Is Health Care a Human Right? Or Is That the Wrong Question?

The intense debate about the Affordable Care Act and the “repeal-and-replace” effort currently underway in Congress by the Republican Party majority harbors an elemental question at its foundation: Is health care a human right?

Generally speaking, I think it safe to say Democrats would answer yes to that question, Republicans no. It’s a stark dividing line across which scores of different philosophical arguments and assumptions have been proffered by equally passionate advocates on either side.

But I think it is fundamentally the wrong question, and I will try to wrestle down the reasons why in the rest of this post.

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Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the United States Constitution say anything specifically about a “right” to health care...

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Crow, Unlucky

The crow never had a chance.

What were the odds of it being
this crow in particular and not
one of its hundreds of brethren
now squawking futilely on its
behalf as its hapless, now limp
carcass is being carried furious
and fast across the lawns of
Jacqueline Drive, hard in the
talons of this hawk who passes
within yards of my bicycle as the
victim’s fellow crows dive bomb
every determined flap of its wings?

Every crow spared but this one,
dead, snuffed, just like that, a
meal in the waiting if the hawk
can elude the battalion of angry
crows acting for all the world as
if they will not stand for this atrocity.

So startled am I by this raw hard
scene of everyday terror that I stop
my bike in awe and alarm as the crow
army screams and circles far above,
their fallen comrade then dropped as
suddenly as the hawk had pounced
and snagged it mere seconds ago.

And now it lies inert, heaped in the
middle of a neig...

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Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”: A Meditation

Every person, country, and culture carries a wound. For all its wonder and joys-a-waiting, life leaves virtually everyone bruised and torn by some deep hurt, some natural catastrophe, personal betrayal, shattered dream or misguided intention that leave us chastened, sobered, aware not only of our intense vulnerability to being hurt, but also our own capacity to fail others and cause pain in return.

We are born into a broken world, a stark fact that every religion this side of the most happy-talking prosperity gospel has affirmed throughout history.

America’s deep, still festering wound is slavery and the institutionalized, abiding racism and oppression it has left in its wake. Slavery was so monstrous, its premises and practices so inimical to our stated beliefs that “all (people) are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights,” so contrary to our goal of paving the wa...

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Fifth Annual Songs of Summer

When I decided to celebrate the summer solstice of 2013 with a salute to “Songs of Summer,” I had a warm, portentous feeling—“Hey, I could do this again next year and maybe even annually!”—and a tiny concern: “Might I run out of summer songs someday?”

The warm feeling has come to pass with three subsequent editions of this Rite of Summer, the whole previous lot available for viewing and listening here, while the concern has proven to be slightly ridiculous, given how many songs—of  the pop-rock genres  in particular—incorporate summer themes. Seems the warmer days get us out more, and the longer nights keep us out there doing the things people do in the sweet, sweet summertime. Here’s to yours!

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Leave it to The Kinks to record this iconic song on a frozen and snowy winter day...

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The Old Dead Shit of a Late Spring Garden

I know I’m not the first person to realize that gardening is the world’s most ubiquitous and consistent metaphor factory. Prepare the soil, plant a bulb, weed and water a patch of dirt, then have at it on matters regarding one’s place in the world and desire to do right by it.

Where else this side of church is one allowed to stand naked (metaphor there, too…) before the creation while pondering its meaning and relevance to one’s life?

So on yesterday’s late, late spring day, a certain correspondent of yours found himself deep into mounds of decaying poppies and grasses in his backyard, exclaiming to no one in particular: “Gosh, there’s a lot of old dead shit in there!”

And fall was nowhere in sight, smell or sound.

It turns out this is one of gardening’s boundless number of secrets: that death, and the need to move its remnants out of the way, is pretty much a four-season proposition...

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