Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper wrote an editorial in the Tennessean newspaper the other day explaining why he feels compelled to vote a “Reluctant No” to the healthcare reform bill, H.R. 3200. While the overwhelming response to the congressman’s editorial are opposed to his position, and I agree with most of them, I would like to use this space to talk a bit about the five words in the editorial that I most agree with. “It is a moral imperative”
How immoral is it to say to 46 million people without any healthcare coverage at all, and another 50 million who are under covered (which means they have some type of health insurance but cannot afford to actually need to use it) ” I know you need help . . . just wait”. How immoral is it that this government, is willing to go into debt and move immediately to provide assistance to failing financial institutions, and automotive manufacturers, yet when it comes to helping almost 100 million citizens it wants to say, “we cannot afford it.”
The founding document of this nation, The Declaration of Independence, states that this government is founded on the principle “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The document goes on to say that, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men . . .” So there we have it! The very founding document of the United States says that the reason for the existence of the this government, the reason Jim Cooper’s job as U.S. Congressman was created is to secure men and women’s God given rights. The question then becomes, “is access to quality healthcare a right or not?” If it is not a right, then the ability to go to a doctor and receive the best available care when you are sick or injured is a privilege. If it is a privilege then it is reserved for the privileged. If it is reserved for the privileged then our current system of providing healthcare needs no reform. If, on the other hand, quality healthcare is a right then there is much to be done and government has a responsibility to do it.
I would argue that healthcare is a right. It is included in the Declaration when it talks about having a God given, unalienable right to life. Here is where I would expect to have the cooperation of the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, and even the newly formed, Faith and Freedom Network. If good health is a God given right then the purpose of government is not to debate its economic impact, but simply to “secure” it. When Thomas Jefferson wrote these words he intentionally used the word ‘secure’ and not ‘procure’. Jefferson was talking about God given rights; unalienable rights; rights that each person has at birth, by the very fact of their birth, rights that are unalienable; they cannot be denied or limited. In other words the right to life in its fullest is already given, each person already possess it. That right does not need to be procured. The responsibility of government is to “secure” it, to keep it safe.
Our current healthcare system is little more than Jim Crow. The difference is that people are denied services not based on color or race, but because of economic station and political privilege. Those who oppose healthcare reform now are not unlike those who opposed the dismantling of Jim Crow. The words are almost exactly the same. “We know the way it is isn’t right. We agree with you and really want change too. Just not right now.” To this we say like, Congressman John Lewis said over 40 years ago to those in Nashville who wanted to change Jim Crow “but just not now”. “If not now, when?” If history has taught us anything, it has taught us that,
“Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be coworkers with God . . . it is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor . . . until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The reality of course is that the difference between what can and cannot be done is most often a matter of will more than any other single factor. When Congress (including Congressman Cooper) has the will to act morally, change will come. History has taught us that this will not happen until we, the people of the United States of America, make it happen. History has further taught us that it is those of us who have been touched by the teachings of Jesus, rather than just the teachings ‘about’ Jesus, who must take the lead, consider it, confer, and speak up!
When we do this, we fulfill our responsibility not just to be unspotted by the world but to leave our mark on it and . . .
Make A Difference . . . For Life!!