Recognizing Each Other

February 23, 2010

On Sunday, March 21, 2010, I had the privilege of hearing Melissa Harris-Lacewell deliver a sermon about recognition and empathy at the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of Princeton, NJ. Her message of how all people desire to be truly seen, acknowledged, and understood—and how progressive policies help this to occur—was still rolling through my mind when I read Roger Cohen’s piece in the New York Times this morning.

The Narcissus Society says exactly what I feel about providing health care for all in America, and it echoes what Ms. Lacewell said as well. In this beautiful essay, Mr. Cohen writes that the public option would “amount to recognition of shared interest in each other’s health.”

That interest, despite their weak claims to the contrary, is what I see lacking in Congressional Republicans. Just last night, I watched Chris Matthews of MSNBC ask a Republican why his party never introduced legislation to cover America’s uninsured. The answer was vague and had nothing to do with recognizing people; in fact, the answer was all about money.

When we see someone we know, we say “How are you?” and, while we may not want an extremely detailed report, we do mean what we ask. We care about the health of our family and friends. We need to care about everyone’s health, because everyone’s health affects how we are, too. That may sound like kindergarten talk, but it’s true. If you worry about your child getting swine flu, you need to worry about everyone else getting swine flu. There’s no way around it.

Thank you, Roger Cohen, for saying what I wish I had said. I hereby recognize you.

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