Side-Note on a Current Event: The Charlie Gard Case

I hesitated writing this. I thought about being vague as to my specific topic so as not to be part of the problem I intended to point out.I also wanted to be vague because I am a coward and didn’t want to be accused of insensitivity.

But it seems like the politicization of this tragedy was built on the security that any critic could be easily villainized. It is that security that I think is worth talking about. Because we are becoming less and less able to critique without an instant ad hominem backlash. It is possible, even in the most emotionally charged cases, to hold a different opinion and not be a monster.  If we reach the point that we are no longer capable of seeing our opinions as composites of millions of assumptions. If we automatically treat the questioning of any one of those assumptions as an assault on our whole person and our entire moral code, that is not just bad for politics, that sets up our society for the most bitter, pigheaded, and inefficient kind of discord. America is broken and this is not the way we fix it.

The sickest part of this case to me is how little it seems to be about the suffering of the actual people in the middle of it. This is a horrible case and a devastating loss for the family. I could not possibly comprehend the pain. I will not try to. Nor will I do them the disservice of making a grandstanding statement about the pain which I can not possibly comprehend.

It is not heartless to say that the politicization of this tragedy has nothing to do with the people affected by it. I think it is nieve to be unsuspicious of the attention this case has received from US outlets while the future of US Healthcare hangs in the balance. I have seen so many manipulative headlines which use the pain of actual people to draw an unnuanced view of an extremely difficult situation. This lack of nuance makes it easier to find villains where the political narrative would like them to be. Namely, in Socialized Healthcare. In the US, public opinion is warming to the notion but if that nuanced system can become a big, bad, one-dimensional enemy then it might cool.

It’s best in emotionally charged situations to give all parties, if not the benefit of the doubt, the benefit of humanity.  It is unreasonable to assume that any human being does not experience emotional life in the same way that you do. It is irrational to believe that the people who behave in a way you don’t like do so because they are incapable of empathy or because they are evil. I can say without reservation that nobody involved in this case wanted a child to suffer. I can say this because the idea of a simple evil defies logic. All humans experience emotions. Evil is never simple.

I do this too. I want to stop doing this. I unequivocally hate some of the things that are happening in this country. But do not think that evil things are ever the fault of one dastardly villain. It would be simpler if I could believe that because there would be an easy solution to evil. Unfortunately, in reality, evil is diffused. Evil is structural. Evil is a million tiny assumptions.

I do not have an opinion about the Charlie Gard case. I don’t think I have the right to an opinion here. It is not my family and it is not my country.

But I do have an opinion on what this case has come to represent in this country and I think the simple narrative has gotten it completely wrong. This is far from a simple matter but there is one simple truth; In America, after the tragedy would come the bankruptcy. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that every day in this country families are denied life-saving medical services because they must choose between their health and their ability to make ends meet. We do not have the luxury of choice, in fact, with privatized health insurance there is a de facto denial of care to anyone but the rich. We have the luxury of choice only in that the choice to preserve our health is considered a luxury. I do not consider Single Payer to be the perfect solution, that would come without complexities and faults but I do consider it to be the best solution.


Post Tuesday Blues

Well, I’m disappointed. It’s not as if I believed the highly unlikely would happen. I tried to temper my enthusiasm and remind myself that generally, there are never surprises in politics, it’s too big and too well orchestrated a game to have any unexpected results.
I was ready for Hillary in a big way. Almost immediately after I cast my vote for President Obama in 2012 I was eagerly anticipating her run in 2016. But then Bernie Sander’s entered the race.
Wednesday, in the aftermath of my disappointment I’ve been reading the liberal op-eds and their tone is far from victorious. It’s a strange reaction when you consider that we are so close to a history making election. But it makes sense when you take into account the tone of the Clinton campaign thus far.
When I said that there are never any surprises in politics what I should have said is that there are never any good surprises. He-who-shall-not-be-named (because every time we type his name it only increases his brand value) threw the republican primary into a sharp spiral towards the far right. When we had expected the usual battle between moderate forces and the theocratic Tea Party we ended up with a massacre of moderation in favor of bluster and hate speech.

On the other side, Senator Sanders’ entrance pushed mainstream debate further left and for liberal democrats like me it was thrilling. To have things like single payer insurance even enter the sunlight of the national discussion was something I had previously only dreamed of. Even if that discussion played out; “Single payer insurance? Psht, that will never work.”

The deficit of exuberance I think we are seeing post California is a result of the Clinton campaign’s winning strategy. She was forced to define herself from Sanders’ as the practical one, and define herself from you-know-who as the less evil one. Stuck in-between these two swelling tides, Clinton became the campaign of “Psht, that will never work.”

As much as moderation is a necessity for a healthy democracy there is still as sense of deflating when the supposedly cooler head has prevailed. I don’t think that this deflation is merely our idealistic bubble bursting. I reject the characterization that all Bernie supporters are a bunch of hippies chasing a pie in the sky. California is the unsatisfying reminder that liberal politics is not about ideals, is not about innovation, and it is certainly not about rocking the boat.

Of course, it is not great for government to be the sort of organization that moves on whims or gets too experimental, but when the fear of change stops even the conversation, when the knee jerk mistrust of anything remotely socialist means that the attitude that prevails in liberal discourse is dismissal of new and engaging ideas, those are circumstances that continue to make liberal voters disengage from the process. We have become the party of the safe bet and we are stagnating under incremental change that moves in millimeters.

The fact that the only challenge to the status quo which has managed to take root this primary season is the challenge to our decency and inclusiveness is a disconcerting indication of where American politics is headed. It is a result of timid liberalism that stifles itself with the fear of being challenged. I wish that we could be more comfortable with our critical capabilities and raise the level of debate over the punchy zingers or easily digestible, but nutritionally valueless, fluff. I am sick of throwing the socialist baby out with the communist bathwater, because politicians don’t have respect enough for the intelligence of American people to standup for a platform with any shades of nuance.

Negativity won the day Tuesday, both for the people who want to regress the country back to the point before all those irritating civil rights came about and for the people who look at a bold vision for real change in this country and think, “psht, that will never work.”