What better time to talk about health care reform than when I'm home sick?
I just re-read Frank Rich's terrific op-ed piece from Sunday's NYT, and it drove home my own views on all the angry "pitchfork people," as I like to call the angry mobs of sheeple populists.
What concerns me about how the health care upheaval played out is this: People have bought into the belief that the less fortunate are morally inferior and don't deserve health care. How else to explain the reaction gone viral of a mob harassing a man with Parkinson's who was engaged in an act of non-violence? Even though they likely know somebody - an extended member of the family, colleague at work, or neighbor - in debt after a life-threatening illness, they don't realize that they themselves are, as one Harvard MD says, "One illness away from financial ruin." Indeed, more than 60% of bankruptcies filed in the U.S. are the result of medical bills.
Elsewhere in the developed world, health care is something its citizens share. Here in the U.S. it is something we horde. They see it as a basic human right...we see it as privilege. An article in Salon said it well: "[The sheeple] tend to believe healthcare reform helped 'other people,' not themselves."
A Canadian friend of mine recently told me that when Canada adopted universal health care, people assumed the sky was falling. Now the father of Canadian health care is considered the nation's greatest citizen. I can only hope that the polls trending upward since the passage last week of health care reform continues and that the hostility will die down. Actual signs, though, indicate the initial blip was just that...initial. And even more recent polling indicates that people believe Democrats are to blame for the violence perpetrated against its members in Congress post passage.
But I worry a low-level of hatred will remain, because for many, it all comes down to black. There's this "other," see, in the White House; an uppity, scarily-named, "intellectual" with a preternatural calm. And he signals a rising up of all the other "others" - is it any surprise that Newt Gingrich compared health care reform to passage of the Civil Rights Act as regards possible fall-out? Maybe he's just speaking a hard political truth, but his harsh, cynical view negates the actual purpose and result of civil rights laws. And that's the difference Bill Maher pointed to [again] on Friday night when he defined patriotism as doing what's right for the country as opposed to doing what's right for any particular political party.
Nobody's thrilled with the final health care reform bill; that million dollars a day spent by healthcare interests (insurance, medical, hospital, and pharmaceutical companies) to effect the outcome in their favor made sure that of that. But I sleep a little better at night knowing that as a nation we are trying to live up to a moral responsibility.