So here we are at the end of a long, hot summer (at least in Britain - how's that for an oxymoron), after an August of scorching and offtimes ridiculously ignorant debates about a topic which has suddenly become urgently de rigeur in the United States: healthcare reform.
It really has been the silly season back home - embarrassingly so for me. Living in Europe, I've just come off 8 years of trying to convince people this side of the Pond that not all Americans were as certifiable as the neocons in possession of the bully pulpit, allegedly duly elected representatives, indicating the will of the people. Just about the time when I can put my head above the figurative parapet and attempt to wave a US flag, I'm confronted with the absurd Town Maulings.
Universal healthcare in Europe is a given. It's been around a long time. In fact, it's so much taken for granted by citizens of the countries where it's established, that many citizens complain vigourously about the quality of the healthcare they receive; and even though they wouldn't be without the universal healthcare that they have, the naysayers trying to discredit Obama as a socialist/communist/fascist/illegal alien/the Devil incarnate listen to their bleatings across the Atlantic and embellish upon them, using this spin as fodder to fuel the fires of fear amongst the lowest common denominator of voters in the States.
After all, better the devil you know than the devil you don't, even if you didn't realise that the devil that gave you Medicare just might be the government.
That's the ignorance of the Right - ugly, hideously white, quasi-illiterate,faith-based, excluding and intolerant and all in the name of Christianity.
That's the base ignorance which comes as a result of poor education, which resides in provincial and rural communities, usually found in the Deep South or in the sparsely-populated Western states, the stuff of people raised on a diet of Civil War stories and survivalists. The stuff of Timothy McVeigh, the paranoia that stoked Columbine, the sort of misappropriated loyalty that equates the Pro-Life campaign with the Pro-Death approval of the death penalty.
But the Right isn't the exclusive domain of ignorance, for ignorance resides on the Left-hand side of the American street as well; and in many ways, it's just as ludicrous, just as loud-mouthed, just as close-minded and just as intolerance. This brand of ignorance is uglier, because most of its proponents are educated, presume to be intelligent, and, quite frankly, should know better.
Of course, it's all about healthcare reform. What isn't, nowadays? For the shills of the Far Left, the self-proclaimed Progressives (who are anything but), Obama has done nothing right since taking office on January 20th. First there was the Wall Street bail-out, then the compromise with the Republicans on the Stimulus Package. There was the bi-partisan approach altogether, and now healthcare. Sprinkled amongst all that, Obama's neglected to legalise marijuana, repeal Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell and rescind the Defence of Marriage Act.
But healthcare's taken as much a centre stage for these people as it has for opponents of reform; and they just might, unwittingly, unite to kill it off entirely.
According to these people, Obama should have let the banks tank and at the same time, magically pull jobs from a magician's top hat. Do they not realise that, had Wall Street not been given a lifeline, there would be no jobs full stop, never mind magical ones pulled from magical hats. The United States economy would simply stop ... along with most of the major economies of the developed world. Of course, everyone deplores the greed engendered by Wall Street and the ethos of bonus that thrives there, but without the banking industry, where would the basic economy be?
These are people who, wrongly, believe that the greener grass of Europe is a haven of socialism.
European countries are beehives of capitalism. In fact, capitalism first came of age in England. The emergence of the English middle class signaled the end of the Middle Ages and heralded the dawning of a new sort of Renaissance. The noblesse oblige of France gave way to the noblesse de robe and, by extension, the solid bourgeoisie, or ... middle class. The only vestiges left of socialism are the healthcare systems - eclectic throughout Europe in design - and the public transport systems in each country, which vary from the sublime of France and Germany, to the ridiculously expensive in the UK.
The battle-cry of the some on the Progressive Left, regarding healthcare, is 'single-payer.' Single-payer or nothing. Forget the Third Way (ineffectual at the best of times, in my opinion), single-payer is the only way.
But it's not. And, I ask ... do they understand it? Do they understand that 'free at source' doesn't really mean ... 'free'? When they cry out that 'the government pays, that's what "single-payer" means,' do they understand where the government gets the money to pay for this medical care?
They get it from taxes, which will have to be raised across the board. Not the rich, not corporations. Everyone. Proportionately, yes - after all, to each according to his ability - but raised still.
