Posts Tagged ‘ politics ’

Pebbles and Ban-Ban

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It’s a ban.  It’s a friggin’ ban.  Stop saying it isn’t, it’s insulting.  You can’t close down McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and White Castle and then claim, “But I didn’t even mention hamburgers.”  We know what you meant, and it’s not even a little bit subtle. Maybe your prevarications work with the average Breitbart clicker, but when you try it on us you sound like a defense attorney trying to get his murdering client off on a technicality.

And stop with the “extreme vetting” nonsense while you’re at it.  We already have a rigid vetting system that takes 18-24 months before an immigrant or refugee is allowed into our country.  There’s no possibility of making the process harder than it already is, so when you say “extreme vetting” what you’re really saying is, “You’re never getting in whatever you say or do, never, never, ever.”  And that’s what you want, so stop pretending otherwise.

This is what you said, in effect:  “We don’t want Muslims coming into our country.  We are afraid of you. You might be terrorists.  We’ll all feel a whole lot safer if we don’t have to deal with you.  So good luck and all that–you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”  So just say that.  I’d disagree vehemently with your decision, but at least I wouldn’t feel like you’re trying to sell me a bridge.  You’re not that good at salesmanship, or lying, so what you end up doing is wasting any tiny little trust I might have had.  And what gets lost is any REAL, SOBER, MODERATE discussion about issues of immigration and the safety of our citizens.  You took out a bazooka and fired it into the face of restraint.

And maybe that’s what you want.  Screw political correctness!   You’re going to push this, along with your cabinet of CEOs and billionaires, down America’s throat.  If they don’t like it, too bad.  They’ll get used to it.  Leaders lead, and followers follow or get left behind.  And part of the country is loving this.  They are absolutely adoring being able to say all the things they have been holding their tongues about for years.  You have loosed that particular strain of contagion.  And not everyone who voted for your crusade is a racist, or a xenophobe, or a white nationalist.  But let me tell you, those are the ones with the loudest voices.  You own that lunatic fringe, and every crappy, horrible, un-‘Merican thing they may do.

Still OK with you?  Fine.  I get it.  You’re the guy who makes a racist joke around a bunch of other white folks to see who “your people” are.  You’re reveling in the disorder.  You’re sadistically enjoying the pain you’re causing.   Burn it all down.  It’s what gets you up in the morning.  In your own mind, you’re a hero.

Here’s why you will never be a hero.

Call it kumbaya bullshit, call it libtard ranting, call it East Coast elite nonsense.  Downplay the protests and the calls to the Senators and the petitions all you want.  Dare us to challenge you.  This country has survived worse than you, and it will again.  Every time hatred and ignorance have been used to prod the willing into unspeakable cruelty and violence, this country has fought back and won.  Our forefathers saw you coming and made sure you and your kind would never prosper.  There is a Constitution, and a Bill of Rights, and a Judicial system, and nearly 250 years of trial and error in your way.  And there’s us. The battles you win will be temporary.  The damage you inflict will be reversed.  You are a pretender to the throne, and in two years your Congress will be gone and in four years (if you last that long) you will be gone as well.  A sad footnote in an important novel.  And what they will say about you is that you tried to rule by hate and division and fear and you failed.  You will be an unfunny joke.  They will count up the deaths you caused and lay them at your feet.  History will hold you up to ridicule and disdain.

You’ll never be bigger than this country, Steve.  And we’ve got our eye right on your ass.

