After expecting to be let down yet again by the moral collective in this country, I was pleasantly shocked by the Supreme Court ruling yesterday. I’m no constitutional scholar, but I do work for a progressive taxation policy organization, and saw a lot of similarities between the discussion of the constitutionality of the income tax and that of the Affordable Care Act. It’s the same basic foundation: everybody sacrifices a little bit so no one has to sacrifice everything they have. And in relation to heath, that means your life.
It’s truly astonishing to live in a country where two thirds of adults are overweight or obese and one third of children (children!) are overweight, and still those with the power to heal, either through policy or advocacy, would not just rather keep their money and go on vacation in the tropics, but strongly advocate against keeping everyone healthy. I’m still not sure how people, especially people who say they want to live like Jesus, would rather keep a small potion of their money while someone in their community suffers because of it.
Health is very high on my priority list. As a kid, healthy eating habits were never taught to me. We ate what we had; lots of cereal, lots of peanut butter sandwiches. We ate fruit when it was there, vegetables always canned and processed, never, ever fresh, and always as a side dish. Much too much soda. I learned about the food pyramid in school, but I was under the impression that it was like any other useless school time killer, like diagramming sentences; Easy to grasp, worthless to apply.
Exercise was the same way. I never saw any of the adults in my life exercise, so I assumed physical activity was something you grew out of. Sports were never encouraged or pushed, and there was not a gym within 30 miles of little Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
I don’t know how, but I somehow got extraordinarily lucky. Through better understanding of health, education, and travel, I was able to change my situation and become more fulfilled person for it. Now that I’ve received these triple blessings in my life that made it possible for me to rise, I can’t imagine denying anyone else the same opportunity. That would just be wrong.
I began to see health as a priority when I came home from Christmas in 2008 from China, and after a few days of sitting on the couch drinking hot chocolate and eating cake and cookies, my dad and I watched Run, Fatboy, Run. I looked at my dad, and said, “Dad, you know, I think we could do this if we wanted. We could run a marathon.”
And just a few months later, I’d changed my own life. I didn’t get a medal for my first half marathon or even water at the finish line, but I got a better prize: no longer were my body and my brain too out of touch to communicate, my brain wondering how and when my body was going to break and screw things up for me. Now I live a balanced vegetarian lifestyle, exercise five or six days out of the week, and I don’t fear emergency health issues like I did.
The point of all this is that I feel like I’ve had a taste of the American Dream, and I want to share it. I’ve heard freedom described as living without fear; I can’t think of any better way to embody it than freeing lower-income classes, seniors, kids with chronic illnesses, and young people with the of the fear they often have of their own bodies.