President Barack Obama showed his mettle and determination in pushing through a health care bill despite the most virulent opposition America has seen for decades. His legacy will be established on that basis alone, if he accomplishes nothing more. But if you think he is done, I think you have grossly underestimated the man.
The opposition came from a number of directions. First there was the knee jerk reaction of Republicans who were opposed on the basis of the fact that Obama was not a Republican. Such thinking naturally has engendered a lot of contempt for the Republican Party. We’ll see how that attitude works out for them this November, although it is always safe to keep P.T. Barnum’s maxim in mind in these things. Barnum, famous for appealing to the lowest common denominator in public entertainment, once quipped, “No one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” I didn’t say it folks, it is part of the public record. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
The second factor here is the Religious Right in America, the ideological offspring of the Pharisees in Christ’s day. Christ called them whitewashed tombs, and His series of woes levelled at their righteous indignation would peal paint. The kind of invective our Lord used would be sin in any other mouth, but Christ was speaking as the Lord of Creation, so those who would dress themselves in His garb when speaking to others are doing more than forgetting their Christian responsibility to think no ill of others, they are enacting blasphemy, for which one of us has the right to speak as if we were God?
I would think no ill of my Christian friends and brothers in the Lord, but I would caution them to examine the political motives of those who would seek to rally their allegiance by giving lip-service to patriotism on the one hand, and a facile nod to the complex issue of abortion on the other. Saint Ronald Reagan, he of the charming smile and the Hollywood hair, gave less than one-half of one percent of his vast income to charity in his lifetime, and authored the assassination of at least three properly elected leaders of Latin American democracies whose policies he disagreed with, while funding right-wing coups with money raised by selling arms to Iran. Such is the character of politicians who gather the faithful to their cause on the Right. Please don’t slander my Lord by suggesting He would side with such as these.
It is still early to say what Bush’s legacy might be, but certainly both he and his father, along with Reagan, are at least partly to blame for the polarization that has gripped America. Who would have thought a mere twenty years ago that we would once again hear Black American legislators being called ‘niggers’ and spat upon as they walked into Congress to cast their votes in favour of the health bill. James Clyburn, one of those congressmen said, “A lot of us have been saying for a long time that much of this is not about health care at all. And I think a lot of those people today demonstrated this. It is about trying to extend a basic fundamental right to people who are less powerful.” What in his discretion he omitted was that a lot of those disadvantaged people are Black and Hispanic.
There are at least two sides to every issue, and I am certain that many of you will disagree with this assessment. As you do, please keep in mind that America has the worst infant mortality rate in the Western world. Singapore has 2.2 infant deaths per thousand births, France has 3.3, Germany has 4.0, Canada has 5.0. Even the much despised and economically blockaded (for 50 years!) Cuba has 5.8. The good ol’ U.S. of A. has 6.2. I am not in favour of abortion any more than you are, but surely better health care will ensure that more children get to live, not less. And that is worth voting for.