Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Pagan’s View of Health Care Reform and the Party of God

Shortly after President Obama's health care summit I began to see ads from an organization called "Patients United Now." Essentially these ads were spewing the standard Republican talking points, including the need to scrap the current legislation and start over. Predictably the ads were utilizing an attractive shill to distort the medical outcomes of other countries and implying the usual nonsense about the President being a malignant socialist who wants to take over health care and kill us all.

If this stuff weren't so pervasive in the body politic today it would be hysterically funny - in much the same way that Buster Keaton's falling over furniture was funny. After listening to six hours of back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans at the summit, of this I am sure: the strategy of walking away from the House and Senate reform bills advocated by the right is very simply a way to stop reform in its entirety, and there is nothing funny about that bit of foolishness. I find it difficult to believe that the Republicans have any intension of doing anything other than stall and delay until they can gain control of the Congress once again in which case they will basically ignore the issue as they always have. A good indication of this is the fact that these people see no reason to stop the deplorable practice of denying coverage on the bases of pre-existing conditions.

"Patients United Now" is on the internet, although I was unable to link to their website. I wrote and told them what I think of them. I am telling everyone I know and suggesting that they tell everyone they know to watch out for this bunch.

Millions of people are uninsured in this country. Hundreds of people die every day - thousands every year from lack of health care. This is a moral issue not a business issue. I would think that a Christian nation would understand the difference and be willing to put caring for its sick and dying in a humane and decent way ahead of supporting - in the name of the bloody free market - a well healed special interest group that sucks up more and more of the American dollar every year.

I hear many of our "leaders" asking for forgiveness when they get caught doing something they shouldn’t, but who will ask for forgiveness for ignoring the people who are dying today and every day. It is the will of the God of the Christians that we love and care for one another above all thing, or so I am told. I hear a great deal from some politicians about the immorality of abortion, gay marriage and the like. I never hear any of them repeating Christ's admonition to, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God's."

The rose above is the Peace Rose. Her legend is timely. On the night before Hitler invaded Paris a French diplomat brought her seedling to the US in his pouch. Roosevelt called her the Peace Rose in the hope of peace to come. I never expect to see peace in my life again. I have no doubt that people who would deny their countrymen the right to be treated decently when sick and dying would be indifferent to the sickness of war and the dying of soldiers and civilians. Still, I plant a Peace Rose somewhere every season and will as long as I can lift a shovel. Like Roosevelt, I hope for peace.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Road to Perdition

Every now and then a malignant ideologue rears their ugly head in the body politic. Some are charming, some charismatic, and some just intimidating and ugly. They all have three things in common. First, they are generally liars, usually fanatics and always name callers. Without exception they seize upon a term with which to define others as social pariahs and use it freely. Secondly, they are not interested in the common good. For all their mouthing off about freedom, patriotism, Christianity and the wonder of democracy they are without exception self promoting power junkies. Finally, they all come to an ignominious end generally at the hands of the institutions that supported them.

In the 1930’s - during the Great Depression - a priest known as Father Charles Coughlin took the job. He was a rabid anti-Semite and supporter of many of Hitler and Mussolini’s policies. He hated Communism. After initially supporting Roosevelt Coughlin turned on him and the New Deal. He spewed his detestable venom over the public airways via a series of radio broadcasts. In 1942 the Bishop of Detroit, Edward Mooney, ordered Coughlin to clam up and go back to his parish duties. He did until he retired in 1966. However, this particular ideological nut case introduced the world of demagoguery to the media. Therefore, he is the grandfather of the Rush Limbaughs and the Glenn Becks of today.

Some twenty years later along came Joseph McCarthy, Republican Senator from Wisconsin. This guy was a paranoid tyrant who saw little red communists under every car and dining room table. Using the bludgeon of the Senate’s subpoena power he brought countless innocent people before that august body to be intimidated, slandered, filleted and ruined. They were all communists to him, and all communists looked alike. He served from 1947 until his death in 1957. It is worth noting that McCarthy was never able to prove any of his charges of Communism, and that in 1954 the Senate voted to censure him by 67 to 22. This effectively put him back in his box for the duration of his tenure.

The brilliant journalist Edward R. Murrow once said of McCarthy, "His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. . . We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law." (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

If you substitute the word terrorism for the word communism you will have exactly what is going on today. The right’s lies, the blatant hypocrisy, the false accusations and the distortions are all designed to confuse, muddle and mislead the electorate. This has nothing to do with serving the public good. It is about power and political gain pure and simple.

There are so many demagogues slithering through the political scene today that one is hard pressed to identify a single primary perpetrator. Like Coughlin and McCarthy they are for the most part on the far right tending toward the lunatic fringe. Unable to articulate any kind of coherent public policy argument, lacking any pretense of a serious commitment to the electorate, willing to say anything to get their face in front of a camera, profoundly judgmental, prone to name calling and hypocrisy - at times cruel - they are the most destructive personalities on the public stage. Most of them have a large following as did Father Coughlin and Joe McCarthy. All of them are extremely adept at inspiring fear, hatred, and anger. As were Coughlin and McCarthy.

How far they will rise in the political world isn’t so much up to them or the Republican power brokers as it is up to us. We are a people who love to follow a Pied Piper with a mouth full of ear candy until it becomes obvious that we are being taken for a ride. By then we have generally paid dearly for the privilege. I give you George W. Bush, the run up to Iraq and the subsequent fear mongering of the next several years.

McCarthy was worse than Coughlin, because he was more powerful then Coughlin. The new breed of ideologues have a definite potential to be worse than McCarthy because they have access to greater wealth and a slavish media. With only a few exceptions there are no more Edward R. Murrows.

When someone inspires fear in me I don’t automatically think of following them. Fear mongers are fear mongering for a reason, and it is never a noble or honorable reason no matter how well it is wrapped in Christianity, integrity or patriotism.

If we believe that it is possible ". . . to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. . ." then we had better stop following every snake oil salesman with a false face and a fall guy down the road to perdition.