Look. I know. I know I promised to share my most awkward story today. I lied. I'm an awful nasty democrat who lies. And thinks progressively.*
There are a couple reasons why I am choosing not to tell the story today-
1. I related what I will now and forever more refer to as the "Incident" to a close friend a few days ago. She is in awkward-moment shock. She told me that if said Incident had ever happened to her, she would lock herself in a closet and never speak to anyone again. I figured that if the Incident generated this response in someone who didn't even experience it, I'd better think twice before sharing it with the Internet.
2. Yesterday I read possibly the most depressing adolescent lit. novel of all time. Horribly depressing. So instead of writing about my Incident, I'm going to do a little short book review. And then we're going to talk about SCHIP. POLITICS ARE COMING. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The offender: Catalyst, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Now don't get me wrong. Anderson is a brilliant, thoughtful, and significant writer. When I read her book Speak, a few years ago, I was put in complete shock. I've never read an adolescent novel so provocative and beautifully written. I still cry every time I read it. If I am ever in charge of school curriculum, I will make Speak required reading for everyone in the district, teachers included. I also recently read Twisted which is equally stunning.
My problem with Catalyst concerns the complete lack of hope throughout the novel. One of the things Anderson excels at is depicting the struggles of today's teens while maintaining the idea that somehow, her characters will prevail in the end. Catalyst suffers from a complete lack of hope, or even catharsis. I went to high school. I know that there is not always a happy or satisfying ending to life or novels. But there usually is some sense of catharsis, a closure, or some hint that redemption is still possible, however far off. Catalyst's conclusion may have attempted this, but I'm afraid it was too little too late situation. The writing was true to Anderson's fluid, skillful style, but I just couldn't get attached to the protagonist without wishing to slit my wrists. I'm very sad. I had to take one of my candles off my Anderson shrine and move it back under the one I built for Chaim Potok. I hate it when I have to rearrange my literary shrines.
I'm going to try and segue this to some thoughts I had on a slightly different subject. In Catalyst, one of the things Anderson does succeed at is using words to evict a very emotional reaction.
In the media, especially the political media, people manipulate words in a similar manner, often hoping to evict very emotional response that takes away from the facts and logical thinking. No where have I seen this applied more accurately than in the current debate about SCHIP (children's health care program.)
In order to take away from a very good idea (Can anyone really truly believe that children do not deserve health care? Truly?) Conservative Republicans start throwing out some very scary, very inaccurate emotion-words. Let's call them emotowords. I like making up words.
The following is some emotowords used against SCHIP and the actual facts I found with a little bit of research. And by research, I mean an excellent article by Jane Bryant Quinn of Newsweek magazine. The title of her article is "The Kids Aren't All Right." Read it.
1. ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. SCHIP helps illegal immigrant children! Oh No!
Fact- SCHIP doesn't even cover legal immigrants until they have lived in the U.S. for five years.
2. SOCIALISM!!! If we give all the children health care, we'll have to insure every American! That's socialism! Bad! Hitler was a Socialist!
Fact- SCHIP works a lot like Medicare, government funded but privately run. States contract with insurance companies, and patients can usually choose their own doctors, programs, co-pay situations, ect.
3. IT ACTUALLY HELPS RICH ADULTS!!!! Lots of people claim that SCHIP is manipulated to cover adults far above the poverty level, as well as their not-starving-yet children, those little smucks.
Fact- Only 10 percent of people covered my SCHIP are adults. They are insured under waivers APPROVED BY THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, You know, back when he cared about kids. The remainder are pregnant women. The conservative-right is always rambling about the lives of the "unborn." If they want those unborn children to actually make it through labor and delivery, they may want to reconsider their stance on insuring their mothers.
4. EXPENSIVE! 35 billion is too much for our kids!
Fact- We just spent 200 billion on a war that is clearly not working. And Bush wants 40 more this year. 40 more could keep SCHIP running for 5 more years. Five years of children getting the health care they need.
Next time you hear emotowords, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, SOCIALISM, EXPENSIVE, ect. consider what those words are hiding. In this case, their hiding a bunch of underprivileged kids who can't see a doctor when they get sick.