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.
Though the votes have been cast and seven years of Republican repeal-and-replace efforts have been decidedly defeated, Senator Mazie Hirono’s (D-HI) plea for compassion has great relevance for healthcare policy moving forward as well as for all major legislation that affects people’s lives.
Speaking from the heart Senator Maize Hirono tells her story of being an immigrant in this country growing up in Hawaii and being afraid of her mother getting sick. She goes on to tell of her own battle with kidney cancer and reminds her colleagues across the aisle of the outpouring of compassion many of them showed her when she was first diagnosed. She demands that this same compassion be shown to the tens of millions of people affected by their votes on the healthcare bill
You showed me your care. You showed me your compassion. Where is that tonight? So, I can’t believe that a single senator in this body has not faced an illness or whose family member or loved one has not faced illness where they were so grateful that they had healthcare.
I cannot believe that there is a single senator who has not experienced that in their family or their lives. So, I know how important healthcare is. What I don’t get is why every single senator does not know that.
Why are we here tonight voting on a bill that has not had a single hearing? Why are we here tonight voting on a bill that would eliminate healthcare coverage that could save lives for 16 million people? …
Why are we here tonight? Where is your compassion? Where is the care you showed me when I was diagnosed with my illness? …
Mr. President, I will yield the floor by asking my friends to show the compassion to everybody in this country that you showed me.
Watch her full speech here:
Personal, moving speech from Mazie Hirono tonight about her cancer diagnosis. This is worth your time. pic.twitter.com/DgMVojwrEr
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 28, 2017
Senator Hirono humanizes a complex policy that affects every person in the country and one-sixth of our economy with a touching story of her life. She makes real the fears children have of their parents getting sick when there is no healthcare coverage and not working means there is no money. She wonders how her colleagues across the aisle can show her compassion in her time of need, but then deny the humanity and dignity of tens of millions of people across the country by failing to show them the same care and concern. Hirono simply pleads that the heartfelt compassion that was extended to her be extended to everybody in the country.
Senator Hirono does not need CBO scores or other complex economic analysis to make her case. She does not need polling data or the abundance of letters from every major interested party to this legislation to show how terrible it is. She only needs her colleagues across the aisle to recognize the dignity and humanity of each person in this country. Then they can extend the same compassionate care they showed her, though instead of cards and heartfelt sentiments it will be through public policy and votes.
It is this appeal to human dignity that has fueled the resistance to every Republican effort at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. These sustained efforts made the defeat of the skinny repeal in the early hours of Friday morning possible. While much credit is being given to the three Republican senators who voted against this bill, the real heroes are the people across the country who marched and rallied, who showed up at town halls and at their Representative’s and Senators’ offices, who wrote letters and made phone calls, and who kept compassion at the forefront of the movement.
Keeping compassion and human dignity at the forefront of the healthcare debate is imperative to following the biblical command to love your neighbor as yourself. And not only in the healthcare debate but in discussions on every public policy that has a significant human impact from matters of immigration and criminal justice to budgets and tax reform.
Hopefully, we have all had experiences of receiving compassionate care and have given that same care to others. Senator Hirono’s call to remember that compassionate care and show it to everybody in this country is the foundation of public policy that will serve the common good and assure everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.