Wanting America Back

I was in a high-end restaurant, waiting to have a meeting with a friend, and arrived before he did. I was led to our table, which had already been reserved.

Our table was next to one at which four white women were already sitting. They were older, looking to be in their late 70s and/or early 80s. It felt like they were engaging in a “girl’s day out” kind of time. They were laughing and sharing, talking about their husbands, their children and grandchildren, their charity work, and their professions, from which they had all retired.

I couldn’t help but hear everything they were talking about, and found myself chuckling from time to time at some of the things they shared. Privacy was not an option or a concern for them.

So, when they started talking about politics and the current slate of GOP candidates, the fact that they were sharing their views for all to hear was not surprising. They were Republicans, committed Republicans, that was for certain, because they said so, out loud.
The GOP candidates were interesting, they said. Carly “what’s her name? Is she still in the race?” Fiorina didn’t impress any of them, nor did Jeb Bush. They never mentioned Ben Carson, and kind of skated through their opinions of the candidates who have now left the race, including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul.

But then they got to the meat of their discussion: the top three candidates, according to the polls, plus Chris Christie. Trump, they said, was OK. Rubio was not; he was in favor of “bringing all those immigrants, or letting all those immigrants” come into or stay in this country. “Oh no, no immigrants,” said three of the women in response to the now-emerged spokeswoman for the group. One woman weakly tried to say that the immigrants who have been working here should be allowed to become citizens, but she was shut down.

Chris Christie should not be president, said the “louder-than-the-rest” woman because “he hugged Obama. That did it for me. He hugged Obama after Hurricane Sandy.” She said it in such a way which indicated she wanted everyone to know that yes, she said it, and yes, she absolutely meant it.

Obama, she said, was evil. Someone mentioned that Obama had visited a mosque, and had reported that Muslims were “good people.”

“Of course,” the ringleader said, “he would say that because he is a Muslim. Everyone knows that. He doesn’t go to church. He…is…a…Muslim.”

There was a pregnant pause while everyone pondered her pronouncement of “truth.,” but then the women got back to the other GOP candidates. With Trump being a little too over the top, and Rubio being in favor of keeping immigrants here and letting more come in, the only viable candidate, said the ringleader, with the other three women nodding their heads in agreement, was Ted Cruz.

“He is honest and loving and believes in the Constitution,” said Ringleader. “He is our only hope.” And then she said, quietly, “We have lost our beloved America. Our children’s children will never know the America we knew.”

Ah, the “give us our country back” sentiment took center stage. If Cruz could help bring sexism and racism back, and put all of the “isms” back in their places on the shelves of  American values, then he would have to be elected president. If Cruz could get rid of Obamacare with no thought of how millions who now have health care would feel or survive, then he would have to be elected president. If Cruz could make it so that police could have free reign with arresting and brutalizing people, then he would have to be president. If Cruz could get the military up and running like a good American military should run, and “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” as Donald Trump has said, then Cruz would have to be elected president.

I sat there, not surprised at what I was hearing, but a tad irritated that they talked so loudly so that everyone would have to hear their political discourses. They were bemoaning the threat they and many white Americans feel from forces larger than them and their remembrance of an America where bigotry and privilege went unchallenged. They were bemoaning the fact that being “politically correct” means respecting people of different religions (Islam) and colors and nationalities. They were tired of it. They wanted the voices of white people to be heard again, loudly and clearly, putting everyone and everything that wasn’t white in their proper places.

To heck with this being the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” They were not interested in living into that pronouncement and they sure were not interested in nurturing the American value called pluralism.

I heard that in their discourse. I don’t think I was wrong. I wish I were…

A candid observation…

Health Care for the Poor Still Elusive

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...
English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have the Affordable Care Act and we still have literally millions of people who cannot afford and will not have, health care.

How in the world can that be? The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help that very demographic, wasn’t it?

A New York Times article said that nearly two-thirds of poor, black people, and single mothers, in addition to one-half of all low-wage earners, will still not have access to health care. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/health/millions-of-poor-are-left-uncovered-by-health-law.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131003).

The vast number of these people live in states controlled by Republicans, and in which those lawmakers have voted against expanding Medicaid. “The 26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion are
home to about half of the country’s population, but about 68 percent of
poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. About 60 percent of the
country’s uninsured working poor are in those states. Among those
excluded are about 435,000 cashiers, 341,000 cooks and 253,000 nurses’
aides.” said the NYT article.

