Used. Misused. Abused. The poor. The needy. The uninsured. Poor people. Poor people. Poor people.
The number of unhealthy (poor, working poor and under/uninsured) people in Cook County are increasing, not decreasing. President Stroger, budget cuts cannot be the first option. We must find ways to treat the unhealthy poor and uninsured compassionately, effectively and efficiently. We cannot dispose of them like last week’s garbage. There must be a Marshall Plan (because the Stroger/Simon-Beavers/Daley Plan ain’t it) for quality health care. Human health must be deemed more important than financial health by our elected officials who at the same time must be creative in finding ways to fund the County health care system and not discount the lives of the poor.
What we are witnessing and experiencing is an intentional disconnect between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” I have no interest in the blame game. I prefer to be solution-oriented, but I am not attempting to excuse personal responsibility.
We must, however, be so careful in how we see, hear and judge the poor. We accuse the poor/uninsured of being irresponsible and burdensome to an already overtaxed system. I would willingly contend however that we must find the courage to hold the same standard (and a mirror) to the insured population.
For example: Insurance costs continue to skyrocket due to obesity and the host of ailments and diseases that accompany being overweight. Our high blood pressure, diabetes, aching heads, hearts, and joints, as well as other ailments are oft-times birthed out of poor eating habits and no exercise. This is a form of hypocrisy.
The truth is that we are being consumed by our own consumption.
Some would argue that the insured have earned the right to feel better-or at least medicate-because of the large sums of money extracted from regular paychecks. Is the pain and suffering of the poor and uninsured any less important? An awful lot of people would do better if they just felt a little better.
President Stroger, the Cook County board must be able to feel. Mr. President, Cook County must have a heart of flesh, not paper. Ink must never be substituted for the blood of the people.
It has been said that the power of the rich is the ignorance of the poor. Uneducated does not mean uninformed. The pain of poverty must be realized and not anesthetized. Pain is an indicator that something is wrong. This is true as it relates to the systems of our physical bodies as well as our societal systems. Anesthetizing merely masks the pain, it does not heal it. We must work on both sides of this problem.
We must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Churches, schools, activists and others must work with great purpose in breaking the cycles of poverty. In various ways we must show that being poor is not normative. It may be the place where many of us started but it does not mean it is the place where we must remain.
If people who are considered poor ever decided to organize and become a voting bloc, we would have the makings of a grand experiment-the now newly unemployed and uncaring politicians would become the “New Poor.” I’d like to see where these newly uninsured politicians would go for health care and how long they would last, standing in never-ending lines waiting for treatments and prescriptions no middle-class insured person could afford to pay for out of pocket.
We have heard very little from former Cook County Board President John Stroger since his debilitating illness. My heart and prayers are always extended to him. Like my family, he’s from Arkansas, so I know he’s a fighter. I’m pretty sure John Stroger didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth nor a family insurance plan back in the 1930s.
Even though I may not have always agreed with his politics I do have the utmost respect for a black man of his generation because it was always a fight, no matter what side he chose. I am confident, however, that the budget cuts his son, President Todd Stroger, is proposing would not give a fighter like Dad Stroger even the fighting chance he now so courageously but weakly holds onto.