Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Am I Wasting My Time Because of Puppets Dancing on a String?

Am I Wasting My Tme Because of the Puppets Dancing on a String?

While the title of this discourse suggests that it is going to be about me, let me suggest that it really isn’t. However, let me add the disclaimer that I need to mention myself at the outset only because I sense battle fatigue and despair moving in on my psyche much akin to a grief that arises from the loss of a loved one. In this regard, the great spirit of our nation in the form of its various cherished freedoms (speech, expression, religion, etc.) appears to be losing ground permanently to the corporate crowd. Let me explain.

The wisdom of our country is such that for two hundred and thirty plus years a set of rules has evolved that place certain restrictions on the freedoms which make our country so unique. While the first amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, this guarantee is by no means absolute. One example, a person cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater (unless there is a fire) without facing the legal ramifications of doing so. Likewise, since the beginning of our great republic, it has been recognized that the financial muscle of corporations carried the potential of feathering their nests at the risk of distorting and damaging the public interest. Thomas Jefferson, the writer of our Declaration of Independence also wrote in 1816 declaring his hope to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” A variety of congressional acts over the years (the Tillman Act of 1907, the Federal Corruption Act, and McCain Feingold Act of 2002) all sought to place limits on the ability of corporations to control elections and governments by placing limits on the kinds of activities and money that could be used. Adam Cohen points out this morning in his editorial in the New York Times that the Supreme Court in “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the ban on corporate contributions was not a central issue; told the parties to prepare legal briefs on the ban’s constitutionality; and rushed to put oral arguments on the calendar in September before the new term even starts.” In short, the ‘judicial activism’ which Republicans complain about is in full bloom from that side of the aisle as the conservative court appears ready to strike down 230 years of restraints on “aristocratic” America at the expense of its citizenry.

But, in and of itself, this is not the source of my emerging sense of loss. Instead I direct the reader’s attention to the current health care imbroglio. The insurance industry, riding the wave of huge profits since the Republicans struck down Clinton’s healthcare efforts in 1993 is literally pulling the strings of a rather small, but vocal, group of bedfellows hell bent on preserving the claimed rights of insurance companies to continue to dictate the quality of health care in this country. I hesitate to use the term “lunatic fringe” but when one listens to Sarah Palin speak about the “death squads of Obama” deciding whether her child with Down’s syndrome should live or die, that phrase pretty well seems too describe what is going on. I receive well intentioned and thoughtful e-mails from my Republican and conservative friends (I have finally decided that these groups are not one and the same) which reflect, quite frankly, the inclination to distort facts to further ends which are unclear. That is, the ends are unclear unless one recognizes that the overall game plan here is to allow the insurance industry to continue dominating the quality of our national health care which is a disgrace as it currently exists. There are third world nations providing better health care to their peoples than we are doing in the United States. Based upon my past contacts with conservative colleagues, the resistance to Obama’s plan (Actually, it is not his plan at all. Congress, both houses, came up with it on their own.) is racist. Some people seem hell bent on opposing anything that Obama does. Remember that 60% of Republicans, egged on by the likes of Gingrich and Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity, think that Obama may not be legally entitled to be president because he may be a Kenyan.

But I am digressing, simply because it is easy to digress when there is so much going on that is threatening to our way of life and, indeed, our republic. I make this offer to anyone who reads this. I am willing to sit down and discuss my opinions based on the facts of which I am aware and listen to your opinions and try to reach a level of agreement and understanding. If there are areas of disagreement, we can agree to disagree. I will respect your opinions and conclusions, but I will refuse to listen if all that you can give me is a series of clich├ęs and one liners that have been promulgated by the insurance industry and their minions. If we cannot do this at the individual level, how in the hell will it occur at the societal level where its impact is so much more significant?

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