Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tale of Two Worlds

I like to think that I came to my politics on my own, that I studied all sides and points of view and came to the conclusion that, yes, I am a democrat, I believe in a strong federal government, and I believe that government has a responsibility to help the least among us.

But my politics were formed long before I could study the issues and articulate my own ideology. Some of my earliest memories are of protests. I never heard the word "Reagan" or "Republican" without some disparaging remark from my mother. The second wedding I ever attended was between two women. It wasn't one thing; it was lots of things. I don't know how I could have been brought up how I was and become anything but a bleeding-heart liberal.

While Bush was president (for all but a couple years of my adult life), I got used to being a minority party. I could make fun of the president (haha "nuke-yoo-ler") and go to protests (boo "No Child Left Behind," boo Anti-Choice, boo Iraq invasion) and relish the frustration and freedom that comes from not being in charge. As I've said before, it's much easier to tear something apart than it is to solve or build.

But now we're in charge. We have an intellectual, progressive president who reads and writes for pleasure. We swept the house and senate to have majorities in both. We have a public who, despite the noise on cable, supports meaningful health care reform. And yet there seems to be two entirely different conversations going on, neither of which involves most Americans. The first is among the faction that has decided that President Obama is either illegitimate or a stone's throw away from a fascist, communist dictator. This group is talking about death panels and rationing and ACORN. Another conversation is going on more privately between lawmakers and the insurance industry. Democrats and Republicans alike seem to be holding legislation hostage at the request of lobbyists.

But most of us, we're not part of this conversation. We are seeing budgets slashed, our friends laid off, and others struggling to get by. We are educated, we're engaged, but the more shut out of the process we are--candidate Obama wanted these health care debates to be broadcast in the open, live, on C-Span--the more disenfranchised we feel.

Winning cures all ills, though; the Bengals have won two in a row, so no one is going to complain about lack of throws his way. Once health care goes through, unemployment drops, and tangible signs of an economic recovery appear, the loony fringe may recede.

I think of a quote I read from one of Al Gore's books: "The opposite of reason is fear." So many people are (wrongfully, in my opinion) fearful, today. They seem to see no common ground. While I'd love for Obama to dictate what should (and should not) be done to reform health care, I think that might only increase fear and resentment as well as decrease reason and engagement. Slow as this is, process is important.

And so here I am again, faced with the task of grading revisions and thinking of new and better ways to make Othello interesting and relevant to nursing students, instead doing my own writing. It's a breath of fresh air to me, sitting here on my couch, my laptop in front of me and my space heater aimed directly at me, typing my own words instead of figuring out numerical scores for creative pieces. (This late in the quarter, I'm tempted to use smilies and "Way to Go!" stickers.) And with that, back to work I go.


george rede said...

"And yet there seems to be two entirely different conversations going on, neither of which involves most Americans."

This is one of the most intelligent commentaries I've read anywhere. Your analysis is right on the mark. And though I, too, wish Obama could just write the health care reform bill, too, you make an excellent point about the process being important here. Of course, no matter how it turns out, we will be stuck with the screaming lunatics.

Good luck grading the papers...

August said...

Thanks! In this 24/7 media environment, it can be difficult to be patient. Max Baucus voted down two amendments with public options because OTHERS wouldn't vote for a bill with public option. Such leadership! But I'm naively giving them the benefit of the doubt; if this were going to be easy, it would have been done a long time ago!

george rede said...

I was feeling optimistic about the process as this week began. But now that Oregon's Ron Wyden had his "public option" efforts shot down in the committee by fellow Democrats, I've begun to despair. I sure hope these politicians don't let this moment slip away. We've only needed health care reform for, what, 40 or 50 years?