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All I Want For Christmas Is Leadership

All I want for Christmas is for people in this country to wake the hell up and realize there is work to be done that doesn’t involve demogoguery, posturing for the cameras, or slogans to nowhere. And the people elected to "lead" us can start here:

He has seen the shame of a 14-year-old girl who would not lift her head because she had lost most of her teeth from malnutrition, and the do-it-yourself pride of an elderly mountain man who, unable to afford a dentist, pulled his own infected teeth with a pair of pliers and a swig of peroxide.

He has seen the brutal result of angry husbands hitting their wives and the end game of pill-poppers who crack healthy teeth, one by one, to get dentists to prescribe pain medications….

Pain caused by dental problems is a leading cause of missed school days in Kentucky, according to state health officials, and almost half of the state’s children ages 2 to 4 have untreated cavities. About 1 in 10 state residents are missing all their teeth, according to 2004 federal data.

At his private practice, Dr. Smith said that at least once a month he sees a patient who has used Krazy Glue to reattach a broken tooth to the root or to an adjacent tooth. Just as often, he sees patients who have tried to avoid the cost of a dentist by swishing with rubbing alcohol to deal with a tooth infection or by rubbing crushed aspirin pills on gums to numb pain. Both tactics worsen the situation by burning the gums and creating ulcers, he said.

This story is about Kentucky, but living in WV as I do, I know that we have similar issues. As does any state which has any population which lives below the poverty line…which is to say all of them

Thinking this doesn’t apply to you so it isn’t your problem?  Think again:  kids who miss school because of dental problems grow up to be adults don’t get an adequate education, and thus don’t break out of the cycle of generational poverty.  Adults who have problems are employees who miss a lot of work.  This can develop into severe medical problems that we all pick up the tab for in emergency room care that could have been treated more cost effectively with preventative care.  And that’s just the tip of a very large health care iceberg. 

Poverty issues do not disappear simply because you pretend not to see them.  And the impact of these problems ripples out to all of us.  See here, here, here, here, here, here and here for starters.

It is 2007.  Isn’t it time we started solving the nation’s problems instead of looking the other way and pretending they don’t exist?

(Love this version of All I Want For Christmas Is You from Love Actually.  This girl has some pipes.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com