March 2012


Thought I’d stick the happy ending in the title since my previous post was all about how I don’t believe in them.

Maybe it’s just people trying to put a positive spin on the situation, but I’m hearing more and more about how the Supreme Court striking down health care reform could be a good thing.  The idea being that the potential of health care reform going away will scare or upset voters enough to increase Obama’s re-election chances, and that it will give the Obama campaign more negative material to throw at the Republicans.  Apparently it might also be a good opportunity to re-inspire some of those progressives who have become disillusioned with Obama.

I have to say that I’m not feeling very hopeful about the health care ruling right now.  Perhaps I’m taking the unpleasant questioning of the Justices at face value.  Am I the one Eeyore in the crowd who’s not seeing the silver lining here?  Could a bad ruling by the Court indeed lead to a better outcome in the end?

Well, my hope is that the ruling does not turn out like I fear it will, and that health care reform remains in place.  This plan will help so many uninsured and underinsured Americans, and it has already changed things for the better in my own insurance industry.  No amount of strategizing about elections or imagined political gains could make losing it worthwhile to me.

Something that’s been difficult for me to get used to since coming to the States has been all that boundless optimism.  Not that optimism is a bad thing, not at all.  But in America it gets a little over the top.  It seems there’s always another inspirational story of the person who just lost her home and job, lost both her legs in a car accident and was diagnosed with a terminal illness, but still managed to crawl her way through a Marathon using only her arms to pull herself along, with a big smile on her face.  Even though she was homeless, she still managed to collect enough donations to participate!  And the key phrase in these tales:  “And she never complained.”

Well, maybe she should have complained.  I’m just saying.  Of course endless bitching doesn’t do anything for you, but it’s human to complain when you’re in a bad situation.  It’s a bit Stepford Wife-like to go through it with a fake smile plastered on.  It gets even worse when this concept is used in the “We are the 49%” context.  Remember that website—it was supposed to be the conservative response to the “whining”of Occupy Wall Street, and it was filled with stories like “I have to work 3 jobs just to survive, I get no health benefits and I sleep in a garage.  And I never complain, you wimps!”  Well, again, you *should* complain.  If you’re getting screwed over by the society you live in and you don’t complain, you’re not an optimist, you’re a doormat.  Not to mention that if the things which are happening around you are dishonest and morally wrong, not to complain is to comply with whatever is going on.  If I were a cynical European (heh), I could even say that the optimism myth is used to keep people passive…nahhh, right?  “No matter how much they’re stomping on you, act happy!  Smile!”

Okay, so I should add that my attitude toward American optimism is not that completely…well, pessimistic.  Some of my difficulties come from the way I was raised.  When I was a little girl and my parents would get together with their friends, their favorite activity, besides chain-smoking through the night, was that of making witty quips about the meaninglessness of life, and how it always ends in disaster.  It’s not that they were gloomy—they would spend plenty of time laughing at the absurd joke that was human existence.  I guess you can’t blame them for doing so in the drabness of the Soviet bloc, but this kind of cynicism is a general Euro-habit.  I’m automatically suspicious of too much positive thinking…there *can’t* be a happy ending to all of this.

I’m not saying this was a good way to grow up, and I like how determined Americans are, how they believe they can achieve greatness and that no matter what obstacles are thrown in their path, if they put in their best effort, they can overcome them.  That is the good side of American optimism, and a quality I admire.  I just hate to see the powerful using the innate optimism of this country’s citizens to hoodwink them.  I like Americans too much to watch this happen to them…without complaining about it.

In the comments to my Hunger Games blog, the topic of celebrity worship came up.  I was under the mistaken impression that celebrity worship was a bad thing.  In particular, I mentioned that there’s a downtown hotel which I frequently walk past where I can watch the fans of celebrity athletes line up whenever a basketball team comes to town, holding their “Love You Kobe!” signs, and how I found this rather pathetic, especially since the athletes in question don’t give a flying rat’s ass and usually breeze past without even glancing at their faithful.

However, I decided to do more research on this question, since every blog should involve research at least once in a while.  After having ingested large amounts of gossip material, I have located valid reasons for why celebrities should be worshipped:

They wear coats made of purple minks—a creature I didn’t know existed. 

If you’re an artist, they will hire you to paint a portrait of them surrounded by fluttering angels.  (I think Michael Jackson had one of those.)  I live in a family of artists and, believe me, anyone who will buy art in this economy deserves to be worshipped. 

They can have sex with anyone they desire, kind of the way Zeus used to do. 

Also, they starve themselves into malnutrition, which makes them martyrs as well as gods.  When they do eat, they have very strict food rules and they are willing to divulge their secrets to us, so that as their devotees, we are able to follow their dietary laws. 

I have to admit to heresy:  I’m still not really satisfied with any of these deities.  I suppose I could try worshipping political celebrity gods, like St. Ronnie of the Free Market, or the future St. Obama, once his presidency is over and he can be canonized.  But let’s face it, I don’t want to waste my adoration on any of these flawed humans—they are not worthy of it.  Instead, I will do what most people in Portland do, and worship my little pet dog.  Look at the face in that picture—doesn’t he look like he’s enlightened already?