In Defense of Snowflakes

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If you have spent five seconds online recently–and I would wholeheartedly recommend less–you have heard a relatively new insult being bandied about like an emotional hand-grenade: “special snowflake.”
Isn’t that just a wonderful term?  It should slide right into the fifth grade bully’s lexicon, right between “give me your lunch money” and “are you gonna cry now?”
If you don’t understand the nature of the insult…well, aren’t you a special snowflake?  Your life has been so easy, the insulated bubble you inhabit so perfectly filled with your own self-delusion, that you haven’t even had the wherewithal to keep track of real insults out here in the real world.  See how it works?  A “snowflake,” apparently, is someone who thinks they are special.  That the normal rules of the big, bad world (might makes right, an eye for an eye, do it to them before they do it to you, etc.) shouldn’t apply to them.  Snowflakes are fragile, weepy, spoiled, child-like, ignorant, navel-gazing, sniveling, sore losers who are overdue for real life to kick them one in the teeth.  Snowflakes are the kids who got a participation trophy, the dreamers, the losers, the “save the whales,” “make love, not war” weirdos, the slackers, the ones who lacked the courage to take what was theirs.
Like most broad generalizations hurled at people who don’t agree with you, it’s full of crap.
Don’t worry, I am not going to lay out my point by point defense of snowflakes.  If you are someone out there in the cyber cesspool throwing this term around, none of my pontifications are liable to shake your unshakable belief in your own almighty rightness.  That’s fine.  Well, no it’s not fine, in fact it’s fairly horrifying, but my point is I’m not going to try to change your made-up mind.  What I would like to do is look a little more closely at what is lurking behind the snowflake rhetoric.
My first question is this: if you had kids (as many people do), what did you tell them when they were growing up?  That they weren’t special?  Did you tell them they could become whatever they wanted if they worked hard enough, or did you tell them to have realistic expectations about the limits of their talents?  Did you encourage them to dream, or did you tell them dreaming was for the weak?  Honestly, I’m asking.  Because when you call someone a “special snowflake” for believing that a better world than the one we live in is at least possible, you are espousing an incredibly nihilistic, pessimistic point of view.  Of course no one likes to have smoke blown up their ass–I mean, if your kid is 5′ 3″ and can’t jump maybe he or she shouldn’t be encouraged to follow their dreams of NBA stardom–but are hopes for the future really that delusional?  I’m assuming (though maybe I shouldn’t) that notions like equality, justice, fairness, freedom–you know, the notions this country were founded upon–are equally important across political and demographic lines.  If that is so, isn’t calling someone a “special snowflake” while actually intimating that they are NOT special, NOT unique, NOT deserving a voice, about as un-American a thing as you can possibly say?
More to the point: is your motivation just to get people to shut up?  If it is, you can just be honest about it.  Because the actual, realistic outcome of calling someone a snowflake is to immediately end all further rational discussion.  You’ve swung your arms and drawn a big black “X” over the recipient’s mouth.  You’ve made them a cliche.  And I know it makes it easier for you to believe what you believe when you are able to pigeonhole anyone who doesn’t agree with you as weaker, more precious, more fragile, more out-of-touch with reality.  It feels good, I guess, to lash out and release your pent up anger.  OK, mission accomplished, you shut up your “opponent” and ended the debate.  But you didn’t win the argument.  What you did was bully someone.  And let’s not mince words–that was your intention.  Silencing.

It won’t work.  As the venerable Dr. King once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Pessimism is easy.  It’s easy to say the world is hard and cold and always will be.  That progress is impossible.  Optimism is harder, because optimism means seeing possibilities even in the middle of the darkness.  And being an optimist also leaves you open to all sorts of second-guessing from the sidelines.  You might even be called a snowflake.   But as my friend Lisa recently said, “Go ahead and call me a snowflake.  Enough of those snowflakes get together, that shit becomes a blizzard!”

Tarnished City on a Hill

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What the f*** just happened?

Whatever way you lean politically, I think we can safely agree that no one—no one—expected this. Even the most staunch Trump supporter didn’t expect him to actually win. They hoped for it, but they couldn’t have known.

So what the f***?

I will attempt to explain to the best of my limited knowledge. My aim is to wrap my arms around this gorilla, not pass judgment. I want to point out the divide in the hope that folks standing on either side of it might hesitantly wave at each other instead of throwing rocks back and forth. The anger is real, I get that, and throwing rocks can feel damn good. But let us take a peek at who we are aiming at.

