March 22, 2010
America Just Grew Up A Little More
By Mary Lyon
My Facebook friend worried: "how will it affect my family when I'm working part time and just getting by? Am I on my own? I don't want to hear the usual empty blathering. What will in mean in plain English?" Who wouldn't wonder how the passage of the historic Health Care Bill translates from a bill being discussed on TV to the bills you hold in your hands? I tried to research a little - and posted a Reuters link I found. My friend soon posted a response indicating the link had been helpful, observing that the passage of the bill might actually be beneficial to all. As well it may. The Congressional Budget Office evidently thought so.
But I think it goes even deeper than that. It says more about us - that is good - as Americans, after many years of the opposite. Instead of being known (around the world, as I've observed since 2001) as aggressors, greedy "what's our oil doing under their sand" myopic pirates invading and occupying others' lands. The way the world saw us over the last decade or so was not a pretty sight.
What became deemphasized, and outshouted, damn near trampled, was the America in us that cares, that is authentically compassionate, that genuinely leaves no child behind - no cheap sloganeering. It's the America you haven't heard much about in the news in the recent past - the money-grubbing and corner-cutting and fast-talking and gaming the system that we became collectively famous for - from the Keating Five and the S&L crisis to the hedge fund nightmare to the Enron scandal-scoundrels to the collapse of Wall Street, and the invading of sovereign nations with the unspoken objective of protecting an investment sort of drowned it all out for many onlookers the world over.
Many of us say we're a Christian nation. Do any of us as Americans really understand what that means? Anybody remember that historical stand-out Guy with the beard and the seamless garment who sat on the mountaintop one nice day and spoke the Sermon on the Mount? Remember that list in there - it's called the Beatitudes. The "Blessed are the..." litany. NOWHERE does it say "Blessed are the rich," or "Blessed are the greedy," or "Blessed are the selfish," or "Blessed are the bullies," or "Blessed are the haves and have-mores," or "Blessed are the war-makers." Doesn't say a ONE of those things, or even imply them. It's quite the opposite. "Blessed are the poor..." "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Blessed are the meek". It was that same Healer/Teacher who talked about whatever you did to what He called "the least of My brethren" - well, who do you think those are in our own times? The have-nots. Millions of them with no safety net. NOTHING - if they become seriously ill, if they get into a catestrophic accident or calamity. We already HAVE "death panels." They're the stingey, mercenary cheapskates in the insurance industry - who really have no interest in covering the decent health care you may someday need, because you cost them too much, and you eat into their profits. It's THEIR profits that matter more than YOUR health and recovery. How does it feel to live in a country with priorities like that?
It makes me feel uncomfortable - as though there should be something better because WE should be something better. The world looks to America for leadership in more than just technology, scientific advances, education, pop culture, or entertainment. It looks to us - or at least it has looked to us - for moral leadership. The whole "shining city on a hill" thing - where anything was possible for anybody, and you could be anything you wanted to be if you were willing to work for it. That opportunity was available to all and that magic really could happen in such a marvelous, revolutionary social construct. The most recent long-running taste we've left in the world's mouth is one of an invader of a sovereign country, a near-imperialistic power that allowed a country to be trashed and ammo depots and priceless historical treasure house unguarded, let the real bad guy get away, lied our way in, conducted torture, cheated and stole, while swaggering along the "my way or the highway."
It's only in the last couple of years that America started being able to reclaim the true high road in the world community. Barack Obama's election showed the world that the crippling racism of generations past had finally been overcome in the ultimate way. One of the first things he tried to do was show the world that we were "Under New Management" - returning to the America that could be trusted and admired, not feared and dreaded. It's nice to look outward into the rest of the world and not feel like wincing over what our last rogue government had been up to. I rather like having the rest of the world see that maybe we've just grown up a teeny little bit more tonight. Now, one of our major national priorities isn't what Rudy Giuliani once told some VIP was great about Americans. Paraphrasing - "you know what's great about Americans? Americans want to sell you something!" Stunning to think one of our leaders would actually say such a thing, much less believe it. But evidently, to our friend Rudy, making a buck makes the world go round.
NOW, however, we shift gears for a change. We look toward addressing a long, nagging, and increasingly critical social (OH YEAOWWW! That word with those letters spelling out "social" in it!!!!!! BE AFRAID!!!!) need that's visible at every turn from coast to coast. People without decent health care because they had no way to pay for it. The America we all REALLY believe in and grew up loving isn't a country that lets that happen - where people lose their homes because one sickness or health-related calamity wipes them out. The America we all REALLY believe in and grew up loving is a country where everybody has a shot. Everybody has the plain and simple basics of life covered and protected. This, too, is homeland security, after all. How secure do you feel - knowing your savings are on the line every day, if Heaven forbid you're suddenly staring at the real-life terror of a carnivorous medical bill someday?
It's something we as Americans owe to ourselves - AS Americans, and we're showing the rest of the world we've stepped up closer to where numerous other nations already are - in which the citizenry has health care coverage as a right of that citizenship. We're rejoining the family of nations in yet another way.