Healthcare Crisis…Culture Crisis…More Like a Severe Shortage of Empathy

This has been making its way around Facebook. It’s an ER doctor talking about how horrified he is that a woman “whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone” is on Medicare. He also brought in her smoking and commented on her eating nothing but fast food, but still having money for beer and pretzels.

And he is outraged that someone like him, a white male virtuous and hardworking individual, has to contribute to the healthcare of someone who’s obviously a minority a lower social class lazy and stupid.

First off, the R&B ringtone? It’s a nice racist dog whistle, but you lose points for a complete and utter lack of subtlety. If you want to get away with that sort of thing, you need to at least get some plausible deniability in there.

Second, I love how the tattoos, the cell phone with–gasp–a *ringtone*, and the tennis shoes are all signs that she has plenty of money and can afford her own medical care. Ringtones cost, what, a couple bucks? Wow, big spender. That’ll totally cover, like, a tenth of one copay. I’ll admit to having no idea how much tattoos cost, but I also doubt she got them all last week. The sneakers, the same. Were they a gift, were they bought on sale, saved for? You have no idea, and by the way, it’s none of your business. Besides that, has she been on Medicare forever, or did she or her husband have financial troubles recently…you know, like most of the country.

Even if all this stuff was bought full-price, it doesn’t translate to “She doesn’t need Medicare.” Hundred-dollar sneakers and a hundred dollar cellphone would pay for the portion of my husband’s health insurance that he pays to cover both of us…for a single month. So, arguing that someone whose job, if she has one, probably covers exactly nothing toward health insurance, should easily be able to afford it because she has a couple hundred-dollar “luxuries” is BS. (Even leaving aside the idea that good sneakers and a cell phone are outrageous luxuries.)

But what strikes me as the worst part of this is that this is coming from a *doctor* in an ER. The venom and condescension he uses to describe his patient–someone who came to him for help in an emergency–is a little chilling. From the way he writes her off, I’d bet money she didn’t get good care from him. Maybe the good doctor needs to spend a little less time getting judgmental or worrying about what his patients should spend their money on and a little more time actually helping them.

Some Positive Notes

I’ve been losing a lot of faith in humanity reading about the huge opposition to the Muslim community center in NY, the planned Koran burning (which was at least called off), and other isolated bits of hate and stupid.
But amidst all that, there have been some pretty striking notes of tolerance and decency.

The Massachusetts Bible Society has promised to give out two Korans for every one burned. And now that the Koran-burning didn’t happen on September 11 and doesn’t look like it will, they’ll still give out Korans using the donations they’ve received.

The Gainesville Muslim Initiative spent September 11 distibuting food and hygiene supplies to folks in need. They also had a book drive, a blood drive, and a candlelight vigil. I can’t applaud this group enough for being awesome, for answering the ugliness that gets thrown at them with such kindness.

And on one little corner of the internet, someone who said a bunch of bigoted and ill-thought-out stuff *listened* to the counter-arguments, reconsidered their position, and apologized.

It’s all little stuff, but sometimes that’s all it takes.