There are many, many reasons behind why a person casts a vote. Were there true blue bigots who gleefully filled in the bubble next to Trump’s name? Sure. Were there smug liberal elitists voting for Hillary’s inevitable coronation from the safety of their ivory towers? A few. Those voters are not my subject. There are voters who vote primarily for cultural reasons and those whose concern is mostly economical, and those are the ones I’d like to look at.

Back in “the day,” cultural concerns—what a candidate felt personally about social issues, reproductive rights, religious values, civil rights, etc.–were considered secondary. Candidates always had to prove their “integrity,” but it was rarely what got them elected. “What will you do for me?” was the main criteria, not “Do your values match my own?” Enter the old-school, disenfranchised, mostly white, working class voter from the heartland and the rust belt. They have seen their jobs sent overseas. They have seen their worry for their future and security ignored. Many voted for Obama at least once, with the hope that his promised buoy would lift all ships. It didn’t. Their anger is real. Their fear is real. As I heard brilliantly posed on a radio show recently, their fear is not new—many groups in this country have spent generations being marginalized—but it is new to them.

So here comes Bernie talking directly to their concerns. And there he goes, ushered out the door by the media, the DNC, and ultimately tone-deaf Democratic voters. Who will look out for my best interests now? Where do I vent my anger? Which candidate will allow me to keep my job and put food on my table? We know the answer to that now. Not the status-quo candidate who lumped me in with the rest of the “deplorables.” I’m going for the guy who wants to restrict global trade, keep American jobs in America, stop the flood of immigrants I need to compete with, and give me back some damn pride for a change.

Are these voters racist, xenophobic, and reactionary? No. They are mostly white people voting in their own economic self-interests. Cultural concerns about Trump’s hateful rhetoric may have been considered, but in the end what he said on a talk show eleven years ago or his batshit crazy wall-building talk were not the deciding factor. My job, my family, my vote. Self-preservation. A tale as old as time. If you want to know why conservative Christians, some African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and above all female voters could possibly vote for a candidate like Donald Trump, here it is: the rhetoric didn’t matter. Their jobs did.

And was there also a giant middle finger to the celebrities and the millennials and the smug “liberals” who underestimated their anger? Sure, why not. If you couldn’t be bothered to listen to me screaming for eight years, here ya go, suck on this. He probably won’t win no matter what I do anyway. These are the voters now telling Hillary supporters, “Get over it! I had to live through Obama for eight years.” They see the palpable fear of minorities as a gross overreaction. In their hearts they did what any sane person in their situation would do, the simple, pragmatic thing—they used the vote they had to ensure their livelihoods.

So let’s look across the divide at the Hillary supporters. For a voter who values cultural issues—economic justice, civil rights, marriage equality, Black Lives Matter, gun control, et al.—Hillary was never a perfect fit. She was a little too invested in big business and its unending fountain of political funding to be believed as a progressive crusader. The way Bernie was treated by the Democratic establishment left a bad taste. But most of these voters relented when Bernie pushed his chips in with hers, and began to get excited by her shiny, new progressive agenda. Then they looked at her opponent and saw every idealistic dream they had for their country turned utterly on its head. They saw intolerance, misogyny, xenophobia, hatred—the worst, basest underbelly this country has to offer. They saw minorities being punched in the face, the end of religious freedom, women being grabbed and assaulted, spewing, venomous anger toward themselves and their underrepresented friends. And Hillary–uninspiring, hard-working, smart-as-a-whip policy wonk Hillary—didn’t seem like a bad choice after all. In fact, she seemed to be the only sane choice. How could anyone support that man and all he stood for?

And here’s where it gets a little poetic. Culturally, the past decade or so felt like a series of wins. Our first African-American president. Gay marriage. Outrage at the deaths of unarmed Black men. The acknowledgment of violence against women. Online movements for equality and solidarity. It felt like being on the precipice of a new country where inclusion and fairness were valued. And then—the first female President of the United States seemed to be a looming reality. Don’t underestimate the importance of the narrative of improvement and evolution to these folks. It is the reason their hearts are authentically broken today. They are the people who see in this country the possibility of the shining city on a hill. There is no American dream without these people dreaming it into existence.

