Friday, May 19, 2017

Miss USA's answer on healthcare prompts the question: How was that even a question?

By Christina Czarcadoolis and Bridget Scallen 

photo courtesy of Daily Wired
That “all the world’s a stage” chimed true on Sunday evening at the Miss U.S.A. pageant. Our now-crowned bell, er, belle representing the nation’s capital, gave a response to a judge’s question about access to affordable healthcare. Her response set social media into a frenzy.  What did she mean?

Here at the Lab we too were intrigued by Kára McCullough’s use of the word “privilege” in her in-the-moment response and her later attempt to clarify. But we’d like to re-focus commentary on the judge’s question.

To set the stage: The pageant judge asks each contestant a different question.  The question to Miss McCullough: “Do you think affordable health care for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege, and why?”

Gone from beauty pageantry are saccarine questions like “What are your hopes for the world we live in?” – the proverbial “world peace” question.  Here the contestant must show their prowess with contemporary political and social issues. Is affordable health care a right or a privilege? 

Miss McCullough, who works as an emergency preparedness specialist in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, answers:
“I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege. As a government employee, I am granted health care. And I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs. So therefore, we need to continue to cultivate this environment that we’re given the opportunities to have health care as well as jobs to all the American citizens worldwide.”

The second part of Miss McCullough’s reply complicates her response, to the point that she almost contradicts her first statement. We're left wondering what she actually thinks about affordable healthcare, people and human rights.

She states: “We need to continue to cultivate this environment that we’re given the opportunities to have health care as well as jobs to all the American citizens worldwide.” Here she places the opportunity to access affordable health care and employment on the same plane, and seems to suggest that we as Americans need to create the conditions in which all U.S. citizens worldwide can thrive. Had she placed “jobs” before “health care”, we might have taken the liberty to infer she’s reiterating she is ok with affordable access to healthcare being contingent on a federal government employer.

And this sort of circular answer is what riled social media.  Is she for universal access to affordable health care, or not?
Tuesday she spoke to clarify herself on Good Morning America:  “But I would like to just take this moment to truly clarify. Because I am a woman, I’m going to own what I said. I am privileged to have health care and I do believe that it should be a right, and I hope and pray moving forward that health care is a right for all worldwide.”

BUT, as we said earlier, we’re less interested Miss McCullough’s in-the-moment, gee my nerves are getting the best of me, response.
Isn’t the heart of this issue the judge’s question, setting up access to health care as either a “right” or “privilege”? Miss McCullough’s selection of the word “privilege” rather than “right” characterizes the U.S. healthcare system as it is, a system in which, despite the Affordable Care Act and in an environment that threatens its continuation there remains great class divide between those who have affordable healthcare (good health insurance) and those who don’t.

Who is the judge to ask a person on a podium her opinion on something that’s essential, a basic right, for all Americans, for all human beings, to live a decent life of dignity? Are those two words “privilege” and “right” the best words to characterize how fundamental it is for people in the U.S. and everywhere to have access to affordable healthcare, for themselves, their families and friends, their communities, our country?

Imagine the judge asking one of the following:
 Do you think safe food for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege??”
Do you think access to safe drinking is a right or a privilege??”
Do you think access to decent school for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege??”
 Do you think fresh air for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege??”


Not to close on a downer, we leave you with a salute to our favorite answer, given by runner-up Miss New Jersey, Chhavi Verg, to the fifth and final question about whether social media is a positive or negative influence in our culture. She responds in no uncertain terms: “With great power comes great responsibility.”`