by Joe Shea
April 8, 2012
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In watching the circus that surrounded the three days of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, one has to conclude that our country has finally jumped the shark.
How else can you describe the spectacle of American conservatives protesting for their right to be ripped off by insurance companies and be denied coverage at the whim of a claims manager?
Are they that afraid of seeing health benefits go to the "unworthy" (read: not white) that they are willing to do without coverage themselves?
Are they that obsessed with a twisted version of "freedom," that they are willing to walk away from the whole notion of community, shared responsibility, and concern for others?
The answer is apparently yes.
Granted, much of the anti-"Obamacare" protests at the Supreme Court were ginned up by the usual right-wing political groups funded by the usual right-wing oligarchs. But the noisy defenders of the right of insurance companies to kill them represent an ugly strain in American politics.
Despite all the worship of "rugged individualism," the truth is that the true philosophy that has bound this nation together is that we are a commonwealth - that government is not a "them," but is all of us, that there are certain things that belong to us all, and that government is the way that free men and women choose to come together for the greater good of everyone.
For the rich and the powerful who are rapidly trying to turn our democracy into a permanent oligarchy, the idea of the commonwealth is just a myth, a figment of the imaginations of the soft-hearted dreamers who still believe that we all are our brother's and sister's keeper.
And for all the solemn worship of the Constitution by the far right, they usually gloss over the words that begin that document - "We the People." Those words are the basis of how a civilized nation operates - all of us, joining together to keep and maintain the common goods that belong to us all, and to the succeeding generations.
There is little room for selfishness or laissez-faire economics in our Constitution. But the people who sneer at the idea of the public good believe otherwise. They have spent a lot of time and money committing themselves to the ideal that government doesn't work, and proving that point by getting people elected to public office who have no interest in making government work for the common good.
The streak of selfishness and cruelty in our nation widens by the day. And the people who benefit from that streak are will discard the Tea Party-types who are protesting so that the rich can stay that way in a heartbeat. The Tea Partiers are the equivalent of chickens marching in support of Colonel Sanders.
The health care law that President Obama signed into law two years ago is flawed. Rather than take the simple and obvious step of turning Medicare into a program for all Americans, he and his staff created a convoluted law that expands coverage while enriching the insurance companies and drug makers.
But even this flawed law is better than nothing, and that's what those who hate government are afraid of. If it works, like Social Security and Medicare before it, it will help kill the myth that government can't work.
Does the noisy claque of Tea Party protesters really want to propel our nation to a place where the law of the jungle replaces the Golden Rule, and if you are not fortunate enough to be white, male, heterosexual, Christian, and well off, you deserve to be poor, sick, and shut out of society?
I would like to think the answer is no, but in a world where RepublicanS demonize government and Democrats are too frightened to stand up for the principles that built this nation, it's hard to be optimistic.
AR Chief Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.