To them, the election of Donald Trump feels like a repudiation. The back of the hand given to uppity women, minorities, gays, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans. A punishment. A death. They feel unsafe, now that the thin veneer of acceptable behavior seems to have eroded like the ozone layer, and they worry for the safety of others. They look around them and see Germany in the 1930s. And some will roll their eyes at that. But just like with the unheard, disenfranchised heartlander, the anger and fear are real. And for the non-white, the violence seems frighteningly imminent.

And then there’s the dream deferred. The specter of a demagogue, backed by a Republican Congress and Supreme Court, hurling us back into the cultural dark ages, rolling back all the progress we’ve made, killing the dream of equality and reproductive rights for women, equal educational opportunity, affordable health care, racial healing, LGBTQ rights. To understand the depth of disappointment these voters are experiencing right now, you have to understand the dream they feel slipping away.

So here we are. No claims of “racist voters” are going to change this. No amount of “get over its” are going to make the grieving process easier. There is endless invective on each side, endless reasons to revel in your rightness or curse your oppressor. The rabbit hole has opened up and swallowed us. And we can take the long view, say that this open wound between us will eventually close over and heal. And that is very true. But it doesn’t help us here and now. All that can help us now is empathy. If we can maybe, maybe take a step back and see each other as human beings instead of profile pictures. If we can make simple commitments to try to understand those who disagree with us, even when that disagreement runs far and deep. If we can come to the common conclusion that whatever our political bent, we need to be vigilant in the support of the powerless and unheard among us. It will be hard, maybe the hardest thing the country has done since WWII. Families will turn against each other, fights will erupt, opportunists will use this as an chance to turn us hateful and resentful and violent. I won’t be able to hold my tongue myself, especially in the face of prejudice. Nor should we. If we are who we say we are, Trump and Hillary voters alike, Americans, people with anger and fear and dreams and pragmatism, we will not stand for it. Let that be our common ground: protection. If…

I’m Not Going To Talk About It

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I really, really don’t want to rant about politics. Really, truly. I’m as ingrained in my beliefs as anyone on the opposite side of the argument, so all that ends up happening is a vicious circle spinning ’round and ’round. So I’m not going to talk about it.

I’m not going to defend my teacher friends on Facebook who are being summarily trashed because they had the temerity to suggest that they were not responsible for the current economic woes, while those who accepted government bailouts and then gave themselves bonuses were. This stance was labeled “class warfare” against the rich. The teachers, nurses, firefighters, etc. were told that they don’t “create revenue” for the country, but live off taxpayers. I’m not going to say how stupid that notion is, no matter how you might beg. I’m not going to point out that the “revenue” created is intelligence, health, safety and prosperity. Next time you have a fire, pal, call Sallie Mae.

I’m not going to get mad at the Senators who have to date tried 31 times to knock down the new health care bill. These are symbolic votes because there aren’t enough dissenters to actually overturn the bill. So these public servants we elected are engaging in a pointless act, mainly so that they can go back to their constituencies during an election year and brag about how many times they voted against health care. I’m definitely not going to point out what a colossal waste of time this is, and how many productive bills could be voted on instead. Like for job creation, or education reform. But I, for one, am not going to bring it up.

You won’t hear me talking about those among us who fear we are going to become a socialist state because of the health care bill. Even though the U.S. is the ONLY industrialized country in the world that doesn’t provide universal health care for its citizens. And believe it or not, the rest of those countries have not turned into Cuba! Isn’t that weird? Is it possible that elements of social government can be implemented for the public good without Stalin and Marx rising from the grave to lead the communist revolution? Apparently it is, everywhere but here. But I’m whispering, so just ignore me.

