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Bad News, Good News

September 8, 2009

“The bad news: there is no key to the universe.  The good news: it was never locked.”Swami Beyondananda (aka Steve Bhaerman)

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Bill Cosby

Complaining about being overwhelmed by life’s choices and challenges has become a preoccupation of our globalized society, and a convenient excuse we rely on when we choose not to choose.  We can dwell on the fact that we live in a confusing world that sends us mixed signals and imposes competing demands on us, or we can see all this complexity and ambiguity as an opportunity to think and act strategically by applying our values to the problems before us.

The alternative situation, one in which life’s challenges are simple and brutal, afflicts many more people on our planet.  The struggle to acquire and maintain the necessities of life remains the daily and unending lot of more than half the world’s population.  In their world, the choices are both limited and generally unsatisfactory.

We can lament the fact that we have more choices than time to determine which one works best, or we can recognize our choices are an endowment and a blessing.  Still have doubts?  Ask anyone afflicted by a serious illness which of the following they would prefer: access to basic health care or a choice of health insurance and treatment options.

The universe of health care options available to Americans and their policymakers is not some great puzzle that needs to be solved.  But if it were, we would have to accept that some pieces will not fit and some have already been lost.  The real choice before us is not about where to place the pieces to get the picture “right,” but rather whether or not to continue working on the puzzle at all.

Deciding to sweep the pieces off the table and put the box away is always an option, and it’s the one that requires the least courage and effort on our part.   For most Americans, this decision would make little difference, at least in the short-term.   But for the voiceless and vulnerable, this is a life or death choice that lies not in their hands but in ours.

Rather than laboring over the choices before us, we should stop trying to satisfy everyone and do what we know is right even though it is not easy: We should choose to ensure that everyone has access to adequate basic health care.  If choice still matters, we can work on that next.

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