Health Care in America is for Useless Eaters

I’ve had a bad cold for over a week. Strictly speaking this shouldn’t interest you. Even if you’ve had a similar thing chances are good you haven’t made a big deal of your headache and congestion. You’ve enough irony to resist claiming status for yourself. After the age of ten we’re no longer granted notoriety when we’re not feeling our best. And yet whenever I have to take an antibiotic (yes the “thing” settled in my lungs) I inevitably turn emotional. I’m not weeping right now but I might start any minute.

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My nation’s long festering hatred of the poor has burst like Krakatoa. Capitol Hill is raining lava on Americans who can’t afford health care, child care, sufficient food, or who lack the means to finance their own educations or keep a roof over their heads. In other words, a week spent at home struggling for breath has reminded me just how many millions are facing calamities that should be unimaginable in a country which purports to be a democracy.

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“Why do they hate health care so much?” a friend wrote on Facebook yesterday. The answer is terrible, steeped in eugenics and the popular slogans of fascism. Anyone who’s not healthy (which means he or she doesn’t possess an assignable value) is a “useless eater” as Hitler famously said of the disabled. The sick, infirm, crippled, mentally ill, the elderly, et. al. contribute nothing to the state. The fascist state is always conceived as a well oiled machine which can’t afford any broken parts.

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This is in essence my view of the GOP’s meretricious health care law–that it treats the poor as chattel, that the party of Lincoln long ago turned toward a view of the unfortunate as being disposable; that this comes from an affection for slavery and animal exploitation. When I see Paul Ryan I see a man who kicks kids with crutches and shoots their dogs.

“In certain respects, the regulation of animal exploitation is similar to the regulation of human slavery in North America. Although many laws supposedly required the “humane” treatment of slaves and prohibited the infliction of “unnecessary” punishment, these laws offered almost no protection for slaves. In conflicts between slave owners and slaves, the latter almost always lost. Slave welfare laws, like animal welfare laws, generally required that slave owners merely act as rational property owners but did not recognize the inherent value of the slaves. Slave owners were, of course, free to treat their slaves, or particular slaves, better. But as far as the law was concerned, slaves were merely economic commodities with only extrinsic or conditional value, and slave owners were essentially free to value their slaves’ interests as they chose, just as we are free to value the interests of our dogs and cats and treat them as members of our families or abandon them at a shelter or have them killed because we no longer want them.”

—“Animals as Persons” Gary L. Francione

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I am not making a sheer seat-of-my-pants pronouncement. I have enough cultural understanding to know what the canards and unexamined biases of my age look and feel like. Which means I know blowback when it hits me in the face. You know the voices: “Small businesses were really hurt by Obamacare.” “Learning disabled children are ruining schools for everyone else.” “Why don’t you go back where you came from?”

Facism is what’s for dinner.

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“America”

America with your history of eugenics.
With your hostility to the global charter on disability rights.
With your jails, stocked with psychiatric patients—worse than the Soviet Union. We are Gulag Los Angeles; Gulag Rikers Island; Gulag Five Points in Upstate New York.
America with your young Doctor Mengeles.
With your broken VA.
With your war on food stamps and infant nutrition.
With your terror of autism and lack of empathy for those who have it.
With your 80% unemployment rate for people with disabilities.
With your pity parties—inspiration porn—Billy was broken until we gave him a puppy.
With your sanctimonious low drivel disguised as empathy.
With your terror of reasonable accommodations.
With your NPR essays about fake disability fraud, which is derision of the poor and elderly.
With your disa-phobia—I wouldn’t want one of them to sit next to me on a bus.
America when will you admit you have a hernia?
When will you admit you’re a lousy driver?
Admit you miss the days of those segregated schools, hospitals, residential facilities—just keep them out of sight.
When will you apologize for your ugly laws?
When will you make Ron Kovic’s book irrelevant?
America, you threatened Allen Ginsberg with lobotomy.
America you medicated a generation of teenagers for bi-polar depression when all they were feeling was old fashioned fear.
When will you protect wheelchairs on airlines?
When will you admit you’re terrified of luck?

–Stephen Kuusisto