And Now For Some Satire

Post Date: August 21st, 2009

The nurse left work at five o’clock.

Outside the hospital, real Americans rushed her carrying signs that read HANDS OFF OUR HEALTH CARE and DEATH TO DEATH PANELS. They plodded after her, white as snow and heavy as glazed donuts, bellies jiggling, shouting, “Miss, miss, don’t let the government take over your job!”
She stopped and said, “This is a state hospital.”
The protesters screamed, “They’ll dock your pay!”
“They’ll let foreigners take over the ER!”
“They’ll kick the hard-working Americans out of beds!”
The nurse said, “What’s new?”
Friends, Republicans, Countrymen, I dare you to finish this prompt.
I just submitted a different version to NPR’s Three Minute Story Contest — satire of a different sort. James Woods of The New Yorker will be judging. We’ll see how I do. I know this much: writing a good story with a given first line — The nurse left work at five o’clock — and given only 600 words — required me to marshal some creativity. A great exercise.


  1. Anonymous says:


    Timely topic to say the least. I’, afraid President Obama has not managed the process of health care reform. Yes Congress needs to be intimately involved but they are so infested with special interest lobby money, they will not produce an optimum bill. If LBJ had left it up to Congress, Medicare would never have passed.

    The President will have to get his hands dirty in the details if he expects to get real reform. Otherwise, it will be blocked by the special interests. What worries me is that the financial system has not been reformed despite all the money we have thrown at the banks. This does not bode well for health care.

  2. bobmust says:

    If you pass the James Woods litmus test, it’ll be a whole handful of feathers in your hair. Keep us posted.
    And having been a government bureaucrat myself, I have to cross my fingers and hope Obama and Congress can find a fail-safe way of paying for this. Medicare was originally projected to cost $9 billion by this year, but it’s already cost $67 billion. Of course, that’s a drop in the bucket when you consider what we’ve pissed away in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  3. Lyn Hawks says:

    Yes, Anon, and Bob,

    The money question that hangs us up in the health care debate is at the root. All the money we’ve given to banks, the immediate devotion we have to banks but not other concerns…that does need to get worked out. I also see human nature at work in schools and nonprofits, not just Wall Street. While there isn’t much money to play with there, there are always people who will try to abuse it. I guess we can continue to create laws and safeguards and hope that in between those the honor system will prevail and then react to other creative ways that people abuse public funding or play with others’ money.

    I think another cold, hard fact that Europeans face better than Americans is the idea of sacrifice. We are reluctant here to spend money on others because “I earned it.” Whether we like it or not, and whether we reform health care or not, we’re all going to be paying for each other and our past sins. My feeling is, let’s at least try to organize these payouts and see if the poor can get insured along the way. I’d rather not have Christy at the diner serving me with a side of her TB, nor Julio in the meat department at Harris Teeter grinding my beef with a dash of hepatitis. We have got to require people to look after their health and help with the funding unless we wish to quarantine ourselves in our homes and order pizza for the rest of our lives.


  4. bobmust says:

    You’re probably right about Europe, Lyn. I heard a conservative commentator say recently that we Americans are a selfish lot. That’s going to be a mountain to overcome in making our country a better place to live.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lyn, Bob:

    Both comments are on target. Today I read that Senator Dashle who is the informal advisor to Obama is also the advisor to the lobbyist law firm who represents United Health Care and other big insurance companies.

    I suspect whatever shape the final bill takes, it will have a heavy, a very heavy dose of insurance company interests well represented.

    I am not optimistic that real health care reform will occur. My evidence is the lack of real financial reform during the first few months of this new administration.

    Ike used to warn about the military-industrial complex. Now we have to worry about the Wall Street and health care complexes which run Washington. I find it very interesting that Goldman Sachs is playing the victim card in all this mess.


  6. Lyn Hawks says:

    I do believe the last great hope for generosity in our society is not politics and government but the arts. Artists walk in others’ shoes, artists are sometimes too empathetic, and I cling to that in this day where we seem to struggle for ways to ensure justice for all.

    Artists also remember history. When I get most cynical, I remember that 100 years ago, nobody cared that my grandparents the immigrants had any health care whatsoever.

  7. bobmust says:

    You’ve hit on a cause célèbre of mine that goes way back, Lyn. In an economic and political environment in which “what is possible and practical” muddies leaders’ abilities to view the future, artists MUST be the ones with vision.

    We’re in something of a visual, left-brain age now, and that should put artists of all sorts in the driver’s seat.