Arts and Social Commentary: Ginene Szczepanski

29 03 2010

Article twenty-five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…” (The United Nations).  All people have the right to a healthy life and medical care, but do they really have that right here in America?

If people have the right to a healthy life and medical care then that they should not be denied that care on any basis, but people are being denied medical care here in the United States. Even though this is the most powerful and richest nation in the world, many people in this country do not have the money to pay for health care.  Health insurance in the United States costs so much that, especially in the recent economy, the jobless, poor, and even some middle class Americans are unable to pay for insurance. Without insurance, these Americans are unable to pay for doctor and hospital visits that they need.  When emergencies arise and health care is necessary, people go into debt (or further into debt) just to pay for the emergency medical care that was needed to save them.  To me, that does not sound like health care is treated as a right, rather it is treated as service that is available only to those who can afford it.

With Barack Obama having been elected president in 2008, changing health care has been in the forefront of the recent Senatorial debate.  Democrats for universal healthcare and Republicans against government involvement have made the process of change heated and drawn out.  Both parties have been going round and round with their ideas and their arguments, many missing the point of what very many Americans need. This painting illustrates that debate with the blue and red, donkey and elephant, of the Democrats and Republicans respectively, and healthcare for all as its central theme of deliberation. This painting was meant to call attention to the nature of the healthcare debate, to call for an end to the back-and-forth arguments of both parties, but more importantly to state the need for universal healthcare. This painting is to show those who are involved with this debate, or even those who just have an opinion on this issue, that political parties should put their loyalties aside and see that a country that prides itself in its freedom should be able to provide all of its citizens with the medical care that they need, whether those people can afford it or not.

The painting takes both a confrontational and a pragmatic form as described by Mattern (1998).  On the one hand (confrontational) it “resist[s] or oppose[s] another community:” the community of people who are against universal healthcare, and those who are continuing in the childish debate (Mattern, p. 25).  On the other hand (pragmatic) the painting is used “to promote awareness of shared interests and to organize collaborative efforts to address them” by pointing out that both Democrats and Republicans should have the public interest in mind, and that they should be putting aside their difference for the common good (p. 30).

This past weekend the bill for new healthcare legislation was passed, and on Tuesday, March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. This issue may be legally solved, but the debate is not over.  Republicans in the Senate are still trying to find ways to fight back against government involvement in healthcare.  Some citizens are complaining that the government did not listen to what the people really want, while those for whom the healthcare bill was intended are overjoyed.  The country is still at odds on this issue, so although the bill is signed, the images and messages in this painting are still relevant, especially to those who do not agree with the passing and signing of the healthcare bill.  Seeing the image of their debate will hopefully help them to see the importance of healthcare for all, and the absurdity in their continued fight against it.


Mattern, M. (1998). Acting in concert: Music, community, and political action. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

The United Nations. The universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved 3/21, 2010, from




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