Posted by: Dan | September 1, 2009

Open Letter to a Former Friend

So it goes without saying that talking politics with friends can be a risky business. Friends can be lost and enemies made that way. It is sad, of course. But at the same time, I fervently believe that friends and family should be able to talk about politics, religion, and many other issues without tensions fraying. Unfortunately, ‘should’ and ‘is’ are not the same thing.

Such was how it was today, while commenting on your Wall Posts on FaceBook regarding the Health Care Reform issue in American politics, that I apparently upset you. ‘Condescending,’ was your term for me. Honestly, while my patience with some of your claims has been constantly tested since finding you on FaceBook some months ago, I honestly have tried to be neutral about your views (most of the time, anyway) and stick to trying to point out the factual errors in the articles you link to. If I was condescending, for instance, when I asked how government-managed health insurance could both be inefficient and problematic, and simultaneously out-compete private insurers, then I’m sorry. If I was condescending when I pointed out, in response to a post of yours about Fox News’ attacks on ABC and NBC for not running an anti-health reform ad, that:

Running the ad in question goes against a policy that ABC has long had in place. An interview with the President is nothing like an advertisement.

NBC has contacted the group putting out the ad requesting substantiation for claims made in the ad. The group has declined to provide that substantiation. [I can provide links to back this up]

… then I am sorry. And if I was condescending when I told you “Nice try” with an admittedly sarcastic tone, after you dismissed polling data showing that the majority of Americans support the public option proposed by President Obama as “liberal lies,” then I am sorry. And finally, I am sorry for your apparent denial of these facts which I attempted to discuss with you, even if my tone did not help things.

For this however, you branded me a socialist and told me to stay in Europe, or better yet, Cuba. Now, that would be fine I suppose if that matched my own view of myself, but it doesn’t. In fact, I very nicely (I think you agreed at the time) explained my actual motivation for supporting health insurance reform and the public option put forward by President Obama. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, so let me recall that for you.

That is, like many Americans, I have what health insurers call a ‘pre-existing condition.’ I have an inherited and early-onset form of hypertension (high blood pressure). It can be managed with daily medication and regular monitoring of my blood pressure, and since I’m still relatively young, I only have to visit my doctor 2-4 times a year. Despite the extreme mildness of this condition however, I have in recent years had increasing difficulties in getting complete medical coverage.

At Cornell University, I was rather securely covered, true. But since arriving to Cyprus, I have been rejected from health insurance altogether from one private insurer, and rejected for any cardiovascular-related care from another. At the moment, I am wholly reliant upon government-provided health insurance here – government insurance that would not exist for me until I reach retirement age were I currently residing in the US, if I’m not mistaken. Oh, I recognize that there are differences that could be significant in comparing private insurance here with that in the US, but this is still a fear for me. What happens when I return to live in the States, and I again have difficulty getting complete coverage? What about my fellow Americans currently living there in the same situation? Statistics show that there are millions of Americans in this situation.

As you imply or outright say at times, you’re against a welfare/nanny-state that provides health insurance for the jobless and the lazy. I am not jobless, and I resent the insult of being called lazy. And again, many Americans are in the same shoes, working for an honest living but being rejected from insurance because of pre-existing conditions. In your opposition to the public option, you fail to consider this. You fail to consider that supporting hard-working Americans is one vital way of supporting the American economy (even though we could of course disagree on how best to support those workers). And you fail to treat your neighbors as I’m sure you would like to be treated if your private insurer rejected your coverage claims.

But I’ve been fine with these failures to-date, as political disagreements among friends. What I’m really disappointed in you for is, instead of considering these issues, you reject them with thoughtless insults. Shame on you.


  1. I was reading this at work through my Google reader, and I wanted to comment and then send it around to people who would also appreciate it. We are kind of limited as to what we are allowed to do from our workstations. This is a great response and I discovered that Stephanie at Almost Diamonds picked up on, it, too.

    Pre-existing conditions = bad business.

  2. […] it. And read this open letter to a former friend, from Dan at Migrations: That is, like many Americans, I have what health insurers call a ‘pre-existing condition.’ I […]

  3. Thanks Mike. I only hope that I handled this as best as I could have. Being so open about this might not be the best idea, for instance, considering it was between friends. Also, I know that I can be rather combative when I get riled, which I fear makes me come off as a jerk.