While some are appalled that so many people will still be unable to get health care, others are not surprised.

Some say that the Affordable Care Act was designed not to help poor black people, or single mothers, or low-wage earners. It was designed, they say, to benefit low wage earners who happen to be white.

It is sadly ironic that the majority of the poor people whom this act was ostensibly created to help are apparently black.  They live primarily in Southern states where, again, Republican lawmakers have balked at extending Medicaid, citing cost.  The American citizens who will still not be able to get health care, many of them, make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to keep them above the poverty line, making them eligible to qualify for subsidies, which the ACA is providing.

It is equally as ironic that some lawmakers feel justified in not supporting the expansion of Medicaid because they seem to feel that the poor are poor because they are lazy and want to take advantage of working Americans. There is great disdain for the poor, blaming them for their poverty and spreading this belief so that great numbers of people buy into the hype.  While in one breath, lawmakers will say that in America, democracy makes it possible for “all” people to be successful and therefore, not poor,  in another breath, they will support a system which is not democratic at all, but, rather, oligarchic in nature, supporting the expansion of the very rich on the backs of poor people and their labor.

With these millions of people still unable to get affordable health care, the health of the very poor will still be jeopardized. Children will still be in danger from getting sick and possibly dying from preventable and treatable diseases, and adults will not be able to get the care and medication they need to, likewise, get treatable diseases diagnosed or to get medications that will keep those diseases from killing them.

All of the showboating on television, with Tea Party Republicans saying that they are speaking on behalf of “the American people” has been disturbing and disgusting. “The American people,” for them, obviously do not include poor black and brown people, single mothers, and people unable to make a living wage.

The politicians in Washington are playing a game with the lives of all Americans as they fight like children having temper tantrums, working to defund the Affordable Care Act. It wouldn’t be so troubling if Tea Party Republicans had a viable health care plan in place to replace the ACA, one that would help people like these millions of black, brown and poor people.

They are not concerned with that part of America’s population, though. These politicians are fighting for is a group of people who object to big government and the role big government has historically played in taking care of “the least of these.”  They do not have the slightest concern, say, for the American citizen who needs treatment and medication for high blood pressure, or for the child who has an abscessed tooth, and who happens to be poor.

It is a scary thing to be poor in such a wealthy land. It is scary and troubling and frustrating to work, as the work ethic says we must – and still be deemed unworthy to make a living wage. The government shut-down, forced by the opposition between Tea Party Republicans who are fighting President Obama by opposing the ACA, is making poor people suffer even more as their salaries are being withheld.

Nobody cares about you if you’re poor – not even here in America, where our political system is supposed to be “exceptional” and above that in all other developed countries.  The fact that many Americans are a paycheck away from being put out on the street, should be troubling to a group of people who say they govern for “the American people.”

Apparently, that’s not true. They govern for “some” American people. Black, brown and poor people of all colors, as well as people struggling to make ends meet, just don’t seem to matter. No matter what lofty words are used to describe America’s democratic ideals, her oligarchic reality says that there is a serious chasm between the ideal and the real.

Poor people count. Black and brown people count. Single mothers …count.

Somebody ought to remind Congress of the same because it seems that millions of Americans have been forgotten.

A candid observation…

Romney, Again?

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts,...
Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, 2008 US presidential candidate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good grief.

The 2012 presidential election was over six months ago and Republicans (and others)  are STILL talking about why they lost. The media are still doing stories on it. Whatever for?

Maybe I am suffering from a lapse of memory, but I don’t ever remember this kind of “after-the-election” coverage. Yes, when the United Supreme Court voted that George W. Bush had won, the conversation was pretty much over. Oh, it lasted a while, but not six months afterward.

When Clinton won, I don’t remember the expansive coverage on why the Republicans lost. What in the world is different this time?

Is it because the Republicans are in shock because they lost to the man whom they had determined would be a “one term president?” Is it because they cannot believe that the non-white, male vote wasn’t enough to vote them in?  What am I missing? Why are we STILL talking about this?