I've lived under a single-payer system for 28 years. Simply put, on a good day, it works; on a bad day, it sucks. It's the luck of the draw, or rather, the luck of where you live. Live in an area where your local health authority has managed its budget well, and you'll never know a waiting list or anything less than a pristine hospital. Live where the bureaucrats who administer the authority's budget are feckless, and you'll have services cut, waiting lists months long and MRSA-infected hospitals with six-bed, mixed wards.
They'll grudgingly accept a 'public option', a vaguely-expressed version of they hybrid public-private combination popular throughout Southern Europe. This actually makes these sorts seem a bit more sensible. It at least tells me they're aware of the fact that Medicare only covers 80% of medical expenses and extending Medicare for all, would need a private top-up option added. (Of course, this is in opposition to the shills shouting 'Medicare for all' as a single-payer option, without stopping to think that 'Medicare for all' would mean 'all' would have to cough up the balance.
Then there's an idiot, shouting on another site, about getting rid of insurance companies entirely. Entirely. Presumably, this person doesn't drive a car or live in a house, which might burn or be damaged by a storm or hurricane. Presumably, he doesn't travel or own anything of value that might be lost or stolen, much less value his life in the event he has a family for whom provision might have to be made in the unlikely event of his death. Because all of the above would entail insurance, which would mean he would, in the words of the Wicked Witch of the North, kinda sorta, you know, need insurance companies.
Single-payer's the answer. Public option, maybe. Employer-based and co-operatives is a sell-out to Big Pharma and Big Business.
And this is when my head really begins to explode with anger, because in the midst of all this pandemonium, chaos, confusion and outright lies that have dominated the better part of the summer, this lot, the Left, the so-called Progressives, are ready to throw Obama under the political bus, walk away, denounce him as a traitor. Just like that. After 8 months.
I'm sorry, but even if Jesus Christ were the Son of God, even he wouldn't be able to undo in 8 months what it took the asswipes who raped our Constitution and instituted a rule of thuggery 8 years to achieve.
Already, on some sites there is talk of hoping there might be a primary challenge to Obama's leadership in 2012. Who could it be? Some say Hillary, who's repeatedly said she won't run at 65. Some are even hopeful of Ralph Nader, as if the United States would profit from having an 80 year-old at the helm - not to sound ageist, but one would live in hope that his Vice President would be considerably younger.
And these selfsame people sneered at Sarah Palin for being a quitter.
Obama never had the Right. From the getgo, they would always be against him. He's losing the Centre, because the Centre are confused as to what sort of healthcare plan he has in mind; and, quite honestly, that's Obama's fault for not having something, if not concise, at least a concrete, if rudimentary, plan about how to approach this reform. Yet I can understand his reticence to do so, considering the resounding bitchslap the Democratic Congress gave the Clintons in 1993, when they presented a healthcare plan fait accompli.
Obama, the Constitutional lawyer, is making government work the way government should work: Congress was called upon to legislate, to formulate an cost-effective universal healthcare package, even though, as I said on Bill Maher's forum, Congress is, at best, dysfunctional at the moment. It's polarized between the Right wingnut theocrats and a Democratic caucus that's at once high on the fact that they've gained the bully pulpit and suspicious of each of its own diverse factions within itself.
Forgive my Lincoln moment, but a House divided against itself cannot stand (the Democrats), and you can't please all the people all the time (healthcare and the President). Sometimes I think Lincoln was the last sane Republican; and look what happened to Lincoln.
I'm reading James Carville's latest book at the moment, 40 More Years, and one thing strikes me: Throughout the book, Carville refers to the Republicans as just that - 'the Republicans' or 'the Republican Party.' On the other hand, when he speaks of the Democrats, he refers to them as 'the Democratic caucus' or 'the Democratic coalition,' and those epithets ring true. Coalitions are weak at the best of times, and the Democrats are as culturally diverse as America, itself. All you needed to do was scan the sea of faces at each of the national conventions last year. Which one most closely resembled the America you know? And which one looked like the America of the 19th Century?
Earlier this summer, my socio-political muse, Bill Maher, was interviewed by Howard Kurz on CNN. During the interview, Kurz briefly mentioned the tea party phenomenon and the fact that some statements emanating from that movement were veering into the realms of a fascist fantasy. However, this was Freedom of Speech. He asked Bill about the First Amendment, and Bill made a remark that, for lack of a better word than a British one, gobsmacked Howard Kurz. Bill remarked that in travelling about, he noticed a worrying trend amongst younger people, specifically those on college campuses. More than the Right wingnutters, or at least just as much, college students on the Left were calling for a denial of Freedom of Speech. In short, they wanted to squelch dissent. I don't know what baffled and astounded Bill more - the fact that these people wanted to rescind this basic right, or the fact that they clearly were unfamiliar with the Constitution, which is probably why Bill was led to surmise that America was a stupid country.