    But I made my case, the ball is in his court.

  4. I get combative, too. And that can also work, but this, I hope, gets through to him.

  5. I don’t think you’ve even got combative jerk on the horizon. This is soft-spoken and firm in the facts, Dan. Very very well said. I could learn a lot from this kind of writing.

  6. Yeah, but I’m not satisfied with calling him “stupid” and telling him to “take his head out of his a__,” even if he was purposefully suggesting that I was supporting joblessness, laziness, and socialist fascism (in replies to a post of his on his FB wall; discussions that he since has erased from his wall). After all, I shouldn’t have been dragged down to his level.

  7. Dan,
    Excellent letter. My take on the healthcare debate is linked at my signature.

    Be well!

  8. I commend you, you have a very well-written letter here. Your arguments are supported and clearly state how he is wrong in his views, in your opinion.

    However, you neglected to include your short-comings as a friend other than your sarcastic tone when saying “Nice try.”

    It is not in my place to judge whether or not you wrote this to vent your anger and to prove your view correct or to possibly, actually apologize.

    If your intention was the later, I with all due respect, hope that you would read the following point(s) I have made.

    There are two types of mistakes that can be made: actions and reactions (as with everything). But in this case, the only positive solution is to forgive and let go/forget.
    Your friend posted multiple posts on Facebook that you disagreed with involving Healthcare and such. Those are the actions. You replied with counter arguments to support your beliefs while probably being a little rude (as you said in one of the comments: you get pretty riled when you get ticked off). Those were the reactions. Any dialogue after that consists of reactions to one each other’s counterfeit speech. This is clear, yes? And simple. The only part you forgot was to apologize! This step is frustrating, but obviously, you shook his ground and he was upset, but also probably a little hurt by the way (your wording) in which you countered his opinions. The apology is simple: Say you’re sorry his feelings were hurt (sounds like 5-year-olds, but you can find another way to say it). That way he knows you didn’t intend to upset him, it just happened to play out that way. It also takes you away from saying it was your fault, even if it was. It’s kinda like a nice way of saying: “You’re just too sensitive and that’s why you’re upset. I’m sorry that happened,” if you want to think of it that way (it may make it easier to apologize).

    I agree that friends should be able to discuss religion, politics, “hot-issues” (this is what I get for listening to the media too much), and other debatable topics without upsetting each other. But in order to prevent from upsetting to other, keep in mind that it’s your friend you’re talking to, not an enemy or debate team buddy. This should help from getting to far. If he doesn’t change his opinion, so be it, your friendship was preserved. After all, friends don’t usually stay friends when they become a so-called “debating buddy”.

    If this in anyway seems rude, I am very sorry. I have tried my best to get my point across without causing any anger, but we aren’t all perfect.

    Lastly, about his childish behavior: It certainly wasn’t his finest hour and I personally thought it was over-the-top disrespectful and rude. His untruthful remarks can only be quick comebacks to same degree in cruelty as the degree to which he felt hurt. If he felt it necessary to end the friendship, he should have done it gracefully.

    Once again, I say all this with utmost respect… how rude would it be of me to insult you without getting to know you first for who you really are than what I interpret from a letter you wrote!

  9. Thanks for the comment. Yes, I do regret calling him stupid, even if his end of the discussion could best be described as ignorant rage. Surely it would have been better of me to at least try to explain to him why he’d been misled by the populist “tea bagger” movement on many things. But the question I have is, would he have been open to an explanation of such things. He had made it very clear to me that he had no intentions of learning why he was wrong.

    Nevertheless, this letter was still an attempt to belatedly explain why the public option for health insurance reform in the US was not by any stretch of the imagination consistent with communism, but is clearly within the bounds of capitalist interventions. That is, reducing market prices by injecting competition. Maybe he’ll one day come back and read this and start to learn about these issues. I hope it will diffuse his ignorant rage. And, note that I struck out former from the title of this post, because the last communication I had with him was a little bit more positive (although there was no indication that he’d become willing to understand the things he had been so angry about).

    All the best.


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