By Amelia Bonow
If Dr. Michael Fine had his way, he would see and care for everyone free of charge: no cost for maternal care and newborn deliveries, vaccinations, all doctor visits; free or nearly free medications, treatments, and necessary special medical care.
State-licensed doctors, nurses, therapists, healthcare workers, and other ancillary workers would all be paid pretty much what they make now. University-level health education would be without charge to students. Every place would have a clinic, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day for delivering care as needed by people in their community.
Rhode Island-based family medical specialist Fine writes in his new book, "Health Care Revolt," that $1 trillion is spent unnecessarily for healthcare that should be spent instead on education, parks, libraries, community centers, and other amenities needed by the public.
This is the part of healthcare glut that Fine believes is our lost legacy to democracy. Dr. Fine believes that democracy depends upon a safe and peaceful society that shares its prosperity.
Imagine a society that eradicates homelessness, alleviates physical pain and mental suffering, empties our prisons of those addicted to chemical substances and treats them instead. Imagine, too, a society that embraces the conflicting ideas of all people so as to find a way to put an end to fighting, killing, and war-making.
So as to make our places more peaceful, there’s a lot we can and should imagine to make connections between ourselves and other people, and to become more satisfied living with each other.
Dr. Fine argues that we cannot make our world a safe, peaceful, and healthy place to live if we continue to allow powerfully wealthy agencies to abscond a trillion here for military contractors and a trillion there for healthcare magnates. It should be no wonder that the planet faces terrible outcomes of global warming when so much is spent lobbying for fossil fuel and military interests; surprisingly, spending by healthcare lobbyists exceeds petroleum and military interests combined.
Dr. Fine writes that we should “resuscitate democracy.” That’s a curious metaphor to use for a country that prides itself on exporting democracy. It’s actually a serious indictment: Fine claims that we have a few decades to reign in global warming, but not so with healthcare.
Market-based healthcare systems, including the insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospital systems (whether for-profit or not,) physician groups, durable medical equipment makers and distributors, as well as other, adjuvant healthcare entities compose a wobbly house of cards too weak to stand longer than just a few more years.
His solution is to wed individual and public health planning. Like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other; well, you can, but that’s not the way the song goes, and it’s illustrative of Fine’s approach to health system planning.
Because it’s based upon a market system, healthcare is a commodity, and, one could say, so, too, are the patients, doctors, and treatments. Our current economic system depends upon markets, supply, and demand.
But the best characteristic of public goods are that they are not commodities. Police services, fire services, public education, libraries, parks, community centers, and all our public agencies are just that: public. These are not markets, nor do they behave as markets that reflect simple metrics of supply and demand.
Dr. Fine writes that doctors, patients, and the people in our communities need to stand up and revolt against this inhuman, market-based, supply and demand health system. He wants to build a community-based health system that meets local needs.
Dr. Michael Fine wrote "Health Care Revolt," published on PM Press in 2018. He will speak at the Shriners Auditorium in Sacramento, California, on Friday, Nov. 16 from 6-9 p.m. On a later panel he will be joined by former Northern California Veterans Hospital Director Dr. David Siegel and physician assistant/health care activist Keith McCallin.
Autumn 2018 is shaping up to be the season of the witch.
In the context of the ongoing Mueller investigation and recent concerns about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump and his supporters have invoked the idea of a “witch hunt” again and again. In 2018 alone, Trump has tweeted the term 112 times, and Lindsay Graham mocked a Kavanaugh protestor by suggesting that they may as well “dunk [Kavanaugh] in water and see if he floats.” The media has also kept pace: the New York Times, for example, has printed the term “witch hunt” a remarkable 336 times so far in 2018, which more than triples the rate of its use prior to 2016.
One of the defining characteristics of a witch hunt is its dependence on confabulated “evidence.”
The term has so pervaded U.S. political discourse that it is therefore worth remembering where it comes from, which also offers an opportunity to reflect on how its present use may work a political dark magic all its own.
There are witch stories from all over the world, and Europe experienced periodic paroxysms of witch-hunting into the eighteenth century, but the most famous North American witch hunt took place in Salem Village (present-day Danvers, Massachusetts) in 1692–93. There is a rich historiographic literature on the Salem witch trials, viewing these events through various historical, psychological, and economic lenses, but in broad terms, accusations involving a handful of young women mushroomed into a grotesque travesty that claimed the lives of twenty innocent people.
