John McCain’s Illness is a Tragedy—and That’s Why The Healthcare Debate Matters

John McCain seems like a good and decent man, and his Cancer diagnosis is horrific. It’s the kind of news that makes you sick to your stomach; a tragedy for his family that rivals little else. It would be horrific, sickening, tragic news even of he weren’t a good and decent man, even if he wasn’t a public figure, even if his name carried no resonance in the larger population. He is a human being, up against an urgent and violent threat—and this should deeply move each of us. Politics and religion should burn away in the light of the fire he is facing, because we recognize how fragile and fleeting life is.

And that’s why talking about healthcare in the wake of this terrible news isn’t disrespectful, it isn’t in poor taste, and it isn’t political opportunism—it’s the damn point. The personal hell that John McCain and his loved ones are walking through right now is the point of it all.

These moments are precisely what we’re talking about, arguing about, screaming about:
The atomic bomb of grief that gets dropped on your family when you get the test results and your planet is altered forever.
The abject terror that befalls you when someone you love is facing a literal fight for their continued existence—and all you want is for them to win it.
The swirling storm that rushes in and overwhelms you; a million questions about outcomes and treatments and percentages and nightmare scenarios.
The bottom immediately dropping out of your sense of peace and safety and normality.
Feeling like everything is suddenly caving in—and at the very least, you hope you won’t lose everything you have trying to keep someone you love alive.

This is a universal disaster, one none of us are strangers too. If you’ve logged time here, you have names and faces attached to your terrible stories, to your miraculous recoveries, to your answered prayers, to your endless grieving. This is why this matters.

John McCain deserves life. He deserves to have every available resource exhausted to try and make him well. His family deserves this. His wife and his children deserve it. The people who treasure him deserve it. They deserve it, not because he’s wealthy or known or “important”—but simply because he’s loved by someone who wants more time with him. That’s enough for me. Every human being deserves this. Every spouse and every child and every treasured person.

John McCain is priceless to those he loves and who love him—as priceless as the people you love are to you, as you are to them.
He is a household name, but every one of us is a household name to someone whose life is defined by our presence and who would be decimated by our absence.

Accessible healthcare is something we need to talk about now, because Cancer is an equal-opportunity bastard who cannot be defeated without help; because life-threatening illness is a bully that knocks the hell out of you and those who care about you, because we are all terrified of dying and want to know that we won’t be left alone if it all hits the fan.

I want John McCain to live. I want him to get to spend more time with those who would grieve his loss in ways I’ll never understand. But I want this for you too. I want it for your father and your children and your friends. I want it for those I love. I want it for people I agree with and people I don’t.

We should be for one another. We should fight for each other’s life with all that we have.

This is what America does when it is at its best.



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124 thoughts on “John McCain’s Illness is a Tragedy—and That’s Why The Healthcare Debate Matters

  1. To all of you who voted GOP, third party, or didn’t bother to vote, you are responsible for what the Senate did today.

    You have murdered me, my mother, and 32 million of your fellow citizens which will include people you care about.

    Fairly confident that all in the Trinity and the entire host of heaven are weeping right now.

    • Gloriamarie, “You’ll be happy to know the Senate voted down a straight-out repeal this evening. What they had agreed on was a debate on the bill. Oh, and the vote this evening was a clear indication of how much the Republicans need to overcome. They needed 60 votes and received only 47.

      BTW, I think many believe Congressmen get their health care free. They don’t. They have to pay for insurance just like most of us.

      • Which is a gigantic relief, Rainsong, but the danger is still there. We must not give up the fight.

        If I said anything to lead you to believe that our Congress folk get free health insurance, I apologize. I was trying to say that arguably, members of Congress have the best possible health insurance in the USA.

        On my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, I have posted some very specific actions we can all take to keep them from mucking up the ACA. Unless they vote to turn it into single payer

    • Gloriamarie:

      I may be in the same boat. My meds if I had to pay for them would cost me some four thousand dollars every month. They are the only thing keeping me alive. But nobody in the alt right gives a good Goddamn about it.

      • Scott, I know you well enough to know that it is as true of you as it is for mom and I and I am sorry for it.

        I don’t think it is merely the white supremacists (I refuse to dignify their existence by allowing them to claim that they are an alternative right). I think the entire Right, all the neocons, most of the Religious Right, have all voted in such a way as to murder so many of their fellow citizens.

