When I was a kid, there was a strip in the comics section about a wise possum named Pogo. His most famous statement was “We have seen the enemy and he is us.” I see some of the current political movements the same way: We seem to be shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to things like health care. It reminds me of those old Westerns, where a bad guy in a black hat would fire a gun at the ground, making some hapless cowboy “dance,” but in this case, we’re doing it to OURSELVES.
Whitley and I are writing a book together about my hospital experiences 5 years ago, when an aneurysm burst inside by head and I was whisked away to an emergency room by ambulance. I was lucky: We had good insurance at the time, but the nurse at the admissions desk didn’t recognize it and demanded that he present credit cards with $5,000 worth of credit on them before I was admitted. This went on while I was lying on a gurney having seizures and lapsing into a coma.
My son Andrew hurried home and gathered up all the credit cards he and his wife had in their wallets. By the time he returned, ready to present them, Whitley had managed to talk to another administrator, who recognized that our insurance was good and admitted me.
Believe me, when I hear people rail against things like “socialism” when it comes to health care, at a time when most people don’t have any health insurance AT ALL, I get a mental image of them dancing to those bullets. The question is: Who’s firing them? The private health care industry and the politicians in the pay of their lobbyists?
I saw the start of the financial fiasco that has almost destroyed our economy in the Reagan years, when his economists advocated the “trickle down” theory, which Bush also embraced. What this basically means is that you cut taxes for the richest people so that they will spend money and it will end up in the pocket of some working stiff. This is also an excuse for bankers and brokers to pay themselves huge bonuses. While this may work on a small scale, as when a local rich man hires local construction workers, electricians and plumbers to build himself a big new house, it is basically a myth. Wealthy people tend to already have everything they need, so they shelter any extra money they have in investments and banks, often located in tax-free havens.
Offering people sub-prime mortgages that they couldn’t afford had them dancing for awhile, but the music caught up with them and they fell down, exhausted, like contestants in a 1920s dance marathon.
The “tea party” movement seems to be the latest incarnation of this: It’s made up of lower-middle-class white folks who have proclaimed themselves to be sick of government intervention in their lives. This baffles me: Since the backs of most labor unions have been broken (the same unions that used to offer these people a comfortable salary), I would think they would be interested in a little MORE government intervention. Are these people “moles, like the spies in a John Le Carre novel who have infiltrated a democratic government but are really working for the Soviets (or in this case, big business interests)?
I think one of the appeals of the tea party movement is unacknowledged racism. A group of people who haven’t achieved as much as they wanted to in their own lives (no college degree, etc.) but who are used to feeling superior anyway, simply because they are WHITE, are now feeling beleaguered instead. I’m afraid it’s time to get over it, folks: Even South Africans managed to accept living in a multi-racial society, and you can too. “Gone With the Wind” is, as the title says, gone with the wind, and you’re dancing to your own tune now. Maybe it’s time to change the music.
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