As with other witch hunts, this bitter injustice happened because the court of law elected to credit “spectral evidence.” That is, the court accepted as evidence claims that the defendant harmed the victim in visions and dreams. Cotton Mather played a significant role in the Salem witch trials in no small part because he had previously written about the ability of witches to project a spectral vision of themselves and afflict their victims remotely. After Salem, he continued to espouse this belief, detailing in his The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) how a witch’s victim can be “assaulted with Instruments of Iron wholly unseen to the standers by.”
In a sense, Mather was more right than he knew when he insisted that to hunt a witch one must embrace the spectral. Indeed, this is one of the defining characteristics of a witch hunt, its dependence on confabulated “evidence.”
Arthur Miller reflected deeply on this when he wrote The Crucible. In his 1996 New Yorker essay “Why I Wrote The Crucible,” he notes that he was drawn to the notion of “spectral evidence” and how it created a “poisoned cloud of paranoid fantasy” in which the strangest accusations “made a kind of lunatic sense to them.”
For Miller, the use of spectral evidence to destroy lives served as a powerful metaphor of the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which, with the encouragement of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, hounded politicians, academics, celebrities, and other public figures while chasing vague rumors of Communist sympathizers. As in Salem, these persecutions moved some to accuse others as evidence of their innocence. Only Ethel Rosenberg was killed by the state in this witch hunt, but many careers and lives were destroyed. Miller’s play has been remarkably popular, a staple of high school reading lists, and, as Miller wrote in 1996, “it is only a slight exaggeration to say, that, especially in Latin America, The Crucible starts getting produced wherever a political coup appears imminent.” It is thanks in large part to the perennial popularity of Miller’s play, and the aptness of its metaphor, that the term “witch hunt” now pervades our political vocabulary.
However, today’s revival of the term is problematic because it gets the metaphor so wrong: though they wish to dismiss it as spectral, Trump and his cronies face real, non-spectral evidence that is stacking up against them. Likewise, Christine Blasey Ford testified that she was assaulted by the real Brett Kavanaugh, not a specter of him.
Trump and his cronies face real, non-spectral evidence that is stacking up against them. Likewise, Christine Blasey Ford testified that she was assaulted by the real Brett Kavanaugh, not a specter of him.
This incorrect use of the term “witch hunt” matters for two reasons.
In her new monograph, Witches, Witch Hunting and Women, Silvia Federici condemns the commercialization of sites of witch hunts in Europe: “Sites of famous trials and persecutions that led to the execution of dozens of women are now parading in shop after shop doll-like representations of witches.” In Salem, the exploitation of this suffering is perhaps still more extreme, especially around Halloween. The trials have become a major part of the town’s culture and economy, unimpeded by the small detail that Danvers, one town over from present-day Salem, was the actual site for most of the witch trials. Trivializing the death of those convicted of witchcraft—mainly women—is a form of violence, and Federici challenges us to consider that “denouncing the commerce made of women’s bodies and their death to boost tourism” is an important step in toppling patriarchal domination. By extension, one could argue that the flagrant misuse of the term “witch hunt” as a political meme also abuses the memory of those who were actually hunted as witches.
But even as Trump’s persistent denunciations of the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” trivializes the deaths of accused witches, it also performs the sleight of hand of making the accusations against the president’s camp seem trivial and baseless. In order for Trump’s “witch hunt” claims to be true, the evidence against him would have to have no empirical basis. The future and outcome of the Mueller investigation is impossible to predict, but it is safe to say that Mueller’s team has collected evidence that does not come from dreams and visions. Therefore, when Trump insists that he is the victim of a witch hunt, we would be wise to see this as a prime example of another current meme: gaslighting.
By Liza Featherstone
October 25th, 2018
Women are staring down the barrel of a conservative Supreme Court that will likely dismantle Roe v. Wade. Abortion, as a right, is already hobbled, with many states essentially regulating it into oblivion.
