thoughts at thirty-five

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17 Responses

  1. Anne says:

    Hi, John, and happy birthday to you.

    Via Cake Wrecks, I came across your websites, and I’ve been fascinated by them. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed them, really, since the story of James is certainly a sad one, but I appreciate them.

    I’m fascinated by the fact that you and your partner have remained religious and faithful in light of the very difficult experiences you’ve been through.

    I’m from Canada. I’ve just read your post above. I’ve been watching the debate going on in the USA about health care reform, and I cannot understand the opposition to it, especially from a Christian standpoint. Even from a financial one. Now, since I’m from Canada, I haven’t taken the time to read the proposed legislation (and large numbers of elected representatives haven’t either, ahem, with all that “death panel” fearmongering, Sarah Palin, you IDIOT). My opinion is that much less informed because it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans at the end of the day. I already have health insurance.

    Here’s what I don’t understand: how is it that _any_ Christians (with beliefs around helping the poor and the weak, and the sick, etc., etc.) could support a system that keeps so many Americans uninsured? I just would have thought that since so many other countries have universal health care, and we seem to be doing okay, that a person of your faith would say that there IS a way to make it work; the moral imperative is undeniable (Jesus would support universal health care — wouldn’t he?); so your country simply MUST find a way to make it happen. A little bit of tax of the very richest (who seem to support universal health care, generally), maybe don’t start wars that have no end, and bingo — lotsa money for an important program.

    Why is it that the people who don’t support these changes are the ones who would benefit most from them?

    How do you (do you?) conclude that the financial concerns should trump the moral concerns?

    Or perhaps you see a way through that provides coverage for all without costing any more, answering both financial and moral concerns quite neatly. (And if you see that, please go work for government!)

    You probably didn’t mean to start into all this. I don’t have any Americans handy to ask them directly, so.

    Good luck — really, very good luck and best wishes — with your new baby.

    Anne Maloney.
    British Columbia, Canada.

  2. Ashley says:

    Firstly, Happy Birthday, Mr. Gjertsen!

    Secondly, I keep checking back here waiting for Valor updates, LOL!

    Thirdly…..thank you sooooo much for writing this!!!!! This has to be one of the very few honest, well-versed focuses on the President that I have read since the day he was elected.

    I will say, it hurt quite a bit for people that I’ve known for years to be telling me I was ignorant for voting for Obama. I respect him for many of the reasons that you’ve listed, along with the fact that he became President due to working hard and retaining his values.
    And yes, while I do agree that uncontrollable costs are a major issue, I just wish that people could see that the President is merely trying to do his job, which is to provide for the American people.

    And to Anne…..agreed on EVERYTHING you’ve said!! Considering that I am from Louisiana, I would also be more than happy to talk w/ you about why so many people are against universal coverage!

  3. Sachu says:

    *First of all… Happy B*day John!
    *Second… although I know Valor will come on the 27th, I just check this page twice a day! I’m just so anxious! I must imagine how you are!!!

    *Third…if there’s something that argentine people know about is economic crisis…
    We have been through so many crisis already (and I’m 25 but I’ve been working since I was 19, and I can really tell the difference on the paychecks)
    Infaltion here is horribly high…the Government is so corrupt and people is getting tired. So if you hear about any social burst in Argentina, you know why.
    What I do appreciate about my country is that the State pays for your health care (well, citicenz do through taxes). Hospitals are free if you do not have money to have a “private” health programme. Actually, my mum has gone under 4 cancer operations (as well as chemo and radiation and now with medication for life) and as the whole treatment was so expensive and we couldn’t afford it (we didn’t have private health insurance either), the State paid for it.
    But I also realize that if applying this programme will affect on taxes cost and lower the citicenz possibility to purchase goods, save money or invest it, it can’t be decided without proper analysis.
    In Argentina we followed the debates and the elections closely. I agree with Obama’s international policies and I think that US people made a good choice.

    Well, it’s time to go to bed! 00.41 here!

    Happy B*day once again, and I really loved this post!

