Sep 16, 2011

That Vision Thing: Tea Party's America

Health (and life) as a luxury commodity

The lines are drawn: it's time to choose sides

“I've got some bad news,” were the words greeting me upon picking up that late night phone call many years ago. “Mark's dead.”

Mark was a dear college pal, as was the caller. Our close knit crew had been members of the real world for a little over a year at the time, and had all been together just a few months earlier at one our's wedding. You don't expect to be getting this kind of news about a 23-year old, but there we were suddenly making airport arrangements for gathering again in Buffalo.

The cause of Mark's death question can be answered one of two ways: 1) he died of that once-in-a generation influenza outbreak that hit the USA in that very year; or 2) he died of a lack of health insurance. Both would be accurate.

Our pal had found himself in that common modern day no man's land: school's over but there's no job lined up. The school daze fun is done, but the bus to the lifetime grind hasn't made it to his stop yet. There was no health insurance because there was no job, and with no job there was no money. Health insurance? How about finding something to eat and a place to sleep first, then we'll get to that other stuff like opening the mail from the student loan collectors or insurance? His widowed mom had taken him as far as she could and things were looking bleak in that year of America's stagflating recession. That's where he found himself in that dreary winter.

But a bit of an opening pierced the clouds: an offer to let him crash in Atlanta, with a list of potential employment possibilities to chase once he got there. A hometown buddy was willing to do his best to help him stake his ground and to lead the charge. Mark borrowed a few bucks and off he went, carrying with him nothing more than his clothes and a few precious record albums.

He got sick almost immediately upon arrival in Georgia. I don't think he even made it to his first interview before a fever dropped him into a bed, where his conditioned mysteriously and quickly deteriorated over the next few days. His friend knew it had become serious and got him to Atlanta Medical Center. He never got to see a doctor and his lack of an insurance card sent him home, without even an antibiotic being prescribed.

Three days later, he was dead. Dead at twenty-three, in a strange bed in a strange building in a strange city. Three days after that, his friends and family were saying goodbye back in the frozen north, with his Atlanta friend somehow feeling the need to tell us “I did the best I could for him down there.” Mark didn't even own a proper suit yet, so he was buried looking just like the character we knew, running around the dorm and campus with his madcap look. All these decades later, the whole thing still aches terribly in this corner.

The reader no doubt knows where I am going with this. We're all familiar with the troubling (to the reasoned amongst us, at least) scene at this past Monday 'Tea Party-sponsored' Republican debate, where audience members shouted “Yes!” and '”let him die!” when the hypothetical question of whether the denial of medical care to a dieing but uninsured 30yo would be a proper course of action or not.

To these Denizens of Darkness, it's all about couching their personal greed with code words like “personal responsibility” and “financial risk” and the convenient feelgood insanity of “let the charity sector handle it” or the red meat dogma of “get the government out of my life.” What-if scenarios like “what if the uninsured person is in need of care because of the negligence of an insured one?” or “what if he is incapable of logical decision-making?” are ignored as are the more nuanced discussions of such topics as luck, circumstance and community. No need to bother with these complicated issues; t'is much easier to break it down to simply protecting one's own – with one's own being one's checking account. After all, I earned it myself!

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. As I've gotten to know these Tea Party types, certain characteristics emerge. Among them is the fact that very few of them actually did that earning by means of an entrepreneurial endeavor: most are drawing a paycheck (with an insurance benefit) from someone else's dream, and not their's. One can only contemplate the mindset if we were to somehow disconnect healthcare from employment, forcing these earners to fend for themselves at market rates without the precious entity known as the employer contribution. Not to mention the friendly landscape (courtesy of that dreaded Big Gubment) that further eases the path (COBRA, equal access, etc)

Secondly, one must consider the concept of wealth accumulation as it relates to this predominantly middle class Tea sipping crowd. Dig into their bank accounts, and we can predict this finding: most of it didn't come just from that aforementioned earning, but from circumstance. A safe and healthy childhood provided by dear old Mon and Dad, along with (for some) that primary predictor of financial stability: an education. Now add in the fact that many are also sitting on an inheritance benefit (usually housing-based) and we can really have a discussion on fairness, level playing fields and equality. One might ask if we are a true democracy, shouldn't our embedded capitalist structure give everyone an equal chance at success, not just the circumstantially advantageous? But such a worthy goal might lead to free education for all and (gasp) the elimination of inheritances, and that sure won't fly. Plus, the conversation itself might distract from more important pursuits, like talk radio or NASCAR.

Rage should be a suitable reaction to countering these cretins. That works for me, not only upon this type of reflection but also the fact that it again hit home in the past few days when I was made aware of the passing of a childhood friend last week, with a familiar theme again rearing its ugly head. Yes, let's run with the rage, stop treating these zombies as curious yet ill-informed fellow citizens but as a very real enemy to what should be our collective goal of a civilized, passionate and functioning society.

It's time time to stop being polite and start fighting back.


FYI: a similar reaction; the now very viral "That was my brother's death you were cheering, you a$$holes"


PT said...

Right on, brother, Right on.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100%. Insanity has taken over in this country. The media gives these nutjobs the soap box to spew their hate, whereas in more civilized times they would have been treated as deranged and ignored.

L said...

the tea party is basically a fascist, or neo-fascist, political movement.

Bruce Morrow (Glens Falls NY) said...

It's just plain old FEAR, as simple as that.

My neighbor is an avowed Tea Party supporter - -he flies the Don't Tread On Me flag, has the bumper stickers, everything. He's a decent enough fellow.

He invited me over to what appears to be a monthly coffee and beer session of some loose coalition of like minded indiiduals. My first question was "but where's the tea?". No one laughed, but I don't drink tea either.

Listening to these people, it becomes clear (to me anyways) where they are coming from. The world is changing -- rapidly --and they feel left behind. They are not in a position to keep up in their own mind.

It might be a lack of an advanced education, it might be a lack of enough energy to reinvent themselves (most Tea Party'ers seem to be in the 45-60yo range), or it just might the 'trapped in one place' aspect, being tied down by a mortgage or family or a business they own.

On that last point, one can see that those who own their own businesses (which might be more than you attribute) are involved in consumer or basic service businesses. Maybe a small retail store or a plumber or a deli and so on. If you own a business like those, your earning potential (total sales) is fairly limited as to the maximum end; so your energy and concerns become focused more on cost control. So any "added costs" become their hot button issues.

So who is to point the finger at when the 'added costs' issue is raised. Yep: new government regulations or bureaucrats or licensing or zoning or .... and so on. One can understand the reasoning, while also knowing that bigger forces are the true caused of those problems.

But there lies the opening for the puppet masters to exploit. Talk radio, Fox News, the right wing bloggers and the Republican Party excel at brainwashing these people into blaming "the left", all while their policies past and present are what are killing us.

Furthermore, they get away with painting the federal government as being the embodiment of the left. We know this is not true, not after all these years of deregulation and the selling of our nation's soul to the global corporate interests.

They (the Tea Party) are victims of this propaganda campaign. Sure, it's their own fault, but the right wing has mastered the art of painting it all in a simplistic, black & white manner that works in this era of sound bites and Angry White Guys.

I agree with you that it is time to fight back. But I think the battle ground should be the media waves. We need to change the way in which the topic of the American decline is framed, pointing the finger at the true culprits.

I'll keep an eye on my neighbor to see if it's working. But I certainly don't have a lot of confidence: it could get real nasty and ugly before it all starts making sense.

(I enjoy your posts here. Keep it going)