Hard Care
By R. D. Flavin

Early American revolutionary era engraving (Lapsansky 1990, p. 75).

     On Tuesday, September 8, 2009, the One Hundred Eleventh United States Congress returned from its five week long “summer recess” or summer District Work Period.  The next day, Pres. Obama addressed a joint session of Congress in a prime-time televised appeal for health care (or insurance) reform.  Our government has a history of helping.  Recently, we've given significant bailouts to the auto industry and to Wall Street.  It's long past appropriate for our government to assist those unfortunate enough to need affordable (or free) health insurance coverage.  Partisanship aside, our health care system is in dire need of an intervention.  It's time for some hard care with a sincere pledge to a healthy future.

     There are currently four proposals on health insurance reform before our bicameral Congress.  The Healthy Americans Act (S. 391) is being considered in the Senate, with the House debating the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200), and the United States National Health Care Act, or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act (H.R. 676).  The fourth proposal (H.R. 15), mentioned later in this column, deserves a category unto itself.

     This past Wednesday, September 16, 2009, Sen. Max Baucus (D, MT) published a “paper,” in advance of a formal Senate introduction, of the “final” version of his long expected health care reform bill entitled “Call To Action - Health Reform 2009.”  The paper has been around in previous versions for some time, its key points having backers and detractors already in place, yet while it seems to represent a move in the right direction, the Red Republican and Blue Democrat teams continue their game of sidelining needy Americans.  Complaints about the Baucus paper abound with liberal claims of “not enough” to conservative complaints of “too much.”  The old Abbott and Costello vauldeville comedy shtick “Who’s on First?” seems in play...

Those in need seldom, if ever, get to choose between palms and alms.  Most understand, at least figuratively, a slap to the face.  The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its entry “Alms and Almsgiving,” describes various traditions of Western culture which encourage recognition and (if possible) assistance to those in need.  There seems to be an old relationship between many religions and begging.  The Oxford English Dictionary, for “alms,” reads:

Edited and resized scan of entry (OED 1989, “alms”).  Pictured OED hyperlinks will not function.

      Compassion became charity and those in need were given gifts.  On some level, perhaps on many, charity has entered the fray and replaced the “end” with the “means.”

Gimme gimme gimme, I need some more. Gimme gimme gimme, don’t ask what for.  Sitting here I’m a loaded gun, waiting to go off. I’ve got nothing to do, but shoot my mouth off.  Gimme gimme gimme, I need some more. Gimme gimme gimme, don’t ask what for.  You know I’m gonna go out. get something for my head.  If I keep on doing this, I’m gonna end up dead.  Gimme gimme gimme, I need some more.  Gimme gimme gimme, don’t ask what for.  I know the worlds got problems, I’ve got problems of my own.  Not the kind that can’t be solved, with an atom bomb.  Gimme gimme gimme, I need some more. Gimme gimme gimme, don’t ask what for.  Lyrics by Greg Ginn (“Gimme Gimme Gimme,” Damaged; Black Flag: 1981, SST Records).

     Health care isn’t charity.  Sure, those with good insurance coverage might suggest that a trip to the local hospital emergency room would likely provide better treatment (with no deductible) than, say, a scheduled office visit to a doctor who’s familiar with your medical history, but that’s fine print reasoning which has been ruining the health and economy of this nation for decades.  “Charity” requires definition apart from any comparison to the “I know it when I see it” comment about hard-core pornography by Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, in 1964’s Jacobellis v. Ohio case.  Later, Stewart changed his mind.

Edited and resized scan of entry (OED 1989, “charity”).  Pictured OED hyperlink will not function.

     The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD 1978, p. 1520) recommends attention to:
kā- To like, desire. 1. Suffixed form *kā-ro- in: a. Germanic hōraz, “one who desires,” adulterer, in (i) Old English hōre, whore: WHORE (ii) Old Norse compound hōrdōmr, whoredom (-dōmr, “condition”: see dhē {1}): WHOREDOM; b. Latin cārus, dear: CARESS, CHARITY, CHERISH. 2. Suffixed form *kā-mo- in Sanskrit kāma, love, desire: KAMASUTRA. [Pok. Kā- 515.]

     At last, a link between ho’s and HMO’s!  So, what is it that’s considered our oldest profession?  Sorry, Marvin, but there are those who argue that sexual healing with compensation likely followed health care providers (passim Feder 2006).  We became human because we stood on two legs, our brains got larger, and we extended health care to the needy.  The babies and children, the guy who got wounded in the last hunt, the sick friend of the family, the old people who remember different times, and, ...even, those down on their luck, were cared for.  Some primates, other than human, went bipedal, their brains were allowed to increase in size, and their social concerns extended from temporary cooperation to achieve immediate survival requirements to taking care of the needy, yet, they ...didn’t make it.  Today’s non-human primates sometimes walk on two legs, their brains allow for such marvelous social functioning as face-to-face (ventro-ventral) copulation (Blount 1990) and extending health care to the needy, though it’s unlikely that monkeys and apes (including the galagos, lemurs, lorisids, and tarsiers) will ever advance to a cognitive level achieved by our earliest ancestor, Homo habilis (“Handy Homo”), albeit somewhat briefly, between 2.4 and 1.5 million years ago.

