Maybe it’s the weather. January has been cold here in Madison. We layer ourselves in wool and poly-poly and scarves and mittens and nose warmers. We focus — whether walking, driving, or snow-biking – on the 10 square feet directly in front our noses, that crusty sand and salt strewn path on the way to wherever we are going. Food and hot drinks (or cold alcohol) swim through our brain cells like so many perch in a frozen lake. Give me the remote and a cheap blanket and bring over some more popcorn. I want to forget. I want stay in bed til spring. I want to draw my window on the world until it is just a tiny keyhole with some strange eye-ball peering in, strange and unrecognizable, so I can say “sorry, don’t know you… can’t come in.” I’m even switching off the NPR: too much bad news, too many people blowing themselves up in the name of… I’m not sure they even know who it is.
Maybe I’m being too simplistic, but it seems to me that we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we can’t see the forest for the trees. The haves have carefully drafted methods, smoke screens, to avoid the reality that… we HAVE it and others DON’T and that’s okay. We’ve created illusions that pin the blame on “them” for not trying hard enough, for not educating “themselves” enough. “They’ve” become moochers. People have become ‘them.’ Or as John McCain once stated, as he looked away and jabbed a finger in Barack Obama’s direction: “that one.” Reduce the ‘others’ to bland terminology, to pronouns, and it’s easy divorce yourself from reality. Strip the ‘Human face’ off those suffering, keep them away with a 40 foot pole, and we avoid the void. “They” went bankrupt because they couldn’t afford “their” medical bills? That’s “their” problem. Who wants to shell out more tax dollars to help ‘them’ anyway? I got what I need. I’d rather support a war and wealthy bankers anyway, right?
And now, when an estimated 200,000 residents of a country in our own hemisphere may have perished in an earthquake in Haiti… where perhaps millions are homeless, starving, injured, and sick, and we’ve mobilized a huge effort to aid… we finally reach out, get OUT of ourselves. We ‘text’ to donate 10 dollars off our phone bill. Professional basketball players, making $800,00 per game, raise money to reduce the suffering of those living so close to us. We turn our TV’s and radios and internet news devices on and hang on every report, hoping against hope, that another child will be pulled alive from the wreckage of that school.
Meanwhile, the forces AGAINST change continue to mobilize.
They are un-phased by the Haiti tragedy, a stark illustration of suffering by humans (not ‘thems’) who just didn’t have enough. They -err, Republicans and naysayers and blue dogs, will continue to stir up their gumbo of misrepresentation and falsehoods and fear-mongering. And with a little luck, they will derail the health care reform bill, or turn it into a Health Insurance Provider Enhancement bill, guaranteed to line the pockets of the already wealthy. So while we work hard to comfort the two million who are suffering in Haiti, the forty million Americans who don’t have adequate insurance coverage will continue to succumb to diseases when they shouldn’t, fall into debt and bankruptcy, or suffer stress because they don’t know what they will do when they do fall ill.
Now that is what I call progress.
President Obama is not to blame (although millions of nodding heads, mesmerized by right-wing pundits, have bought into that). He is a compassionate man whose core value is to reach out and help those who don’t have the safety and security that health care brings. Congress is not really to blame. Politicians are just wind up creatures doing the bidding of their parties. Pork is what they are after. Compassion is way down their list of priorities. If anyone is to blame it’s the American People. We need to be heard. When our voices are heard, change happens. If we are complacent, nothing happens. Nothing.
In the early 60’s When Martin Luther King urged Lyndon Johnson to draft Civil Rights Legislation, LBJ drawled: “Martin… I’m just not seeing it, I’m just not hearing it. Make me hear it and I’ll push a bill through.” And so Rev. King led hundreds of thousands of Americans through the streets, shouting and singing the message, until our leaders could not avoid the fact that CHANGE had to happen.
It’s time to take to the streets and be heard again. Make government be for the people and not for special interests.