Nation - Compassion, practicality and health care

The wild, alarming statements for and against Health Care are becoming more intense. On Sunday night, the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill by a majority vote of 219-212.

Both sides feel justified in attacking the integrity of the other side. Democrats attack the integrity of Republicans. Republicans attack the integrity of Democrats. Both parties feel justified in their opinions. The real enemy in health care is the other party. And so it goes on and on. This seems to be true of every major change in the history of our nation. The other party was the enemy when women were awarded the right to vote. The other party was the enemy when the Civil Rights Act was passed. Before Lincoln became President of the United States he sarcastically stated that "could you ever think of a black man becoming President of the United States" in his arguments with Stephen Douglas about not seceding from the Union. He was trying to empathize with him so he wouldn't call for secession. Even our biggest heroes held ideas and opinions that today would permanently put them into "the hall of shame." Presidents and popes have been bigots and condemned their enemies with all possible sanctions regardless of what was right or wrong. This seems to be the dark side of human nature that continues to surface in times of conflict. And of course it is now surfacing very powerfully in the argument over Health Care Reform.

Yet, what is the most fundamental principle in life? Doctors take an oath "to do no harm." The Shema Israel of Jews is "To love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul and to love your neighbor as yourself." Christians piggy back on this principle and say, "By this shall all men know you are my disciples, by your love for one another" and "God is Love, and he/she who live in love, live in God and God lives in him or her." These same principles will be found in almost every religion in one form or another. The basic principle is to have compassion toward one another.

Yet when compassion costs money, principles go out the window. One side will voice to pass a health care bill but then that same party in congress will add so many self-interest appendages to a health care bill that one wonders what is happening to compassion. The other side will say that it costs too much money so let's ditch this bill but give no alternative to a compassionate health care bill for everyone. Money and higher taxes become the catch words and compassion is a forgotten word. Both sides forget about compassion in favor of self-interested practicality.

Just as no President will become the Saviour of the world which is proclaimed during every election season, so no health care bill will save the nation. Yet, what about getting back to the basics of compassion for our fellow traveler in this glorious United States of ours. Petty bickering by popular radio and television talk show stars really violates the principle of compassion. The most liberal and most conservative talk show celebrities really live in the same house. Those who are most critical of the other side seem to have forgotten what compassion really means, in my opinion. ( And of course this is an opinion to be considered not a truth to be embraced.)

Every law of congress passed and every discussion and debate about new bills to be passed should pass the test of compassion. Does this bill address the need for compassion for each other? Do we consider compassion for one another in our discussions and debates?

Any business that works with the public must first assess how compassionate they will be to their customers. If they are compassionate from the beginning and have a good product, they will usually succeed.. When a business, government, religion become large and very successful, compassion can easily turn into rigidity and condemnation of others who do not see things in the same exact way as the heads of the organization say things are. Revolutions and reformations have happened because the leaders did not carefully listen to the followers. Soon the followers become worn out, disenfranchised and decide to rebel. Of course they are then condemned for not obeying the party line. Usually these followers have just wanted to be heard with care and compassion. But of course in their revolution and reformation they eventually become leaders of another organization, religion, and political party and become the new rulers who find it so difficult to listen to their followers.

And so it continues until we take seriously the meaning of compassion. So how are you compassionate in your everyday life to every person who passes your way this day? This is where it all begins. Your words and actions given in kindness and compassion to others can change the world. But we can be so afraid to believe this!


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his Web site is

Published: Tue, Mar 23, 2010