We are in the middle of a great struggle. These are historic times. No one knows when this period of struggle will end or how it will turn out. Too many changes seem to come too fast. We can’t keep up with it all. Some days, the challenge feels overwhelming and it’s difficult to focus enough to fight effectively.
I’ve spent a good portion of 2017 consumed with the fight to protect the ACA from being repealed. I currently purchase health insurance for myself and my kids via the ACA marketplace. Although my husband is retired, our household income is still fairly high, so I receive only a very modest tax credit and our insurance is not at all cheap. But we are guaranteed coverage for routine exams and immunizations, and we have some security knowing that we’ll get help paying for those unexpected illnesses and injuries that all parents of kids deal with. I have the security of knowing that I can’t be turned away or charged more due to chronic conditions I was diagnosed with twenty-some years ago. We have some security knowing that, even though our out-of-pocket responsibility is substantial, there is a limit to what we’d be expected to pay in a crisis year. And, we have the freedom to structure our life in the way that suits us best without needing for me to obtain a full time job solely to get health insurance.
I supported the ACA when it was passed, not because I thought it was the perfect solution, but because I saw it as a step in the right direction. I never considered it a final solution. I always assumed it would be tweaked over time so that our nations’ health care accessibility and affordability would steadily improve.
I was devastated by the House GOP vote in favor of their AHCA bill. And now, this week, the Senate GOP is determined to take a vote on . . . something. They aren’t even sure what. They can’t agree on what a health care bill should say or do, yet they will vote.
I’m afraid for my future, for my kids’ future, for my friends and family members. I’m afraid for everyone with a pre-existing condition and everyone who depends on Medicaid. I’m afraid for every person whose financial health will plummet due to rising premiums and deductibles and copays. I’m afraid for all of us. I abhor the idea of reversing the small strides we’ve made toward better, more comprehensive protections. I don’t want to go backwards. Progress should not be a dirty word. Progress should be what we’re all striving for. I’m angry that the GOP has conned America into believing they are pro-life when they promote policies that hurt living, breathing human beings.
The GOP is more concerned about profits and their own personal wealth than the health and well-being of American citizens. They badly want to repeal ACA’s tax on the wealthy. They want to restore insurance company profits while maintaining their own personal wealth. And they want to gut Medicaid to pay for their own pet projects. If Medicaid falls, Medicare and Social Security are sure to be next in their crosshairs.
The GOP believes that poor and sick people in this country deserve what they get, that their situation in life is due to laziness or immorality. They feel those who are healthy and financially successful shouldn’t have to pay for those who aren’t. They believe in capitalism at any cost, every person for themselves.
The GOP fears angering their narcissistic president. They know he wants a win, any win. They are focused on winning to the detriment of their constituents and this country’s democratic safeguards. They’re so focused on winning, they’ve resorted to crafting bills in secrecy, dodging public hearings, and telling flat-out lies.
The GOP desires to eradicate all of President Obama’s legacy, to repeal every one of his policies, to make it as if his presidency never existed. They nicknamed the ACA “Obamacare” precisely so that it would stir the wrath of their most racist party members. They would like to humiliate Obama, to prove him a failure, to erase him from history, to cover him over with dirt as in a grave. The GOP wants to reclaim the kingdom of America for white men, and repealing a policy called Obamacare fits with that goal.
Here I must admit that it’s partly because of people like me that the GOP has been able to amass the power they now have. I am 49, and I am only beginning to pay attention closely. I am only beginning to understand how my government actually works. I, along with many others like me, have been conned into believing we could put our heads down and worry about our own lives, our own families, and those we elected would take care of the rest. We were conned into complacency. We weren’t looking around very much at the larger world around us, so we didn’t notice the storm clouds on the horizon. We didn’t realize we were being played. I regret not paying closer attention sooner. I regret all my earlier years of sleepwalking.
For too long, many of us have had this blind faith that we were living in the best country on earth, that we were the most free, the most prosperous, the most fair. It’s been shocking to realize how little we really knew about our own condition. It’s such a shock that some of us still prefer not to see the trouble our country is in.
Maybe this is why so many people want to believe in a god—a being who is all-powerful yet entirely good—because this ideal of goodness combined with power rarely exists in humanity. It’s an ideal we would like to believe is achievable. We would like someone in control of things who would love and protect us, who would always have our best interests at heart. People like this exist in the world, yes, but they typically lack power, because they are not power-seeking. In our society, money equals power. Those who would do the most good too often don’t seek money because there’s a connotation of selfishness that goes into seeking money, an association with greed and ruthlessness. To often, the powerful in our world are exactly those kinds of nefarious people—the selfish, the greedy, the ruthless—because they are the ones who’ve been most successful at accumulating wealth. It seems the GOP has been mortally infected with these nefarious types.
Since the House vote, some GOP representatives have tried to defend their position. One said “no one ever died for lack of health care.” One said the AHCA is good because he knows it is; he just knows. Paul Ryan has claimed taking away billions from Medicaid won’t doom the system. Mitch McConnell insists the Senate will vote this week, regardless of what devastation the BCRA or a straight repeal bill would wreak on our health care system. Why? Because governing to these people has become a game they must win at all costs. It’s become about territorial pride, about the appearance of victory. It’s about staying on top. Long gone is any desire to serve the best interest of the people who elected them.
Many of us have, until lately, had the luxury of turning away from political news, because it hasn’t directly affected us. Now we find ourselves in the class of people who will be hurt, so we can’t afford to turn away. We have been too complacent in fighting the takeover of our country by the selfish and the toxic. We have averted our eyes while the GOP morphed into a party of hate and deceit, a driving force of power at any cost.
There are enough resources on this earth that no one needs to suffer, yet, let’s face it, most of us are not inclined to share what we have broadly. We hoard the resources we have. We think mainly of ourselves. We assume those in positions of power know what they’re doing and that they give a damn about other people unlike themselves, even though we ourselves don’t always give a damn. We rely on other people to do good things on our behalf. And now we are smack up against the reality that those we elected don’t worry about other people’s lives any more than we have. Now we are those other people they don’t care about.
I cannot turn away from news about the health care fight. I feel myself drawn toward trying to make some kind of difference in all this. It’s simply become impossible to stay inside my own bubble any more. How wonderful it was to be able to not constantly worry about the state of my country, to be able to trust that the balance of power between my elected officials would protect against any one bad actor creating too much havoc.
How wonderful it would be to believe that most of my elected officials want the best for the people they serve, even those very different than themselves. How wonderful it would be to know that everyone had the basic resources they need to live a healthy, productive life. How I long to be to be able to turn away again, if only for a moment.
The worst part of all this is how transparently the GOP does not care about the effects of their actions on us, the people who elected them. They do not care that we don’t support what they’re about to do. They blatantly swipe away every indicator of our very real pain and suffering, physical and financial, related to this health care battle.
The GOP must believe they are invincible. We must prove them wrong.
I refuse to become demoralized and turn away. I refuse to relinquish everything good in this world to the greed of these monsters. I refuse to sit down and shut up.
I’m thinking, too, about the very real possibility that things could get much worse before they begin to get any better. Things could get very bad very quickly for a lot of people. We will need to hold each other up. We will need to create our own systems of help. We will need to practice what we preach about assisting those needier than ourselves even as our criminal representatives reinvest in their own personal wealth and power.
We will need to rise up and stay wide awake.
I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge. This is #14 of 52.