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Goodman on Goodman
Posted on Nov 30, 2009
SCHEER: What years were these? Was this before the establishment of the state [of Israel]?
GOODMAN: This was in – right around that time. Noam’s father and my mother would describe coming over the hill to visit, also the linguist, you know, from Philadelphia.
SCHEER: Did this come out of a Zionist … ?
GOODMAN: No. No. My parents were very religious, though. My grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi. And it was a place where they could go in the summer and be away from the city. But, so – when my mother more recently visited Palestine with a delegation – she was taken around by a Palestinian tour guide. You know, they took very seriously – my mother described to me, when she was a kid in the Catskills in the summer, the wail going up in this little colony of bungalows where my grandmother got the note of members of my family dying in the Holocaust, and we take very seriously: Never again. Never again – for anyone. Anywhere.
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And that is [what] my philosophy was my whole life. I stuck with her. And what they taught us about curiosity, about respect for other people, about learning from other cultures, the love of books, of film, of documentary – my mother was an avid reader. She loved culture; not only here in this country, but all over the world. She traveled to Iran, to Turkey, to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, sometimes by herself, sometimes with other people. It’s that kind of intense curiosity and concern, commitment – who is doing what to make the world better? – that has driven me as well. My dad’s commitment to, in our early years, integrating our schools; he led a task force to integrate the schools so we weren’t separated by where we lived. And I watched as a thousand people would scream – he was hit with death threats, because he simply cared about our community being more just. And that’s what I was inspired by.
SCHEER: Where did they get it from?
GOODMAN: I think their parents. Coming out of persecution, being driven out of their countries – in Russia, in Poland – it’s just this sense of, “This should happen to no one.” And so continuing, you know, knowing we’re here for reasons other than just existing that – it’s not enough to survive. We have to contribute in some way.
SCHEER: You know, during this difficult time, when your mother was dying, I hate to be political about it, but you did have some experiences with the medical system.
GOODMAN: Oh, it was terrible. Five weeks, my brothers and I surrounded her, were basically sentries at her door with the guns drawn, with signs that said, “Do no harm.” And that harm happened every day. It’s not only the issue of insurance. I mean, my mother did have Medicare. And when she’d hear a nurse say, “We’re gonna move her into a private room” because of the catastrophe of the care we got, she’d yell, “Not if it’s not covered by Medicare!” And my mother coming out of surgery, laying in the recovery room, I don’t know, I don’t think she ever went unconscious, it was just unbelievable – everyone else around her unconscious, and she is whispering to the doctor and to us, “Three thousand. Three thousand.” “Three thousand what, Mom?” The doctor [was asking], “Three thousand what, Mrs. Goodman?” She said, “The Chinese figured out pain management three thousand years ago – why haven’t you figured it out yet?”
And it has to do with listening to patients. It has to do with doctors communicating. Systems that work. You know, doctors not just going into the profession because that’s the profession that’ll bring you money. Imagine if it didn’t – the kind of doctors that we would get. Probably better. But you have places like the Mayo Clinic, that’s not where she was, where the doctors are on salary. Very different place. And teamwork. And we don’t have that in this – the kind of competitive medicine that is practiced here. Sure, some of the best crisis hero medicine going. But when it comes to dealing with patients on a regular basis, these docs are moonwalking out of the room before they even hear what the patient has to say.
We discovered, in the midst of this five weeks of agony, though five weeks that we were able to show our devotion to our mother—though we ultimately couldn’t protect her the way she’s protected us our whole lives—we were able to meet a woman named Dr. Diane Meyer, who’s a leader in the palliative care movement in this country, that every hospital should have. And it’s a person who listens, who coordinates, actually, care. And when you’re coming to the end of your life, how is pain dealt with? How are patients’ concerns and families’ – how are they respected? She said five things, when someone’s coming to the end of [their] life, you wanna say: “Thank you.” “Forgive me.” “I forgive you.” “I love you.” And “goodbye.”
SCHEER: I don’t have to follow those five, do I? Can I just have a good meal or something? But you know, it’s interesting, because this question of how you deal with the end of life came up in the health care proposals, and the Democrats were attacked for it, because they said you were trying to – this was going to be …
GOODMAN: The death panels.
SCHEER: Death panels. It really was one of the most vicious distortions.
GOODMAN: I mean, you know, families deal with this every day – the end of life – what decisions do you make? And we should have a serious discussion about that instead of this parody. And also, I mean, you look at the health care discussion – it is so limited. These corporate networks who. … FAIR did a study (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) of the week leading up to Obama’s White House health care summit on March 5th—120 people, you said, representing every option. Of course, you didn’t have single payer represented. John Conyers had to push to be included. He saw President Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting – he asked to be included, the White House said no, but they said they were gonna protest, and so they let him, and then Physicians for National Health Programs said they were gonna protest, so they let in their leader. That was it: two of 120.
So that’s the administration. What about the media? And that week leading up to the White House health care summit, hundreds of articles and newspaper – TV shows – FAIR found that not one of the networks actually had on a single-payer advocate to fiercely advocate their point of view. When people understand what it is, most people in this country are actually for it. Sure, the AMA – the American Medical Association – is against it, but most doctors are for it. And it’s so simple to talk about. You know, OK, so you have the eight-second sound bite – can it be expressed in that amount of time? What about just saying, why don’t we just take Medicare and lower the age of eligibility to zero, to when you’re born? Everyone understands that! There are problems with Medicare, but basically, that everyone has a right to that kind – at least – of coverage. And you never hear that.
SCHEER: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. You know, I actually am 73.
GOODMAN: That’s amazing.
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