        May they repent and confess their sin and take reparative action before it is too late.

  2. McCain breaks from his cancer treatments to travel back in order to vote to remove healthcare from millions. I take back every bit of respect I had for him. He is not a hero, he’s a monster.

      • You are being intellectually lazy I my opinion. His speech was clear. He returned to vote to persevere with crafting a solution. He voted begin the debate, not to repeal or replace anything. Pay attention, and get out of your echo chamber periodically.

  3. We’re Made in the Image: A New Poem for Health Care for All

    By Carolyn Winfrey Gillette 7-26-2017

    [Editors’ note: Below is a hymn written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette about health care and God’s vision for our world. Unlike many of her pieces, this poem is not set to a familiar tune.]

    We’re Made in the Image

    We’re made in the image

    The Message expresses,

    The Good News attests

    That we’re formed out of sod,

    That we’re made every one,

    Every daughter and son,

    Every wandering one,

    All the faithful and funny,

    The thin and the brawny,

    The fearful, the hopeful,

    The cloudy, the sunny,

    The sinning, the grieving,

    The brave and the stumbling—

    We’re made in the image of God.

    Health care not fair don’t care too bare

    Leaving out the poor

    The children and the elders

    Like mountainous boulders

    Come crashing and crushing

    The middle class women

    Who struggle at paying,

    The men who are broken,

    The children, the hungry—

    Want to see a doctor

    For low fare—

    Hearing: don’t care,

    Go there,

    Wait for the doctor,

    The medicine, the money—

    Go get Medicaid.

    Wait your turn honey,

    Time now to be afraid

    Of what’s in front of me?

    Is there hope for me?

    People been saving

    People been slaving

    All of their lives,

    Now they realize

    Spend it down, hit the ground,

    We’re caring for the greedy,

    The wealthy and the haughty,

    For they say they’re the worthy,

    The high and the mighty—

    No room for the sick

    The nursing home mama

    The struggling papa.

    No — those in power,

    The mighty of the hour,

    Look what they say:

    Just take away, take away,

    Take away more

    Take from the poor—

    Don’t keep score

    Don’t take notice

    When the rich seek more.

    Then we hear the Message:

    We’re made in the image,

    The good news attests

    That we’re made by the One

    Who created and blessed us.

    We’re made in the image

    Of the One who loves us.

    We’re made in the image of God.

    In the words of Isaiah

    We see God’s vision—

    It’s more than wishing

    it’s a way of living.

    For God is creating

    A joy and delight.

    They’ll be no more weeping

    In the deep of night.

    No more distressing

    No children dying

    From the great transgression

    Of the greedy and the haughty,

    They’ll be love and beauty

    They’ll be justice for all to see.

    As children live,

    So the elders too,

    Will become like youth—

    They’ll be healthy, strong,

    And they’ll live life long

    They’ll build homes to inhabit,

    They’ll have feasts of food

    In the neighborhood,

    Never bearing for calamity

    But living in society

    Healthy and strong

    Living all life long

    Not in health care danger

    Not in fear or hunger—

    LIke the days of the tree

    Will the days of the people be:

    The wolf and the lamb

    Will feed together

    Every son and daughter

    Blessed by God the Father.

    They’ll be love and justice

    As the daily practice

    As we live together

    As the people of God.

    For we’re made in the image,

    Sure as grows the sod,

    All are made in the image of God.

    Based on Genesis 1:27; Isaiah 65:17-25

    Text: Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Carolyn gives permission for free use (printing or performing) of this poem to those who support Sojourners.

  4. One thing Senator McCain does NOT have to worry about in the throes of all the life-upending stressors and trauma of receiving this cancer diagnosis, is the worry about how he will pay for his care. Senators have the benefit of a stellar health plan that is completely different from what they are voting on for the American people. Until we pass a law making our government (including Congress) utilize the very same health plan options that they foist upon the American people, I’m afraid we’ll get nowhere. Without skin in the game, few will show the courage John McCain showed in his recent vote. I wish him the best possible outcome with his illness, and my thoughts are with his family.

  5. I am more taken back by Trumps remarks about John McCains service that he still has not apologized for. A man who could have left the horrific torturous camp that he and his brothers in arms were held captive for 4 years but chose instead to stay with his brothers. Trump is an arrogant bleeding yellow belly COWARD who has never in his life faced anything close to something like this in his spoon fed life. And I am holding back.

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