Man of Action!

Watching Rachel Maddow recite the many good things the healthcare bill does on her show Monday night, I was elated. Hearing that Republicans have vowed to repeal the bill, I was insulted. My insurance pays for lifesaving care. My insurance has saved my life. It is easy and natural to shield oneself from the bloody, painful, grievous facts behind the numbers when one is not, oneself, one of the numbers.

Having cruised along healthy for so long, I was able to put out of mind the gruesome, deathly consequences of a broken healthcare system.

I can no longer treat it as an abstraction. I take it personally. So I am happy when progress is made and angry when such progress is threatened.

Do Republicans know how murderous they sound? When your life depends on decisions made by people whose faces you will never see, based on rules you had no part in making, in a language so technical you cannot parse it, you finally, truly encounter your own vulnerability to the actions of states and institutions.

[. . .]

I now want to work more openly for political change. I have stayed out of the political fray for many years, finding it more skillfully and brilliantly played by our political team led so admirably by Joan Walsh.

But if you find my approach to ethical, moral and spiritual problems of some relevance to your life, if you have come to know me as a decent, thoughtful person, certainly imperfect, given to excess, occasionally verbose and self-absorbed but of fundamentally decent and positive character, then perhaps when I take a political stand from time to time you will see the reason in it and see fit to join me. Or perhaps you will choose to try and show me the error of my thinking.

Either way: I must take a public stand on issues where it can do some good.

Having emerged from a harrowing experience, running the last leg of my long route toward recovery, I hope that this is not an ephemeral change of heart, but one that sticks. (Cary Tennis, “It took cancer for me to care about health care,” Salon, 23 March 2010)

Man of action!

Speaking of republicans, Here's an accounting of Ronald Reagan's conversion experience, with which you can compare:

"His conversion from acting as a career to being an anti-communist politician was, Reagan said, like finding "the rest of me," like moving from a "monastery" into a life of action.(30) Now, rather than accepting the self-image of a passive boy, guilty of his father's death, he could assume the active role as a fighter against those who want authorities dead. Rather than staying at home and endlessly watching himself on the screen without legs, he could-like FDR, another man who had used politics to conquer the loss of his legs-take action against those who now embodied his dangerous wishes. The moment he switched from being a liberal Democrat to a crusading anti-communist, he not only found the rest of himself, he solved the problem of guilt in his life, by taking all the things he felt guilty about and putting them into an "enemy." At the age of 36, Ronald Reagan had finally found how to live without crippling anxieties." (Lloyd deMause, "Reagan's America")

Losing yourself to crusader roles usually ends up involving punishing the weak and the spiritful, not just the regular ol' lot of "bad guys." We would do well to remember this, as so many now realize how much rejuventation and past-distancing is to be had in joining up with this current purity crusade (in truth, it won't be a "choice" -- they'll be drawn to lose themselves so). Do any of us doubt that Tiger Woods will soon follow?

Link: It took cancer for me to care about health care (Salon)

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