And that surmisal pains me ... not because I disagree with Bill, because I did, at first; but now I agree. Because I see ignorance on the Left as well as the Right. There's a difference, however. The Right revere Sarah Palin and cult of willful ignorance, which denotes intellectual elitism as something pejorative and not to be trusted. These people revel in what they don't know and wear it proudly as a badge of honour, clinging to their guns and their religion in defence of this.
The Left, well, the Left are like those pseudo-intellectual wannabe high school philosophers - the sort who swanned about the halls of high schools in the early 70s, clutching a copy of Lord of the Rings, whose bookmark never seemed to progress past the first third of the interminably boring story. It looked cool. So now it looks cool to pretend you understand and are familiar with the Constitution, while all the time you know as much about it as the wingnutters from the Right: jack shit.
And it's ok for you to call down the Right as stupid, blind, narrow-minded et al, whilst crying for the Republicans to be silenced on the one hand, and Obama to be sacrificed on the other. Their ignorance is more tragic, for they are blind to it, lost in a forest out of which they can't find their way, because there are simply too many trees.
Their ignorance is an ignorance of arrogance, where their way is the right way and they know better than anyone, irregardless of experience.
As my late mother would say, they won't be told.
People I've met on various internet sites and blogspheres, people from this type of Left, tell me I've been away from the US too long. I'm constantly being told that I don't know my own country, that I don't live here anymore, and, therefore, even though I possess a passport, pay taxes and vote regularly, I've no right to comment upon or even worry about any socio-economic or political situation in the United States. Well, I'll tell you what I DO know.
I know that never before in my sordid life on either side of the Atlantic, have I ever been spurred with a sense of optimism and hope as I was last year during the campaign of Barack Obama. I'd never seen a Presidential candidate that inspired me so much. I was beginning to wonder if any ever would.
My parents came of age during the Great Depression. My father cast his first vote for Roosevelt's second term in 1936; my mother's first vote came four years later when she voted for his third term. Both their families were suffering along with everyone else when Roosevelt told them they had nothing to fear but fear, itself. My dad went to war, and my mother learned to drive and worked his job, for twice the salary he earned. During the war, she and her sisters shut up their various houses and returned to live with my grandparents, so they could pool their ration cards.
Later, they were Kennedy Democrats, and, as a small child, I could sense their excitement when Kennedy won to ask us not what our country could do for us, rather that we should ask what we could do for our country. They grew up and matured under a notion of service and sacrifice, if the time required it. They may have grumbled a bit, but they simply got on with it, and they endured.
In his first show of the 2009 season, Bill touched upon this subject, wondering if the people of today had an inkling of an idea about service to the country, about responding when the President asked for their help in achieving some of the monumental tasks heaped upon him to achieve. Bill was pretty pessimistic about that, reckoning that our society today was lazy; they wanted instant gratification, and they wanted the President to 'do' everything for them to alleviate their suffering without doing anything in return. This was not, reckoned Bill, the same generation as the so-called Greatest Generation.
He's been proven right. This is what we're seeing now. People from both sides of the political coin, turning their back on a gifted, sensitive, caring and intelligent President. Inexperienced, you say? Who has the necessary experience for this Poisoned Chalice? In the past 30 years, we've had a peanut farmer, an actor, a patrician, a philanderer and a dolt. For the first time in my life, it seems as if we have a man in the Oval Office who genuinely cares about the people who've chosen him, as much as he cares about the people who haven't.
He's a human being, a man; he's fallible like we all are. He'll make mistakes and falter, but he's criticized even when he admits error; and he'll falter even more if those of us who voted for him just turn our backs and walk away, along with the birthers, the teabaggers, the Creationists and the old Confederacy. Good company, eh?
Just because they're the jokers on the Right, doesn't mean you should take pride in being the clowns on the Left. Maybe it's time the Democrats stopped falling in love and started falling in line a bit - hey, we could have a party, like, you know ... the Democratic Party.