There are issues to be dealt with. There’s the vast amount of destruction that has happened because of Hurricane Sandy, the tornadoes  that wreaked havoc in Moore, Oklahoma and afterward. These natural disasters have not only caused great damage that will require lots of taxpayer dollars to bring relief, but there is they have also struck the hearts and spirits of those who were affected. There will be lots of emotional trauma because of these disasters, and this country, much as it may not want to, will have to address the subject of mental illness and what this country needs to do about it.

There is the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Benghazi has come and gone,and there is still much discussion about what happened there and why, but the overall turmoil in the Middle East is not getting better; it’s getting worse. As we sit in the midst of a sequester which is affecting all areas of the national budget, including the defense budget, it seems that someone ought to be dealing with what implications the sequester is having in all areas of our lives.

There is health care. Yes, we have the Affordable Care Act, and lots more people who didn’t have access to health care will now have it, but the poorest of the poor will still be unable to get it, if the reports are true. That being the case, even though the Affordable Care Act has passed, will our health care costs still soar because too many people will still be forced to get care in emergency rooms?

There is the horrible situation caused by excessive student loan debt. While everyone is talking about the national debt, very little real attention is being given to the plight college students, past, present and to come, are facing with their paralyzing debt. Our Congress isn’t really talking about it; the media isn’t really covering it. And yet, this staggering debt threatens the livelihood of young people who have bought into the idea that a good education means a good life. Not necessarily.

We’ve not yet really settled the issue of gun control. The memory of what happened in Connecticut and Arizona and other places is still fresh; in spite of heart-felt pleas by family members of victims, Congress is still at an impasse. So, we wait for the next gun-caused catastrophe and begin the clamor all over again?

There are the ongoing problems of sexism and sexual assault on women that has gone on in our own military. There are the issues of gun control and immigration reform.  The phone records of Americans have been compromised in the name of …what?

In other words, there are just lots of things that are current issues that we as a nation need to be focusing on, not an election which came and passed in November. The incumbent won. It’s over.

So, why are we still trying to “figure it out?” Why are we still seeing interviews of Mitt Romney? Why is it still an issue that he lost?  It’s a waste of time…

A candid observation

Disregard of Laws Not a New Thing

1870 celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment as...
1870 celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment as a guarantee of African American voting rights (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The news this week is that the attorneys general and governors of several states are saying they will not respect the Affordable Care Act.

That is not surprising, nor is it particularly troubling. Over the course of American history, there have been several controversial laws either passed by Congress or upheld by the United States Supreme Court that states have ignored.

When Brown vs. Board of Education decided that there was no such thing as “separate but equal,” schools in some states closed rather than comply with the requirement to integrate. In Virginia, Mississippi and other states, there was open resistance to the High Court’s ruling.  On the site, http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown/brown-aftermath.html, we find written: “The “deliberate speed” called for in the Supreme Court’s Brown decision was quickly overshadowed by events outside the nation’s courtrooms. In Montgomery, Alabama, a grassroots revolt against segregated public transportation inspired a multitude of similar protests and boycotts. A number of school districts in the Southern and border states desegregated peacefully. Elsewhere, white resistance to school desegregation resulted in open defiance and violent confrontations, requiring the use of federal troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Efforts to end segregation in Southern colleges were also marred by obstinate refusals to welcome African-Americans into previously all-white student bodies.”

When the 15th Amendment was passed after the Civil War, again, states rebelled and refused to comply with the law. Writes Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund,  “How is it possible that African-Americans after slavery can have the vote in hand and then 100 years later from 1865 to 1965 are still fighting for the vote? We have to understand that American history is not linear or upward progress. American history is about peaks and valleys.” After the brief peak of Black elected officials during Reconstruction right after the Civil War ended, the next valley began when Mississippi called a constitutional convention to look for ways around the 15th Amendment. The result was decades of new voting laws across the South requiring literacy tests, “grandfather” clauses that prohibited anyone from voting if their grandfather hadn’t, and other “colorblind” policies whose main purpose was actually to keep people of one color from participating in our democracy.

Now, we have the Affordable Care Act, and states again are participating in civil disobedience. That is the right of being an American, a right that people in other countries with different governments apparently cannot do. But it is troubling that so many of the laws that have inspired such open rebellion and repudiation have been concerned with the rights of the disenfranchised, the poor, those for whom “the American dream” is elusive.

