Where’s My America?

25 Mar

Politics bring out the worst in human beings. I’m convinced.

This past week has been a case in point. With the health care reform bill now signed, we can look backward — and forward — with a certain amount of pride. And shame.

Pride for having accomplished a feat that puts us on a par with the rest of the developed world. We are finally in a position, as the wealthiest country in the world, to provide for our own people’s well-being, when they are not able to care for themselves. Our bootstraps mentality has gotten us far in this world, from explorers of the New World to pioneers of the Wild West. We have a right to be proud of DIY-ism.

Yet it has held us back from providing a fundamental building block of getting ahead — the gift of health — to millions of our fellow Americans. We’re apt to go around the world and be the hero, saving others from tribal infighting and cruel dictators, but we’ve hesitated for so long to provide for our own. Now we’ve gone and done it.

Where’s the shame in all of this? We have some serious contemplation to do on our collective reaction to the difference in opinion about this reform. What’s my key point here? Difference of opinion is a good thing. If approached without fear, hatred and bigotry, it’s fertile ground for bridge-building.

This is not about pollyanna can’t we just get along mentality. This is about the very substance of our nation, our past and future.

Where’s my America? An America that was born on difference of opinion, seeded by people who left Europe because they were persecuted for their religious beliefs that ran counter to the norm. My English ancestors came to America in 1682 on the ship Submission, leaving behind an England that had them fined, imprisoned and beaten down for practicing Quakerism. So many immigrants have come to these shores seeking freedom from persecution for their beliefs. Our government was built upon humanistic ideals that saw beyond religious affiliation and elitism.

Suddenly, difference of opinion means that we cannot meet in the middle. It assumes that there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to believe. Absolutism reigns, to our collective detriment. The ideologues on talk radio — both sides — are becoming our puppeteers. They create the spin, and we parrot their messages. I am so tired of hearing recycled ridiculousness from the pundits. When did we stop thinking for ourselves, reviewing the information at hand and coming up with opinions that we could stand behind?

Right here in my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, we’ve hosted Tea Partiers who publicly ridiculed a man with Parkinson’s disease, insinuating that he was a beggar who did not deserve “free” health care.  A sad case of misinterpreting someone’s circumstances.

Political discourse should not mean that citizens — and our elected officials — need to shout or threaten one another over something as trivial as a disagreement over beliefs. Theoretically, our political beliefs stem from the same set of facts. We just interpret them differently. That’s what makes them opinions. Somehow, society seems to be confusing beliefs and opinions with facts.

We need to get back to talking with one another, not accusing each other of being “baby killers” or “liars.” We’ve got to remember that our system of government was designed to blend difference of opinion and make something of it, not fail to participate in compromise and solution-building. The current landscape is an embarrassment to our country’s heritage of open debate. We’ve had our moments in history where we’ve strayed from the freedoms of thought and speech that formed the basis of our nation. Let’s not be tempted to let our America stoop so low again.

7 Responses to “Where’s My America?”

  1. Teresa Borghese-Lang at 9:19 am #

    For those of you not in my world (Pediatric HealthCare), This Law is a good thing- just a start or small step to what really needs to happen! I hope to never again have to console a mom who is watching a child die of a critical illness because her insurance was dropped because of her child. Or have parents talk about not being able to get insurance because their child has a Chronic illness. Even have had parents get Divorced legally (even though they were still in love)- so they are eligible for Medicaid for their child because their insurance will no longer cover them because of their child. Our country’s laws were passed on fear and mob theory for the past decade- Time for a change!
    Those throwing the stones must not have a chronically ill child or family member that has been dropped off their insurance, or not have to worry about getting their child in college health care coverage. Who are these people? As we say in the kiddie world- ‘Sticks and stones may break our bones, but now we have coverage to repair the breaks!”

    • toknowbetter at 1:10 pm #

      Thanks, Teresa. Your perspective is insightful here, having seen the full spectrum of insurance coverage in your treatment of preemies and young kids, in the US as well as in Haiti. Until you’ve experienced it firsthand or secondhand, it’s hard to understand just how byzantine and UNcaring the system has become.

  2. Maria at 11:54 am #

    I have health insurance. By all accounts, it is really good health insurance. We pay our premiums every pay check and we can hardly afford the copays.
    *It will not pay for my sons mental health care. *I had to save money for 8 months to be able to afford the co-pay to remove two tumors from my sons nasal cavity.
    *I had to save money for a year to afford surgery for myself.
    *I stagger taking my stomach medicine, so I only have to get it filled once every two months, because it is in our formulary and the co-pay is very expensive.
    *My daughters asthma & allergy medication copay is $130 per month (2 pills/1 inhaler).
    *My daughter has to wear an ankle brace and the copay was $300. It broke and our insurance won’t cover it again. The cost is $600 to replace it – and I hope the second brace lasts longer than the two months the first one did.
    I am unclear if this law will help any of these issues, but I am open and hopeful about any change to this very broken system.
    It is not really about HEALTH CARE reform to me because we have access to wonderful health care. It is about INSURANCE COMPANY reform.

    • toknowbetter at 1:07 pm #

      Thanks, Maria. Good comment. We’ll see how this works out in implementation for the residents of the real world of health care, eh? It truly is a paradigm shift for the world of insurance companies.

  3. Gene at 1:52 am #

    Excellent post, Kim. We are in a very difficult period in this country and it’s being worsened by the tendency of those we elect — and those who elect them — to demonize instead of compromise. As a result, nothing seems to get done. Finally, we’ve taken a step toward what should be a basic right in America. If an adequate public education is considered a basic right, it makes no sense that an adequate level of health coverage is not.

    • toknowbetter at 9:59 am #

      Getting your comments always makes me feel like my posts are quality. Thank you!

      I’ve enjoyed reading http://gmonteith.wordpress.com/ posts, too. Well-written, insightful, thought-provoking and funny in your unique way.

      Idea: I know you have a big interest in N. Korea, and I have been starting to do more research on Afghanistan and considering to post on that nation’s challenges and potential.

      Do you think maybe we could give each other some bloggers’ support and cross-promote posts on each country? Would be a way to share deeper geo-socio-political insights not always explored by reactive media reports. Maybe set a goal of one post a month for the country and build some virtual conversation around that?

      • gmonteith at 12:44 am #

        I like that idea. Let’s talk about the best ways to make that happen.

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