Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Wisdom of Roger Ebert

If you haven't been reading Roger Ebert's blog, you really, really should. When he started it a few years ago, he limited himself to discussing movie-related stuff, a policy he defended by insisting that nobody could possibly be interested in what he had to say about any other topic.

He was, of course, dead wrong.

These days, he blogs about everything from politics to evolution to the nature and meaning of existence. His perspective is profoundly coloured by the fact that he has come close to death more than once since enduring multiple surgeries for thyroid cancer, and has now permanently lost the power of speech due to the removal of much of his lower jaw. The result is the outpouring of a singular mind largely unable to communicate except through writing.

Good thing he's an exceptional writer.

I direct you to Roger Ebert's two latest posts on health care, not because they are necessarily superior to the rest but because they are typical and, as always, topical. The first he describes as an attempt to rationally and logically lay out the arguments in favour of universal health care and against hysterical nonsense like Sarah Palin's 'death panels'. The second is at once more specific (in that he addresses specific arguments by commenters on the first) and more emotional, as he speaks of how he considers universal health care a "moral imperative", especially in light of his own health issues.

Speaking of the many Canadians and other non-Americans who described their experiences after his first post, Ebert writes,

"What so many of these messages also made was an argument to morality. They were astonished that the United State is alone among all developed nations in refusing such coverage to its citizens. A Canadian wrote that it benefits his entire society that its citizens have access to universal care. By making preventative medicine freely available, it lowers the cost of chronic illness. By making early diagnosis possible, it prevents many diseases from reaching a fatal stage. By making mental health care and medication available to those who need it (and who are often unemployable), it avoids the American system where many such people are abandoned to the streets or to the care of their overtaxed families."

He might also have added the economic benefits of labour mobility, or of removing astronomical medical costs as a factor in law suits and court awards, thus reducing the overall cost of malpractice, auto, business, life, and other forms of insurance. And on and on.

The commenters on Roger's blog are shockingly civil and often equally eloquent, even when they disagree him or with each other. Here are two of the 300+ on today's post that amused me. The first is from a Canadian who took a job in the U.S. and suddenly had to think about health insurance:

"I took the job and never once asked about health care benefits because it wasn't even a question on my radar. It's like asking if there will be air in the room."

I love that line. And then there was this one from an earnest libertarian with no sense of irony:
"that doesn't mean that I'm close minded to the idea of Universal Health care, just as long as it's not forced on to the general public."

I read that and couldn't stop laughing.

Roger Ebert is, among other things, a sceptical and extremely enlightened Catholic, so it's not surprising that he ends this post with Matthew 25 which reads in part:
"Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me...
Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

Keep writing, Roger.

1 comment:

  1. And lo, this very piece of Matthew 25 is invoked at Sen. Kennedy's funeral today!