Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform

David and I watched the House vote on the healthcare reform bill last night. What a wonderful thing...finally. As Nancy Pelosi said in her speech, this could really contribute to a better economy because people will be free now (or here pretty soon) to try out an entrepreneurial spirit without the burden of worrying about healthcare. I don't how many times I've heard people say that they can't do this, or they can't do that, because they have to have the healthcare coverage afforded by their current employment. Now they are more free to experiment and take business risks. It could bode well, I think.

Our laws reflect who we are as a nation. It's important to me that we are a nation that cares about the widow and the orphan, those who cannot care for themselves as easily as the rest of us. If the churches had the wherewithal to do that, or philanthropy took care of it, that would be fine--it's not that I'm in love with big government. I just want someone to do it. Government, it's up to you! i.e., it's up to all of us, and I don't mind paying more in taxes to help that happen.

This American love of the individual is just way out of control, it seems to me. One of the Republican representatives last night was obviously a fan of Ayn Rand. I agree that individuals should have reasonable freedom to be all they can be, to create and accomplish. But we're in this country together and when the 'least of these' suffers, there is some sense in which we are all diminished. That's a core belief for me. Executives making millions of dollars when their employees make minimum wage? Uh, No. Let the executives be 'free to be all they can be' with fewer dollars at their disposal.

Each time a Republican stood up there and said we need to start over, I almost gagged. I'm sure the bill that has passed is indeed flawed, but start over? Get real. It would be forever before another bill got off ground, and in the meantime people are going bankrupt because of medical bills, people are totally stressed from their lack of good (if any) coverage, and people are dying from an inability to get competent medical care in this country.

Conservatives think it costs too much money. I agree we should balance the budget and live within our means. So let's withdraw or greatly scale back our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan -- how much would that save? Let's raise taxes, especially on rich individuals and corporations -- how much would that help? There are ways to pay for healthcare. And if the Dems are right, in the long run our fiscal house will be better off with healthcare reform.

After the vitriol of last summer's town hall meetings, I really thought that the forces of evil were winning the day. We're looking at the issue of theodicy in my class this week--the problem of evil and suffering. One book I read reminded me of Hannah Arendt's study of Adolf Eichmann in which she noted that he wasn't 'demonic or perverse.' No, Eichmann was thoughtless, shallow and had an authentic inability to think critically. It's the banality of evil that gets us, because as Martin Buber said, good is the struggle for beauty and truth. It takes work to stay on the path. Evil, on the other hand, can manifest from inattention and distraction. Evil can happen when we close our eyes and just don't look, when we don't bother to do the hard work of critical thinking.

And while I have some problems with the implication here from Buber that good doesn't come naturally (I think it does, as much as does evil), I do think there's a powerful point in this. We have to be willing to pay the cost involved in thinking critically about our society and culture. It may hurt to realize that we've been blind, but it's just so important to let that kind of pain come and work our way through it to a new worldview. Systemic evil exists.

Systemtic evil exists, and I think it's pretty easily seen in this TeaParty movement whose principles are in large measure Randian--free market, constitutionally limited government, and fiscal responsibility. Give the individual the space to be free!!!! [Never mind that my freedom inevitably limits my neighbor's freedom. That is simply inevitable. I cannot do whatever I want without eventually spilling over onto other people.]
  • The free market, while it's great in allowing creativity and promoting entrepreneurship, also bolsters greed. There must be interference from the government to limit some individual and economic liberty and put some reigns around human greed.
  • This reverence for the Constitution is fine as long as we understand the Constitution to be a living document, one that itself has the freedom to be applied to new situations in new ways. To say that the founders' original intent is what counts is...dangerous fundamentalist thinking. People evolve. God is always creating the New.
  • Fiscal responsibility? Yes of course. The rubber meets the road on this issue, though, when we ask whether fiscal responsibility is so that 'I can spend the money that is the fruit of my own labor' [that's language from the TeaParty website] in any way I want or whether fiscal responsibility is so that there will be enough for everyone to have a decent life.

So when people against healthcare reform call Barney Frank a f-----, and they call John Lewis a n------, what am I to think? Do I think, Oh, they just got excited in the heat of the moment? or do I think, oh, these are just the fringe element of the TeaParty-ers, like all movements have fringe elements? or do I think something else?

Do I think this is the predictable outcome of an evil philosophic system that refuses to acknowledge our interconnectedness? You bet, that's what I think. And yes, I think it's evil, and yes, I'll continue to name it and to stand against it.


Mompriest said...

Thank you Katherine for this. I hope that healthcare reform will actually be reform. I fear that it will become sooo watered down that it will be nothing by the time 2014 rolls around. Sigh.

In terms of evil...I was reading a book by Peter Steinke on Healthy Congregations and he described what he has experienced as evil in congregations - characteristics that made it clear to me that I lived through real evil at play - evil that, at least for the time being, "won."...really awful. I think that same evil is pervasive in much of what is happening in the vitriol and actions in this country. Evil, fed by fear. Fear because the color of skin of our President is not what it's always been. Fear because human sexuality is not what its always been. Fear because those who have had control do not have as much of it. And so on..It's sad.

Katherine E. said...

Mompriest, I totally agree. I, too, have witnessed evil in a congregation, and I think you're right, it's evil fed by fear. And thank you for naming what I believe is true as well regarding our President and changing power roles....

Anonymous said...

Prophetic post. Well said.