2009

16 September: Warriors needed in health care battle

Warriors needed in health care battle

Health care for all is the social justice cause of early 21st-century liberalism. In the words of the late Ted Kennedy, it tells us of our “national character.”

There are two essential practices for good health: taking care of one’s self and securing professional health when health begins to fail. By choosing the couch potato, addiction route, one is likely not to do or feel well. But then, as I reminded recalcitrant students, “Life is filled with choices, and sometimes we make bad ones. By making them, though, we agree to live with the consequences.”

Despite doing all one can to ensure good health, there is no guarantee, however, of pain-free longevity. Accidents happen. Diseases are contracted or arise due to genetic complexities. For me cholesterol is the ongoing concern, so ice cream and omelets have become taboo.

Fortunately, I have a somewhat affordable health plan with a doctor who measures my cholesterol, gives feedback and recommends statin drugs, to which I remain resistant. Accordingly, the easy thing for me to do is to deny myself a periodic scoop of Ft. Mackinaw black cherry. The tough but compelling act is to enjoin the fight for others, so they will have what I have: the option of seeking help from a medicine man or woman.

In his book “The Hidden Spirituality of Men,” Matthew Fox explores the archetypes of the paths of the warrior and soldier. While a soldier might also be a warrior, the two are not necessarily the same. A warrior enjoins a fight only because the fight is right; soldiers enlist and follow orders without question, at which I was never very good.

The willingness of a soldier to subordinate his/her will to that of a leader is necessary and can be noble. That is the way any team, whether the Colorado Rockies or the U.S. Army, succeeds. But even nobility is no guarantor for success. In the Battle of Little Bighorn, while Sitting Bull’s warriors fought nobly and fiercely for their home, way of life and sacred ground, Gen. Custer’s soldiers nobly died doing their duty.

The shadow side of the soldier includes stinted, linear thinking, which can result in unquestioning allegiance and rationalizations such as “I was only following orders.” Faithful listeners of talk radio mouths are easily enlisted as foot soldiers, even as storm troopers. They listen religiously for their daily bread because independent critical thinking takes work and puts the onus of responsibility upon the individual.

A warrior, on the other hand, is willing to question orders and to act alone. Its shadow side includes the misguided “lone wolf” archetype we see usually in men, men such as Ted Kaczynski, the “Unibomber,” and Scott Roeder, the alleged murderer of Dr. George Tiller, who provided care to women seeking late-term abortions.

American history is an ongoing story of the people versus the controlling, powered elite: the slave rebellions; the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls in 1846, the Ludlow Massacre here in Colorado in 1911; the enactment of laws governing meat processing immortalized in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle;” the creation of two great socialistic programs, Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965, valued even by I-got-mine-so-it-sucks-to-be-you types who would not have supported them at their inceptions but now enjoy and resist advancing them to others.

Enlisted in every one of those and every other struggle were wise noble warriors, willing to fight the fight to the end, but wise enough to know when to pull back to fight another day.

My worry about Obama caving to pressure from acolytes and sycophants of big health insurers thus far has proved to be unfounded. I came to realize during his speech on health care reform his path is that of the warrior. His revelation and quoting of the letter from Ted Kennedy, the Liberal Lion who is anathema to hardened rightwingers, urging him to continue the fight of Kennedy’s life, demonstrated unequivocally that Obama, understanding full well the imperfections of any system populated by human beings, is committed to the fight on this front for social justice.

In his letter to President Obama written three months before his impending death, Ted Kennedy wrote, “What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

The struggle for social justice in pursuit of forming a “more perfect union,” as the Preamble declares the purpose of the Constitution, is in large part the American story.

The more perfect is a work in progress. It has taken, after all, 220 years to get America here to a much better but still imperfect union. Until then, the mantra of the liberal warrior must be “health care reform now, imperfect as it might be.” As Kennedy eloquently reminded us more than once, “The cause endures, and the hope lives on.”

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