BY GUEST BLOGGER CLARISSA ETTER-SMITH
What an amazing few weeks we have witnessed. We’ve seen Supreme Court decisions affirming the legality of the Affordable Health Care Act and marriage equality.The murder of nine people inside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston gave us a glimpse of our president that we rarely see. While giving the eulogy for Emanuel’s pastor, state legislator Clementa Pinckney, President Barack Obama sang a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Healthcare became a right in this country. I often wonder how we became a nation whose people believe you should profit from sickness. We are the largest industrialized nation where healthcare continues to be a for profit business. As someone who has worked in the business of pharmaceuticals for 20 years, it has sometimes been difficult to look from inside the business to outside and reconcile why we must profit from illness.
Then there is the other side, the innovative medicines and services that have come from this country that allow us, not only to live longer but also to live longer stronger. With those innovations comes a price. It takes millions to develop one new therapy. Most never make it out of the lab, but the brilliant scientists who do the work, think each time there will be a breakthrough. We must create the space for that spirit of discovery and innovation to thrive.
There is so much to love about this country. While our systems aren’t perfect, healthcare being one of them, we are better than most.
There are difficult issues to tackle. We must look at the underbelly of systematic racism or we will perish. The diversity we see on the streets of our nation is envied in other lands. We are a nation striving for perfection. But the Emmanuel Nine massacre brought the seedy underbelly to the surface. We learned that a deranged, 21-year-old man was able to purchase a gun, walk into a house of worship and gun down the faithful. After the fact, he admitted his hatred toward black people. Pictures surfaced of him posing with the Confederate flag, a worldwide symbol of oppression and hate.
Innovation comes at a cost. Access to Internet content sometimes breeds contempt and destruction. How do we support love not hate? How do we show bitter, hate-filled teenagers and young adults that killing is not the answer. When will our dinner tables be filled with those who don’t look like us, but make our lives richer because of it?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. All I know is that we must stay in the conversation. We must continue to work toward a more perfect union.
The Affordable Health Care Act gives millions access to much-needed preventive care, but it won’t give people healthy, chemical-free food. We must demand that for everyone, not just the wealthy.
Marriage equality, gives our gay brothers and sisters the freedom to love, to share property, to declare on their last days the most pivotal relationship in their lives.
The tragic deaths of nine faithful Christians gives us yet another opportunity to look at ourselves and take a stand for what we want to be: A nation of equal opportunity.
I am hopeful, but I’m not naive. Now that the confederate flag is down, the question remains: Can we rise above the hatred and oppression it represents?