The fact that at least 46 million more people will have health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act is comforting to me; the fact that America is so deeply in debt is troubling, and so I can understand the protest against the cost of this massive bill. But at the end of the day, I still submit that a nation cannot be called “great” if it has such a large underclass that is exploited by those in power. The laws cited in this piece, concerning education, voting rights and now, health care, are designed to help those who have been so long ignored.

The debt that America carries is not solely because of the”entitlements” that so many are against. The fact that many working Americans cannot afford health care is not their fault. The fact that America has a culture that has supported disenfranchisement of a large number of her citizens is regrettable …but the fact that there have been put in place laws that protect this nation’s most vulnerable says that the ideal called democracy can work.

I shudder to think what America, the “land of the free and home of the brave” would look like had not these and other protective laws been passed. Although Reaganomics says that if there is a wealthy upper class, the wealth will “trickle down” to everyone else, that theory has not been shown to have merit. Neither is it apparently true that humans can be expected to take care of “the least of these” in America without laws, although America is willing to seek and to take care of “the least of these” in other countries.

It will be interesting to see how the fight against the Affordable Care Act will shake out, just as it will be interesting to see how the efforts at voter suppression will affect this nation. After all the struggle America has gone through, it seems that our problems are still the same. As “the preacher” said in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

A candid observation …

Affordable Care Act Overdue

HR3590-Patient-Protection-and-Affordable-Care-Act_1 (Photo credit: Obama For America – California)

Sarah Palin is probably right: the passage of the Affordable Care Act by the United States Supreme Court will mobilize the Tea Party Conservatives, and probably others.

The presidential election will be fierce and fiery, more negative than it might have been had the High Court struck down the law, with cries of “socialism” leveled against President Obama.

But in the midst of the sound and the fury, poor people, unemployed people and underemployed people will have access to health care. And for that, I breathe a sigh of relief.

I am beginning to understand what I call the “politics of the fortunate,”  the “fortunate” being those lucky enough to have enough resources to live comfortably in this country. In many of their minds, entitlements, including Medicaid, welfare, and other large-scale programs funded by the government to aid the poor allow and encourage people to be lazy and content to allow others to pay for their needs.

What “the fortunate” don’t seem to understand is that while there are certainly people who take advantage of government programs, many people would rather die than take government assistance, yet would probably literally die were not government assistance available for them.

They don’t seem to understand that many of the unemployed are not working because they seriously cannot find a job; they don’t seem to understand that underemployment is as bad as is unemployment in many instances, not providing enough money for employees to adequately take care of themselves and their families.

What they don’t seem to understand is that just because a person is poor does not mean that that person does not deserve to be treated as a human being. People in the 21st century ought not be walking around with cancer that they cannot afford to get treated, or with abscessed teeth because they cannot afford to go to a dentist.

What they don’t seem to understand is that nobody wants to be poor. Nobody wants to struggle financially. And nobody wants to be penalized and be made to feel like they are not worthy of health care just because they are poor.

It feels strange to live in a country where many put more value on the proliferation of military might than on the protection and care-giving of its own citizens. It feels even stranger to be involved in wars that fight for democracy in other lands while democracy here is broken – because, surely, a country that does not take care of its poor is broken.

I have heard people today say that this health care bill converts America into a socialist country. I do not understand,  but I am sure it has something to do with the resentment that many have that the poor are being helped along by the government …and by their tax dollars.

If you never see the poor, look into their eyes, see how they live, see what they endure, then it’s easy to be dismissive and critical of their presence. If you have not been unemployed or underemployed, it is, again, easy to make judgments about people who are in those situations, and blame them for their situations.

Sarah Palin, like I said, is probably right. This action by the High Court is going to get the Tea Party boiling mad and energized in their fight against big government.

But as we have big government anyway, much of the recent “bigness” put in place by President Bush, causing us to go into serious debt, I rest a little easier knowing that some of my tax dollars are going to help those who absolutely cannot get out of their economic ruts. Like it or not, that is a reality in America. Perhaps one of the biggest differences  between the “haves” and the “have-nots”  is that those in the former group are more likely to have help to get out of their ruts, while the have-nots get more and more entrenched in theirs.

All people, wealthy or poor, deserve health care.  No human is so poor that he or she deserves to be treated like an object with no feelings and no needs.

A candid observation …