I recently read this memoir written by a woman who had liver cancer.
I enjoyed some parts of it; at times she was very eloquent. Other parts made me scowl, mostly the parts that highlight the blessedness of her experience. Health insurance. Connections. Hospitals/cancer centers/concerned doctors. Money. A husband, a family, people who loved her. She doesn’t at all disregard this stuff in the essay; she acknowledges it and her own acceptance that our medical system in the U.S. is unfair. And when you’re sick, in pain, and/or dying, you become very self-centered. (God, my whole blog is really an exercise in how self-centered a chronic disease can make you. Ha! Not my fault – I’ll just keep on blamin’ that disease.) I think it’s natural.
Here’s a feeling I get from reading this essay, and believe me, it’s certainly not the intended come-away emotion, I know that. But I feel that there are a lot of frantically angry people today who preach, whether directly or indirectly but mostly indirectly, that empathy is a one-way street. We should empathize with folks who have incredible advantages (like her, even like me) yet still succumb to that pesky inevitable-side-effect-of-being-human thing. And therefore, street being one way, we shouldn’t feel for the poor or homeless or jobless folks who come down with cancer, etc. and have no insurance or safety cushion to pay for treatment, hell, to pay for diagnosis. In fact, we should be outraged at what leeches are, and start quoting Ebenezer Scrooge pre-ghost cluebats.
This is not the point of the linked article, nor is it the author’s intention. It just got me thinking – as usual – about healthcare, the current state of affairs in U.S. hospitals and in U.S. political punditry, and of course, my own waning empathy for people who are blessed by circumstance and, I’m sure, wish to stay that way. I know I want to keep my current run of luck. And I’m glad she got the three-four extra years.
But no doubt the horrible class warrior in me has siphoned away all my empathy. Don’t tell my insurance provider (it may be a drop-worthy offense despite my current employment), but I am going to go eat some cheesy puffs now.
Sheesh. Clearly I am a-liking the hyphens today.