“Too poor for dental care robs wife of husband’s kiss.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, wasn’t just the headline for an ABC News article. It’s a perfect example of how you drive debate. Are you paying attention, GOP?
It certainly made me stop and think.
The ABC News article leads with the heart-rending story of a Tennessee woman who couldn’t kiss her husband for a year because she couldn’t afford dental care to treat a degenerative disease that rotted her teeth down to the gums.
The ABC story on the couple’s recent struggles detailed how the past few years have been “very hard.”
The woman’s story is so touching, ABC reported, it will be the subject of a new documentary that will premiere this weekend at the 2013 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C.
The documentary was filmed at the NASCAR speedway in Bristol, Tenn., which ABC described as “the heart of Appalachia and the birthplace of country music.” The speedway was the site of a 2012 pop-up medical clinic offering free dental, medical and eye exams to those without health insurance.
That, director Jeff Reichert said, is important in an area where some residents “are 200 miles from the nearest doctor” – even though a simple Internet search reveals that Bristol has one hospital, and there are three others within a 20-mile radius.
The ABC story ends with a quote from one patient about how important universal health care is to those without health insurance:
“I hope our politicians see the need for some kind of universal health care that includes dental, vision and medical, and caters to everybody, not just people who have money, but people who are struggling.”
Personally, I do not disagree that these folks deserve health care. While some of their health problems may be the result of their own lifestyle decisions, such as smoking, I’m happy they are able to get care.
But the bigger problem here is the steady drumbeat, echoed by a sympathetic media, that the government must run the health system for Americans to receive adequate care. Some call that propaganda.
Appalachia’s abject poverty is largely responsible for its residents’ plight. I know this firsthand because I was born in Bristol, Tenn. I’ve also witnessed the effects poor lifestyle choices have had on family and friends.
What’s bothersome, though, is that the region’s poverty is being used to push a political agenda.
Having scored their political points, the media and the filmmakers will move on, having done little to address the real problems that have hamstrung Appalachia for generations. The region’s biggest challenge? Its residents’ skin is a little too pale to evoke the sympathies of a nation still guilt-ridden over how other races were mistreated in the past.
But looking past skin color, government intervention alone is not the answer. Little progress has been made in lifting minorities out of poverty, despite the trillions of dollars invested in doing so. In the end, in addition to a little good fortune, true economic comfort requires self-reliance and personal responsibility. That’s the fabric of America.
Had I not exercised a little of both, ABC News may have been telling my story.
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