    Hope next time you post, you’ll show us the new addition to the family!!
    All the best

    Love, Sabrina from Argentina

  4. Mel says:

    First–happy belated birthday from another-person-who-found-you-via-cakewrecks! I’m still checking in for baby updates and can’t wait to see pictures and hear all about it! Second–I am not an Obama fan. I was disappointed (but not surprised) when he won, but I was lukewarm on the Republican choice anyhow, so, whatever. There’s a lot I disagree with Obama on, but like you, I am very happy that he’s remained strong when it comes to our enemies. I’m trying (rather successfully, I think) not to have that vicious, vile hatred towards him that I saw so much towards Bush in the last 8 years. Something that bothers me though, is the fact that people keep saying that government-run healthcare should be supported by Christians because Jesus wants us to care for the poor, sick, weak, etc. While I wholeheartedly agree with the second part of that, I don’t think Jesus was advocating for the government controlling healthcare, but rather He was referring to personal charity. I have little faith in the government’s ability or desire to run things efficiently, affordably, and without corruption and I fear we will have much greater healthcare and economic problems if we make a less-than-perfect system even worse by throwing the government into the mix. One suggestion I’ve heard is lifting restrictions on insurance companies that would allow for more competition between them, with the idea that competition would result in better service and prices. Cracking down on frivolous lawsuits and on insurance fraud probably wouldn’t hurt either. Again, I’m just a regular person and not an expert so I’m just throwing that out there. I’m also not trying to pick a fight with anyone, just adding my opinion to the mix.

    ANYHOW my real reason for stopping by in the first place was to check on the baby updates and say I’m praying for everything to go smoothly tomorrow! Good luck and early congratulations!

    • john says:

      Well said, Mel, regarding everything from tort reform to Jesus to resisting the sort of hatred towards those who are politically different. “Birthers”, in my opinion are just as ridiculous as those who believed that George Bush stole the election in 2000.

      And thanks for praying! Abby may write one more post, but we’ll have Valor up here tomorrow, Lord willing!

  5. Debbi says:

    John ~ just so you and Abby know the impact your family has had on SO MANY PEOPLE … my first thought this morning when my alarm went off was that Valor was going to be born tomorrow! I am a Cake Wrecks groupie ~ Jen sent me to you. You and Abby are in my thoughts during this miraculous time … and I am so not alone. Good wishes, blessed thoughts … and I can’t wait to “meet” Valor … TOMORROW!

  6. Sierra says:

    Very well said, Mel. As much as my heart breaks for the sick and the poor, I’ve never believed that it was the government’s responsibility to care for them. In a much more perfect world, the church would care for the sick, the poor, the needy and the weak and government would govern…which is the purpose of government after all. Unfortunately, we happen to live in a nation where the family, church and state have their responsibilities all mixed up.

    Anyway, just wanted to say, can’t wait for little Valor to make his grand entrance into the world tomorrow. He is a very blessed little boy to be given such amazing, loving, God-fearing parents. Love you guys and praying for tomorrow!

  7. Dee says:

    John-and Abby-
    Please forgive me for not writing much about your “Thoughts At Thirty-Five” entry (you make some excellent points, by the way), but I know we are ALL excited about tomorrow and also torn-we want you to enjoy those wonderful, sweet never to be forgotten first moments with Valor, but please don’t forget us…we’ll ALL be hanging around the screen awaiting pics! Love, peace and God’s blessings to you-praying for His will in all things!

  8. Kate says:

    I find it disappointing that the only comment you replied to — after Anne, Ashley, and Sachu — was the one that openly agreed with you.

    In regards to health care, I think the argument for personal charity as a rebuttal to “Christians should not necessarily support universal health care” is an extremely poor one. Do you have enough money, personally, to pour into a charity to support the literal millions without health insurance? On top of that, the literal millions who are underinsured due to pre-existing conditions? I would love to help but I do not have the money. Frankly, if my employer wasn’t one of the few in the country to pay full benefit coverage to its employees, I would not have health insurance at all because it is entirely too expensive. My sister and brother are not this lucky and neither of them have insurance. They are rolling the dice and hoping to avoid disaster every day.

