Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A shameful moment in American history.

    The way I explain the need for some kind of national health care—not that anyone is listening, but assuming people were—is like this:
     Say a baby shows up on the curb in front of your house. Your wife—or husband—looks out the window, says, "Hey hon, there's a baby on the curb." You go out and bring it inside. How could you not? Six months old. Wrapped in a blanket. Flushed in the face. Looks sick. Croupy cough. Sounds sick.
    What do you do? You don't say, "Well, I guess we better raise it as our own." You don't shrug and go put the tot back on the curb. Someone needs to take care of this sick baby that appeared on your curb. Someone who is not you. 
     And who may that someone be? Well, you probably dial 911, which brings, the police, or an ambulance, or both. Which are representatives of—stay with me here, this is the big leap—the government. Now if the police officer, or ambulance driver, looked at the baby, and said, "Gee, we just do crime. Sick abandoned babies aren't our problem," and turned to go, you would be shocked. Because you think you live in a nation that cares about that kind of thing. Because you expect the government to do its job. Which at the moment includes doing something about this baby.
     That's about my mindset right now. I'm shocked. I'm shocked that such a minimal, meat and potatoes, in-every-country-but-ours health insurance plan like Barack Obama's is being met by this collective Republican mental breakdown. There is no other term for it. I hate condemning the other side so roundly—the Tea Party has given that practice a bad name—but it is the only way to describe what is happening here. The Republican House has doused the whole country with gasoline and lit a match. The government is shutting down over something every other industrialized country has wholeheartedly embraced, years ago. Even the Republicans, who hate Obama with a fierce and undying passion, at some point, you think they'd say: "Okay, we despise him, but the country really needs this. People get sick, they need insurance. It's immoral otherwise. And it's the law—passed by Congress, approved by the president, who not only won in 2012, but thumped us. The Supreme Court said it was okay."  
    Political rancor is nothing new, though it feels like we have sailed into new and unwelcome territory. The Republicans hated Franklin D. Roosevelt, too, but they still helped fight the Nazis. Would they do so again today?
    The baby, of course, is unfair; it puts a thumb on the scale of your judgment, because it's a baby. An appeal to your emotions. What if it were a 4-year-old girl? Same thing, right? How about a 12-year-old boy? You'd leave him to die on the curb? No, you take him in too, give him cocoa. How about if he's 14? 18? What if he's black? 
     You can shift the specifics of exactly what kind of person is out there, sick on the curb and feel your sympathy and concern drain away. Or maybe not. In my view of the world, whoever is out on that curb, sick, you want to live in a society that tries to take care of that person, at least a little. That's what makes me a left wing wacko liberal. Or maybe just less of a hypocrite than the Republicans. They'd sure want to live in that caring society if the sick person were their precious selves. Or their families. I have yet to hear anyone say, "You know, I lost my job, and lost my health insurance, so now I'm digging graves in the backyard for myself and my family because when we get sick we'll be too weak to. Nobody to blame but ourselves."
     Maybe they never think it through that much. Maybe they never wonder how they can be so fiercely certain that unchecked gun ownership is a basic civil right, but health care isn't. That seems a moral inversion.  
     The shutdown of the government is shameful and the pending default on our financial obligations is shameful. The hypocritical, unfair blame that the Republicans pour on their opponents make flinging the same back at them sound hollow, as much as they are worthy of it. Their wild partisanship corrupts the very idea of one side being wrong, and forces the thinking person toward an undeserved balance. Though in the end, there is no reason to divide the blame by party. That is our entire government shutting down, our collected leaders who are doing it, the Republican side pushing the crisis, the Democratic side weak enough to permit it. We can all agree on that, can't we? It's happening. It's happened, with no end in sight. Who's at fault doesn't ultimately matter. The American people are at fault. The buck stops there. It is we who elected these guys, who will re-elect most of them. It is we who should be disturbed and aghast, but somehow, incredibly, we aren't. It is we who hardly seem to notice or care, at times, which is how we got into this mess in the first place. Though I bet we will start noticing now. I hope we do.


  1. Well I don't agree with their reasons for the shut down. I'm a leftist, not a right winger. But anything that shguts down the government I approve of, although I would want the military, Homeland Security, Border Patro9l, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. shut down. I don't agree with Obamacare because it uses private insurance. I'm for full socialized medicine (not single payer but free health care paid for out of general tax revenues with no premiums and co-pays, like public schools are. I'm also in agreement with the right on no gun control, although I'd go further--no gun laws, and arm all felons and homeless, and disarm the cops. I also would agree on shutting down the IRS if possible as the majority of the money goes to war.

    In any event, while I don't agree with the GOP's reasoning, I agree with what many are saying--it will harm the U.S. and U.S. economy. I'm fine with that too.

  2. Neil,

    It doesn't make sense unless you conclude that the rich and powerful want a society in which we do not care what happens to others. That kind of society rewards "greed is good". It's a demonstration that Jefferson was right when he warned against the malign influence created by an aristocracy of wealth.

  3. Thanks for this wonderful and timely piece Neil -- bravo.

  4. If this health care plan is such a wonderful thing why are the members of Congress and the President exempt?

    1. Because they already have health insurance. The plan is for people who AREN'T insured. I know that's a big concept to wrap your head around.

  5. Neil--the Nazi reference is beneath you, and your readers. Shameful.

  6. @JP Flynn: There's nothing wrong with the Nazi reference as the Sociopath Party has repeatedly used that against Obama.
    Along with a whole bunch of other epithets.

  7. You obviously don't know your history. That's like saying, both parties are like starfish, in that both their members have bilateral symmetry.

  8. Neil: Could you expand on your 5:28 reply? I know what bilateral symmetry is but are you referring to your Nazi reference or Anon. applying to both parties?

  9. Ah, I didn't see the earlier "beneath you" remark. People are very touchy about references to the Nazis, because the standard form is to say, oh, that so-and-so is "as bad as Hitler." My reference — that people despised Roosevelt but still helped fight the Nazis — is completely on point. These guys who despise Obama won't even fund the government. Somehow I don't see them climbing up ropes into the teeth of the machine guns at Pointe du Hoc. The "beneath you" crack is I suppose a blend of compliment and ad hominem attack. As the Republicans see the blowback they'll get from their petulant and anti-American stance, I suppose we'll see a lot of that.


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