The words “difficult extraction” are not what you want to hear, seated in a dentist chair. Fortunately mine was not difficult. I’m squeamish about most things, and like many kids raised in humble circumstances, experienced dental care at the largess of various government programs. I remember going home nearly every time in a state of shock regarding how much it hurt and what he had done to us. It has taken a lifetime to get over the fear of the dentist. Now I patronize a local female dentist who is gentle and caring—something that didn’t exist, and we couldn’t have afforded anyway, when I was a child. Even so, she’s telling me a tooth has to come out. I’m being stoic and starting my meditation mantra.
Health care in the United States, as Trump’s recent treatment for a virus to which he carelessly exposed himself shows, is horribly uneven. Those who are systemically kept poor—especially those who are “of color”—often have few choices and die younger. Yet supporters of 45 see no problem with this. Now, I wish I weren’t in this dentist chair right now. I’m not looking forward to the novocaine shots or the tugging on my jaw. Or the hours of gauze in my mouth afterward. But at least I can afford this. It pains me even more that there are others who can’t. And that those who claim to follow a man who healed for free are voting for a man who has pledged to keep inequality as “the American way.”
I grew up taking care of my teeth the way the poor often do—that is to say, not enough. The solutions involve education and empathy, both of which our government has chosen to eject for jingoism and bravado. I’m not so much worried about having one tooth less. I am worried about a government that feels it has the right to oppress the poor so that the wealthy can continue to gain more money that can, in turn, be used to control the government. This is wrong. There’s no way that it can be made to be “Christian,” no matter what evangelicals may say. I’m sitting here in the dentist chair and the needle’s getting closer. I’ll have a mouth full of gauze for the next few hours and I’ll be on a soft food diet for a while. I may be in some pain. But still I know I’m one of the lucky ones.