Friday, October 16, 2009

School of Thought Seminar: It's Debatable

Smarty Marty, 1964

My dad used to say that I'd argue that black was white. I'd answer hotly, "I would not!" Actually, I love a good debate. Some of the best have been inside my own head.

Anne Lamott said it perfectly. "My mind spends much of its time arguing with people who aren't there. I walk along defending myself to people, or exchanging repartee with them, or rationalizing my behavior, or seducing them with gossip, or pretending I'm on their TV talk show or whatever. I speed or run an aging yellow light and don't come to a full stop, and one nanosecond later I'm explaining to imaginary cops exactly why I had to do what I did, or insisting that I did not in fact do it."

The folks in my head hear incredible justifications of why I do what I do, and think what I think. It's all because of Mr. Greaves; he taught debate at Olympus Jr. High. I landed in his class by accident when I signed up for Speech in 8th grade, in preparation for my acting career. Rather than preparing us for the stage, he was preparing us for life. The regular assignment was to argue for an idea for three minutes, and then switch places to argue against the same issue. Researching both sides of a subject opened my mind to both points of view.

"I see your point!"

In the Deseret News, Sept 10, 2009, Lois M. Collins wrote about her experience:

"My debate class was not just a place where I could stand up and argue my point of view in a forum where people had to listen . . . the lasting value was actually in the fact that it forced me to listen to those who saw things differently, or even adamantly opposed my view. That was the key to writing an effective argument.

"Although my job as a debater was to defend my assigned position on a topic, there were a lot of times when I thought, 'He's right about that,' or 'I never thought of that,' or 'I did not know that.'
It was a learning process that showed me how to do research and helped me refine both my own beliefs and my arguments in support of those beliefs. It gave me a lifelong love of well-reasoned discussion.

"So many of us are out of our comfort zone if we are even just forced to listen to those who hold different ideas about subjects like politics or religion. And it's not enough to just refuse to listen. It's pretty common to dismiss entirely or show open disrespect for those with an opposing viewpoint.

"My dad had very strong beliefs, among them the importance of listening to others and being part of a civilized dialogue. 'All viewpoints should be aired,' he said. The only thing he would not tolerate was rudeness. He demanded we be respectful as we disagreed.

"He taught me that being willing to listen only to those who think the same way I do eliminates all chance of growth. No surprises. No new thoughts or discoveries or opportunities to learn."

Debate led me to an addiction to politics. I follow political talk shows, blogs, newspaper op-ed pages—I love the entire process. I admire the audacity of politicians even when I think they're idiots. It's thrilling to witness their commitment to a cause. While I rant and rave at the press, I review and read anything they give me. And, after I've listened to many sides of the same issue, I draw my own conclusions.

Experience colors our politics. Some of you will remember that I'm obsessed with health care—we need it.

The nearly dead, 2006

Because of pre-existing conditions, we can't get insurance. But because of those same pre-existing conditions, we have a ton of medical bills. And we're getting even more. Dee's ambulance ride a couple of weeks ago cost $1300. (We got an automated call the day after his heart attack, demanding immediate payment!) Plus the hospital bill is $45,000 (not counting the emergency room, the cardiologist, or the anesthesiologist, whose bills are still in the mail.)

After meeting with the billing department, we received an "uninsured discount" of $11,000, which sounded generous until we remembered that we still had at least $34,000 that we're responsible for. On our way home from the hospital we stopped at the pharmacy. Ninety days worth of new meds cost $856! I'm not kidding. The pharmacist said, "Whoa. That's more than my house payment."

And, of course, there are all the ongoing pre-existing conditions. The heart problems are new. I could go on and on and on . . .

I've been surprised at the response we get when we voice our hopes for health care reform. People are openly rude about it. I've had friends look at me as if I supported terrorism! Some have been disbelieving, not of the situation, but of me. "Surely, if you just called somebody, there would be a logical way out of your predicament," they suggest. That's why people like us are calling the president. Everybody else hung up on us. (Frequently, it was the receptionist at the doctor's office.)

Today when I asked my ophthalmologist for a sample of the eye drops he says I can't stop using ($130 for 30 days) he gave me a tiny bottle and suggested I contact the drug company for "help." He might not realize that the paperwork each company requires (bank statements, tax returns, etc.) will indicate that we make too much (anything over $30,000) to qualify. And who wants to go through the equivalent of a refinance every time they need a prescription? (Here I am, going on and on again.)

Changes in health care won't help us. Medicare will have kicked in by the time anything actually happens, if it happens at all. But our experience is not unique or even uncommon. Millions of families are worried sick, wondering how they would weather a hailstorm of doctor bills. It's a scary way to live. I know.

Your anxieties are probably different than mine. Maybe you drove the ambulance, and you're worried that we can't pay you in time for your new baby.

Our newest baby.

Or maybe you're concerned that your premiums will go up if people with lots of diseases join your insurance group.

Amy sick in bed, 1985

I think your pains are as legitimate as mine. I hope I'd react sympathetically and listen with courtesy when we discussed it. We could respectfully talk it over, share thoughts and valid experiences, without shouting the rhetoric of hysteria. So, would either of us change our minds? That's debatable!

Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.

~What is a politically-charged issue you feel strongly about? Forget the rhetoric you've heard. Using your own words and experience, tell why this is important to you.

~Have you had a discussion/argument with a loved one recently? Write about it from the other person's point of view.

~Remember a class that had a significant impact on your personal philosophy of life. Think about the teacher, and send kindly thoughts.

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


tawnya said...

I'm a democrat living in Utah...I have a politically charged view every day of my life!

dalene said...

i learned from my father how to play the devil's advocate, and i do. but i often find myself in the uncomfortable position of being able to see both sides. i've also learned that most people don't really want to listen to both sides or to hear why you're passionate about something that is the opposite of what they're passionate about. so i usually keep my mouth shut (and believe me--this does not come to me naturally).

so today i will send kind, happy thoughts to all of my friends who have struggled or who have kids who struggle. they are the ones who taught me that the world is not black or white.

KJ said...

I just don't know why we don't utilize the free market to make health care affordable, privatizing insurance for more competition. the underlying principles of founding this grand country should be applicable in this case. my father is self employed and also has a heart condition. my mother has gazillions of (self-inflicted) health problems. They have insurance, but pay nearly $2000 per month for coverage. Not to mention their dozens of RX each month. Existing govt health care programs in other countries are very very flawed.

KJ said...

my assignment:

diane said...

I just want to mention how totally adorable you are in that first picture. Love tha Jackie O jacket.

You know I love a good debate.

Diane said...

I took a different tack -
wk 7 day 5
Have a great weekend!

Heather Scott Partington said...

Great post. I'm glad you're so honest about health care. I think people have a preconceived image of "the uninsured" and I think it colors how they think about the whole issue. We just finished watching "Sicko", oddly enough. Have you seen it? I'm not a big Michael Moore fan, but I found it fascinating. Thanks for speaking out about your experience. Here's to hoping that it moves things forward or makes someone feel just a little bit more like they're not the only ones. :)


I so appreciate your sharing your experience - to help make the issues real. What we need on the issues are open and honest debates where all sides of the issues are heard.

Misty said...

Well, it's been a nightmare of a week, so all I have to offer is here

And here
for Thursday's assignment.

Forgive me.

~j. said...

Start the clock: I wonder how many followers I'll lose over this one.

debby said...

a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

think like a lawyer