22 March 2010

The American Dream and the freelance writer

I try to keep this apolitical. This is a travel blog, and, frankly, the world doesn't need another pundit. I want the discussion here to be about travel, and I'm wary of getting off-topic (as when I incurred the wrath of the Esperanto people, to whom I say, please, Bonvolu las mi sole).  But I'm going to bend my self-imposed roles for second here, because,  quite frankly, it's incredibly stupid that the health care debate here in the U.S. was considered such a political one. Even the weird libertarian side of me, which sometimes pops up to keep my lefty tendencies honest, thinks universal health care is just implicitly logical and important in every way; it's a matter of moral, business, and common sense. And this needs to be said; my story needs to be told: 

We're going to hear a lot of griping from health care foes in the coming days. But here's one guy's story that you can tell them, proof of why this legislation matters.

This will literally and profoundly change my life. Millions of others, too. But let's use me as a case study, shall we?

I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 1993. I was 12 years old. I'll spare you the full details of what that entails, but basically it causes massive inflammation of the colon, which is every bit as fun as it sounds. It's often just not a big deal, not at all factor in life ... but when it is, wow. The technical term is, I believe, "severefuckingpain." I've had kidney stones; those seem easy in comparison.

Because of this little-tiny-major issue, it would be essentially impossible for me to buy health insurance on my own, thanks to pre-existing condition clauses. Even coverage through an employer is by no means assured--friends with much less debilitating medical issues have been turned down for insurance because their employers' pools couldn't absorb them. And, obviously, I can't go without insurance--I'd go broke in a matter of days (seriously, days) trying to pay for the meds that I need to keep me a normal, functioning human. So I have to work for an organization of a certain size, that has a pretty good insurance plan.

Here's the thing. What I really want to do, more than anything, is be a freelance writer. (Yes, even in this economy, even with a dozen publications closing each day.) I've made a go at it--and this blog is a testament to that--but under the circumstances, I just haven't had the time and energy to put as much into it as necessary. And there are tons and tons of people like me who want to do similar self-employed things: make music, open a doughnut shop, do their own thing. That's the American Dream, is it not? Being an entrepreneur, taking a risk, making something awesome and new, whether it's a book or a song or a computer program or a widget?

Instead, I--and, again, tons of people like me--am compelled to work a day job, for a sufficiently large business, for a sufficient number of hours per week, to ensure that I have the health care that I desperately need. And I enjoy my day job (jobs plural, actually). But stress-wise and time-wise, it does pretty significantly interfere with the Pursuit of the Dream. And, not incidentally, I strongly suspect that my issues make my co-workers' premiums higher, which isn't exactly fair to them.

It's no overstatement to say that a national health care system will literally change my life. I'll finally have the freedom to chase the dream. I might fail. I might have a period of surviving on cat food and ramen. But I'll at least have the chance to give it a shot. So will lots of other people. I'm convinced this will cause a boom in entrepreneurship and innovation as people feel the freedom to chase their dreams. We'll finally get our own shot at the pursuit of happiness, to succeed (or, yes, fail) on our own terms, in our own ways.

I'll confess: when the bill passed last night, I started bawling. You have no idea. . . .

Thanks for listening. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled, commentary-with-a-sarcastic-smirk travel blog.

Note to my non-USA readers: So, "the American Dream." Is this a widely-understood phrase/concept? I'm suddenly very curious. For a full explanation, if needed, click here. Is there a specific term that you have in your country for some sort of myth-enhanced concept of success and prosperity? Or does the fact that such a term exists, in such a patriotically-branded form, make us seem even stranger than we did before? Just wondering.


  1. It seems so incredibly immoral to me that health care is a for-profit industry at all (I'm not talking about making doctors work for free, I'm talking about insurance companies sending profit to the their shareholders instead of using the money to care for more people).

    Cheers, Doug.

  2. This may get me tarred and feathered but I have to believe that there would be more money in the coffers for citizens like us if we cut off the illegals from our social services.

    1. @Anonymous: I trust you're aware that undocumented immigrants by and large DO, in fact, pay taxes, and contribute immeasurably to the US economy ... and, therefore, have earned--monetarily and otherwise--every right to the services they use. For starters.

      But I guess it's just all too easy to project this sort of false, abstract bogeyman/villain status onto the powerless and the not-like-us.

  3. Anonymous, "the illegals" are pouring tax payments, labor, and entrepreneurship into our economy and asking nothing more in return than being allowed to live as normal citizens. They are not the problem.


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