I watch enough crime dramas on television to know that a sure way to get to the truth of a (fictional, at least) mystery is to follow the money. When faced with bitterly divided argument in which those on either side are completely convinced they are absolutely correct, a similar philosophy holds true: follow the stories.
Talking points are carefully crafted. Juicy and tempting non sequiturs are volleyed back and forth by both sides without anyone challenging the other’s logic. Stories though, stories matter. Personal stories of people and experiences that beg the case for one side or other bring to light the reality of a situation. More often than not, the human factor is the most important piece of any argument, and it can so easily get lost in the yelling and the insults and the marketing.
My reasons for supporting Obamacare are all a part of my story: my family, my career, my tendency to always need Neosporan and a band-aid.
That said, I have not heard one story from an individual whose life will be made worse in some way by the Affordable Care Act. I’ve heard people say their principles will be violated, their personal interpretation of the Constitution threatened and their ideas of how the world works would be upset. No one has a compelling personal argument explaining how their life is good now, but will be made worse under the new law. And I have looked.*
What are available in abundance are the stories of people’s lives who are in desperate states because of a broken healthcare system. They are people who were denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and could not afford the medicine they need to survive. People who have had to quit their chosen careers to get a different job to just barely cover the medical expenses of their children. They are people who had an accident or illness that not only hurt them physically, but also swallowed them in debt. I have my own story of why the ACA is good for me and my family. So many people I know do. We are all depending on this program beginning in January, and we will all be hurt if it does not.
Stories – true stories, that is – of people’s experiences matter. They matter more than statements like, “I shouldn’t have to pay for your birth control” or “Obamacare is socialism.” Those are empty words about abstractions that do not have any real benefit to any real person. If those intangibles are more important to so many Americans than the true stories of their relatives, their neighbors and others, than I suppose those people are right about one thing: we do live in dark times in the US. When we’ve lost the ability to empathize with one another and support those in need, when the stories of others have lost their power, then we are in trouble indeed.
*There are people complaining about increased premiums, this is true, but those are all from before anyone even had the opportunity to even look at the healthcare exchanges that will allow them to shop for a better plan.