13 January 2007

We're People, Not Statistics

Josef Stalin said that half million people dead in Ukraine was a statistic. But the death of one girl — now that was a tragedy.

Stalin was right. As humans, that's how we think. We can't get our minds around, for instance, 18,000 deaths a year linked to a lack of health insurance in the United States. But we can understand the tragedy of one death, like that of my brother, Paul Hannum.

Paul's friend Pete Holland wrote this song and sang it at Paul's Los Angeles memorial service:

someone's having fun and it seems at our expense
you wish a joke so stupid must make some kind of sense
but it's so funny we can smile
we just sit there for a while
there's no reason, no one knows
i don't get it, are you sure that's how it goes?

the things you don't need, you can always hold and touch
and the ones that disappear are the ones that mean so much
and its so funny we're in tears
and will be for years and years
no lesson learned, no wisdom gained
it's so funny that we're in pain

though every story is a treasure, and every memory gold
we'd trade them all away to watch our friend grow old
so he could laugh once again at the absurdity of life
and be a father and a husband to his daughter and his wife
and it's so funny we can't smile
we sit in silence for a while
the only words that remain
are I don't get it, can someone please explain?

Paul's baby girl was born this October.

The way I am choosing to bring some meaning to Paul's death is to throw myself into the effort to change our country's so-called healthcare system.

This blog, begun on Christmas day — our first without Paul — is part of that.

Welcome to those visitors who have linked here from Crooks & Liars, one of best sites on the web.

In fact, Paul loved C&L too. He'd be glad to know that he continues to be connected with its readers.

A big thanks to SadButTrue over at Les Enragés for editing my guest blog there. Paul's story and that of SadButTrue's best friend in Canada are mirror images of one another; Paul being on the dark side of the mirror, SadButTrue's friend on the bright side. Still alive, still loving, still laughing with his family and friends. Still outraged too.

The Canadian healthcare system was what made the difference. SadButTrue wrote that his friend's first medical crisis was the spontaneous collapse of one of his lungs. "His wife decided not to wait for an ambulance, just bundled him into the car and broke every traffic law getting him to the emergency ward as fast as possible. Which, the doctors told her, saved his life. After reinflating his lung, the docs decided he should stay in the hospital for further observation. The next day his other lung collapsed. The doctors said that, had he not already been in the hospital, this second crisis would have been fatal."

The friend's wife says she suspects she would have hesitated to take her husband in had they lived in the United States. But they live in Canada, and so he immediately received top-notch care, without their having to worry about whether it would bankrupt them.

The fear-mongers who criticize Canadian healthcare from their ideological soapboxes do not want to hear real stories, like that of Paul and SadButTrue's friend. No system is perfect, but the Canadian system so surpasses ours that there is simply no comparison.

Supposedly, when Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake," she meant well. You could say the same about Schwarzenegger. But his plan is simply more "Let them eat cake."

Time to storm the Bastille.

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