Sometimes You Have to Get Sick to Get Better

Posted: March 4, 2015 in New Post

“Sometimes you have to get sick to get better”. Growing up, whenever I was facing some hardship, this was my mother’s consolation. It seemed odd at the time, but as I grew older, and the challenges of life became more difficult, I began to understand what she meant. Avoiding some inevitable discomfort delays the permanent relief of eventually being restored. Looking toward the restoration sometimes makes the suffering more tolerable.

Today the Supreme Court took up a second right wing challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derisively called “Obamacare” by its manic opponents. According to most legal experts, the case for the plaintiffs seems weak at best. Buried deep in the 900 pages of the act are four words, “established by the states”. According to the plaintiffs, these words were intended to exclude purchasers from receiving government subsidies for their premiums if their state did not set up its own insurance exchange. Defenders of the PPACA cite decades of court precedent that the context and overall intent of the law, not just isolated words, should be the guide when wording is ambiguous. If you’re interested, you can read some of the details of the case here.

What concerns me, and what has concerned me for some time now, is the cynicism of this case. It was not initiated to bring justice to someone wronged or compensate a victim of a crime. Its sole intention is to deny health care to millions of people because it does not agree with their ideology. The lawsuit is indicative of how cavalier we have become as a nation toward the suffering and discomfort of others. I expect this from conservatives, it is their nature. They are driven by some notion of a person’s worth being linked to money and power. Their world view is a singular one, centered on the preservation of self and condescension toward the less fortunate. They are the followers of Ayn Rand, disciples of her religion of greed. They have found expression in the form of the Tea Party and are granted legitimacy by a lazy press that is more interested in the appearance of neutrality than the practice of journalism.

As a liberal I know this enemy and have understood its underpinnings all of my adult life. What is distressing to me are the people who have benefited from liberal policies but seem enamored with the phony Tea Party rhetoric. Liberty, freedom, and American exceptionalism make great bumper stickers and are easy to endorse. The dignity of work, pride in family, self reliance, and freedom from government regulation are all attractive concepts. The problem is that conservatives have hijacked these concepts and used them as cover for their real agenda.

When conservatives talk of freedom, they are not speaking of the freedom to marry the person you love. They are speaking of the freedom to deny your rights if they don’t approve of whom you marry. When conservatives talk of liberty, they are not speaking of the liberty to be free of discrimination and the threat of violence. They are speaking of the liberty to shoot you because the color of your skin is an indication of your guilt. And when conservatives speak of American exceptionalism, they are not talking about the foundations of equality, justice, and opportunity for all. They are speaking of imposing their will on any country or leader who can be exploited for their profit. The dignity of work means no unemployment benefits, pride in family means not for same-sex couples, self reliance means sink or swim, and freedom from regulation means relieving corporations of liability for their crimes and negligence.

It seems to me that the bumper stickers are winning. Those arguments have elected Republican majorities in the house and senate. Those catchy phrases have helped elect Republican presidents who have given us a politicized Supreme Court that is more an enforcement arm of their party than a judicial body.

Maybe history and liberal warnings of the folly of conservative policies are too esoteric. The lessons of history fade, and the warning sound abstract. The harm modern conservative policies would do have to be made existential. The Supreme Court’s decision taking health care away from a friend or loved one may remind people of the real life consequences of  conservative ideology. Maybe handing all three branches of government over to the Tea Party would end the media love affair.  Maybe my mother’s words apply to our country. Sometimes you have to get sick to get better.

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