Sometimes you get a call out to one of the little trailer parks, because people do live here even though no one really wants to, and it’s for chest pains, possible heart attack. It’s an older man in a uniform (you decide what kind) pale and sweaty and shaking, his face like dough. He’s got a crocheted afghan in a startling color combination covering his lap, and his wife (you guess she’s the one who made it, she’s got that look) wrings her hands nearby. She’s the one that called you. He’s as mad as he can manage when he can barely breathe. The paramedic hooks up the EKG.You don’t know how to read the bouncing lines, but even you know it’s not good. Okay, let’s go. We need to get you to the hospital.
“No.” You’re probably having a heart attack. This could kill you. You need to come with us. “No. It’s too expensive. I can’t.” He’s got kids, and grandkids, and too much debt already. That’s what he tells you. And you try to tell him that life is worth a hell of a lot more than money. Grandkids, right? You want to play with your grandkids. “I don’t want them to pay my bills.”
Your paramedic calls the hospital and has one of the ER docs talk to the man, try to scare him or cajole him into coming along. The sick man’s wife wrings her hands some more, rubs his shoulders, but she doesn’t argue with him, doesn’t help us. She’s in the shadow of that same specter. And that’s all you can do, in the end. You can argue, cajole, even threaten a little, and it doesn’t matter. The man knows who he is, where he is, when it is (that’s called AAOx3) and he has the right to refuse your help, by law.
So you pack up your things and walk, really slowly, to the door. You drive away so slowly that cars honk at you. Because you’re hoping, you’re goddamn hoping that poor man will collapse while you’re still only a couple miles from his trailer, and his wife will call you, and you can come screaming back and save his life whether he wants you to or not, like you’re some kind of goddamn hero.
This happens every goddamn day. Heart attacks and car accidents and sickness, and they won’t go because they’re so fucking scared of debt collectors harassing them, harassing their families.
Wealthy privilege is never feeling panic. True, genuine panic, about how the hell you’re going to survive with $30 for food for the entire month. About how you’re going to choke down a genuine illness and go about the daily grind when it should be treated. About just how many things are broken or lacking and how you’ll never, ever have the money to take care of it.
Sister Simone Campbell [x]
I like how she articulates the simple financial impossibility of religious organizations being able to replace government aid. I’d like to add that, of course, there are so many people who have trouble receiving aid from religious institutions because they’re LGBT and/or non-religious or have a fraught relationship to religion… aid is a human right—and, as she points out, a business subsidy as well as a subsidy to food companies—which people should be able to receive in a secular setting.
Even when I’m AT the ER/doctor I sit there & pick & choose my tests by figuring out which ones will help the most while costing the least amount of money. When I do go to the doctor, we try to decide what meds to use. Not by what may be the most helpful, but by what may be the most affordable to me. There are meds that would help me live a more ‘normal’ life……..but I can’t afford to have them.
I’ve refused to go get treatment until I’ve been septic from infection, or my lungs were so full of fluid that it was literally suffocating me, or when my fever stayed above 105 for 4 or 5 hours straight. I never go on my own, it takes somebody taking me in, kicking & screaming the whole way. I would rather be in pain & potentially die than have to go to the ER because I know I can’t afford to get proper treatment.
Read that one more time. I’d rather DIE than know I’ll have a zillion dollar bill for trying to get medical care in this country. I’m sorry, but don’t talk about trampling on your ‘rights’. I should have the right to see a damn doctor BEFORE I’m septic. BEFORE my pneumonia has me gasping for air. BEFORE I’m suicidal because the antidepressants aren’t working worth a shit (because I can’t afford the ones that do actually help).
I get accosted with phone calls at least once a week from the ER because I dared to actually try to get treatment. Like literally someone said “if you knew you couldn’t pay for it why did you come in?” This is what health care in the U.S. looks like right now.
Above all, capitalism wastes human life. The U.S. spends billions to warehouse 2 million people—many of them young Black and Latino men—in overcrowded prisons. It provides sub-par education to millions of poor students, sending a message that their lives will amount to nothing.
Are people homeless in America because there’s a shortage of homes? And if that’s the case, is there a shortage of homes because we don’t have the concrete, the wood and the steel to build them?
The truth is that under capitalism, there’s no incentive to build low-cost housing for the homeless—because it isn’t profitable to do so.
The same goes for the more than 800 million people in the world who go hungry. It isn’t profitable to feed them. So food is stockpiled or destroyed rather than distributed to them.
Hmm… I’m starting to see why social conservatives- typically white, male, and/or rich- react so badly to all and any criticism of Capitalism. I’ve always wondered how “socialist/socialism” got to be the American equivalent of “antichrist”; it would seem that the REAL concern is that, without unadulterated Capitalism, those who currently profit (literally) from institutionalized racism and patriarchy will no longer be able to do so.
Now, the confusing bit is why they still insist that they are Christian. Because Christ was sure as hell no capitalist.