"The best test of a civilised society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and weakest members."
That the majority of the rich and powerful in America, particularly those on the right, are vehemently opposed to universal healthcare and instead support the present free-market private insurance system is hardly surprising. Clearly they have nothing to fear, as it's highly unlikely that they will ever find themselves without coverage and they're certainly never going to be choosing between treatment and bankruptcy.
This stance—though truly despicable, completely devoid of compassion, and totally self-absorbed—isn't really all that difficult to understand. It's simply the latest manifestation of that age-old philosophy: "Hey, I'm alright. Screw everyone else!"
What IS extremely hard to figure out, however, is the mindset of all these regular, ordinary working class and middle-class, right-wing nutjobs who have been showing up all summer long at these town hall meetings chanting:
"Socialism! Communism! Stalinism!"
Not to mention: "Obama is Hitler!"
And: "Better dead than North Korean or Canadian!"
I mean, seriously, what's up with these people anyway? Don't they understand just how much they potentially have to lose? They may be feeling quite secure about their insurance coverage today, but that could so very easily change tomorrow.
Craving Some Karma
When you see these people on the news do you ever find yourself—as I so often do—hoping that they'll one day wind up extremely ill and in need of treatment, only to discover that their beloved for-profit, free-market insurance company has denied them coverage, forcing them into bankruptcy and leaving them completely destitute?
Now that may sound mean-spirited, but someone has to say it.
Because it's simply infuriating to see how they so scornfully dismiss and deride the genuine efforts of all those who have been working so hard to ensure that everyone in America has adequate healthcare.
And what of all these right-wing, anti-healthcare-reform senators and members of Congress? Wouldn't it be especially great if they were someday denied coverage right when they most needed it?
But of course that will never happen.
However, it most definitely could happen to any one of these rage-filled, right-wing, regular (that is, neither rich nor powerful) Americans, any one of whom could at any time find themselves sick, with their insurance company denying them coverage.
Seriously, wouldn't it just be so karmically perfect if, after battling so incredibly hard to defeat the implementation of a universal healthcare system, they found themselves unemployed, unwell, and uninsured?
Now, obviously I don't really want that to happen to anyone, but it is something that's hard not to think about when you see these people so passionately arguing against something that is—regardless of what they may have heard to the contrary on FOX News—for the long-term good of not just the nearly 50 million presently uninsured, but the whole country, including—at least potentially—themselves and their kids and grandkids.
A Communist Scheme?
You can argue that Obama's present plan is seriously flawed and that what the country really needs is a single-payer system—and I'd be the first to agree. But what these people are arguing against is not the specifics of this particular plan; they're arguing against the very idea of having any sort of government-run plan to begin with.
What they seem to be oblivious to is the fact that America already has a universal, socialized, government-run, single-payer healthcare system—at least for everyone over 65. It's called Medicare. And I certainly haven't heard many of these right-wing town hall shouters, yellers, and screamers calling Medicare a Communist scheme.
Besides, as it's been pointed out by many others before, universal medical coverage is no more Communist than government-run, tax-funded schools, libraries, and fire departments—and the police, Coast Guard, and search and rescue for that matter.
But of course this isn't a reasonable, logic-based debate, is it? No, this is a war against "a Stalinist takeover of America".
Irrational, Confused, and Nonsensical
This opposition to universal healthcare by ordinary Americans is almost as sensible as, say, Jews campaigning for the Nazis, African Americans donating money to the KKK, Cambodians clamoring for the return of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, or Americans electing Dick Cheney as president.
Or perhaps a more apt analogy is with the thousands of women in Mali protesting in recent weeks against a new law guaranteeing them equality in marriage. "We don't need equality", they shout, "it's just a Western plot to destroy Islam".
Give me your stupid, your ignorant, your muddled masses
Which brings me to my main point: Why do so many ordinary Americans consistently vote for and support politicians and policies that are so unambiguously opposed to their own interests?
This illogical support of politicians and leaders who oppose just about everything that's actually in one's own best self interest is not unique to America of course, but it's certainly nowhere near as prevalent in any other Western democracy.
Selflessness is great and all if you're working to help the homeless or orphans or anyone else in need. However, supporting Republicans who launch pointless wars that your kids will have to fight and die in, who lower taxes for the rich meaning your taxes will stay higher and your government services will remain underfunded, who fight against universal healthcare putting you at future risk of being uninsured, who... well, I think you get the point. It's just plain crazy.
Bangin' "Family Values"
One explanation is that these right-wing Republicans give lip service to the radical fundamentalist Christianity that so many of these "regular folks" follow (and which really explains where their minds are at in all of this).
But you'd think that after the umpteenth "Family Values" Republican of the religious right was caught banging his mistress down in Argentina or Alabama or some such place (or, say, caught hitting on adolescent Congressional pages, or caught in another financial scandal, or...) that it'd become pretty obvious that these people's real priorities have nothing to do with Christianity or "family values" and a lot more to do with power, wealth, and, well, banging their mistresses.
The Good Ol' Days
The fact is if you try to imagine a country that doesn't provide education and police, firefighting, postal, or search and rescue services to all of its citizens then you're either imagining a Third World country or you're thinking back to the "good ol' days" of the 18th or 19th centuries.
And that's exactly how the rest of the modern, industrialized world views America, a country with unlimited wealth and resources when it comes to launching wars in any given corner of the globe, yet somehow unable to provide the most basic of government services—healthcare—to its own people, leaving nearly 50 million citizens with absolutely no medical coverage whatsoever.
Imagine what it would be like if, like the current healthcare-insurance industry, some of the following government-run vital services also operated on a purely for-profit basis:
"Nope, sorry, we can't educate your kid, he seems a little slow. It'd cost us extra resources. However, you can always watch educational shows like Sesame Street at home."
"No can do, we're not going to deliver mail to the countryside anymore. The profit ratio is simply too low. You could always move to the city."
"No, no, no! How many times do I have to tell you, we're not going to police your neighborhood. Too much crime there. You could always buy yourself a gun."
"Look, I understand that you want your son back, but both Search and Rescue and the Coast Guard are businesses and therefore you can't really expect us to attempt a rescue until the whole operation has been paid for up-front and, hey, let's be frank, it's pretty obvious that you can't afford it. Of course you could always go look yourself—just don't get lost."
"Sorry, sir, we'd like to come put out the fire and save your home, but to save money we've decided to only fight fires in wealthy neighborhoods where the pay is much better. You could always use your garden hose. Good luck!"
And one last thing: Yeah, death panels most certainly do exist. They're called for-profit insurance companies and they deny treatment and/or coverage to millions of Americans every year, many of whom—you guessed it—end up dead.
But, alas, those who need to hear this message aren't really listening to logic or reason now are they? They're simply screaming "Communism!" and, most bizarrely, "Fascism!" as they attempt to stop America from joining the modern world.
Mike Cowie is a freelance writer who writes about politics, music, film, travel, and much more. You can read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.