Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sarah Burke: A death that demands we do SOMETHING about universal healthcare

Engraving of an imagined druid's grove. Both yew and oak were sacred to druids, as was the whole earth and everything on it. (Wiki commons)

Some days, you just have to go with the flow.

Today was supposed to be about getting ready for a short, important trip. And about walking the dog since she’ll be caged for a few days. And about promoting my novel (shameless promotion: humorous mystery, Crash Course by Nicky McBride, on Kindle).

But it’s not. It’s about the real needs of people and how those needs have been crushed under the heels of the fearless hunters among us, the recipients of DNA that offers brawn without brain, humanity without compassion and ignorance without respite. In short, the modern corporation man. (NOTE: I will use the masculine pronoun, not because I’m anti-feminist, but because casting females in a role the feminine principle does not support is ludicrous.)

This rumination was occasioned by an article a friend posted on Facebook. The article notes that Canadian half-pipe skier Sarah Burke died in a hospital in the US, meaning her parents are socked with a bill for a couple hundred grand. Had she died in Canadahad an AMERICAN skier died in Canada, in factthere would have been no such bill. In Canada, as in most of developed nations, people are not denied healthcare, nor are they bankrupted when an unavoidable situation develops in which they are given health care whether they want it or not.

Out cold, but not out in the cold. Whew!
About 20 years ago, I was tossed off a horse, knocked out cold, and concussed. I awoke briefly a couple of times; during one lucid interlude, the barn staff told me they had called the ambulance. “Oh, no,” I said. “I’d rather just go home.” Sure. Wouldn’t anyone who had no recollection of what had happened and saw little but a sort of swimmy green jacket? But, though I actually had health insurance at the time because I actually worked for someone else (a rarity), I was so used to NOT availing myself of any sort of medicine that the first thing in my mind when I was just barely conscious (and not for long) was, “NO, please don’t call the medics. I can’t afford it.” I next awoke in the hospital with a friend standing next to me. And then I was out again, thankfully until after the CAT scan. She, a graphic artist, asked to watch it; she told me later I did have a brain. Nice.

Anyway, my little story is as nothing compared to what so many have faced. And further, my little dance with healthcare that time cost me about $600, as had the first of the two incidents I’ve ever had. And both times, I was totally responsible; it wasn’t an illness or disease or disorder. It was my choice to ride crazy horses. And I was damn lucky.

Maybe it is because of that luck that I feel so firmly that it is unconscionable for any society to bankrupt those whose encounters with the healthcare industry are unavoidable, if indeed they get the care in the first place. It might be said that Sarah Burke’s injury was self-inflicted, as was mine. She was engaged, by choice, in a dangerous sport. As was I. As I said, I was damn lucky.

Life is dangerous; So what?
But what of that? Should we never get any exercise, never push the envelope of what humans can do? It is bad enough that you can’t get coverage if you tick the box for riding motorcycles, flying a plane and assorted other things the tunnel-visioned actuaries think are dangerous. I was just lucky there, too; they haven’t figured out yet that riding horses over fences is a dangerous sport.  I just happened, during brief interludes of employment, to be covered by health insurance when a problem arose. But if I could have afforded insurance when I was freelance, I wouldn’t have been denied since equine sports have gotten a pass from the dodos at Theft Coverage USA.

What’s a society to do? Whatever it takes. And that does not include preventing talented people in sports or any human pursuit from fulfilling their life’s work or passion.

Each of the ancient Celtic tribes supported their healers in toto. They also supported their spiritual leaders. And they supported their poets, the keepers of their history and mores, the creators of beauty in words and often music, and sometimes other forms of art. Healers―druids or shamans, if you likehad no other task but to be available to heal members of the tribe. Spiritual guides, ovates, had no other task but to help members of the tribe in their relationship with the earth mother, each other, themselves. Bardspoets, musicians, historians, artistshad no other task but to create beauty and convey from one generation to the next the truth of the tribe.

In no case does America honor its druids, ovates and bards. Oh, sure. Some doctors get amazingly wealthy; is that honoring them? No. It is paying them out of individual pockets for tightly controlled use of their special skills.

Millionaire clergy; contradiction in terms
Some religious leaders become millionaires; is it because their pastoral care is available to all of their tribeor to visitorswho ask? No, it is because they have developed a firm grasp of fund-raising, television, or both.

And some artists become quite wealthy. Look at J.K. Rowling. Look at Angelina Jolie. Look at the late Michael Jackson. Is it because they offer their gift willingly to the tribe that supports them? No. Not at all. In the case of Rowling (one of my favorite rants as some will know), she borrowed from other tribes’ work, and when she got rich, she set about using the courts to ensure others could not profit from any work even passingly similar to her own derivative one. Bona fide bards help other bards to develop, to learn from them the skills and information needed to become good bards, who will in due course be supported by their tribe.

Angelina Jolie finds adoption to be a nice path to fame and fortune, piggybacking her possible acting gift (a druidic calling and worthwhile to society) on her self-promotion gift (a corporate, hunter sort of thing to do. I expect we should just be happy a few children find a home as a collateral benefit.) 

And Michael Jackson, who had a true gift, was so lumbered with the insanities of his family and the lust of his fans that there was no chance he could express his gift for the asking in peace during a long life. As a bard should do.

The Druid model is all we need
It is all skewed. It is skewed in the ways that the powerful hunters think best. It is skewed in the ways that will enable the powerful hunters to choose who the druids, bards and ovates will be, and who in the tribe has access to their gifts, and even which of their gifts will be deemed acceptable by the hunters.

Time to give it up.

In homeopathy, the easiest part of the body to heal will experience recovery first, followed by the deeper tissues, and finally proceeding to the spirit levelto the constitutionand correcting its anomalies. So I think it is right to tackle health care first. For all the misery its lack causes, that lack is not a malady in itself but rather an expression of deeper maladies in the body politic. So, if we correct access to medical care, then next we will begin to truly see what is the matter with our spiritual leadership and take it out of the hands of martinets and oligarchs and return it to the gentle spiritual healers of old who actually cared for their tribe. And once that is on its way to health, maybe we will begin to support the bardsthe poets, artists, musicianswho fill our newly opened souls with joy and who chronicle the way we are for the delight and education of generations yet to come.

It’s a nice dreamI try to live in it at least once a dayand it’s one I’m hoping will come true.