When I was in seventh grade, one of my best friends was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes. To me, that was weird. I didn’t know or comprehend how kids could get a disease meant for old people. I didn’t really understand why he had to prick his stomach every time he came to sleep over. I didn’t completely grasp why he couldn’t spend as much money because his medicine was too expensive. At 13, I wondered why my friend was different. At 21, I am mortified that this is the norm.
According to a study published by the American Public Health Association, 530,000 people file for bankruptcy due to medical debt annually. Every year, according to a study conducted by Harvard School of Medicine and Cambridge Health Alliance, working-age uninsured Americans have a 40% higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts. It also showed that about 45,000 people die annually from lack of health insurance.
In the wake of a big Joe Biden night on Super Tuesday, I come here to tell you that the stakes are too high for the status quo. A Joe Biden presidency would change none of the institutions that so desperately need overhaul. But don’t take this as conjecture from me, take it from the former vice president himself, in a speech he made to his wealthy donors in New York he says, “No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.” That terrifies me, and you should feel the same.
If nothing fundamentally were to change, what does that mean? It means that wealth inequality would continue to rise to the staggering levels where the richest 10% of households own 70% of wealth. It means that people would continue dying from lack of health insurance coverage or be forced into thousands of dollars in crippling medical debt. It means that the student loan debt that burdens millions of young Americans every single day would still be outstanding and our children would not be given access to the education that they rightly deserve. But, most importantly, it would mean that our planet will continue burning. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that limiting global warming to the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) mark by the end of the century — a goal set to stave off the worst impacts of climate change — “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
Biden supporters argue that his candidacy would be a return to civility in Washington, a commitment to decency and empathy that President Trump has left the capital so devoid of within the past four years. But to me, and to my friend with diabetes, it makes no difference. So my ask is this, take a look around and listen. Listen to the stories of those who understand politics as more than just the point of heated discussion at the Thanksgiving table. Understand it for what it is. If my friend cannot afford his insulin, he will die. That is the premise that underlies all the political debates. This election is far too important to view politics as the horse race game the media and talking heads on CNN make it out to be. Talk about viability, endorsements, civility and decency seems rather inconsequential when a loved one dies because the health insurance system in this country told them they weren’t worthy enough to save because they couldn’t afford it. That’s where I find the difference with voters who consider themselves ‘moderate.’ This distinction at any other time could be seen as commendable, but in the here and now, it is exactly what Dr. King so vividly warned us to be wary of in that famed jail cell in Birmingham.
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’”
Please don’t kill my friend. The stakes are far too high.
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Arjun Ahuja is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.