    America was built on a theory of autonomy and “the citizen should be able to choose from as many options as possible”, but look how wrong that has gone for us. We have gun violence in this country that is through the roof because the right to bear arms, somewhere down the line, became more valuable than the lives of our friends, family, neighbors, and children. The education system in this country splinters further every day when we give parents vouchers that say, “Feel free to take your student to a better school instead of supporting this one and helping to make it better.” Up until recently, we allowed credit and loans to people who probably shouldn’t have been allowed them, because they deserved that slice of the American dream, and why should someone with a history of bad credit not have it?!

    Then the economy crashed, and everyone shriveled back because they realized the American dream is one-half lie.

    Last night, I had a weird fluttering/bubbling sensation in my ear that panicked me. I called my best friend, who lives in the UK, and she immediately told me, “Call the emergency medical line.” When I told her I was fairly sure we didn’t have one out there, she told me I was insane. It took me nearly a half-hour to find my own insurance company’s nurse advice line, because they hide it on their website. They hide a vital service, and I am willing to bet it is so they can keep their costs down. It turned out to be a minor problem, and thank God, because payday is Monday and I could not afford the $100 ER copay out of pocket. I am not someone who wastes money, or throws it out the window, or buys frivilous things, but there is something wrong with a system in which not everyone can have the benefits of some.

    But I am a hippie liberal, so what would I know?

  9. john says:


    Glad you were able to find your ask-a-nurse line, especially since the problem didn’t turn out to be a big deal. Agree wholeheartedly with the need to have more Americans with health insurance. Agree even more with the statement “I am not someone who wastes money, or throws it out the window, or buys frivilous things” which is PRECISELY why I don’t support turning over health care decisions to our government, which routinely does all of the above.

    I did respond to Mel because sometimes I read comments which I think say things better or clearer than I have said them.

    I didn’t respond to the earlier commenters because, well, it’s been a busy week, and I don’t feel the need to respond to everyone (usually it’s only mandatory when I feel personally attacked!)

    But in response to Anne, I would say I don’t think financial concerns trump moral concerns at all. There’s plenty of ways to reform health care without handing the control over to Washington. In America, it’s very hard to give them something and ever get it back. And financial concerns, if they’re significant enough, can obviously turn into moral concerns. Thank you so much for reading, and for your best wishes for Valor.

    In response to Sabrina, I would also say thank you so much for your kind words regarding Valor. You are, as usual, very eloquent and kind. I see you’ve just commented again on another post and said more about health care, so I’ll have to read it. I can’t say that I think as a whole the United States should be looking at either Argentina or Canada as a template for our fiscal policy, but that’s not to say we can’t learn something from one another.

  10. Kate says:

    I suppose the most intelligent comment to all of that, then, is: if the government shouldn’t be the one to provide health care to Americans, who should? The private companies are clearly not looking out for the average and below-average citizen. If they don’t, who will?

    I think many people have become too disillusioned with the idea that governments can do good things for their citizenry. I hate to use other countries as examples, but most of Europe does what is being suggested for America with great success. We aren’t any of those countries, like you said to Sabrina, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use their overwhelming sucess to inform our decisions.

    I’d love to hear, especially from an economist’s standpoint, who else is suited to care for and reform health care if not the government.

    I will add that I am a bit of a jerk, because I have had your entry open for several days in my browser and failed to notice that your son came along at the time people were responding. As they say, “My bad.” That said, I am one of those who does think that if you open a forum on such matters, you should be willing to respond to those who disagree rather than simply chime in with those who do, and I appreciate you coming back to do so.

    Congratulations, by the by.

  11. john says:

    The most interesting piece I’ve read to date concerning health care reform is a rather long article recently published in the Atlantic:

    Among other things, I believe this article demonstrates there are many ways of thinking about “reform” that take very divergent approaches. It is upsetting to me that those who oppose a single-payer government option are frequently pigeonholed as being against health, or against poor people, or against change in every sense. When we elect a new congress in 2010, it’s possible some of these alternative ideas will be recognized more prominently.

  12. Anne says:

    I don’t know what drives me to do this — I commented a few weeks ago, and no one’s reading this comment string anymore… but here I am.

