A couple of years ago I was at a Fourth of July potluck outside of town. Some inebriated in-law of a cousin of a friend of the host showed up and, as I spooned tabbouleh onto my plate, began lecturing to several people around me that all people of Middle Eastern descent need to be deported from the U.S. He didn’t stop there, insisting that those of us who didn’t happen to believe that the country should bomb other parts of the world into the stone age were ignorant and sure to be slaughtered.
Now, I’m a person who, in my more adventurous reporting days, did things like take a handgun class with NRA members, and spent hours in personal conversations with Fundamentalist Christians – two groups that may as well have been Martians to me, ethically speaking. But those reporting exercises put me past knee-jerk disdain and into a place where I could sometimes locate some hard-won common ground. I’ve had mostly civil conversations with Republican relatives and friends, even if I sometimes walked away with my ears burning. I sought out extremely different opinions from my own when I began to interact with people online in 1997. I try my best to get angry with actions and policies, not people.
With a checked-shirt man advocating genocide and racism at an Independence Day picnic, standing feet away from my toddler son, I didn’t keep my cool so well. I felt this anger rising from the pit of my stomach and I simply bellowed at him:
“PLEASE GET YOUR DISGUSTING HATRED AWAY FROM MY SON. NOW!” (I did say please.) He moved away a little, though not enough for me, and I took us as far away from him at the party as I physically could. Being tolerant of political difference, in my view, does not require me to be tolerant of a person advocating violence or fear.
Earlier this year, when we went to a public venue where we could look at stars and planets through telescopes, a woman started speaking heatedly to one of the resident scientists, who maintained a remarkably calm and polite demeanor.
“This world is going to end,” she hissed at him. “Armageddon will be here soon and you’d better get yourself right with God before that happens.”
She spoke of floods and earthquakes and hurricanes and rapture while standing maybe five feet from my almost four-year-old who I think deserves to have faith in the fact that the Earth has a future, no matter how tumultuous. He deserves to have his dreams of piloting spacecrafts unimpeded by some self-righteous person who had no thought in her head that the things she was yelling could frighten the crap out of a small child. Thankfully, he was so wrapped up in a computer that takes you through the universe that he didn’t absorb it (now that he’s truly four and dealing with mortality questions, he would). Luckily, the conversation stopped just as my husband asked her to quiet down because, you know, if you want to convince your children that this world is a goner and isn’t worth participating in beyond stepping up to the next level, that’s your faith and your business and God bless. Please don’t make it mine.
This week, I took my son to the Health Care Reform Now rally because I am sick of this bizarre impasse our country has skidded into and sick of struggling with our current system. The first sign I see as we drive in is a swastika with Obama’s name inside and I turn into Aunt Mildred and I stick out one finger and I tsk tsk tsk at the crowd. Shame on them. That sign, to me, is just a subverted way of advocating violence against our president wrapped in the guise of free speech. Because of the first amendment, you can make it and parade it through the public square. And because of the first amendment, I can say “shame on you” and “I think that’s a subverted way of advocating violence against our president wrapped in the guise of free speech,” and that’s not me censoring you, that’s me countering your opinion.
I’m sick of the media giving “balanced” time to groups of thirty versus a group of over 1,000. The fourth estate should be giving more time to those who are better equipped with research, facts or true stories about actual people instead of covering every political rift with less depth than they give the average football game. Seriously. I sat there and I listened to a story about a 17-year-old girl who can’t get health care coverage because of her parents’ medical conditions. I listened to promises that the public option is not negotiable, which I hope is true because my family is counting on that. But almost all of the coverage I found gave the 30 people outside the same amount of time or column space as the much larger group inside.
What are people thinking, anyway? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had their health care insurance costs get jerked up and certain costs turned down arbitrarily for years – and unless we’re independently wealthy, it’s cost us way more than any of our taxes. Recently I had a lovely experience when a $500 bill showed up in my mailbox from a doctor’s appointment I had about a year and a half ago. In one conversation with the insurance company way back when, I was told that nearly all adult preventative care had been dropped from our policy (take heed if you have OSU student health insurance, ladies, a pap smear or illness is all you’re allowed), so a blood panel, and in fact, my whole appointment wasn’t covered, even though it resulted in a referral to a surgeon and eventually, surgery. My doctor’s office communicated that there was actually medical treatment for an illness on this visit, and suddenly, after all this time, the insurance company decided to pay an additional $15.00 (why even bother?) of the bill and pass the rest back to me. Now I have more arguing to do, or I have to pay a bill I really didn’t expect or think that I should owe, which makes me feel sick.
So, stop telling me that the fact that I want universal health care makes me anti-American. The free market has zilch for health care choices. The ranks are closed – if you are an American like myself, who has been resolutely independent for most of my career, you are basically screwed by the current system. If you are like my husband, who has a preexisting eye condition and has also always worked for himself, screw you too! When people like us are lucky, maybe our local chamber of commerce will offer a plan with premiums less than the size of our mortgage payment or we can stick to catastrophic coverage.
We are all most free to work for big corporations that have little or no loyalty to employees in order to get insurance from corporations that have shown us their priorities – getting out of paying what you pay them to take care of is more important than anyone’s actual health. That’s…. freedom?
It seems to me to be as awful or worse than, say, taxation without representation. I have to pay corporations that I didn’t elect and that I can’t vote out of office. Corporations have more rights than me! The government won’t make it more bureaucratic. It simply can’t possibly get more bureaucratic than it already is.