t pay it, or pay it on time. It’s a cycle that never ends and ensures people with little finances will live a lesser quality of life.

That I know of, my mother has only worked two jobs her entire life. One was for the federal government when I was just a baby. But my dad, as they were married at the time, made her quit because he said no wife of his was going to work. The truth was, he didn’t want her leaving the house because he had control issues and didn’t want her having any kind of a happy, productive life. He wanted her stuck at home, miserable and unhappy, so she’d be there when he got in from work. Then, he could beat her, break her jaw, put her in the hospital, and make her life not worth living.

My mother has lived through more hardship than most, but she never gave up on living. She never lost her faith. She taught me to be a strong woman. She taught me to be a good person. She still managed to raise three children into smart, capable, decent adults. However, just as our parents didn’t go to college, my siblings and I didn’t go to college…sort of. I went to college for two years and dropped out. Though, I later graduated beauty school and obtained a cosmetology license. My older brother went to college and dropped out right before graduating. My older sister went to college and dropped out, but returned when she was forty five to finish and graduate with a psychology degree. As adults, my siblings and I are not wealthy, nor have we lived financially secure lives. We don’t have it as bad as some, and for that, I’m grateful, but there has been hardships along the way that could have been prevented if we had better opportunities growing up. That is an example of how the cycle carries down from generation to generation — from parents to children.

My parents divorced when I was seven years old. My dad never paid child support. My childhood was poverty-stricken. For about a year after their divorce, my mom sent me and my older sister to the local library parking lot once a month to pick up government commodity food. It was delivered on a truck. The truck pulled in the lot, opened the back door, and everyone standing there waiting — which was a fairly large group of people — went one-by-one and received a box of food. Even as a child, I remember being embarrassed to be poor. I was afraid my friends would see me getting poor people food. I hated standing in that parking lot, waiting for them to give us our cheese, butter, and canned goods. We lived on that stuff, but my mom always made sure we had something to eat. My dad remarried and started a new family. Him and his wife had two children, a boy and a girl. He abandoned us, but my mom did what she had to do to take care of us. After they divorced, we moved from a nice house, into a low-income apartment. My mom drove an old, flat gray Chevy Nova that was stripped of paint and had a bad muffler. You could hear her coming from a mile away. It always embarrassed me in front of my friends, when she would pick me up from track practice. And looking back on that, I feel ashamed for feeling embarrassed. When I was a teenager, I asked my mom why she didn’t divorce my dad long ago, instead of staying with him for twenty years and tolerating the beatings and infidelity. She simply said, “Because wives didn’t leave their husbands back then.” She was of a generation much different than today. Divorce was uncommon. In those days, women generally stood by their man no matter what.

During the time they were married, my dad was an alcoholic and a violent alcoholic. He wasn’t home much because he worked a lot and spent the rest of his time in bars picking up women. But he lived a hard, poverty-stricken childhood himself. His own father was in prison for many years, and when he finally got out, he died, leaving my grandmother to raise five young children on her own. Seventy years ago, women couldn’t easily get a high-paying job, education or career, so my grandmother was poor. Even though he was a young boy, my dad was the oldest and felt like he had to be “the man” of the house, so he quit going to school when he was in the sixth grade. He later earned a trade in welding, which landed him a good job at an oil refinery. My dad has since passed away, may he rest in peace, but he did cause my mother a lot of pain in her life. Pain she still carries with her today. I believe healthcare is her right. She’s earned it. The life she’s lived has earned her the right to affordable, accessible healthcare. And not just healthcare, good healthcare. There are millions of people in American and billions in the world who are like my mother. Not lazy, but have lived a hard life and faced unfortunate circumstances. On top of that, they shouldn’t have to live in pain or live with illness because life simply dealt them a bad hand.

So, why do I technically consider healthcare a right? Because it’s no different than any other basic necessity — water, food, heat. Without affordable access to water, we would get sick and die. Without affordable access to food, we would get sick and die. In the winter months, without affordable access to heat, we would get sick and die. Healthcare can be classified into the same category as basic necessities because without access to affordable healthcare, people get sick and die. Would you tell someone they couldn’t have water, or…they could have it, but it would cost them more money than they had or would ever have, so they’d just have to do without?

Many people in the world go without clean drinking water, many people go hungry every day, and some starve to death, many people freeze to death in the winter because they have no home and sleep on the streets. In America, there is enough money that these conditions should not exist. None of our fellow Americans, nor should any of our fellow human beings anywhere in the world, have to suffer at the hands of poverty because we think it’s our privilege to have a better life.

There is faith, hope, and charity (love) — with the greatest of these being charity. Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay our life down for our friend (our fellow man, our fellow human being.) And that is what is needed to understand the need for affordable access to quality healthcare for all. Empathy, compassion, sympathy, love, and understanding. Wanting to make the world a better place or making America great again is not about putting more money in the deep pockets of corporations or in the individual pockets of the average man, it’s about acknowledging our obligation to our fellow human, to make sure everyone has access to basic needs. If our obligation was only to ourselves, there would not be 7.5 billion people on earth. Humanity is a collective for a reason. It’s not so we can look out for number one, it’s so we can love one another like we love ourselves. Love is not a privilege. It’s free.