As the battle heats up to pass meaningful health care reform with a robust public option, a video has emerged that captures the raw emotions of Americans suffering under the cruelty of the current system. More than any video I have seen, this short clip amplifies the moral imperative for reform capable of freeing us all from the health insurance nightmare where nameless, faceless bureaucrats routinely tosses our loved ones in the trash heap at the precise moment we need the most care--a system that has come to symbolize the banality of evil in our time.
On August 25, CNN's Rick Sanchez introduced a video recorded at a town hall meeting in Oklahoma hosted by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). In the clip, a constituent begins her question with a desperate plea, "Senator Coburn, we need help!" Her voice is then overwhelmed by the kind of choking tears that reveal a person reduced whose frustration and suffering has brought them to the last possible chance to save the life of the person they love more than anyone else in the world. She then explains her situation:
My husband has traumatic brain injury. His health insurance will not cover him to eat and drink. What I need to know is, are you going to help him so he can eat and drink?
As the questioner's courageous voice fades into heaving sobs, Senator Coburn calmly responds,"Yeah, we'll help. The first thing we'll do is see what we can do individually to help you through our office." Initially, Coburn seems headed towards a reassuring resolution: a woman asks a representative of government for help and he responds that his office will act. But then he concludes with the following:
But the other thing that's missing in this debate is us as neighbors helping people who need are help. We tend to--the idea that government is the solution to all our problems is an inaccurate, a very inaccurate statement.
Coburn answers an American's desperate plea for help to care for her husband, in other words, by repeating the anti-government mantra of the Republican Party. The political calculus in Coburn's words hang in the room room like an icy cloud.
In an unfortunate quirk of timing, the tragic passing of Senator Edward Kennedy created a tidal wave of media coverage that has all but buried this powerful video clip from gaining the kind of viewership it truly deserves.
But in an age where YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and good old fashioned email can often broadcast a video faster than traditional media, it really is possible for every American to see this clip.
Since watching the video of the Oklahoma town hall I have forwarded it to thousands of people. Spreading the call for reform has never been simpler.
But by showing the video, we do much more than shine a light on the banality of health insurance evil, we also do our part to tip the narrative towards a more American set of values.
Until now, the health care debate has been pushed as a larger story about "government run insurance will take away our freedom." The opponents of reform insist that a public option will lead to tyranny and the end of America. The tears in this video bring us to a new big picture: "Americans are not free so long as they can be deprived of care by a cruel industry." Those who advocate passionately for a public option can now insist with clear evidence that an America without health care reform is an America broken by fear.
One woman's tears and the courage to stand up and tell her story could give an opportunity to us all to push the kind of change this country so desperately needs. And all we need to do is show this video to everyone we know.