American politics has always been a rough and tumble affair. One is ever surprised, even aghast, at how easily the American populace is turned from their clear interest by fear-mongers. One must question the wisdom of the masses when oft-repeated vitriolic displays of raw emotion are substituted for rational discourse and fueled by a television and Internet audience attracted to macabre self-destruction. Currently, older Americans who rely on Medicare, Veterans’ Administration care and similar government programs are screaming for the government to stop looking out for their health and interests. The irony would be amusing if these citizens were less confused and afraid.
Rather than examine various bills proposed so far, people are grabbing insurance industry lies and roiling in the mud of self-righteous indignation — with a stunning disregard for facts and for their actual interests. Can they be unaware how many people have lost homes and family due to profit-driven policies of health insurance companies? Are they so sure that they will not exceed the $5 million limit on lifetime expenses that is hidden in most policies? Do they have the remotest idea how close to that limit they stand today? At tomorrow’s prices, the first half of one serious illness could easily swallow up $5 million. Those angry mobs had better be sure they are all going to be very healthy for a very long time and have not already used up a sizeable chunk of their lifetime allowance. There is a fact I could understand people getting extremely angry about.
For the more rational among us, it is vital to maintain calm in the face of all of this fear-inspired anger. We must respond with clear and unemotional truth to the wildly fanciful and hate-filled demagogues who would whip up frenzy so their sponsors may continue to profit from a poorly educated populace. We may point out that, however unpleasant the thought, that all of us, every last one, will face end of life issues and it is in each of our interests to make clear now how we wish these to be handled. A proposal to allow this discussion (a purely voluntary one) to be covered by one’s health care plan takes nothing from our ability to make our own decisions now or when we reach the end of our life span. Death panels are, in fact, the insurance companies who send a letter to tell you that because they just now see you will cost them profits, a condition you had in your teens (acne?) means they will not now pay for your doctor-proposed cancer treatment. If you are independently wealthy, you will be able to pay. If not, then what? Who is really secure in this environment?
The lack of truth in claims of death panels is uncanny — here is the big lie that is so much easier to sell to the uninformed. Why have Republican leaders refused to propose a single plan to deal with the ravaging costs of health care? Why are people so eager to believe those who care for their interests want to harm them, yet trust their precious lives to those who indeed seek to do them harm as soon as they become unprofitable? Where is the rationality? What does this absence of logic say about our education system in addition to our unjust health care system?
I believe that if we give ear to opinion makers who urge us to be angry, we are less than worthy of this great constitutional democracy. Our wonderful democracy is predicated on respect for one another other. It has never been about shouting down the opposition. Rather we are a better, safer and healthier nation when we seek common ground with those who disagree with us. Democracy requires that we all contribute to the discussion, that we listen respectfully to others then seek compromise. Reasonable people can always find a middle path. That unemotional commitment to seeking common ground and rational debate is the safest place for America, now and always.
Beatrice Shushan is an Oceanside resident.