Hollywood's new AIDS movie, Dallas Buyers Club, may be based on a true story about one man's act of defiance 28 years ago. But its heroism still rings true.
The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a straight Texan dying of AIDS who rejected government intervention in medicine. It's a similar stance to the one taken by two other Texans this year: State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat who filibustered an antiabortion bill in the state capital, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who has been fighting Obamacare.
These three Texans - AIDS patient, pro-choice Democrat, and tea party crusader - may appear to have nothing in common besides the Lone Star State.
Fundamentally, they do.
Each individual seeks to restore the right to control one's own body, health, and life. The terminally ill patient wants to choose for himself which drugs to use. The state legislator rejects an abortion ban at 20 weeks. The U.S. senator opposes government controls of health-plan terms, prices, and treatment.
Dallas Buyers Club is a work of dramatized nonfiction that begins in 1985, starting with pictures of cash and a faint voice singing a line from the national anthem about "the land of the free." Soon, we see that Woodroof, a heterosexual electrician, is rejected by friends and coworkers for having the "gay disease"; he has contracted HIV. Within months, he's got AIDS.
But Woodroof, like Davis and Cruz - and like those famous Texans fighting at the Alamo - refuses to give up.
The rebel allies with gay AIDS patients to make money by trading in black-market medicine that works - medicine he is being denied by the Food and Drug Administration and the cronies that obey state-sponsored health care. Woodroof, practically sentenced to death, chooses to take on the whole government to save himself. As he says to his doctor, played by Jennifer Garner, when she informs him about government regulations: "Screw the FDA. I'm gonna be DOA."
Dying, broke, and denied his rights - his property is seized - he hops in a Dodge and crosses the border into Mexico, where he breaks the law and strikes a deal to traffic in drugs that extend life.
According to the movie, Woodroof, teaming with a cross-dresser, created a business and built a team of lawyers, patrons, and staff to fend off the FDA. Together, these desperate, dying men fought for their lives by fighting for their rights. Woodroof's private Dallas Buyers Club was a voluntary trade association. So it is the opposite of Obamacare. His legal enterprise skirts the law and becomes a saving grace.
But Woodroof's organization is targeted, like today's tea party groups, by the IRS. Still, led by Woodroof, the Dallas AIDS patients fight back. As Woodroof says to one FDA crony with a medical degree: "I say what goes into my body. Not you."
The line could have been pronounced by any of these three Texans - the man dying of AIDS, the woman defending her right to control her body, the Republican against Obamacare - and Dallas Buyers Club ends with money honorably earned being cashed in to pursue happiness, infusing cowboy-bred individualism with the national anthem's line about "the home of the brave."
By depicting a man of reason fighting for the right to control his life, Dallas Buyers Club earns its tagline: "Dare to live."
Some, possibly including tea party supporters, may see people with AIDS as evil and object to them being portrayed as virtuous. Others, including some who support a woman's right to an abortion, may see government-run health-care opponents as radicals and "extremists" for liberty.
Those who recognize no higher virtue than acting in one's rational self-interest ought to reject both views. They should see Dallas Buyers Club and, in their battles for free choice in medicine, Wendy Davis and Ted Cruz, as examples of one person fighting for life and the right to live it on one's own terms.