The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
Remember when Congressional Republicans were adamant about claiming that “all lives matter”? Remember when they championed that phrase in a way to claim the moral high ground on cable and network news on a daily basis? Remember why this phrase was at the same time both true and yet terribly problematic?
The phrase was coined not to champion a universal care for all people, but in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The superficial claim was that all lives not just black lives mattered. However, all lives were not and are not facing the intense racial injustice and violence perpetrated against black lives. So it needs to be said that black lives matter.
No one would argue that all lives matter to Jesus. And yet he came proclaiming the particularity of lives that mattered especially to him and thus to God and the community that would become the church.
Jesus said widows’ and orphans’ lives matter.
Jesus said the lepers’ lives matter.
Jesus said the Samaritans’ lives matter.
Jesus said the tax collectors’ lives matter.
Jesus said women’s lives matter.
Jesus said children’s lives matter.
Jesus said the lives of the blind and the lame matter.
Jesus said the lives of the sick and the dead matter.
Jesus said the lives of the hungry and poor matter.
Jesus said the lives of the persecuted and oppressed matter.
Jesus said a Centurion’s son’s life mattered.
Jesus said a Syrophoenician woman’s life mattered.
All these lives and more mattered to Jesus in their particularity and he would be no less decisive in naming them today saying: black lives matter, brown lives matter, refugee lives matter, immigrant lives matter, native lives matter, LGBTQ lives matter, women’s lives matter, people experiencing homelessness lives matter, veterans lives matter, the elderly lives matter, people with preexisting conditions lives matter, people who are disabled lives matter, children’s lives matter, and Muslim lives matter.
To declare in specificity and demonstrate in action that all these lives matter is part of the mission of the church as it exists to be Christ’s body and presence in the world today. However, caring for all these lives in all their particularity is not the sole purview of the church, but is the responsibility of we the people of this great country that guarantees the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all people.
This is our country’s way of saying all lives matter and really meaning it, because even though the all of then was more limited than it ought to have been, throughout history this has been continually corrected and broadened to include more and more people as particular lives became at issue from black lives and women’s lives to LGBTQ people’s lives. However, there is still much work to be done for all these and more in order that they experience the fullness of life and liberty promised.
Trumpcare 3.0 or the latest version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) still looms on the verge of defeat in the Senate, but it is not lost yet. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still hard at work trying to secure the necessary 50 votes and is planning to keep the Senate in session for two additional weeks delaying the August recess in an effort to push this unconscionable and immoral bill through to a passing vote.
If many of the Republicans in Congress truly believed their “all lives matter” rhetoric we would not be in this mess fighting for the lives of millions of people across the country who depend on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act for their life. Instead we would at least have bipartisan discussion on how to improve upon the Affordable Care Act or better begin a conversation on moving to a single-payer system that ensures heath care coverage as a fundamental right for all people like the rest of the industrialized world.
The repeal of Obamacare is not about the philosophy of the policy which is built on conservative ideology, but is a racist rejection of Obama and his legacy. Trumpcare takes conservative ideology to extremes as it boils down not to a health care plan but a tax gift to the billionaires. Meanwhile 20 plus million people will lose their health care coverage and everyone will pay more for less care. So all lives matter, right?
If Republicans in Congress wanted to demonstrate that indeed all lives mattered to them they would not be making drastic cuts to Medicaid, the largest insurance provider in the country. Taking funds ways from this program inherently says that poor people’s lives, elderly people’s lives, veterans’ lives, disabled people’s lives, children’s lives, students’ lives, unemployed people’s lives, and more don’t matter. Or if they do, they matter a whole lot less than billionaires’ lives who are receiving the money being cut from Medicaid in the form of a tax cut.
A similar analysis could be made throughout this entire disgrace of a bill, but there is yet another important point that is at the heart of the struggle for bipartisan health care reform. Currently Republicans and Democrats are at an impasse because they are not, as our democratic system is designed, discussing appropriate though different means to a common goal, but rather the goal itself is beyond compromise. One group wants to ensure that all Americans have health insurance as a basic right, while the other despite their rhetoric wants to give unnecessary tax cuts to the wealthy under the lie of trickle-down economics.
The deepest moral values of our country, our conscience, our faith, and our common striving for the common good of people, society, and our environment demand that we say not simply all people’s lives matter but that people with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and depression lives matter, disabled people’s lives matter, people with mental illness and addiction lives matter, children and elderly people’s lives matter, veterans lives matter, and people without health insurance lives matter.
Our country promises that all lives matter, but we live in a society broken by racism, misogyny, patriarchy, rape culture, classism, ableism, xenophobia, and so many other political and socio-economic structures that enshrine systemic oppression and injustice that we must lift up the particularity of these lives bearing the brunt of the brokenness in our society. We name them so that this awareness leads to positive change in not only in our hearts and minds but also in public policy and cultural shifts that move us to an ever more inclusive and diverse all. This is the beauty and strength of America.