Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Well-Being: Communal Right, Communal Responsibility
If we are social beings living in social matrices, which I think we are (which, as a follower of Jesus and hence a citizen of the kingdom of God, I believe I must think), few things are purely individualistic. While certain health care choices may be largely or even purely elective and thus matters of individual choice and ability to pay, basic well-being and the care to maintain that seem to me basic to being human. We may call this a "right to life." That is, once one is born (at least, and arguably, once one is conceived), which is not a matter of choice for the individual being born, it seems to me that one has a "right to life." That is, I didn't choose to be born, but once born, "life" within me impels my continued existence (unless stopped by lack, illness, defect, or another's wrongdoing), and eventually I mature and choose to live. That entails, where possible, the basic conditions to live, even to thrive (taken in a general sense of life which is more than pitiful struggle and suffering). If we do not have such a right and such means by virtue of being born and being human, is not that the stuff of oppression, tyranny, injustice, callousness? This is not and cannot be a purely individualistic matter. We are social beings, and we live in social matrices. The basic well-being of each of us is of communal concern: my well-being; yours; the stranger's down the street and in the next state. I for you; you for me; we for all. I note that few people, if any, in this conversation and in the Republican Party and in society at large would argue that basic public safety (whether from criminals or from political enemies in other countries) is fundamentally a matter of individual choice, responsibility, and ability to pay. I doubt that many in this conversation and at large would argue that the protection provided by the police and the military should be fundamentally a matter not of shared concern and cost (through social structures such as government and public taxes) but purely or largely a matter of personal choice depending on ability to pay, as well as ability to take care of oneself through training in martial skills and a regimen of physical exercise. (Woe to those too young, too ill, too handicapped, too old to defend themselves from criminals and enemies! But then, why be concerned about them too much, if it's a matter of individual choice, physical fitness, and economic sufficiency? If they can't take care of themselves at the threat of crime or war, why should I care as long as I can take care of myself?) If basic public physical safety is considered a "right," why is basic physical well-being not also a "right"? Better yet, as we are social beings, and some of us are Christian social beings, not so much a "right" as a shared responsibility based on a mutuality of care and cost, even, dare I say it, of love? I don't have children in the public school system anymore. I remain glad to pay taxes to support the public schools and children not my own. Certainly, I wish for greater efficiencies and economies in operations and costs in public services (libraries, schools, roads, police, etc.); certainly I wish all people to be as responsible as they can and should be in contributing to the maintenance of those services, and to be as responsible as they can and should be in the use of those services. By all means let's seek reform and improvement in health care. The Republican Party has not had and still does not have a plan to make this happen; it only has a plan to dismantle what has benefitted people and to return to health-care conditions that were ill-serving so many people. That won't make America great again, because with basic health care in America there is no "before" to be "again." Yet we can make America greater than it has been if we take the ACA and not blindly destroy it but collaboratively make it better: more affordable for all; more health services for all; more well-being for all for all who are human beings in this country.