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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thinking

This is not a blog about why I'm glad the health care bill passed, although I am. These are a very random group of thoughts that have been spurred on by some thoughts related to all of the rhetoric I've seen, mainly on Facebook, surrounding this moment. People are angry. People are thrilled. Americans are a divisive group. What saddens me is that people think President Obama created the divide. I watch with some level of amusement how conservatives are just about ready to lose their mind right now knowing how I felt during the 8 years of the Bush administration, pretty much ready to lose my mind for the entire 8 years. I cried twice after Presidential elections...once when Bush was re-elected and then again when Obama was elected. Tears of sorrow, tears of joy. But I remember distinctly feeling very doomed the day Bush got re-elected. I really felt it would be disastrous and that this would not bode well for America's future. In my opinion, I was right. The wars, the torture, the sinking economy, our soiled reputation around the world...I'm sorry, I blame Bush. But what really strikes me is how little my own life was affected. My world changed very little except that a bit more anti-American sentiment was felt around me here in Stockholm. But generally speaking, for all my angst and tears about Bush getting re-elected, my life didn't suffer hardly at all.
I guess I'm thinking about this because so many of the people who are really angry about this health care bill aren't even going to be affected that greatly. We'll have to wait and see but I seriously doubt that "life as we know it" as privileged, decent income earning Americans is over. Most will continue to get really good care from really good doctors and in the end, won't really suffer much at all. I raise this because everyone who is mad about what Obama is doing will get over it. I survived Bush and those who hate Obama will survive his presidency and it is doubtful that most will see a real change in their day to day circumstances while he's president. But perhaps some poor people will be helped and I hope that in the end, we can all at least feel good about that.
I totally get that people have differing philosophies of governance. What's hardest for me to understand however is the vitriolic nature of the discourse. And Christians are not able to rise above this. The name calling is especially unhelpful. I've been called a commie/socialist in this debate. Others have said I've simply become too Swedish. If you've thought that, do you get how offensive that is? As if becoming Swedish is some great character flaw.
First off, most Americans don't even understand communism or socialism and they don't understand Sweden's social contract and they think that we're standing in bread lines or unable to see doctors or living in a desolate wasteland of horribleness. If you look around my blog, I think you'll see pretty quickly that we're enjoying a pretty great life. So even if you are mad about Obama's health care bill, at least stop calling him a socialist and referring to Europe in a derisive manner. The systems in Europe are different and they are working and they have not created societies of want or need or neglect. That would be America. (Sweden is by no means perfect. Wait time is an issue here but cost and access for all is not. And wait time can be skirted in emergencies. It's funny to me that one of America's values is wait time. We are also an impatient lot. I get that when you need care and you have to wait, it's no fun. But think about all the folks in this world who wait forever and never get any kind of care.) I'm just trying to get some perspective on how privileged I am because I realize that I live a much higher standard of life with many choices and numerous opportunities and that for most in our world, they don't.
The fact that there are so many poor people living in America with no means to get their basic life needs met, to me, is shameful for our nation. We say we don't want the Government interfering with our lives and yet clearly, we're unable to take care of this on our own, because we are not doing so.
One of the things that people seem really up in arms about are the new requirements for health insurance. We have requirements and minimums in our auto insurance laws, what's the difference? Why do we have seat belt laws and helmet laws? Or are those of you against the health care bill opposed to those as well? It's to protect the collective public and to seek to create a safer, more hospitable environment for all. Sadly, this sense of collectively caring for one another has gone woefully by the wayside in the US. And this is not socialism by the way. It's plain and simple caring about your neighborhood. It's one of the things I love about Sweden...people don't mind giving back a little more in order to create a greater good for all.
Again, I respect that others have a differing view of how to get things done or the role of the government in our lives, but I'm tired of the insurance companies having so much sway over what people can and can't do. I have yet to hear from a conservative what should be done to ensure care for those in need, to reduce the power and costs of the insurance companies, to enable people to sustain care even in chronic or previous contracted illness situations. Caps and exclusions are sinful and wrong. I'm happy to see them become illegal.
But I guess my question is this: Now that this is law, what's our responsibility as citizens? And for those opposed, are you the least bit moved by the care that might be extended to those less privileged than you? Or are you mainly concerned about the costs to your own bottom line or are you nervous about the government meddling in your daily affairs? Again...I seriously doubt that anyone with privilege and money in our society will have to change their lifestyle one bit as these health care provisions unfold.
Look, I know if you are on the other side of the coin from me, this is making you mad. Believe me, I know how you feel when I read conservative blogs. And I'm not making a case by case point about this health care law per se, I'm just trying to understand how we move forward. What's killing me are the conservatives who felt that Bush came under so much "unfair" criticism and yet now they launch their vitriol in a no holds barred manner. It's fine to criticize and disagree, but enough with the myths and fear-mongering. This is not a socialist plan, Europe is not the devil, and honestly, you will survive. I survived the Bush years with little impact to my day to day lifestyle. I feel badly about the collective hurt I feel his administration did and for now, we're in a wait and see moment with the Obama administration. But I have to say, the benefits to the poor and less privileged in our society will far greater outweigh the ways in which those of us with money and privilege will be negatively affected. And to me, that matters a great deal.