The thing bugging me? Predictably perhaps it was the Republican response, delivered by Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Perhaps less predictable is why. Oh, sure I bristled at a lot of it, seeing as I prefer my logic left to do its thing rather than twisted into a pretzel and baked, whatever seasonings are involved. But believe it or not, I only yelled at the TV once during the speech. It was early on, in the section of the speech probably designated in the draft stage as "setting the mood." And let me tell you-- my mood was set, to fuming. As I still haven't simmered down (and as more professional people than I have pulled apart the meat of the speech, and as the good Governor was today forced to retract his personal involvement in the central anecdote of the speech), you get to read about my take on Governor Jindal's field of vision. Aren't you lucky? (Cue maniacal laughter.)
Here, without further ado, is Governor Jindal's birth story, in his own words:
Like the president's father, my own parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4-½-months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a "pre-existing condition." To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery, so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.
Governor Jindal is without a doubt a very fortunate man. So fortunate, in fact, that he doesn't even begin to know where his fortune lies. His father never missing a payment wasn't his lucky break. That was perseverance, responsibility, determination. But determination and perseverance only carry you this far, and, sometimes, they don't carry you at all. A funneling cervix doesn't give a crap how determined you are not to have the baby until you reach full term. Curiously enough, pre-eclampsia doesn't seem moved by anyone's tale of perseverance, though it has been known to negotiate with magnesium on occasion. Pre-term labor happens, no matter how responsible you've been in your pregnancy, no matter how wanted the baby. You see where I am going now, don't you?
It's not his father meeting his fiscal obligations that was fortunate for Mr. Jindal. It was his mother not developing pre-eclampsia, not having an incompetent cervix, not going into pre-term labor, not having her membranes rupture prematurely, not having placenta previa, complete with a hospital bed rest and a c-section, or even just not needing any old regular c-section. Now that-- THAT was all extremely fortunate for the future Governor. As was not being born prematurely or with any condition that would've required developing a close relationship with a team of specialists. Or heck, not developing anything as minor and usually completely devoid of long-term consequences, but still requiring a short NICU stay, as, say, transient tachypnea of the newborn.
The funny thing is that the Governor is a poster child for the veil of ignorance concept, but he's been too fortunate in his life to realize that. I have to admit that because I was not a philosophy or government major, the first I heard of this concept was on The West Wing. Having now spent some time googling around for a concise explanation, I still like the one from the show better. "Imagine before you're born you don't know anything about who you'll be, your abilities, or your position. Now design a tax system."* Substitute health care for tax above, and you get my feelings exactly.
Health care is a human right. It just is.
The Cub started out in NICU. He was there for less than eight days, a short stay as these things go. And yet, if we had to pay out of pocket, I am not sure we would still have our home now, installment plan or not. We didn't, because we have great insurance. Shouldn't that be enough of an argument? Shouldn't we, as a matter of conscience, decide that no parent should ever worry both about their child's health and about how to pay for it? Shouldn't we decide that no child should ever worry about being a burden on the family, that no child should ever have to worry about the cost of their medication, or about whether the family can afford their trip to the ER?
I think we should. And I think that Governor Jindal would do well to try that veil on for size. He might just see how truly fortunate he has been.
*If you care, this is Season 4, episode 17, Red Haven's on Fire, and the scene comes almost at the end, where Will and his speech-writing interns finally click.