So it snowed on Saturday, far more than the weather mavens said it would, in the middle of the day disrupting classes and events schedules and plans for dinner and running errands. Everyone was cranky and sick and tired of this winter and the cold and too much snow already. Our hard-working facilities colleagues were outside all day in the blistering cold trying to keep up with snow removal in a storm that cruelly blew the white stuff back all over the walkways and driveways they had just cleared. This is hard, back-breaking thankless work — but I thank them profusely all the time, what would we do without this wonderful team?
But as I drove home late in the gathering darkness it was still snowing and icy, and when I got home and looked at my blinking blackberry there were email complaints from some campus constituents saying that we had not cleared the campus fast enough, complaining that when we let out classes early they had to walk through inches-high snow to their cars, that we should have done something different, earlier, faster, making it more convenient for all. I sighed and opened my newspaper to catch up on the world’s woes.
And then, I saw the news that made the cold and snow melt away, news that made me so sad, so angry I got up and went outside to shovel my own walk in the middle of the night.
America has halted all medical emergency flights from Haiti. That’s right. This vast, wealthy nation has no more room for the suffering Haitian children with raging infections or adults missing limbs or people with massive crush injuries. Florida’s governor rolled up the welcome mat because he wants clarity about money. That’s the real bottom line for health care — it’s all about the money, and money is corrupting the very quality of mercy that the United States once was known for throughout the world.
The United States has spent countless billions on two wars halfway around the world. Hundreds of billions have gone to bank bailouts for institutions whose managements are still reaping millions in bonus packages.
But there is no room in our health care system for the broken, suffering people of Haiti, neighbors at our doorstep.
This nation is in a self-indulgent moment of isolationism and narcissism that threatens to prevent any sensible solutions to contemporary problems, whether home or abroad.
In a column in Saturday’s New York Times, Gail Collins wrote of the “cult of selfishness” that exalts resistance above results. “We’re currently stuck in a place where people no longer feel as though they need to be part of the solution.”
Even as I write this blog, I’m listening to Channel 4′s “Viewpoints” program on Sunday morning, and my good friend Dr. Maria Gomez, founder and president of the extraordinary Mary’s Center for maternal and child health in DC, just gave another example of this dreadful state of affairs: she just said that some of her major donors have told her that they will stop contributing to Mary’s Center if she supports President Obama’s health care reform plan because they are afraid that they — wealthy taxpayers — will wind up paying a disproportionate share of tax for health care reform. So, children and mothers in Mt. Pleasant will suffer because donors have a dispute with Congress and the president.
Children in Haiti will die because we can’t figure out the difference between a principled debate about future public policy choices and the urgent demand for charity and justice today.
**NOTE: Late Sunday night the U.S. military announced that it would resume the emergency airlift of critically injured Haitians to the U.S., and Governor Crist of Florida said his state would welcome them.