Last Friday, in recognition of World AIDS Day, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation decrying the struggles in the fight against the deadly disease.
“We are a resilient people,” he said. “We are always ready to respond when an outbreak occurs — and I know we can all commit to helping an end to HIV/AIDS once and for all.”
The proclamation coincided with the first anniversary of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that people purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. But, in essence, it was as broad as it was mean-spirited. A nationally known health economist and ethicist, Leon Kass, delivered a speech to several hundred of his former students on the subject of healthcare during the same period.
“So this anniversary is a great time to reflect and to remember the principles of public health policy. It’s also a very good time to talk about the merits of politics,” he said.
At least, that’s the way he felt he could sell his teaching. For Mr. Kass, the problem is that “our laws, and our public life in general, tend to return us to the certainties of ignorance,” he said, and not “enough people” are “acting in good faith in a civil and accountable way.”
There was a time when this sort of statement of purpose would have seemed courageous — even praiseworthy. Back then, we believed that we could create “health freedom” and combat the HIV pandemic through the mercy of the masses. But today, Americans live in a different sort of time. A period in which conflict is never far from the surface. And in which political gridlock is epidemic and adults are incapable of building consensus.