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“You Lie!”: Going Beyond the Obama-Wilson Debate – Josiah Heyman

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Josiah Heyman
University of Texas at El Paso

Representative Joe Wilson famously interrupted President Obama’s health care speech to Congress by shouting “you lie,” just after the President had said that proposed legislation would not provide access to health insurance for undocumented immigrants.  Factually, Wilson was wrong.  The legislation indeed restricts the undocumented from receiving its benefits.  But the central assumption of the debate itself is wrong.  Obama claimed that a rigid line had been drawn; Wilson that it was not rigid enough.  But on close examination the rigid line fades from sight.

In public health, our fates are connected.  The H1N1 flu is a mild reminder of this.  When there is a more severe pandemic, we will regret frightening off and making access hard for any of our biological neighbors.  To offer a different, but I hope even more persuasive angle: health care access is a matter of mutual moral obligations, a network of ties accumulated throughout society.  I know a 100-year-old woman, still in good health but needing a bit of attention.  She herself is an immigrant, a citizen and retiree after years of marginalization and hard labor.  Her caregiver is undocumented, undergoing the same life of sweat and stigma in the present day.  They owe each other their existence.  They depend on each other for their health. Read more…

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