(Interview 7/2011. Oil on linen, 40 ins. x 30 ins.)
I reached out to this subject. I have not heard back yet. And so I will not use his name although he does not shy away from standing for his beliefs. He is a very prominent and active member of his state's Tea Party Patriots organization. I want his permission before I name him.
When I first started Art As Social Inquiry, I was hoping the distance anonymity created might help people enter and stay with difficult portrait stories. Experience has taught me otherwise. Knowing a person's name -- even just a first name -- creates intimacy and pulls the viewers into the stories, not the opposite. I learned this when the family of deceased portrait subjects always asked me to name their loved ones as a way to honor them. Naming the subjects in the stories drew me closer to them, and I knew viewers would feel the same.
Ten years have passed since I recorded this subject's opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Researchers have collected a lot of data in the intervening years. I will not use this space to rebuff his 2011 criticism of the ACA. Instead, I offer the views of a staunch opponent to healthcare reform as he expressed them in 2011.
The subject also believes that in establishing universal healthcare there is "an ulterior motive to turn the country socialist" by healthcare reformists and government officials who favor reform.
Artist's Note (from 2011)
This interview ran 4 hours. The subject and his wife welcomed me warmly into their home. The subject was outspoken. And, as I said to him in a letter, he walks his talk. By that I mean he states his views, tells his story and allows his portrait to hang next to all the rest in this project. He has my gratitude and respect for standing up and agreeing to be counted just as he sees it.
Here is his story.
(from a 2011 interview)
Dept. of Corrections Instructor/Counsellor in Educational Services, Local Coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, Age 61, Insured
The subject has worked a total of 25 years in government jobs -- 15 years as a correctional officer for a youth authority from which he retired with pension and benefits. And 10 years at his current job at a department of corrections.
For $120/month, the subject is able to purchase insurance from his previous government employer, the youth authority. He prefers the superior benefits package from his current employer, the department of corrections.
The subject also did two tours of duty in the navy during the Vietnam War. The subject used Veteran's Administration (VA) care as a young man when he suffered headaches resulting in a week's stay in the hospital.
In 1975 the subject had medical insurance through the VA but his pregnant wife did not. The couple saved $1500 for their daughter's birth. They ended up using the county welfare system to help pay for a C-section costing $6,000.
In 1979 the subject worked at an American aerospace and technology company. He was laid-off in 1982. He admits to feeling stressed about being uninsured. He landed a government job in a county probation department. The subject entered civil service for good benefits and a retirement package. He was willing to start at a lower pay for the benefits.
The subject's father worked for the county and had good insurance. As a child, the subject contracted polio (just before advent of Salk vaccine) and rheumatic fever. He spent 1 1/2 years in a children's hospital and recovered fully. The then 10 year old little boy was able to play little league baseball. "I was lucky my parents had medical insurance." Today the subject says, "I thank God every day I work for the government because the benefits are there."
The subject expressed compassion when I showed him some of the healthcare stories from the project. "Those who can least afford it should be covered...any American citizen should be covered...this shouldn't happen...a travesty what these people go through...that's wrong! (when shown a picture of someone who died because he could not access health care)....they should have access immediately and I don't know what the answer is for people who cannot access health care because of the profit motive in the industry...insurance companies have overstepped their bounds for the last 40 years...many aspects need to be addressed at the state level."
I asked him what he thought of a woman in the project who married her friend for his insurance coverage so that she could get treatment for a terminal illness. The subject said, "I understand it. People are going to do what they have to do. I can't say it's right or wrong, just sad that the foundation for marriage is financial consideration and not love."
The subject says he "wants people covered but the ACA is going to bankrupt this country." He accepts that "some lives will fall through the cracks." "These lives might fall through the cracks anyway even in a perfect world."
The subject wondered what a fair system would look like. "I didn't create the system." He said, "We cannot afford the Affordable Care Act. And during the debates and the final passage of the ACA, Republicans had very little input in the entire process." The subject also believes that in establishing universal healthcare there is "an ulterior motive to turn the country socialist" by healthcare reformists and government officials who favor reform.