Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Guiding Philosophy

Last week, the New York Times magazine had an article about playwright Anna Deveare Smith.  Smith is about to undertake another of her one-woman shows, this one about healthcare in America.  In preparation, she has interviewed hundreds of people, famous and not, about their experience in the American healthcare system.  You can read the article about Smith here.

Among the people she interviewed was Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California whom I have long admired.  Speaking with Smith about the need for healthcare reform, Waxman grew thoughtful about the beliefs that drive his commitment to that reform.  From her interviews, Smith distilled a philosophy from Waxman that I find resonant.  It's not the poetry of it that I find appealing; it's the power and the passion of the philosophy behind the idea.

In Smith's script of the time with Waxman, he says:

I think it's a fight we need to have.
And I think the American people accept those values ---
But there are some people on the right who don't.
They look at
At society as a...
In Darwinian terms.
If you succeed in life because you had advantages
God wanted you to succeed
And if you fail
It's you own fault ---
And if it's your own fault
Why else should anybody else have to help you?
And I reject that
I reject that.
It's inconsistent with my values.
I disagree very strongly with it.

Waxman's statement reminds me of a biblical injunction that governs my thinking about my nation and its place in the world: "To whom much is given, much is expected."  I believe that a generosity of spirit and emotion must  govern  our treatment of one another.  And healthcare reform, driven by a commitment to providing universal access to healthcare is an excellent start.  Tomorrow, I'll add my voice to the discussion.

No comments: