Mon Aug 17th, 2009 at 06:23:25 PM EST
Way back in ancient blog times, aka 2005, there were a couple of diaries, one by Fran and one by Canberra boy, linking to a UN report which said that parts of America were as poor as the Third World.
Some dismissed the report as hyperbole, but I thought it was entirely accurate and ended up engaged in an argument that ranged across several posts and became increasingly heated. The argument derailed into things such as the finer points of US labor law, international comparisons on the price of a gallon of milk, and whether or not it's ok to call someone an asshole over a Walmart dispute.
But at the time I was still quite overwrought post-Katrina. I ended up writing an emotional and somewhat useless diary about poverty in which nothing was really settled or even fully explored, but which served the purpose of becoming a venue for everyone to comment themselves into exhaustion.
But I stood by, and still stand my, my original point, which may or may not have gotten lost in the ensuing dustup, so I'll quote myself -- "If you cannot eat, find clothes or shelter or medical care, and you have to perform all of your bodily functions outside and die of starvation or exposure, that seems pretty third world to me."
All of which I'm dredging up here because of an article in today's Los Angeles Times:
At free clinic, scenes from the Third World
"Do you want to see the tooth?" Dr. Mehrdad Makhani asked me Friday morning at the free clinic being staged inside Inglewood's Fabulous Forum. "Come. I'll show you."
Jenny McLean, 36, opened her mouth and Makhani aimed a little flashlight in there.
"You see here?" he said.
The area around a back tooth was red and swollen, and McLean's eyes were teary with discomfort. She'd endured the pain for more than a year because she's had neither insurance nor the money for a dentist since losing her job as a social worker.
It was a story repeated hundreds of times last week at the Forum, where a nonprofit called Remote Area Medical had brought in volunteers to treat legions of the uninsured.
(...)Makhani pointed me to another dentist. "Talk to him. He's worked in Brazil."
That would be Joseph Chamberlain, a Westwood dentist who said he's done charity work in Brazil, but not in conditions like this.
"They have a nice system of public hospitals and clinics," he said.
But don't patients have to wait for treatment?
"Yes," Chamberlain said. "But not like this. Not for a year."
Stan Brock, who founded RAM in 1985 to bring medical care to Third World countries, told me that in 1992 he began getting requests to do the same work in the United States.
"The people we're seeing here have teeth as bad as the people in the Upper Amazon,"
Sometimes I hate being right.