I am not going to get angry that a man who wants to be the leader of the free world said of a group of African-American leaders at the NAACP, “If they want free stuff they should vote for the other guy.” I’m not going to point out how patently racist that comment is. I’m not going to question why he went out of his way to elicit boos from this crowd by attacking the health care bill and suggesting that he is the best candidate for African-American causes while not addressing even one of those causes during his speech. I’m not going to suggest that getting booed by an African-American group might play well in certain parts of this country, and serve as a badge of honor for this candidate come election day. I’m not going to point out how utterly cynical such a ploy would be. Why would I?

I am definitely not going to argue with my fellow citizens who conveniently forget that our country’s economy was ridden into the ground for eight years by our previous leader, who turned the first government surplus in recent memory into trillions in debt. Apparently if someone burns a house down and leaves, then another guy is left to try to build up the charred remains it’s the second guy’s fault. It may take 20 years to undo the damage done. I know, let’s cut taxes to the richest people in the country and all the corporations and let the private sector figure it out! They are so good at acting in the public interest. I’m definitely not going to argue with that until my last dying breath

I AM going to call myself exactly what I am. Someone who thinks the government should act in the public interest. Someone who believes in a social contract between an employer and an employee. Someone who thinks that way too few have while way too many have not. Someone who thinks I deserve to be angry about that, and can not be talked out of it. Someone who believes that my country is currently being occupied by a force that could care less about individual liberty, the common good, or social responsibility. You know, all those hippie, pie-in-the-sky ideals upon which our country was founded.

But why should I bother? I didn’t say a word.

Just Don’t Talk About Politics…

Don’t talk about abortion, religion or politics, it’s an unwritten rule. People don’t discuss those topics because …fill in your reason: they’re too personal, it will end up in a fight, they are polarizing, people are so ingrained in their beliefs no real communication can take place, etc, etc, etc. For the most part I agree. The majority of political “discussion” in this country takes place between groups of radio fanatics who bark the same message back and forth to each other without any real give and take. For some folks, Rush Limbaugh is telling them exactly what they want to hear so why engage anyone else?

I often don’t feel the need to confront political talk I don’t agree with because I believe the main focus of the arguers is to muddy the waters and scream louder. It’s what they’ve learned of debate from TV and radio: scream loudest and your point must be true. No thanks.

So why, oh why, introduce politics in this forum? Isn’t it better to crack wise about my car problems, or my son’s sunburn or embarrassing memories from my fat boy childhood? Yes, it is better, and a helluva lot more entertaining. What can I say? My hand was forced.

This little ditty has been making its way around the Facebook merry-go-round:

They sent my Census form back! AGAIN!!! In response to the question: “Do you have any dependents ?” I replied – “12 million illegal immigrants ; 3 million crack heads; 42 million unemployable people, 2 million people in over 243 prisons; Half of Mexico; and 535 more in the U.S. House and Senate. Apparently, this was NOT an acceptable answer. Re-post if you agree!”

It’s so easy to stand up and cheer, isn’t it?! Yeah, we’re all victims! We support all those illegals, and all those drug addicts, and all those lazy people on unemployment! The government sucks, we should tear the whole thing down! Let’s drop a bomb on Mexico filled with inmates! Go white people! Go America! Everybody “like” the glib post with the questionable punctuation! Real patriots don’t stand on ceremony, or can be constrained by the grammatical structures of the English language!

Deep breath. Three, two, one…OK. Everybody’s calm.

First, I assume everyone who stood up and cheered came over on the Mayflower. Because guess what, if you have any Irish, Polish, German, Italian, Japanese, Indian etc. in you, YOUR DESCENDENTS faced the same racist piffle from those who were here when they landed. Your family were called Krauts, Polacks, Micks, Donkeys, Guineas, Kikes, Japs, Dot-heads. I’m 1000% positive than anyone who complains about illegal immigrants has never worked side by side with one. The Mexican kids I worked with in the deli toiled 60 hours a week and sent home money to their families, saved up to get a new pair of sneakers or a beat-up car, fought for everything they could get and lived in cramped conditions with little or no schooling. Sound familiar? Same story as anyone who ever walked through Ellis Island. No, stop telling me it’s different. Just stop. Read the bottom of the Statue of Liberty and then tell me these people who do all the crap jobs we don’t like don’t belong here. Tell me how different their dream is than the millions of people who came to this country in squalor and worked their way up out of the slums.

