My ass hurts.
I fell down the stairs last night. Or more exactly, both feet slid out from under me, landing me hard on my ass.
Anybody who has ever bruised their coccyx knows how painful the initial trauma can be, and as I lay at the bottom of the stairs for a few minutes, gasping for air and attempting to assess the true extent of my injury, I couldn’t help but think about how something as pedestrian as a comfy new pair of woolen socks slipping on the carpet could absolutely change a person’s life.
In a nation where access to health care has traditionally been tied to employment, even a relatively minor illness or household injury can set off a cascade of events that leads from a middle class lifestyle to despair. Be it a tumble down the stairs, a slip in the bathtub or a torn up knee during a beer-belly softball match, everyday injuries can quickly put white and blue collar workers alike out of a job. And with the loss of employment so too goes the health insurance… assuming you were fortunate enough to have health benefits in the first place.
One minute you’re kissing your daughter goodnight, and the next minute you’re writhing at the bottom of the stairs, having taken the first clumsy step toward toward economic uncertainty.
We hear a lot in the US about the need for individuals to take personal responsibility for their actions. “Why should I have to pay for your child’s education?” we’re often asked. “Why should I have to pay for your health care, or your buses, or to regulate the safety of products you’re too stupid avoid?”
“I’ve worked hard for my money,” the familiar conservative refrain goes, “so why should I have to pay for the consequences of your bad choices?”
Bad choices. You know, like choosing to fall down the stairs.
As it turns out I’ve likely suffered little more than a couple of nasty contusions, so I guess I was lucky. I don’t have statistics in front of me, so I don’t know how often a broken wrist or an injured back or a blown out knee ultimately leads to a person losing everything they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve, but you know it happens, and it happens every day.
So honestly, selfishly resent all you want the notion of a social welfare state, but don’t give me any of that personal responsiblity crap. It’s a bigger pain in my ass than… well… my ass.