By Emily C.
Good morning. How are you? Is it cold in your part of the country? Have you had snow this year?
I’m afraid the divide between you and me is so vast that I don’t know how to begin a conversation. I’m worried that you won’t take me seriously. That you won’t know how to listen to what I have to say. I’m worried that I won’t know how to listen to what you have to say, either. I’ve lived in big liberal cities my whole life. I’ve traveled the coasts of the US and I’ve traveled to Europe many times, but I’ve hardly ever been south of the Mason Dixon line in our own country.
I want to say up front that have a lot of assumptions about you, Trump voters, as a group: that you don’t value education very much, that you’re super Christian and go to church all the time, that you’re white and all your friends and family members are white too. That you’re racist, either actively or passively (you’re passively racist, in my mind, if you think it’s OK to elect racists to public office because you support the other aspects of their policy positions). Now you know that that’s where I’m coming from.
Will it help if I tell you a little about myself? I guess it can’t hurt. I’m a white woman, I’m 35 years old and I’m a biologist. I’m lucky (privileged, actually) to have been born with two parents who are not only financially secure but also very well educated. I grew up having everything I needed: a comfortable home, a good school, parents who encouraged me to study hard and supported me to the best of their abilities, and good healthcare for me and my loved ones whenever it was needed. Of course, there were struggles, too. My parents had a difficult marriage and split up when I was nine, leading to a long and painful custody battle. My brother and I suffered. Neither of my parents had close ties to their extended families, so I never experienced the support of loving grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins. We didn’t have any religious affiliation either, or belong to any tight community groups. So there were a lot of moments of loneliness. Maybe because of that, I put all the energy I could into my studies. Going to college, and then to graduate school in biology, are the two most important decisions I’ve ever made. Achieving success in my career has taken hard work and a hell of a lot of patience, but it has been worth it. Now I have a job that I really love: I’m working at a large university hospital using the latest cutting-edge techniques in biotechnology to try to save patients from deadly bacterial infections. It’s a privilege to do something that I know will help a lot of people to stay healthy.
There are many things that scare me about Donald Trump and the things he is doing to our country, but I want to tell you about one thing I know for sure as biomedical researcher: we can’t be a truly healthy country unless every one of our citizens has full access to good quality healthcare. The tools that we (doctors and scientists) have to treat disease today are remarkable. We can replace failing organs, we can cure a lot of cancers if they’re caught early enough, we can prescribe medicines that let people live long and happy lives even if they have diabetes, or heart disease, or HIV, or MS, or many other conditions. What’s tragic to doctors and nurses and biologists like me is when we have the ability to help someone, but not the opportunity. We would like nothing more than to know that everyone in our country (and the rest of the world, too) can access the medicines and therapies we’ve worked so hard to develop. But when someone doesn’t have health insurance and isn’t getting regular check-ups, they’re likely to end up in the ER with a disease that’s already progressed significantly, making it much harder to treat.
The heart of the problem is that for-profit insurance companies are taking the work we’ve done developing treatments for diseases and trying to turn it into corporate profits. That’s not how we should think about medical care. President Obama recognized this problem. And I can tell you, beyond any doubt, that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), although it isn’t perfect, went a long way towards making that the case in the USA. Within a few years of the start of the ACA, over 10 million more Americans had health insurance. And we can do even better, if we let the ACA stay in place and figure out how to expand it.
In fact, let me go a step further and point out that the medical research that I do for a living is largely supported by taxpayer money. When you consider that, I hope you’ll realize what an outrage it is that the research you pay for is being used to increase profits for insurance companies while those people who can’t get insurance are left to suffer even when treatment might be available. Doesn’t that make you angry? It makes me furious. This is just one of many reasons why I’ve been protesting Donald Trump and his policies. But it’s a big one. And I hope that maybe it will matter as much to you as it does to me.
Thank you for reading this far, Trump Voters. I hope we can continue to talk. Have a good day, and a happy and healthy 2017.
P.S. I want to add one more thing, just in case this makes an impact: two of my great grandparents were refugees from Syria who came to the United States in the early 20th century. If not for the this country’s willingness to accept struggling strangers and provide them with basic human needs including a good education for their children, my family’s history might have been very, very different. Today’s refugees and other immigrants are tomorrow’s regular, hard-working, productive American citizens – that’s the main thing that has always made this country great.
About the writer
Emily is a biologist living in California.
If you would like to respond to Emily’s piece, please send it to I.firstname.lastname@example.org, and make sure to put Emily’s name in the subject line.