On Identity & The Public Option

The problem is not those who think that health care is a privilege. No, they are so far out of my realm of comprehension that I wouldn’t even know what to say to someone who genuinely believed that to be true.

No, the problem lies with people who think health care is a responsibility.

It’s not.

It’s a right.

It is such a basic human right that I sit here cursing with every other word out of the sheer anger that we, as a nation, are so unbelievably selfish that we cannot see that it is not any one of our responsibilities to decide who should receive health care and who should not.

I have made no secret that I was not in favor of the public option. I’m not. I think it was a concession to begin with. However, it should have served as a good first step to a universal system.

Yet again, Democrats in Senate are so unbelievably spineless that they are unable to present to our President a bill that would increase the number of people covered by health care in our world.

I was deeply bothered on Sunday by a line from a play I saw: Can an entire nation lose its identity? It was a heartfelt moment in Palestine, New Mexico, at the culmination of a discourse on the muddling of identity.

We are so twisted in our views of who we are and what we do that we cannot even act for the common good of our own people.

And as I was driving home yesterday, I thought silently that I needed some sort of breakthrough. My frustration with my work is boiling over. The idea that I have 11th grade students who read and write five and six years below their grade level is taking its toll on me. Not because it’s difficult to correct, but because somewhere there has been such profound failure in our values that we leave so many people out in the cold.

We purposefully, literally leave people behind. We leave them to fail. We leave them to die. Without so much as a second glance.

Our identity is so deeply distorted in the cruelty to which we subject our neighbors. And so easily. With a stroke of a pen. With a deferment of funds. We make judgments. And we make condemnations.

A nation that was so filled with hope a year ago at this time seems to me  so badly off course.

And I came home yesterday afternoon and read a story in the Los Angeles Times. As always, it was simply what I needed to hear.

The words came from a man I used to work with: “It’s all about staying committed to the truth that we belong to each other.” It brought to mind the words I hold as a mantra. The words of Bobby Kennedy: “But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”

It’s the simplest thought of all. And yet so very hard to live up to.

We seem to forget, again and again, that we are each other. We are the ones who are called to be the “better” for our neighbors.

So, yes, an entire nation can forget it’s identity. It can forget its simple foundation. A banding together by some rebel spirits against an oppressive government that was denying freedoms and stripping rights.

And we sit again. At another point in our history where our government is again denying basic rights. We need an answer. An identity. A commonality.

And a simple belief that we are one.

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