Ultra far-right conservatives are probably secretly celebrating the death of the "last true liberal" of the senate, Ted Kennedy. For me, the end of an era has arrived. With Ted's death, the dream of Camelot, begun with John F. Kennedy's presidency, seems to be fading away.
But maybe not. Those of us who grew up during the sixties listening to and buying into the dreams of John, Robert and Ted Kennedy will probably carry on. Though I am not now, nor have I ever been, a card-carrying communist, I am proud to say that I am a "true liberal" in most areas of my political thinking and affiliation. I so want the philosophical aspects of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to become a reality, not just in America, but in the world--but not through war or aggression.
That brings me to this health-care controversy gripping our nation right now. I'm not one to jump into the fray without thinking things through. I'm not going to mouth off in response to some knee-jerk capitalistic conservative just to make my opinion known. I have to think it though and come to my own conclusions, make my own decisions.
I know enough about early American history to know that Jefferson, Adams, Madison, et. al, weren't the liberal bleeding-heart types. The philosophy expressed in the Declaration of Independence was not egalitarian sentiment--Jefferson was a member of the "ruling class," one of the privileged white men who owned property and wielded power at the highest levels. He wasn't concerned with the slaves he owned, or women, or the disenfranchised. He wanted to protect the interests of the powerful like himself. The philosophy of the Declaration is great: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." But in Jefferson's day, the meaning of this passage was specific and non-negotiable--white men who owned property were equal to each other and to the British government that oppressed them, and only they had these rights, which didn't apply to anyone else.
The great thing about America is that, as the country has changed, so has our conception of the promise of the Declaration. Our Constitution reflects those changes as well--the 13th Amendment, which freed slaves, the 19th Amendment, which gave women the vote (finally, damn it!); we are an adaptable country. We are an inclusive country. We're willing to admit our mistakes and right our wrongs...most of the time.
Here's what I think about healthcare...I think all people, regardless of age, gender, income, class, party affiliation--whatever one might use to classify them--deserve the same level of care. A poor person should not have to die from a treatable, preventable disease just because he/she doesn't have money. Likewise, I don't think a person who flashes a big wad of cash, or pays through the nose for health insurance, should have more or better care than said poor person. My Mother and Father, who are 78, should get the same care as my two-year-old niece. That philosophy certainly expands Jefferson's conception of "life," and I'm sure it plays into the ideas of "liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
So who pays for it? We all do, as we always have, through our taxes; if we're all "created equal," then we should pay taxes when we have jobs or make money. When we come upon hard times, then maybe we should go back to FDR's WPA--put people to work fixing the roads, beautifying public parks, painting murals on post office walls and government facades, tutoring others for literacy--we could do so much for each other if we just tapped into the potential of every American, if we gave every American the chance to be productive and useful. They get paid, we get taxes back from that to pay for health care. We could do more if we'd stop talking and start planning.
I am not opposed to dialogue and compromise. I am, however, opposed to yelling and scare tactics. Those people who oppose change simply because it doesn't come from their political party impede true change. And they do a disservice to all of us. Debate, discuss, compromise. I think that's the true "American Way."
Teddy, I'm going to miss you and your imperfect, improbable life. Even though many considered you a member of the privileged class, you worked hard for the rest of us. RIP, Teddy. "And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."