Why Did Deamonte Driver Have to Die: America’s Collateral Damage in the War on Terror

*****  Looking over some of my old writings i came across this short piece that was hastliy and emotionally written  back in the spring of 2007.  The good news is that i was not the only one that was moved by this story, and others took it a lot further and actually did something to honor this young brother!  For my information visit http://www.deamontesdentalproject.org/******

On the plane back from participating in the presentation of the 1921 Greenwood Reparations at Organization of American States (OAS), I read a story and had an experience seemingly unrelated but equally powerful and disturbing enough to cause me to openly weep right in my seat.

The Story: The Washington Post (“Post”) reported the senseless death of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old African-American male who died because of an infection that started with an abscessed tooth that was not treated because his Medicaid coverage had recently lapsed.   U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin is quoted in today’s  Post “it is outrageous today that in America, a young boy can die because a family can’t find dentist to remove an infected tooth…Deamote’s Driver’s death is particularly devastating because it was easily preventable.”  The tragedy prompted Cardin and Sen. Jeff Bingaman to introduce the Children’s Dental Health Improvement Act of 2007. According to the story, prospects for the passage of the bill, which seeks to authorize $40 million to help community health centers and health departments hire dental health professionals (mostly due to low reimbursement amounts and time-consuming, bureaucratic paper work only 565 out of 6000 dentist in the D.C. area accept Medicaid)   to serve poor people is “complicated” by state budgets.

My Experience: When my flight attendant came to offer my aisle a choice of beverage, I noticed that those asking for pop received a cup of soda AND the entire can.  When I requested some water and was only given cup, I immediately inquired “uhh…could I receive the remaining bottle of the water also?”  The flight attendant politely told me that would be “be three dollars.”  I said, “So I can have a can of pop, but I must purchase a bottle of water?”  She said, “Yes sir, that’s the rule.”  I thanked her and thought “wow, if I wanted a can of pop that’s full of sugar, caffeine and other chemicals it’s free, but the desire for the same amount of clean, fresh water, the substance that is second only to oxygen to sustain life,  would cost me the federal minimum hourly wage…damn!”

My Thoughts: Shortly after the flight attendant proceeded, the irony between my experience and the story Deamonte Driver’s tragic death hit me.  For the same price that Deamonte Driver and his family could purchase a 16-ounce-bottle of clean, fresh water. Deamonte could purchase a sugar laden, tooth decaying two-liter bottle of soda.  I pondered which purchase made more sense for the cash-deprived, homeless youth wanting to quench his thirst and unaware of the full negative implications drinking sugar drinks with access to affordable dental care.  Further, I pondered, what if Deamonte Driver had not died from a tooth infection. What life prospects awaited this poor inner-city youth in a country where a virtual “blank check” exists for resources that support death and pain such as the Iraq war (400 BILLION and counting in Iraq), but finds it “complicated” to allocate   “pennies” ($40 million) for programs that support life and good health.

My Reaction:             I cried because of the tragedy of Deamonte Driver’s leaving this world, so unnecessarily…I cried because of the tragedy that will live in a world like this, so, so unnecessarily.

This recent tragedy should motivate you, as a concerned citizen of the United States, to take action. We need you to contact your congressional delegation as well as the members of this committee and encourage them to vote for this act.  This act will go before the HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) committee. That is exactly what we need to you to do ask the members of this committee HELP to do just that, to help those that are underprivileged.