I’m too sick to work. Before I became too sick, I worked from the time I was sixteen, through breaks and weekends when I was in college from 5am to 3pm six days a week. I would get on a 6:30am train to NYC, work from 9-5 and get home by 8pm every day when I worked in the city. After I became sick and had a series of four operations, I made my way back to work every single time. I worked full-time through illness for better than eight years. Am I some kind of hero? Of course not, I had a family to feed. Still do. Without social security we would be out in the street. Without unemployment insurance and short and long-term disability and food stamps my family would have starved. I wouldn’t be able to keep a house over our heads, or afford medication I need daily or buy clothes for two growing kids if it weren’t for social services. These are the very programs some are trying to abolish. I’ve heard the argument that I’m the “right” kind of unemployed person, someone who paid into the system and isn’t leeching off it, someone who deserves the money. I appreciate the thought. I’m also white and educated and have a voice. How many others in my position can say the same? And if we do away with the whole kit and kaboodle, aren’t me and my family going out with the bathwater?

What exactly should we do with all the prisoners and drug addicts by the way? I have a family member who is a recovering addict, sober for over 5 years. I’m sure most of you out there know of someone who overcame or is trying to overcome a substance abuse problem. Should we just give up? Leave them on the streets to make their way? Could there possibly be, I don’t know, a negative backlash of violent crime that would ensue? Is it more “American” to leave sick people without any options? Oh, they’re not sick, they did this to themselves. So we should turn away lung cancer patients? Diabetes patients? Anyone with heart problems? They all contributed to their own bad health, let’s take away their lifelines and let them swing. The not-too-subtle (and again racist) assumption is that no one of any “substance” gets involved in self-destructive activities. Yeah, right.

What do you think happens in prisons, off the top of your head? It’s not even a secret, right? You can expect to be raped, physically attacked and beaten regularly. These are the places we send our worthless citizens to “rehabilitate” them. They don’t deserve any better, right? They sold drugs or committed robberies or killed someone. All these acts happened in completely healthy places to live that weren’t riddled with abject poverty, inequality of education and oppressive lack of opportunity. Don’t blame us, we didn’t create these conditions by providing substandard housing, pitiful schools and thinly-veiled racial segregation. Oh wait, yes we did. We ensured that we in our little suburban towns have more money per student by yoking property taxes to education budgets, thereby making it certain that anyone who rents in an inner-city atmosphere gets a lesser education than our sons and daughters. Our kids have a better chance, after all, so why waste the money? We should complain about putting up the results of this policy in that Waldorf Astoria known as prison, where inmates spend luxurious evenings not being taught a trade, not earning their GED and not getting therapeutic assistance while trying to avoid being violently sodomized. Quick, let’s get these people back in the street too! I’m sure they learned all sorts of wonderful things about being a better member of society while we were disallowing their dignity and self-respect in conditions that have earned the condemnation of worldwide policing groups like Amnesty International. We paid enough! Go America! Empty the prisons!

If you made it this far you probably agree with me anyway or you would have stopped reading. Oh well. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind who has their opinion already ingrained in their soul. But this is my take.

My Country, In Sickness and in Health…

OK, I’m feeling marginally better a week after my foray to the ER. The headache has retreated to a dull roar and the stomach pains hurt, like the Neil Simon title, only when I eat. That’s it for the medical update—the minute this blog turns into a blow by blow of my abdominal pain, I’ll roll it up like a carpet and leave it by the side of the road.

