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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

August 22nd, 2013 6:53 PM

Killing of Australian Chris Lane in OK Shameful Example of Societal Ignorance

Killing in OK of Australian Student, More Violence Against Humanity in America, why Not Value Life with Imroved and expanded Medicare for all for life?

It is heartbreaking to think of any young person being gunned down for fun or for sport or for just about any reason (especially to relieve boredom), but after just having returned from Australia where I was so warmly received by its gracious and generous people, it hurts to learn about the killing in Oklahoma of 22 year old college student Chris Lane of Melbourne, Australia. Add to that the horrible reality that the teens charged with his death claimed boredom drove them to randomly select Lane as their target, and it seems particularly awful as an example of deeper societal problems in the United States.

It would be a stretch to say that most Americans would not be horrified by this killing in terms of the details, but it would also be a stretch to say that most would be wholly surprised to hear of yet another senseless and brutal killing of a young person by other young people. Our society has become somewhat desensitized to the violence in our midst and the growing futility our younger, urban and often economically disadvantaged youth are expressing through grossly violent and intolerant actions.

This is what my friend and journalist Tom Lawrence wrote this week about the Oklahoma town where Chris Lane was shot and killed, "The town where the three 'bored' kids killed the Australian college baseball player is Duncan, Oklahoma, where I lived in 2005 while editing the local paper, The Duncan Banner. Halliburton grew roots there and became the massive firm it is now. The oil giant still has offices there, and a statue of the founder stands in a city park, but Halliburton is for the most part walking away from Duncan. It's also the birthplace of Ron Howard, but he rarely mentions that. Duncan, a county seat, is economically depressed and there is deep history of racial strife. A major event every year is a citywide garage sale, and meth is a huge problem. Murders are not unheard of in the town of 23,000. There are a lot of lost young people wandering the city's hot, crumbling, messy streets, and these three were prime examples of that troubled town. It calls itself 'The Buckle on the Oil Belt'."

So, how many Duncan, Oklahoma's are there in the United States? Plenty. And how many of our other communities are demonstrating that human life is valuable and that we will do all that we can to make future prospects better for the next generation? Do we work to alleviate racial tensions and economic tensions that are made worse in urban communities with deep poverty and unemployment? How about our corporate mentality or our major industries? Do we hold at our core a higher value for human life than we do for profit? Is greed as a motivator for killing 123 Americans every day who lack the cash or credit or coverage for health care services that might have saved their lives any less evil than what is demonstrated by our young people killing out of boredom on the streets of small town Oklahoma?

I think we send messages to our young people all the time about what we value as a society in America. I do not excuse what these three young people did to Chris Lane. Nothing can make sense of that. But on a news day when there was yet another story about an almost deadly gun attack at another US school and on a day when yet another 123 people died at the hands of our health care system and their deaths went nearly unnoticed, I have a hard time thinking things will get much better in America until we act decisively to change our societal ignorance of the interconnectedness of our selfishness with rates of violence -- especially among our youth.

Embracing an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life health care system would be a massive step toward breaking the chain of greedy corporate control over the most vulnerable people in America -- the sick and the injured. It won't solve all the other problems of systemic violence against people or bring back innocents like Chris Lane, but it would transform at least one killing industrial mechanism into a healing one.

My deepest sympathy is sent to Chris Lane's family and apologies to the Australian people for this terrible atrocity. I know there are millions of Americans who would join me in telling you we want a more peaceful and just society too, and we share your horror about his death.

August 22, 2013 -- Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:

The 2013, to date, U.S. medical-financial-
industrial -complex system dead: 28,669
The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system
bankrupt: 459,884

** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.

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