It’s a harsh thought, but entirely appropriate: If Tuesday’s Senate vote would have been to take away John McCain’s health insurance — facing brain cancer, how would he have voted?

How would his friends and colleagues?

But that wasn’t the vote the senators were taking. Not a vote on their own health and well-being, or that of their friends and family. No, they were voting for a faceless, anonymous, incorporeal entity they like to call “principle.”

And millions of real people — with names and faces and families and uncertain futures — suffer.

Person by person. Family by family.

We’re not talking principle here — we’re talking people.

And we’re not talking about people in the aggregate — not “the American people,” not “poor people,” not “the uninsured.”

The “middle-class” will never be diagnosed with melanoma.

My wife was.

The “American people” will never face cancer surgery.

My friend did.

“Principle” will never suffer a heart attack.

My dad did.

For a short while I thought McCain’s diagnosis might give a face to the faceless, but it didn’t.

So just for a few minutes, before the ladies and gentlemen of the House and Senate cast their votes to choose who will live and who will die — and make no mistake, that is exactly what these votes entail — let’s think about that.

Think about being sick. Think about not wanting to die.

Not wanting someone you love to die.

Think about not being able to pay enough to get well.

Think about having a price sticker attached to your life. Your child’s pain.

That’s what those votes entail.

Not principle. Not economics. Not policy.

Your child. Your mother.

Me. You.

All of us. Or almost all.

I suppose there is a point where money no longer is a concern. I’m pretty sure Donald Trump has reached it. He doesn’t worry about the bill when Barron catches cold.

A lot of people do. Fewer now than before Obamacare, but if things go as I fear they might, that number will be back with a vengeance.

And unless we’re among the Mar-a-Lago set, we could well be in that number.

All it takes is a job loss, a setback, a sudden bit of bad luck ... and “them” becomes “us.”

And without that policy number, life is a whole lot different. Even if you are among the responsible, the reasonably well off.

Consider: Cancer care and treatment can easily run past a million dollars. Drugs alone average more than $10,000 every month.

That’s a lot of charity chickencues.

It’s also your savings, your home and your dignity.

I’ve been there. I’ve dealt with medicrats whose first concern is “Who gets the bill?” rather than “Who’s sick?” Through the course of Gayle’s illness I opened those paper-heavy envelopes and paged through sheet after sheet of indecipherable codes and categories culminating in a bottom line cost that, had I been called upon to pay it, would have amounted to so much Monopoly money.

However, we were at a fortunate time. We had insurance. As a result, I still have a house, car and credit rating.

A few years earlier, when times weren’t so good for us, that wouldn’t have been the case.

I don’t like to wish ill on anyone, but had Sen. McCain’s policy lapsed in May, would he be seeing that vote differently? If Mitch McConnell’s granddaughter got Tylenol and sympathy because her mom couldn’t afford a visit to the pediatrician, might he have recognized a different set of principles?

But nobody throws charity chickencues when senators get sick.

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Jerome Christenson is deputy editor at the Winona Daily News. His phone number is 507-453-3522 — leave a message if he’s not around — or email at jerome.christenson@ winonadailynews.com.


(5) comments




I have long felt John McCain has serious character issues. While claiming to be a maverick and "his own man" he has spent his career in the Senate promoting an agenda that rewards elites and deprives the ordinary American. He also brought a 3rd rate little known governor into the spotlight and gave her a national platform to promote her agenda of hate and divisiveness. This is just another example of how low John McCain will stoop to "make a difference". Nice piece Jerome.


As someone who also has been thru the Cancer nightmare recently with my wife, I honestly cannot complain about the healthcare we have received. We have also received support thru family and a local group of backyard BBQ enthusiasts, that give directly to the cancer families. Our bills for chemo where $33,000 every 3 weeks and we had 6 mos of that & a major sternotomy surgery to remove a tumor in her chest. Politics or Politicians didn't help us a bit but having a job with good benefits sure did. If either side cared they would cure cancer altogether but I believe it is too much of a cash cow for anyone to really want to cure. Cancer is so random and non discriminating that it can get any one of us. Finding it early and crossing your fingers is about all you can do, to better your odds in fighting it. I wouldn't wish it on anyone .


"nailed it"


Thank you Jerome. The personal touch is important in this debate.

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