News and Tribune

October 9, 2013

ANDERSON: A sad song for America

By BARBARA ANDERSON
Local guest columnist

— Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie.

That’s how I feel right now, that I am saying goodbye to ration and reason in my country. I heard something funny about a survey tonight from Fox News. It said 48 percent of all Americans disapprove of Obamacare and 38 percent disapprove of the Affordable Health Care Act. Really?

What is happening in my country when we watch as people shut down the government down over one bill. Why, really, I want to know why? I want to understand, but the reasons they offer make no sense when you read the Affordable Care Act. Americans will know health care, my God. If you only could spend one day with those of us who serve the poor, you would know how desperately it is needed.

Single people with no children have no right to Medicaid if they are not disabled. They are seriously not treated. The Family Health Clinic is swamped — it needs funds and more staff and with good reason, there are so many with health care needs.

People used to believe the primary reason for homelessness was mental health issues. They did nothing to help it but continue to cut mental health services. As the years passed, we watched as more and more of the people we served could not work because of chronic health issues: severe heart problems, AIDS, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, back trouble and many other chronic and painful conditions. At any given time in the Williams Emergency Shelter, we are serving more physically ill people than mentally ill people. That has been the norm for a long, long time.

Recently, we buried two men who died homeless. Mike Nicholson was a good man. He had no health insurance and had just found out about Phoenix Health Care Clinic for the Homeless in Louisville. He had started going.

Mike was well loved at the shelter. Kind and gentle, he went about his day with a very solid routine. He would walk every morning looking for work. We know he did because he brought back the applications and job search forms. He then did chores at the shelter and always volunteered to do the bathroom downstairs, and everybody hates that chore). Then would have a little lunch, help out where he could and work with us. He never complained, he never said a bad word about anyone, and he befriended many.

It was a shock when he died because he looked very fit and walked so much; he got a lot of exercise. When he died in his sleep, everyone was shocked. They still are. After all, he had done everything right and he was dead. What could happen to them, those that maybe didn’t get the exercise and hadn’t watched their diet? People grieved tremendously. Michael had no health insurance and no way to know he had a heart problem.

The other man we really didn’t know well but we did know that a good treatment program and some stable housing would have probably saved his life. He lived here all of his life. He, too, had no health insurance.

So is health something only a few are entitled too because they have money? Wasn’t it Jesus who ministered and healed the sick? Don’t we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Isn’t health what it takes to insure a good quality of life? Can we be truly free if we are weighted down by a heavy burden of skyrocketing medical costs or little or no insurance or access to health care? Can we truly be happy if all we know is anxiety and fear?

Life is to short for a bunch of legislators (with a small l) to be bickering over one bill, one issue, and they shut the government down over a bill that was signed into law two years ago? Really? Why aren’t we mad as hell? Where is the justice in what is happening in America today? Why aren’t we willing to try the Affordable Care Act as a beginning for health care in this country?

As we as citizens wonder what is going on, many are dying, many are in pain and sick, many more are scared and anxious. We should comfort them. We should support them. Americans do that — we don’t abandon our own in a time of need, at least we used to not do that.

We are not mean. We are not without compassion and reason. We do not break the laws or hold our own people hostage. We are a proud people and I truly believe a good people. In the name of all that is good, I plead with those who serve us to stop this stupid bickering and govern. That is what we elected them to do.

So, if our people “drove the Chevy to the levy” would they be going to their government only to find “the levy was dry?” I mean, think about it ... “good old boys a drinkin’ whiskey and rye singing this will be the day that we die.”

— Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com