The Hippolytic Oath

Set during the war “to make the world safe for democracy” and featuring the titular quintessential feminist icon, Wonder Woman is so rife with political overtones its hard to know where to begin. There’s the seemingly ubiquitous question of “to kill or not to kill?” which is addressed in a spectacularly subtle and nuanced fashion. Then again, who could resist navigating the ever tedious girl power minefield? Inspired as I am by this masterpiece, I intend to have my say on these matters in due time, but the unspoken motto of this particular esoteric essayist is too avoid as much as possible the low hanging fruit. Let the politicos have their say about female empowerment and toned down American symbolism. I hold out for the really juicy stuff you have stretch for, like Wonder Woman‘s relevance to universal healthcare.


Your own money? At a hospital?! That’s just crazy enough to work!

Plus, how often can I to tie recent headlines to the current box office? If you’ve read any other posts, you know the answer is never.

Without spoiling too much, the character arcs of Gal Gadot’s Princess Diana and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor begin on either end of the spectrum of innocent naivete to jaded cynicism. Throughout the course of the movie each sees things that chip away at these perspectives and bring them closer to a more sober understanding of the value of hope in the face of misery and despair. This understanding is distilled into the rather clunky, but nonetheless valid phrase, “it’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe.”

The context of this line was obviously not that of single payer vs. free market heath care, but it instantly called to mind my latest bout with the Least Resistor. Like most good super smack downs, it started in one place and ended somewhere else. And like most such conflicts, the rogue lived to torment another day, clumsily evading cogent points and ceding even supposedly sacrosanct intellectual ground to avoid being cornered until I was called away to do battle with the Adult Hood. In addition to his innate ability to distract with rhetorical decoy flares, the Least Resistor’s power set includes complete confidence in his beliefs even as he abandons them for expediency’s sake and the ability to assimilate new information with absolute certainty as to its veracity so long as it reinforces his prejudices.

One such piece of information he’s taken to heart is that those who consider healthcare a privilege rather than a right must think that poor people deserve to die.

What it feels like trying to dispel the “health care is a right” premise.

This gem came during a respite in our prolonged battle as he slunk away to proselytize his new gospel to civilians who, for the most part, saw through his wispy filaments of logic. Though the Adult Hood beckoned, I couldn’t help but be drawn back into the fray primarily because of this line of thinking. Our battle up to this point could be characterized as several repetitions of the following cycle: him claiming an ideological stance, me thoroughly undermining it, him admitting the validity of my refutation without acknowledging the holes it poked it his initial premise, and finally him reasserting a new iteration of the same ideology. Finally, when called out on the inconsistencies, his political philosophy devolved into who deserved what. The Walton family doesn’t deserve the billions it has. Beneficiaries of government aide deserve other people’s money because they should have been paid more at their jobs to begin with. Despite me pointing out that such judgments are wildly subjective, he then persisted in throwing the rhetorical “poor people don’t deserve to die” hand grenade into polite discussion.

While even bedrock principles such as freedom and equality (the hallowed ground he beat a hasty retreat from when it was shown to conflict with what he thought people deserved) are subjective to a point, they were conceived specifically to be as universally acceptable and applicable as possible. Some people reject them, either because they haven’t thought them out thoroughly and are too entrenched against them to reconsider, like my friend the mercurial menace, or because these principles stand in the way of their ambitions. Generally speaking though, strict adherence to them is the only way to avoid alienating, marginalizing, or outright vilifying anyone as a matter of public policy.

What would one call depriving millions of people of their heath care if not alienating, marginalizing, and maligning them? After all, doesn’t anyone who endorses such a policy think poor people deserve to die? If the bills lately considered in the Senate actually did this, that might be the case, but refusing to subsidize health insurance emphatically does not amount to depriving people of health care. Do the people who would lose subsidies deserve to lose their current health insurance coverage? Maybe not, but their current condition doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Did the millions whose premiums went up to account for the extra coverage mandated by the ACA deserve to see more of their paycheck go to expenditures they didn’t choose? How about those whose penalties for not having insurance subsidized the subsidies? Do those who have insurance because of the ACA deserve the hard earned money of the other two groups? Some, who remain willfully ignorant to the negative effect the current policy has on liberty and equality, or else knowingly endorse the further degradation of both, would say yes.

Never turn your back on Lady Liberty.

Regardless of who deserves what, or, more accurately, what any of us think about such transfers of wealth, government isn’t in the business of figuring out who deserves what. That job belongs to a higher Authority than we could ever muster. Rather, governments are instituted among men for the purpose of protecting the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, among others. This is precisely why healthcare must be recast as a right rather than a privilege if nationalized medicine is to be accepted. Because, by and large, Americans still believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, even if we don’t recognize when they’re being systematically undermined. Because, as Steve Trevor astutely observed, “it’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe.”

I, for one, believe liberty and equality are mutually exclusive of a fanciful “right” to health care. If you believe otherwise, by all means, make your case in the comments below. But for the sake of intellectual honesty and integrity, state your beliefs, not what you think anyone deserves.

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