    I have a bit of anger at the thought that Christians should take care of the sick through charitable means. If that’s the case, then what are all the Christians waiting for? No one could deny that the need is great, and it is not hyperbolic to say that it really is a matter of life and death. The Mormons spent millions fighting for Proposition 8 in California, when I bet there were plenty of people in their home state of Utah that went bankrupt that same week due to their inability to pay hospital bills. How much have Pat Robertson’s corporations spent on health care for the denied/uninsured/underinsured?

    And say the various church organisations did step up and deal with health care — for millions of people. Why would anyone think that they’d be any better at administering such a system than the government would? It would be a massive undertaking. Would churches be subject to human rights legislation, in that no one, no matter what their lifestyle or whatever, could be turned away? Would churches be subject to requirements for financial accountability?

    It is true that the government (oh, name your country) stuffs things up sometimes. However, corporations do too — but private entities don’t always have to provide an accounting to the general public. There isn’t the same requirement for transparency, nor are the amounts of money the same, so corporate errors don’t get the same attention as government errors do. So we just don’t hear about them as much.

    Nobody in government makes the same money as the heads of health insurance companies do — at least the money isn’t wasted there.

    Does everyone at least agree with the principle that no one should be denied access to health care, regardless of how that health care is paid for?

    I must stop! This just isn’t my problem! Urrgh!

    I should also stop drinking coffee. Seriously.

    Thanks for the forum. I hope you are all healthy and well.

    British Columbia, Canada.

  13. john says:

    I, for one, am not advocating that health care be the function of the church.

    I strongly disagree, however, with the principle you stated, which I will restate in the abstract:

    “no one should be denied X, regardless of how X is paid for”

    That’s the mentality which has us in the mess we’re in all over the globe. Someone, in the end, does pay for health care. And the government’s debt is ultimately our own debt. There is such incredible waste when the one receiving the care is not able to act efficiently like a consumer in any other industry.

    I would like to hear, however, even from someone who disagrees, a response to the article I linked to from The Atlantic. I thought it hit the nail on the head in terms of diagnosing the problem, and was a good starting place in terms of talking about what the solution is.

  14. Anne says:

    I haven’t read the article in The Atlantic. Maybe I will now. And it wasn’t you who said health care should be the function of the church — it was someone else, and it was prefaced with “in a perfect world…”

    You strongly disagree with “no one should be denied X, regardless of how X is paid for”. You do sound rather cold, surprisingly, because what you seem to be saying is that some people should be denied health care because they can’t afford it. So these scenarios of really sick people, in your country, being told that they will not be treated because their insurance company has denied coverage… this is okay?

    I mustn’t have expressed myself very well. I only mean that surely the disagreement is about how health care should be paid for. Surely we agree that no one should be turned away. Surely, we all find it appalling that people lose their houses or are forced into bankruptcy because they have medical bills they can’t afford to pay.




  15. john says:


    Though there are always anecdotal stories that can be told that make one health care “solution” seem horribly unfair to the public, I think the situation in America is not mostly about people being turned away from treatment due to inadequate insurance, but about skyrocketing costs for both premiums and services causing people to go without insurance, as well as the issue of insurability due to strict underwriting in the individual market. By and large, people are not “turned away.” But the uninsured and underinsured often wind up owing bills they cannot pay, which costs everyone as hospitals shuffle their unpaid bills through public channels.

    Sorry for sounding cold! I re-wrote your statement in the abstract, so that if we substituted “X” with “going on a trip to visit the moon”, none of us I think would agree that “no one should be denied a trip to the moon, regardless of how said trip is paid for.”

    Now, assuredly, health care is a different matter than some sort of elective, luxurious tourism. I do agree with you that it is a travesty to withhold care when anyone is ill. And you’re absolutely right in saying the only disagreement is how it should be paid for. The fact that in health care it’s always “someone else” paying for it, neither the patient nor the care provider—this inherently creates an economic disaster which fails to control costs or increase standards of care.

    I came away from reading that article I linked to feeling that someone had finally plumbed down the heart of the issue and made a compelling case for a very innovative kind of reform. I know it is a very long article, so I commend you or anyone else for working through it all. I thought it was a good starting point for discussing real reform.

  1. August 29, 2009

    […] from strangers which are less nice than others. Here is one that came in late last night on the thoughts at thirty-five post: “So government, taxpayer-funded insurance was ok for your family when you needed it for […]

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