Normally I don’t go on political rants. I consider them a waste of time. After all, many of the people whose comments upset me already have their minds made up. Instead, I make my presence known at the voting booth and through campaign contributions when a candidate inspires me–which doesn’t happen very often, quite frankly.
Still, there are days when I feel I have to speak up, if only to vent my own frustrations. This is one of those days.
Since the passage of the healthcare reform bill in the House of Representatives, I’m hearing comments like, “America is dead.” “Our Constitution is being trashed.” Or, one of my favorites, “Let’s take ’em out.” In fact, some extremists are going so far as to criticize Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity, as though she is doing something horrible. “She wants us to be thin like the Europeans,” they say.
America is not dead. Let’s take a little walk down memory lane, shall we? How about that Constitution, that was created during the days of slavery, that did not extend rights to all of its people? We survived that, and while bigotry and discrimination still exist in the land of the free, we have made great strides. We survived a bloody war on our own soil that pitted, at times, brother against brother. We have survived recessions and depressions and even disco.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s, one of the most turbulent times in our history. Between the body bags of Vietnam, the assassinations of beloved (and not so beloved) leaders, and the gun-toting radical groups, it’s a wonder I wasn’t too paralyzed to grow up and leave home. Yet somehow we made it through, past oil embargoes, savings and loan scandals, Enron, and the unforgettable trauma of 9/11.
We have entered a new era of hysteria. Too much government spending, people cry, yet they were silent during the Bush years. Yes, some of you are currently not being represented, but some of us have not been represented for years. I know this. I’m a Democrat in a Red state, and my vote seldom counts. Yet I understand that in our democracy, the votes of the majority determine the outcome. It means not everyone is going to be happy. Deal with it. It doesn’t mean you’re losing your freedom, it just means you lost an election.
I have failed to understand how the attempt to insure everyone, regardless of income, is such a danger to our country. We are already footing the bill for the uninsured, who go to emergency rooms for their care because it’s the only place that will take them. We fail as a nation when hard-working Americans cannot afford coverage or have their coverage canceled because they got sick. I know, I know. There are those who say that this bill will support the lazy, the no-good. Those folks have always been with us, and no, they won’t go away with this bill. However, the majority of folks that can benefit from this bill work hard and do not deserve to be called the “moocher class.”
And what about childhood obesity? Folks, healthcare costs are astronomical, and the fallout from childhood obesity, which then becomes adult obesity, will bankrupt our nation. Obesity increases a variety of health risks, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more, the treatment of which is expensive. Yes, some of us will have to take the doughnuts out of our mouths and start eating better. This makes for better brain power for our youth, as well as improved physical health. And about those thin Europeans? Well, many of them have a longer life expectancy than we Americans do. If you want to do your part to lower healthcare costs, then go for a walk. Eat your veggies. Lay off the sodas. You’ll save money in your own pocket as well as America’s.
Finally, Obama is not going to kill granny. This has been one of the most disgusting arguments against the healthcare bill, one of the many lies and distortions made against it. Recently we took my elderly father-in-law to the hospital. He’s 80, in poor health, and ready to die. We are navigating the waters of deciding what treatments will enhance his quality of life without unduly prolonging it. End of life care is a tender, sensitive subject, and we have seen that the decisions aren’t always so black and white. A little end of life counseling is a compassionate way to help the elderly live better, but preserve dignity in their final months and years. We aren’t going to take my father-in-law out back and shoot him, and neither is Obama or his “minions,” as his critics call them.
Regardless of your stance on the healthcare bill, my point is this: America is not dead. I walk over to Rice University periodically, and I see young people making a difference both here and abroad with their research. I’ve met a community of people committed to ensuring that people have safe water to drink, food to eat, and education. I’ve seen, in Costa Rica in particular, the powerful results of efforts against deforestation, that prove that we can have a healthy planet AND jobs. We do not have to choose either/or. By the way, many of the pioneers in these conservation efforts have been Americans, and I am proud of their work. It gives me hope for the future, that we can preserve life on this planet, that for every wasteful, arrogant American who doesn’t care, there are so many more who do.
We will survive this era of dissent, because dissent is part of the fabric of America. We are allowed to argue, sometimes passionately, for our beliefs. Sometimes we will win, and sometimes we will lose. It does not mean that our democracy has died. It means, in fact, that it is still alive, that it still works.