This is the story of three generations of my family’s relationship to our healthcare system. These are stories of suffering, struggle, and grief. They molded the lives of my family members. But I’m not telling them as tales of woe. I’m telling them to show the human side, my experience, my family’s experience of the financial costs of healthcare, and the cross these costs crucify us on. And for the first time I’m going to let my inner deplorables—my shadow side, long repressed—speak on the page.
There are some things we need to wake up to and learn from this shipwreck of our ability to be civil to each other. The first thing we need to learn is that living in a world full of turmoil — poverty, crime, violence, or more commonly, anxiety, tension, frustration, serious illness, and clashing parents and battling kids — teaches our biology early on that we are in a scary world. We learn we can’t feel safe or trust people to be good.
We who have been living in the more affluent bubble the last few decades seem caught in a double bind. On the one hand, we want to be compassionate, or at least seem that way. On the other hand, we are afraid of and want to defend ourselves against the people, the culture, and the communities caught in the clutches of drastic economic hardships. We fear them as if we are being threatened by foreigners. We fear their crudeness, their potential violence, their anger, their drug use, their failure to know and respect our rules; most of all, far too many of us fear how much it might really cost to give them a helping hand. Well, all I can say is that, if we have learned anything at all from our history at home and abroad since World War II, it should be that whenever we allow ourselves to be driven down the path of fear, we are on a direct road to disaster. This is a time for us to help each other without fear and to invest in our country with creativity to rebuild the structure of our democracy, beginning with its human infrastructure.