Dear Glenn Beck,
I am not a regular listener (or viewer) of yours, but a recording of one of your recent shows was brought to my attention this week. On Monday, you responded to a recent monologue by Lawrence O’Donnell and discussed your views on Planned Parenthood. The recording is available here.
Mr. Beck, I do not know you personally. I don’t know what it’s like to deal with the tragedy of losing your mother at a young age, not to mention alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce or spiritual awakening. I can’t imagine what it’s like to raise four children, one of whom suffers from a physical disability. I have never contemplated suicide, and I can’t imagine what depths of sadness and suffering you must have experienced to do so. Perhaps even more than once.
But even though I don’t know what you’ve been through, even though I may not see eye-to-eye with you on political issues, I try to have compassion. I try to pause before passing judgement, taking into account that you are in a different place than I am, making different decisions. And even if I disagree with your opinions, I understand that you must have your own reasons for forming them.
Compassion is part of what makes us human. When people forget how to empathize, good people get hurt. Their life savings is destroyed when the market collapses because people on Wall Street were only thinking of themselves. Their family is separated because their country’s leader believes that some of his people are worth less than others. They receive poor treatment at a hospital when their routine surgery goes awry, because the nurses and care providers are just punching the clock instead of caring for patients.
Considering how outspoken you were about the lack of compassion you encountered at the hospital a few years ago, I was appalled to hear your reaction to Lawrence O’Donnell’s reading of a letter from his friend who has taken advantage of the amazing services offered by Planned Parenthood. I understand that you are pro-life. I understand that you do not want the government to fund Planned Parenthood. I understand that you dislike Mr. O’Donnell. But I cannot understand your inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for even one moment.
As Mr. O’Donnell’s friend mentions, women are strongly encouraged to get routine exams annually. These exams not only help care providers identify cancer (cervical, breast, and others) in its early stages – when it is more likely to be curable – they also help identify women who may be sick without knowing it. It is possible for a man or a woman who has only had one sexual partner in his or her whole life to be carrying something unknowingly. Having multiple partners during your lifetime is not unheard of, even among your friends, family and supporters. Even you, Mr. Beck, have had children with more than one woman.
So imagine that you are a woman in a long-term, monogamous relationship who needs annual exams, but you aren’t able to pay for them. Perhaps you are unemployed, like nearly 10% of Americans, and therefore do not have health insurance. Perhaps you are a college student, like myself, with a student insurance plan that does not cover annual exams. Perhaps you are lucky enough to be employed, but cannot afford to purchase health insurance because your rates are much higher due to a pre-existing condition, such as the Cerebral Palsy from which your daughter suffers, Mr. Beck. Imagine, for a moment, that you aren’t able to go to the same hospital the president of GE does, because you can’t afford it. And then imagine Planned Parenthood steps forward and tells you that your health and well-being are their priority, and they will treat you regardless of your ability to pay.
Imagine that you are a woman who suffers from ovarian cysts or migraines that are kept at bay by daily hormones known as “birth control pills.” You do not take the pills to prevent pregnancy, but you must pay $70 per month to fill your prescription. The cost of an annual exam pales in comparison with your monthly prescription refill costs. And your doctor won’t renew your prescription unless you get an exam every year.
And then imagine that, during your visit to Planned Parenthood for your exam, you learn that they will also provide your medication. All they ask is that you pay what you can. Your health and well-being is important to them.
Now imagine that you are online at work or school or the public library one day, and you find a link to a recorded radio show in which a man you’ve never met calls you a hooker. He says that the only people who depend on Planned Parenthood’s services are prostitutes. He tells you to stop spending money on birth control pills and just use condoms instead. He tells you to stop killing babies. He says that you have internet access, so you should be able to pay for your medical care.
And then imagine, Mr. Beck, that you do a quick internet search and find out that this man has spoken out against the new law passed that prohibits health insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions. That he’s against the public option for people who don’t have the coverage they need. And then you find a video of that same man a few years ago, talking intimately to a camera about “The real meaning of compassion.”
Just for a moment, try putting aside all of your political messaging and imagine how that might feel.
Only then, Mr. Beck, will you know the real meaning of compassion.