Faced with increased career opportunities but a lack of support systems, women are postponing or refusing motherhood. I think that an awareness of the falling birthrate will soon reach the people in power. To me, this all seems like a perfect storm. Should we expect an even more brutal backlash against reproductive rights?
As a career-focused 30-year-old woman with no plans for a baby, I feel as though I should be making arrangements. What if my current methods of birth control fail? I’ve already started mapping states that will outlaw abortion—and mine, Texas, tops the list. Should I save money for emergency travel?
I have no sense of how far this backlash will go. What do you think the state, and our society, are actually capable of?
Actually, says feminist activist Jenny Brown, the author of Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work, which will be published next year by PM Press, “we’re already experiencing this.”
In Birth Strike, Brown argues that the crackdown on women’s reproductive rights is a response, on the part of US policy-makers, to our declining birth rate. The ruling class worries that when women stop having babies, the smaller workforce will mean rising labor costs. Instead of improving the conditions for parenthood through universal child care and health care, free college tuition, more generous family leave, and higher wages, our elites have seized on what is, for them, a far less expensive solution: forced procreation.
With women holding significant social power, we’re unlikely to wind up living in The Handmaid’s Tale, or even in the pre-1970s United States, an era when my mother needed her husband’s permission to get her own library card. However, with right-wingers controlling Congress, the White House, and many state governments, our reproductive rights are under attack. The good news, according to Brown, is that “women are already taking this into their own hands. There’s never been a better time to have a DIY abortion.” Given where you live, preparing to exercise this option would be smart.
In South Texas, as the restrictions tighten, there is an extensive black market in abortion pills from Latin America (check out the flea markets). But for more reliable drugs and support, look into an organization called Aid Access, run by doctors and abortion-rights activists, which has been shipping abortion pills to women in the United States for the last six months. The group’s website includes information on how to take the abortion pills safely, and Aid Access even offers Skype consultations.
Such DIY measures not only help you, Gileadean; they can also, Brown emphasizes, become a force for change. In Ireland, when abortion was illegal, the prevalence of women performing it themselves “freaked out the authorities and also made a mockery of the law.” This greatly boosted the momentum for legalization, which succeeded—by a landslide—in a referendum this past May.
Watching the Kavanaugh hearings sucked. In the past, I was assaulted, although not sexually, and very few people believed me. Yet many of the people who didn’t, including feminist women, were tweeting and posting all over the place against Kavanaugh. I “liked” and boosted important content without regard for this past history, but it’s sticking in my throat. I can’t do anything about either the assault or the abuse without risking my position and my livelihood. I am going to therapy for PTSD, but is that even going to work when I’m stuck collaborating with these people? Even my goal in therapy is just to be able to better cope with a world where I will inevitably be called upon to give more compassion and solidarity than I receive.
During the week of the Kavanaugh hearings, says Dr. Christie Jackson, a psychologist specializing in trauma, all of her patients spoke about them. And since the hearings, she reports, many more victims of violence are seeking therapy.
Not being believed “makes it incredibly hard to heal,” says Dr. Jackson, who has a clinical practice in New York City. But you can exercise more control over both your digital and professional environments.
You certainly don’t have to “like” or repost content from people who didn’t believe you, Unheard. In fact, you should take steps not to see their posts, especially during a high-profile event of this kind. Facebook’s “unfollow” feature is your secret weapon: It renders the offending person’s posts invisible to you without them knowing.
While you may—like most people—have less control over your work environment than your electronic one, you can and must set some boundaries there as well. If people in your workplace have tormented you, Dr. Jackson says, your therapist can help you work on how to “be polite, but keep your distance,” as well as to set limits on their behavior. You have a right, online and off, to live free of abuse.
Most urgently, you deserve solidarity and deserve to be believed. Research shows that social support is what we need most when recovering from assault. It’s crucial that you find a few people—whether a partner, co-workers, friends, or a PTSD support group—who believe you.To that end, remember that even as social media present painful dilemmas, they’re also a source of collective love. What if you were to post on Facebook—in vague terms, of course—about seeing people who didn’t believe you virtue-signaling their support for other assault victims? You could set the post so that only a select few would see it. If this seems too risky, what about posting on how tough it is to weather a public #MeToo event as a person suffering from PTSD? Either way, you will likely be flooded with supportive messages from people who do believe you.