The Moment of Truth — August 22, 2009

The Monster They Created

The current debate about health insurance touches on a great many philosophical quandaries. I’ve heard some very interesting questions arise from discussions of national health insurance. There is the question of infant mortality. The USA has a higher infant mortality rate than any other advanced industrialized nation. The infant mortality rate in the USA is comparable to that in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. That is, if you are an infant in the USA you are as likely to die as an infant in Slovakia. Why is this?

The interesting question I heard posed by a free-market conservative was, Isn’t the higher infant mortality rate in the USA due to certain ethnic behavior?

If by ethnic behavior you mean poverty, I suppose that might be true. But poverty isn’t an ethnic behavior, it’s an economic disadvantage. Being poor isn’t against the law, incidentally. There is no reason why a poor person shouldn’t enjoy the same access to health care as a rich person other than discrimination passed off as part of economic nature.

Life expectancy is lower in the USA than in Western Europe. Why is this? Perhaps the infant mortality rate is dragging the life expectancy average down. And since babies dying is due to certain ethnic behaviors, well, again, we have no reason to subsidize some stupid minorities’ brutish habits which make their infants so likely to die.

Again, when it comes to health, until the poverty is ameliorated there is absolutely no moral excuse for blaming someone’s ethnic heritage for the death of his or her baby. But this is not an uncommon way for even centrists to think. This is not considered an extreme view. To me it is utterly racist and repugnant, but for some reason it is an integral part of the health care debate.

How did such an obviously racist argument come to be a lynchpin of the public debate over health care? And let me remind you, I haven’t even begun to discuss the rightwing propaganda about “death panels” and health care rationing and comparing Obama to Hitler.

All we’re talking about right now is a slightly right-of-center attitude, and a common one, even among right-of-center journalists.

How can this be? This is utterly repulsive, is it not? To know full well that 50 million citizens are uninsured, and that their babies are dying, and to blame that on their ethnic behavior rather than on their inability to access doctors is morally disgusting on its face. The argument is that ethnic minorities don’t deserve subsidized health care because they are ethnically predisposed to kill their babies with their behavior. How how how is this part of the mainstream debate?

It’s one thing to say we as a society can’t afford to subsidize health care for everyone, which is a lie. If John Travolta can afford his own jet plane, we can afford to subsidize health care for everyone. The distribution of wealth and the fairness thereof are complex topics to be sure. But whether or not a Mexican American or an African American are too irresponsible to bother worrying about should not be part of the difficulty for anyone with the moral sensibility of a civilized human being in the richest nation on Earth.

How did Ronald Reaganesque victim-blaming, racist at the core, become so commonplace that it intrudes into arguments about the public welfare in the richest nation in history?

The so-called conservative movement’s entrenchment in extremist positions from which they refuse to negotiate or even provide productive input is causing them to make terrible choices right now and it’s going to cost them. I think conservatives of the most recent generation actually believed their crazy extremist fairytale that the radical left ruled the nation from 1935 till 1980, a belief that led them to say to themselves, “calling all detractors Hitler and being insanely unreasonable put the radical left in power, it’ll work for us.”

And crazily enough, it did work for them. But the only reason it’s worked for them so far is they’ve never been OUT of power. And the reason it’s not working now is that the moral bankruptcy behind their rhetoric has finally become evident to the majority. After twenty years of controlling the debate and eight years of nearly absolute control of government, they have left the nation in a moral and economic shambles, and embarrassed and demoralized by its own excess. Everyone but those rhetorically committed to ignoring reality is ready to change to a more reasonable course.

But the conservative movement has lost control of its monster. They’ve created for the Republican party an electoral base made up almost entirely of bile-driven racist lunatics. If they offend their monster, it will kill them. And those conservatives who retain a vague sense that there was once another less insane version of conservatism, they are like the adults in that Twilight Zone episode where if you don’t do what the little kid wants he’ll turn you into some hideous thing and banish you to the cornfield. Watch that episode, the parallels are uncanny.

Earlier this week I was impelled to ask aloud, “Why is the right to own and control as much wealth as one can possibly hoard so easy for conservatives to understand, while the right to a minimum standard of living in the richest nation in history blows their minds?”

I think the answer is evident now. Even the best of the conservatives have been separated from intelligent, morally clear thought by the monster who will not allow them to pass. When Democrats suggested this past week that maybe they should just forget about negotiating with the Republicans and go ahead and come up with a health plan on their own, it may have been mere political calculation. But the fact is there is no other side to consult or bargain with. The minority are trapped in a Hell of arrogant self-righteous racist anti-government anti-East Coast media bigotry, a Hell of their own devising. The best thing we could do for them is to leave them to their barbarism and see who survives. And then get rid of the survivors, because they’ll probably represent the worst of the lot.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!