As the news continues to arrive from Haiti, I can’t stop thinking about our instinctive need to do all we can to eliminate human suffering. The response is automatic. In the final analysis we must depend upon one another for our security, health care and general well being. Consequently, when visited by terrible suffering, civilized people respond without thinking about the cost.
One of the first responders from the U.S. was the search and rescue team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department. It made me proud to be an Angelino, when I saw our guys gathering up their gear at the airport to fly out to Port-au-Prince. They were going because people were dying and it was the right thing to do. Other cities, counties and states responded in like-fashion as did our President, who sent troops, our Secretary of State and a hospital ship. As a nation, we are responding as we should. It’s the way civilized people respond to tragedy because in the final analysis, all we have is one another.
The parallels with the near non-response to assist our own people following the Katrina tragedy in New Orleans will surely be made. People will be talking about the irony of former President George W. Bush pledging his support and congratulating President Obama for his rapid response to the disaster in Haiti. Mr. Bush, has a legacy to try and build and after-the-fact is probably better than almost no positive legacy at all. He’s been out of office for only one year and already our 43rd President has become a historically sad public figure. At least he’s backing the Haitian relief effort. That’s something. Perhaps it should be taken a step further.
During the blitz on London, with death constantly on their doorstep and their city lying in ruins, the British people took a look around and realized that health care was a right and not a privilege. To this day, they continue to care for one another regardless of someone’s ability to pay as does the rest of the industrialized world, with one exception. That exception of course, is the United States.
A recent study from the Harvard Medical School, points to nearly 45,000 Americans dying annually because of a lack of health insurance and their inability to get good health care. That’s Forty-five thousand a year. That amounts to the Haiti death toll happening every four years or so, right here in the United States.
As we continue to do all we can to help the people of Haiti, as we should, I can’t help but feel concern for our own people. Americans who have been forced to stay at home and suffer because they don’t have health insurance and can’t afford a visit to a doctor or dentist. People who have lost their homes to foreclosure because of the high cost of health care while we pony up billions to bail out the banking industry.
We aren’t demanding proof of health insurance from the people of Haiti before going to their aid. The British, the Canadians and the rest of the industrialized world have recognized that health care is a right and not a privilege. And yet our own Congress can’t seem to deal with the necessity of providing for the health care of our own people with a genuine public health option and not some smoke-and-mirrors plan designed to protect the financial interests of the insurance industry rather than providing the kind of health care that should be considered an entitlement in any truly civilized society.
We can help in Haiti, but we can’t seem to help ourselves. Something we should perhaps be thinking about as Mr. Obama continues his mission, playing a David-like hero for what’s left of the American middle class to the Goliath of the health insurance industry and their bought and paid for water carriers in the United State Senate.
Late Add: Emergency assistance needed here at home: Not that things aren’t just ducky here in the U.S., but now comes word that an ice storm has hit the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in So. Dakota. The people there (our Native Americans) are in need of food, medicine for kids and even shoes. Right here in the U.S.A. Think about it people. Here’s a link to a Huffington Post story with info on where you can send your dollars.