Had an interesting chat with my home nurse while she was changing my PICC dressing. She used to be a floor nurse, back in the day when that position was little more than indentured servitude to the hospital you worked for in the guise of a “training program”. The nursing industry managed to get out from under the thumb of the hospitals, from what I could gather, while student doctors are still expected to put in insanely long, sleep-deprived hours in order to keep their spot in the program. What they are preparing doctors for, exactly, I have never been sure. I mean a doctor, especially a surgeon, has to have great powers of concentration and physical stamina. But I don’t think they’ve ever had to work twenty-eight hours, sleep for fifteen minutes, then have somebody shove them awake and throw a scalpel in their hand to perform an appendectomy. The conclusion we came to was inevitable I suppose—students are cheap labor and when it comes right down to it a hospital is a business. Businesses make money. If they happen to give you good care as a patient, good for you. If not, go find another hospital, because the bed you’re in is waiting for another insured patient. Good things are done in hospitals, don’t get me wrong, by dedicated, good people. But your well-being is not why the bricks and mortar were laid, that’s all.

Anyway. We continued to talk about how someone in my situation might fare in a different country, with a different government and a different health care system. The conclusion was not well. There are holes all over the system we’re currently in, and I’ve lived through many of them. For better or worse what insurance will cover is meant to keep a patient stable, not really get them better—by that I mean they will not pay for anything exploratory when sometimes that is exactly the kind of imaginative medicine that is needed. Also, in this age of specialization, there is little or no coordination of care. I have a different doctor for my stomach, my blood, my nutrition, my headaches, my depression and my general health, and none of them would know each other if they were in line at a grocery store. Each one is primarily concerned about their own specialty, so if you happen to have an illness that involves multiple systems you’re spit out of luck. It’s like going to a restaurant and having to order each element of your meal from a different waitress. Then if the steak is undercooked and the corn is cold you have to send them back to two different cooks in different kitchens. Start calculating your odds on this meal turning out well.

But it could be worse. I paid into this system that is now supporting me since I was sixteen. There were years when I contributed more than others, but for the most part I was a steady customer. A few years ago it was decided between my doctor and the government that I was physically incapable of working, so I became part of a controversial safety net in this country. When some people hear “disability”, they hear “lazy”, “scam-artist”, “fraud”, etc. I’m sure there are those people out there—hell, I’ve known some of those people who want nothing more than to milk whatever they can out of the system. I had to overcome that notion of myself, since I was always the type who didn’t want to take a nickle from anybody. It’s quite a blow when you realize than not only will you be taking that nickle, you’ll be taking enough to keep your family’s head above water every month. And the whole world can tell you rationally that you paid into it, that this is what the system was made for, that if you were healthy you wouldn’t need it so it’s a just a matter of necessity. You still feel like a beggar.

But if the worst thing I have to deal with is a blow to my ego, I can take it. I have little choice, really. In another country we’d be living on the street. My son asked me if I’m still proud to be American, even though other countries see us as greedy, fat and militaristic—he didn’t say those exact words, but that was the gist. I was actually very proud of HIM for asking such a thought-provoking question. I told him that yes I am still proud, that even with all our sins we are still the greatest, most free country in the world. It’s hard sometimes to be an American when we rush to war without purpose, or fail to care for those among us who need the most. The difference between the haves and have-nots is deep and wide, and it is a source of embarrassment to me that we can’t handle that disparity better. The line between democracy and capitalism has blurred, and the notion of public responsibility seems to have been dealt a death-blow because of it. It scares me what we’ve become, what we’ve devolved into.

Yet, out of nowhere we go and elect an African-American president, and people start to care again, or at least it seems that way. Politics in this country will always be frustrating, and change will always come slowly, but it does come after much hand-wringing, hair-pulling and sometimes awful behavior. And like I said, a person in my situation might not fare nearly as well in most health-care systems. I owe the well-being of my family to the fact that I am an American, and that is a loyalty I find hard to dismiss.  Perhaps that’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s honest.