      It’s about caring.  Not just public pious caring, but genuine and practical caring.  Basic, essential, and honest caring.

Edited and resized scan of entry (OED 1989, “care”).

      The American Heritage Dictionary recommends (ibid, p. 1515) attention to: g̑ā̆r- To call, cry.  Expressive root.  1. Germanic *kar
ō, lament, hence grief, care, in: a. Old English cearu, care; b. adjective *karagaz, sorrowful, in Old English cearig, sorrowful: CHARY.  2. Suffixed form *gar-m- in Germanic *karm-ja- in Old English cierm, clamor, cry: CHARM {2}.  3. Celtic suffixed form *gar-(s)mn in Old Irish gairm, shout, cry, call: SLOGAN.  4. Suffixed form (with expressive gemination) *garr-yo- in Latin garrīre, to chatter: GARRULOUS.  [Pok. gar- 352.]

      To “care” is to call out to or show attention to some one or thing.  Well, there’s talking about something and then there’s doing something about it.  And, much too often, it gets confusing...  Is it actually all about the Benjamins (read: money)?

The Unicode Standard characters for the “Staff of Aesculapius” (U+2695) and the “caduceus” of Hermes (U+2624).

     Wealth care?  Please, them too, but we must take care of those who really need heath care reform.  Seniors starving to stave off that last emergency, middle-aged and middle-class folks who sell everything to meet the financial demands of a single major operation or treatment plan, noble (read: desperate) sacrifice of one’s health to allow others pecuniary benefit, those who once had and those who have never been able to afford decent health insurance, and, yeah, those who many opine don’t deserve coverage to begin with, are but some of those in need of hard care when it comes to health insurance reform.  Yet, our politicians continue to spray spittle and quibble about what side of the aisle they should sit on.  They should all take a seat ...over there.

      Conjoining the Solomonic pronouncement of Qohelet's Ecclesiastes 1:9, that there’s “nothing new under the sun,” with Newton’s positional borrowing of having "stood on the shoulders of giants,” our Founders adored classical symbolism as much or more than we do.  [Note: Damn you, Dan Brown, for sharing sweet secrets!]  Semiotics has now become a discipline far removed from the act of designing a new street sign to prohibit the latest offense and it takes a shaken (not stirred) professional to distinguish between a fashionista and the simply wrong.  Such is the case with the symbols used to represent healthcare, medicine, and doctors in America.

     Unlike, say, the strict rules regarding our flag, there’s no current federal distinction requirement between the usage of the symbols for the ancient Greek god of healing, Aesculapius, and the god of speed, messages, and thieves, Hermes (Roman “Mercury”).  Irony aside, both are acceptable.  Gosh, what are the odds of medicine and thievery being semantically interchangeable?  A poor joke, in line with others about lawyers and dentists.  Yet, quacks and crooks receive chastisement and punishment, while those in need of proper health care get sick and die.  I’ll put ten square on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, with a twenty round on politicians.

Rep. John D. Dingell, and Kennedy and Kerry at the National Mall on April 21, 1971.

      In his Wednesday, September 9, 2009 speech, Pres. Obama remarked upon Rep. John D. Dingell (D, MI), whose father introduced the first national health insurance bill in 1943.  With the death of his dad, Dingell ran for and won the Michigan 15th Congressional District seat, and has re-introduced his father’s national health insurance bill at the beginning of every session of Congress since 1955.  The bill (H.R. 15) was last introduced January 6, 2009, and immediately referred to House committees (Energy and Commerce, as well as Ways and Means).  It’s not a perfect proposal, but it has a strong foundation in fairness.  Rep. Dingell is surely one of the overlooked heroes of health care reform.

     The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D, MA) was a profoundly committed worker for health insurance reform, and despite his recent passing, he's seemed to reach out from his grave at Arlington National Cemetery (not far from his brothers, John and Robert), with the posthumous delivery of a letter he wrote to Pres. Obama back in May of this year, with the instructions that it not be delivered until after his death.  Kennedy wrote, “When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society.”

