Published April 09, 2010
Plenty of ways to find positive change in new health care lawTHE OLYMPIAN
I've been thinking a lot about my grandpa lately. He was a child of the Depression, and his college-educated mother sold World Book Encyclopedias door-to-door with her kids in tow. For younger readers who might wonder what an encyclopedia is, it’s like Wikipedia except you have to open a book to get the information instead of clicking a mouse. Franklin Roosevelt was the only president he knew until high school. And though he just missed Tom Brokaw’s criteria for inclusion in “America’s Greatest Generation,” he did serve his country in what has been relegated to a footnote in history — the Korean War. I proclaim him a perfectionist, even though he would quickly dismiss such an accolade. He understood something I never did. No amount of flashcard drills or an endless supply of pencils and graph paper would unlock math’s mystery. But, no matter how many Sunday afternoons he spent with me patiently explaining to me that “pi,” in a geometrical sense, had nothing to do with dessert, nothing would deter him from helping me. When I left for college and went to say farewell, he didn’t have much to say beyond good luck. After we talked awhile about all my idealistic hopes and dreams bathed in the naiveté of my youth, he handed me a CD from Canadian songstress Anne Murray. We had, in fact, listened to her with some frequency during our Sunday math marathons. On this CD was the song “A Little Good News Today.” It’s true that admitting my affinity for this tune as a teenager while in the thralls of the Nirvana craze would have changed my status from social outcast to freak. Nonetheless, my grandpa encouraged me to embrace the song’s message of optimism as I navigated through a world without. Seattle’s grunge renaissance is a thing of the past, as are those Sundays filled with mind-numbing numbers, but one thing is the same: I’m still a freak. I proudly bestow this label on myself not simply because I prefer Anne Murray’s song over Lady Gaga, but because I actually believe in our collective need to find good news in a world that fixates on the bad. I believe that despite the political divide marked by red and blue — that somewhere in the silent space between a political pundit’s next spin, good news does, indeed, exist. Unfortunately, our myopic tendency to only accept news as truly good if no doubts or cynicism follow, obstructs our ability to see what good news may remain after the media does its slice and dice of the truth. The recent health care debate is a great example of this. Do I have concerns regarding how this nation will pay for this in the midst of a recession? Do I worry about the financial burden of this program on future generations? Do I wonder how this program will affect the quality of our health care? Yes, but even in the midst of my worry, I can also find good news. I celebrate that one day, very soon, insurance companies won’t be able to deny children with pre-existing medical conditions an opportunity to be insured. Because of this, choices like the one my parents made to accept abject poverty in order to qualify for Medicaid so that their son could have a wheelchair will hopefully be a thing of the past. And while the rest of this paper may be filled with its requisite tales of tragedy, despair and scandal, I really hope I did you proud, Grandpa, by sharing a little good news. Shawn Murinko is the state Department of Transportation’s ADA compliance officer and serves as a commissioner on the state Human Rights Commission. A member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, Murinko, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.