I’m starting to think I need to make alternate plans in case Obama doesn’t win in 2012.  Not that I’m assuming he will lose, but I also think it’s dangerous to get too confident.  Whatever the outcome of the election, it will be sure to be a nail-biter, with lots of slander and dirty tricks.  And we all know that if Obama does lose, there will be a mood of general despair, and much gnashing of teeth and wailing will be heard in the land.  So it would be wise to prepare a Plan B for that possibility—if nothing else, to keep me from sinking into depression during the dark, post-apocalyptic election aftermath.

In my case, the plan is to get involved locally.  Thank God, no matter what else happens, Portland will remain a den of liberal iniquity.  So even if President Romney comes to pass—shudder—and starts repealing every good idea President Obama ever came up with, we can still work on building a progressive city right here.  I need to start looking at worthy local candidates and causes for 2012, get off my duff and get to work.

Tell me, am I completely off my rocker to be worried about the election?  Are all of you pretty much optimistic that Barack will win it in a landslide?  (Please say yes!)  And are any of you making preparations for what you will do in a case of a loss?  Such as leaving for a foreign country, or guiding your blue home state towards secession?  Let me know what you think.  I already have a prime spot underneath a local bridge picked out for my golden years in case Social Security gets privatized, so you can’t accuse me of not being ready for everything.

So, I’m about to settle down and watch the real Hunger Games—Survivor.  I know, I know.  Bad choice, bread and circuses, and so on.

I haven’t read the Hunger Games, but I have read the basic outline of how the Hunger Games world works.  Survivor is obviously preferable, because the people on it don’t die, but still scary in its realistic little way.  In this world, people aren’t forced to compete for their life.  Rather, they volunteer to undergo deprivation and humiliation in front of the cameras.  It’s all for that cash prize, the chance to change their life.  The message that I’ve seen communicated over the years of Survivor has been very clear:  you have to be willing to do anything, and that’s *anything*, for that money.  Whether that means playing so hard in a physical challenge that you injure yourself, voting your best friend off the island, whatever.

In fact, that has been one of the most interesting and puzzling things to me about shows like Survivor.  They are supposedly meant to promote individuality and competition.  But what I see emphasized instead is complete and utter obedience.  Whatever the show producers want you to do, you do.  This is also true for the less bloodthirsty shows.  On America’s Next Top Model, the models are told to always do whatever will please the client.  Any contestant who happens to have too strong of a personality or a different opinion about a project gets rebuked or kicked off.

So yeah, I get it.  I’m being brainwashed by TV shows which tell us to do anything, to fight each other and demean ourselves, all for the chance at financial security.  But of course, I’m going to go back to watch it.  Because it’s just so easy to watch.  It goes down so smooth, brain candy full of artificial flavoring and color. 

Anyway, I hope Colton goes down in flames tonight.  I hate that guy.

Spoiler P.S.:  But I wasn’t wishing appendicitis on him!!  Seriously.

A couple years ago, my mother became one of the uninsured.  My father got a new job and his employer’s health care plan does not cover spouses or children. 

On a quest to find health care coverage that we could afford while paying our other bills, she applied for an individual insurance plan…only to be rejected because she had once been seen by a doctor for liver pain.  Mind you, no serious or ongoing liver problems, just a one-time visit.  Now, if she applies for any other individual insurance, her application will have to state that she has been previously rejected by another insurance company (there is a question on insurance applications which requires this), pretty much guaranteeing that no other plan will accept her. 

So, since paying the full premium for the employer coverage is not affordable for her, Mom claims she is fine with not having any insurance.  The thing that scares me the most is that I know perfectly well she is the kind of person who will pretend that she is doing great, even if she happens to be sick or in pain.  She doesn’t want anyone else to worry about her and will sacrifice herself before she does anything that would endanger her family’s financial future.

I hear a lot of people talking about how government health care will take away our liberty.  My question is this:  exactly what kind of liberty will it take away from my Mom?  The liberty not to get medical treatment?  The liberty to lose our house and everything we have if she gets seriously ill?  The liberty to live with the stress and worry of that?  Are those the exciting freedoms I have heard so much about?  What choices would single payer take away?  If I get sick under the current private health care system, I will go to the doctor and get treated for it (if I can afford it).  If I get sick under single payer, I will go to the doctor and get treated for it.  The health care system will make absolutely no difference in the choices I make, except that I won’t have to panic about the money side of things.  Are there really exotic treatment options that I’m not aware of that will disappear if government health care comes in?   

The solution which always gets trotted out in this country in response to desperate situations is that of private charity.  My mother’s answer to any such conversations is to snap, “I shouldn’t have to beg for my health care.”  And she’s right—she shouldn’t.

Thankfully, there is a real solution, and it’s a lifesaver for us.  My parents are both in their 60s, so the time when they will be able to get on Medicare is quickly approaching.  I am literally praying for the moment when Mom can have her Medicare, and praying that she doesn’t develop any life-threatening conditions in the meantime…there’s still a few years to go.

And to think, when she turns 65 she will lose all that “freedom”…poor thing!