Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health Reform Debate Devolves (Further)

It's not just about the money. It's about fairness, and equality, and how profoundly our political culture is infused with the imperatives to keep us divided on the most fundamental bases. Our economic and legal systems have been engines of great progress, and also of divisions by class, race, gender, and all manner of measures of privilege and powerlessness.

It is not the same thing that anti-reform protestors on Saturday spat at Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, and hurled a racial epithet at Rep. John Lewis, and an anti-gay slur at Barney Frank; that there is now consideration of an Executive Order strengthening even further the ban on federal funding for abortion - a life-crushing measure for millions of women - to win votes for health reform; and that the health reform package would extend no benefits to the undocumented workers who, parenthetically, pay taxes and have by and large been wrenched from their homelands by our own destruction of their domestic agricultural economies. Each of these injustices has its own history of oppression, and its heroes, heroines and triumphs.

But aren't we ready, really, to turn a tidal wave of shame and intolerance against the hate-mongers who are fanning these divisions? It's time to demand apologies, resignations, reparations, from right wing demagogues whose time-worn tactics threaten us with real harm, physical and otherwise, and attempt to keep us divided and to deflect attention from the bankruptcy of their own ideas.

Passage of the House health reform bill would be a landmark event in the march toward human justice and equality. We will no longer take it for granted that where we work should determine whether we get health care. Corporations will have to rely on their many other resources to discipline the workforce. More of us will enjoy longer and healthier lives, with greater security. The health care system itself will be constrained in its ability to penalize us for being women, for being older, for being sicker.

Let's turn our attention this Sunday not just to the vote on the House floor, but also to the march for immigrants' rights in Washington, D.C. And building on that, let's continue the momentum we began in November, 2008, to envision and implement an agenda that unites and lifts up all of us.

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