I Refuse to Vote Republican
by J. Carlos Jiacinto
This afternoon a commericial decrying the millions of Americans
without health insurance caught my attention. Immediately
my mind relived bitter memories of my freshman year of college.
Back then (October 1996) I remembered vividly how, after suffering
from severe health problems, I took my mother to a local hospital
for a free breast exam. Against her will I insisted that she
get a mammogram. It turned out that she suffered from breast
cancer and needed immediate treatment. Ultimately, on the
day of Clinton's second inaguration, my mother passed away
after undergoing painful chemoetherapy and radiation treatments.
They had caught the cancer too late.
This commericial reminded me of the plight that millions
of Americans face today. Across the country many families
lack the ability to pay for health care either because their
jobs provide no benefits or they cannot pay their premiums.
Meanwhile numerous unemployed Americans have lost their health
benefits while still more fellow citizens hang by a thread,
afraid that they could lose thier jobs. While the war on terrorism
rages and the Winter Olympics dominate the news coverage,
many Americans worry constantly about their future ability
to meet their own basic needs.
My mother never told me how ill she was because she lacked
adequate healthcare. My family was not poor and my mother
always provided me with everything that I needed. My mother
played by the rules and worked extremely hard so that I could
afford to attend college. She never accepted a handout from
anyone or any government agency. She sacrificed her own life
so that I could complete my education.
Perhaps even if they had caught the cancer before it mestasized,
she might still have died. It might not have made a difference
at all. However, numerous Americans never get the chance to
find out whether their relatives' illnesses could have been
cured completely or at least allievated. In many cities and
states families put their own health at risk so that their
own children can wear clothing and attend school. Something
is greatly wrong in this country when its hard-working citizens
cannot receive a decent level of healthcare.
Back when I attended Dickinson, whenever my professors would
debate social welfare programs, I often listened to my Republican
friends - many of which came from well-off families - deride
the "poor and the needy" as if they deserved to go without
basic healthcare and other necessities (food, clean water,
good schools, and health care) that they took for granted.
They condemned and denounced the poor. My own Republicans
friends often talked about the poor as if they were somehow
"subhuman" and "lazy".
I listen to the Republicans on televisions talk about how
the Democrats support "giveaway" social programs. The line
that many Republican operatives use with relish is that the
"Democrats want to spend money on welfare", usually with coded
racial overtones. These statements are completely disengenous
and completely judgmental. Although my Republican friends
would scoff at this notion, whenever they brought up their
arguments, I often refuted their points by saying that life
changes in a matter of seconds. At any moment their parents
could die; their homes could be destroyed by a natural disaster,
a fire, or flood; their parents could lose their jobs; one
of their parents could suffer a catastrophic illness that
insurance refuses to cover; and that their parents and themselves
could suddenly be paralyzed.
I then asked them whom they would turn to help. They always
responded with the statement that "we've prepared" and that
"it's the poor's fault that they did not prepare for their
circumstances". But the point is that even the best preparations
often fail to anticipate life's tragedies. As a society we
should be concerned enough to help those individuals in need
of temporary assistance.
In the aftermath of the Enron debacle, coupled with the conservatives'
indifference to downright ridicule toward the employees and
investors who lost money, the Republican line disgusts me.
It sickens me to hear about how the wealthy pay "too much"
taxes and how extending unemployment "will not improve the
economy". The fact that they have the gall to propose budgets
which provide America's largest companies with "welfare" and
"handouts" while deriding those who can barely make ends meet
Watching that commerical reminded me why I am a Democrat
and not a Republican. As someone who has endured difficult
challenges I realize that life's unpredictable events can
change peoples' circumstances quickly. Government should provide
these individuals with basic access to these necessities as
they rebuild their lives. The fact that so many of my Republican
friends scoff at the working poor makes me wonder what they
would do if their lives suddenly changed and they needed help
from the programs they so detest. I am so glad that they think
that their friends and their families would take care of them.
However, I doubt that many of their friends would stick around.
And then I wonder what they would do then when thier only
option is to ask these social programs that they hate so much
J. Carlos Jiacinto (e-mail: email@example.com),
a graduate from Dickinson College's class of 2000 (major Political
Science), lives in Washington, DC. He is currently working
on a Master's Degree in International Politics and International
Economic Policy at American University.