HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

We Cannot Afford Leaders Who Lie.

Posted on | May 30, 2020 | No Comments

Source: John Autey/Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Mike Magee

In the re-build of Germany and Japan under the Marshall Plan, we elected to start with a health plan – in part because we recognized that all other social determinants – justice, housing, nutrition, education, clean air and water, transportation, safety and security – would be enhanced in the process. We understood that this 1948 infusion of what would today amount to $128 billion would engender trust, improve health and productivity, and process fear and worry which might otherwise undermine the establishment of a civil society and stable democracy.

This is essentially the same challenge we as a country (having wandered so far off course as to elect Trump) are faced with today as we battle the dual scourges of a badly mismanaged pandemic response and the fires of historic and systemic racism.

Changing culture is a tall order. It is about compassion, understanding and partnerships. It is about healing, providing health, and keeping individuals, families and communities whole. And – most importantly – it is about managing population-wide fear, worry and anxiety, made all the worse by inequality and injustice at every turn.

What we are asking of the people, and the people caring for the people, is to change their historic culture (one built on prejudice, violence, self-interest, hyper-competitiveness, and distrust of good government). This is a tall order – something that parents, pastors, politicians and physicians equally recognize.

Things evolve, and difficult things take time. But what happens if you run out of time, if the threats of delay or incrementalism create risks that outweigh or negate rewards? What if you chose the wrong President, the wrong police chief, the wrong prosecutor? What then?

What happens then is that the choices become quite stark – self-determination or self-destruction. Health reform offers a way back toward sanity. It offers our citizens the opportunity to embrace compassion, understanding and partnership as core pillars of a just society.

If we choose to go this route however, the mischief-makers who spent a decade undermining the Affordable Care Act must be effectively sidelined from the start. At the same time, we must disabuse ourselves of any notion that a cultural shift with health care as the leading edge will be simple or easy.

What we witnessed this past week in Minneapolis-St. Paul was a grim reminder of how deeply seeded racism and injustice are planted in America, and how far protectors of the status quo are willing to go to maintain their dominance. An epic struggle unleashed by our President and his political enablers threatens to engulf us all, awakening unpleasant flashbacks of 1968 and a country at war with itself. It is not a pretty picture.

But history instructs. In 1934, W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard wrote, “Nations reel and stagger on their way. They make hideous mistakes; they commit frightful wrongs; they do great and beautiful things. And shall we not best guide humanity by telling the truth about all this, so far as the truth be ascertainable?”

We cannot afford leaders who lie.

So it is useful to acknowledge what our former military leaders stated as Germany and Japan sought to rise from the ashes. “We start with health care because it is an anecdote to fear, worry, and hatred.” As our vanquished enemies did, we start anew.

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