     While still in development, during November of 2008, Kennedy wrote: “Senator Baucus’s white paper is a major contribution to the debate on health reform.  It provides an important analysis of the urgent need for significant improvements in our health care system, and thoughtful recommendations for reform.  I look forward to working with Senator Baucus, our colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle, and the Obama Administration to see that we at last achieve the goal of quality, affordable health care for all Americans.  Senator Baucus’s white paper brings us closer to that goal.”  I doubt with the release of the final version of Baucus’s soon-to-be proposed bill that Kennedy would have assumed either a position of “too little,” like Sen. John D. Rockefeller, IV (D, WV), or “too much” like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R, ME).  I’d like to believe he’d have made substantive suggestions for change as opposed to clever criticisms in support of outright rejection.

     Pres. Obama delivered a fine speech about health insurance reform before Congress and the American people.  His mentions of providing choices for an individual’s primary care physician and the need for electronic medical records to be accessed by multiple healthcare providers was good-speak for us proletariats, as was his promise to address malpractice insurance reform for the party members.  The President warned of Medicaid abuse, and threatened “accountability” toward the crooks and their front-folk lackeys.  Okay, saying “no one should go broke” in one breath and sort of threatening mandatory insurance with the possibility of hardship waivers got a little thick in the pan, but Obama appears a gentleman when it comes to the insurance companies, i.e. he warns them, but hasn't hurt them yet.  It’s time for some hard care and I fervently hope Pres. Obama steps up and makes a decision about health care that does something more than provide soundbites, sell newspapers, and give Google more grist to take over the mill.  [Note: Just kidding; Google doesn’t need grist...]  I hope our president does the right thing and follows previous presidents who’ve made difficult choices for the greater good (Morris 1988).

     Those who openly oppose health insurance reform, as well as those who for no good reason actively seek to block or stall positive debate, seem to most resemble those that follow the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  They insist that we admit we are powerless to handle our problems.  Such rhetoric reeks of mysticism.  With reasonable and practical programs structured toward independence and not perpetual reliance on others, the SMART Recovery® system (Steinberger 2004) offers hope to many by insisting that the individual has the the power to change.

     I expect Pres. Obama to change our current health care system with insurance reform.  I hope the American people will support any actions our government must take to ensure that the healthcare needs of the needy are met.  I wish the Congress (and other politicians) would act responsibly about taking care of our future’s health, though if they don’t, in the words of a sort of old Irish comment (read: blessing/curse): “May those who love us, love us.  And, those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.  And, if He doesn’t turn their their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so we’ll know them by their limping.”  We need hard care, not limping politicians.  Good luck to us all.

AHD.  1978.  American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: New College Edition.  Edited by William Morris.  “Appendix: Indo-European
  Roots” by Prof. Calvert Watkins (Harvard, Classics and Linguistics; emeritus) and members of the Department of Linguistics of Harvard
  University.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Blount, Ben G.  1990.  “Issues in Bonobo (Pan Paniscus) Sexual Behavior.”  American Anthropologist.  92, 3: 702-714.
Feder, Kenneth L.  2006.  The Past in Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory.  Fourth edition.  New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lapsansky, Emma J.  1990.  “Patriotism, Values, and Continuity: Museum Collecting and ‘Connectedness’.”  The Pennsylvania Magazine of
  History and Biography
.  114, 1: 67-82.
Morris, Richard B.  1988.  Great Presidential Decisions: State Papers that Changed the Course of History from Washington to Reagan.  New
  York: Richardson, Steirman & Black.  First edition (1960) online here.
OED.  1989.  The Oxford English Dictionary.  Second edition.  Online at: http://www.oed.com/.  Retrieved 9-6-09.  Print edition: Oxford: Clarendon
  Press ; New York: Oxford University Press.
Pokorny, Julius.  1959.  Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch.  2 vols.  Bern: Franke Verlag.  Revised material from: Walde, Alois.
  1927-1932.  Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der Indogermanischen Sprachen.  3 vols. (#’s 1 & 2 edited and revised by Julius Pokorny, # 3 by
  Konstantin Reichardt).  Berlin & Leipzig: W. de Gruyter & Co.  [Note: Pokorny’s efforts remain well respected, though his work has been
  superceded by recent considerations of (among other things) the Anatolian and Tocharian languages.  A reprint of his 1959 dictionary by New
  York’s French & European Publications, Inc. (closing its 75 year old offices Sept. 30, 2009), took advantage of  “loopholes” between American
  and European copyright laws in the 1960s, much like Ace Books successfully printed and sold unauthorized copies of Tolkien’s The Lord of the
trilogy, and as such there exists a convenient (read: legal) resource for exploitation.  Pokorny’s PIE material is easily available online as
  originally presented or incorporated and compared with recent efforts.]
Steinberger, Henry.  2004.  SMART Recovery
® Handbook.  Second edition.  Edited by Henry Steinberger, Ph.D.  Mentor, OH: Alcohol & Drug
  Abuse Self-Help Network, Inc. D.b.a. SMART Recovery

switching from tireless to just plain tired

Return to