Okay, so I have to confess that I didn’t make up that title. I got that from CREDO a while back when the GOP was shouting about reforming Wall Street and it now graces the back of my vehicle. As is quoted on the CREDO website, Republicans like Bachmann and Beck are only the tip of a vast iceberg of ignorance. Like so:
Bachmann: “Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are equal.”
Beck: “This president has exposed himself, I think, as a guy…who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.”
Was that before or after his white mother and grandparents raised him Mr. Beck? And, Ms. Bachmann, we know all cultures aren’t created equal. Take a look at this one which beats the one we live in on the most pressing domestic issue of our time. Maybe you should visit but that would require a passport and a willingness to expand the mind; sadly, not likely.
Are Republicans simply people given to villainy? Are they individuals who have been completely stripped of any consideration for their fellow human beings? How is it possible that a human being, any human being anywhere, can actually say to themselves, I am doing fine, I see that you are not, but that’s cool with me. My posterior is padded, my ducks are in a row, and all I’m going to do for my country is grill vast slabs of meat on the 4th of July, fly those stars and stripes (or a lone star), and shout phrases like kick some butt, bring it on, and the N word and call it a life worth living?
I spent almost the entirety of Tuesday shuttling between hospitals and various doctors’ offices. I was sitting in the waiting room of the radiology unit at Lankenau Hospital when the TV above – not set to Fox, thank heavens – played the scene of the President signing the $938 billion health care reform bill into law. It is neither a case of the government taking over health care nor a giant overhaul destined to be entirely inclusive, but it is a significant move toward the egalitarian society (i.e. giving the same political, economic, social and civil rights to everybody as well as removing economic inequalities between citizens), that a democracy is supposed to guarantee. An elderly lady walked in and stated that she was very happy to see this day. Yet every other person in that hospital, suited, well appointed with their various and sundry needs – wheelchairs, walkers etc. – complained bitterly. “We are going to be paying for this,” spat a corpulent man tanned to a certain level of alien, “our taxes. And they won’t let the banks lend money to students anymore. Only the government.”
Here’s what that particular gripe is about: The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, folded into the health care legislation as a means of passing two of the largest pieces of the democratic agenda, would cut out the middle man from federal student loan programs and give students the chance to borrow directly from the federal government instead of from banks. The bill, now law, would expand the Pell grand program for low-income students. Read more here to find out the details as well as the ways in which the benefit extends to kids in your individual congressional district and how much money it saves the government – er, that would be us, the taxpayers.
I wanted to say something, but I did not, choosing instead to watch the proceedings on TV and comforting myself by handing the old lady my business card – for what purpose, I do not know; just to express solidarity. What I should have said is this: “I’m so glad you brought up that bit about our taxes paying for all this. Because I was so much happier when our taxes were being used to murder over 100,000 Iraqis, while sending a civilization back to the stone ages, kill 4,384 American soldiers and maim 31,716 others (we have exact official figures for the American dead and wounded but the estimates are higher), in a war that continues to rise above $713,822,438,777 (please click the link to watch the numbers), used for scare-mongering tactics designed to depress the national psyche, protect the perpetrators of schemes to swindle ordinary Americans, such as Enron, sell off the matter of protecting against the inevitable excesses of war to private contractors, incarcerate people without charging them at Guantanamo, torture others in Abu Ghraib, and, by the way, not do anything for the people who suffered from Hurricane Katrina, not build the 9/11 memorials to the dead in NY, not make college accessible for more students, and certainly not help the sick get better or the healthy stay that way. Yeah, man. Wasn’t that the ride???” And you know I’m not mentioning half a hundred other things that defined one of the most depressing eras in recent American history.
The day continued in much the same way. I used to think that doctors were the good guys, that they were merely caught in the vice between lawsuits and insurance companies and that, if only they were given the chance, they would gladly provide health care to the suffering masses. But I was wrong. Every doctor complained that they did not need “government takeover of health care.” Having done some research, it seems there are some physicians who do support the President’s reforms, but clearly none of the specialists I saw in my Philadelphia suburb belong to that group. I confess that this became a day during which I reverted to my “I’m not from here” safe corner from which vantage I could safely ridicule the level of ignorance apparent among even the most highly educated professionals in America. But that’s not the truth of it. This is not about knowing the facts, it is about class and race. After all, the janitor at St. Joseph’s University’s Maguire campus gym could speak eloquently and knowledgeably about the issue, about all the bits and pieces and fixers and amendments that most others seemed to miss. People who care, find out. People who don’t, don’t. You are either an orifice located 2/3 of the way down your body, or you are not.
I was heartened to read about and watch the clip posted by Catholics United on their effort to counter the negativity and asinine, disrespectful, derogatory, threatening, muck-slinging garbage spouting from the mouths of various so-called tea-partiers. (Listen, I’ve drunk tea all my life. The tea you drink probably comes from my country and you ain’t worth the dregs that are left after the pot has been brewed several times over. And yes, I know this has to do with Boston and so forth, but I couldn’t resist.) But what really lifted my spirits was listening to NPR’s program, Coming of Age that afternoon, as I sat in my driveway between hospital visits. The story was about Gladys Farmer and I’ll post a clip below:
“Gladys Flamer likes to drive her Cadillac in Coatesville, PA. Nothing unusual about that, except that she’s 103 years old and she uses her car to help people with no transportation. Flamer has had many jobs; from serving as a domestic for wealthy families, to becoming a nurse at age 59. She’s worked in a steel mill and owned a beauty shop. The centenarian retired from the work world when she reached 90, but has not stopped serving her community. She’s active on City Council, with her church and in her neighborhood.”
A friend of Gladys’ sang these lines as she talked, claiming it to be the song that best described her: “If I can help somebody, as I pass along / Then my living shall not be in vain.” That’s a woman among woman, a human being among human beings. That’s somebody who actually gives a damn. Which reminds me that, on the way to my third doctors’ visit of the day, I listened to an old interview with Margaret Moth, who died at the age of 59 of cancer. It was a re-run of an interview conducted when the documentary “Fearless: The Margaret Moth Story” was released, and while she was in hospice care in Minnesota. During the interview, host Robin Young says to Moth (who had suffered terrible injuries while covering the war in Sarajevo and faced all manner of life-threatening circumstances during her career), “you seem so accepting.” This is Margaret’s response (I paraphrase):
“Well I feel we all die. I just feel that it is irrelevant as to when you die, since you are going to die anyway. And I think it is more important how you live your life. I strive as much as I can, for each part of every day, every hour of every day that I am alive. I’ve never been afraid of dying. I’d just had the hope that I die with as much dignity as I have lived.”
Her friend, Stefano Kotsonis states that Margaret was one of those people who did not need an “awakening” on her deathbed. She was always awake.
Margaret Moth and Gladys Farmer, two remarkable people from opposite ends of the professional spectrum and yet united by that thing that separates the human being with compassion from the gluttonous barbarian dressed up in human skin. It doesn’t matter, in the end, whether we gather together on our various holy days and sing hymns that speak of faith and charity, of brothers and sisters, of god. What matters is how you conduct your life, and of what worth that living has been to the world. Going against extending health care coverage to not all but at the very least, 32 million more of your fellow citizens puts you in the negative column. I don’t expect the GOP – or others who aren’t affiliated with that party but still are against doing what is right – to be ashamed of themselves. I expect good, ordinary people who aren’t afraid – like Gladys, like Margaret, like the janitor at St. Joe’s – to “get up stand up” and see things through.