Page Two: The Long Scream
The endless Republican nightmare casts its shadow on health care reform
When it is snowing out again
Farmer John wants you
Louder and softer closer and nearer
– John Cale, "Andalucia"
Leadbelly Is a Hard Name
"And the hard name of a harder man
I saw Leadbelly get up in the morning, wash, shave, put on his bath robe, and Martha would stand up in her tall way and make me get shaved, bathed, washed, dressed, while she cooked Leadbelly his breakfast on her charcoal flat top stove. The stove was older than me, older than Martha, but not any older than Leadbelly.
His guitar was not like a friend of his, not like a woman, not like some of the kids, not like a man you know. But it was a thing that would cause people to walk over to where he is, a thing that made sounds that gave his own words richer sounds, and would give him his way to show his people around him all of the things that he felt inside and out. He would play the tones on the music box and then he would tell me a story, you a tale, and all of his life history. And he would say and sing it in such words that we could not tell where our own personal life stopped and Leadbelly's started.
He wanted to preach history, his own history, his peoples story, and everybody's history. He wanted to be all kinds of big names, a history speaker, a story teller, a talker, good fast walker, a loud yeller, and the man that was all a big tone."
– Woody Guthrie, "LEADBELLY is a hard name"
"Where's the great rage of a rocking heart, the high rare true dangerous indignation? Let me persuade more slowly:
The dark has its own light
A son has many fathers.
Stand by a slow stream:
Hear the sigh of what is.
Be a pleased rock
On a plain day.
– Theodore Roethke, "O, Thou Opening, O"
Daydreaming, I'm lost in a slide show out of my past. Usually, there is just one slide, but sometimes there are a number of them, lacking any order I can discern. I watch: the creek running downhill, with a steam train passing maybe a dozen yards away; I'm lying in a boat on a pond in Massachusetts and standing in the snow by a tree in a town I'd never been to before. I'm ready to call it a day. It's been a long run. My life's been blessed. Not just the American dream but a number of variants of it quite unexpectedly proved to be more than entertaining along the way. But the anger is too much. Not my anger; it is mostly gone. Instead of taking the form of daily explosions, it is now channeled into truly insane dreams where this deep soul's anger is the mildest vein.
It is raining. I put on a vest. And then I get into my raincoat. I walk outside into the rain. It is dawn as I walk out to watch the sun set.
Usually, I've been so very much ahead or behind myself that I'm either watching what happened to me or what might happen, to such an extent even being in my life is being in fiction. This column is a mea culpa, a rending of clothes and a benediction of ashes. (Although maybe this is just a feint and ploy?) What was still is, what is still is, and what isn't still isn't. But now I feel stuck. Stuck in a shadow play. Stuck in a long scream.
Let me take a personal moment here to thank those vigilant patriots, determined to uphold the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Well, if not exactly uphold them, then at least to cite them as the source for so many of their thoughts and actions, their marches and the signs they hold. It is not that they quote from them, but that they refer to them as though they are not simple words on paper but contain a tumultuous storm of meaning.
I humble myself before these two-fisted, free-market-loving, private-enterprise-supporting, fiscally conservative Republicans. They are as Horatio at the bridge, the brave few turning back the rampaging many. Except now, often they are holding drinks rather than shields and swords. They are at a backyard cocktail party rather than defending a bridge. Still, arms linked, they stand determined to stop the Obama administration's mad dash toward socialism, communism, and fascism.
These brave folks are not about to let this country replace Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, and Adams with Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. Resisting the Soviet/Red China model of health care offered as reform by the devil's weak and soulless minions is their sworn agenda. Winning back power is the theme. Instead of collectivism and death panels, they offer lots of swell ideas. Okay, once again, maybe some of them are not so swell.
Side by side, they have stood and continue to stand, linked only by their patriotism and gifts from those lobbyists who support them – fighting for the values that once were held dear by every American because they were real and moral values based on God's opinions. They have stopped health care reform in its tracks in the name of God, mercy, and caring.
Hallelujah! Glory be to the hardcore! Honor the tough-minded, uncompromising right! The American health care system isn't broken! So don't try to fix it.
Again, the new section begins exactly as the last section ended. The American health care system isn't broken! Except ....
Well, except that, being a misguided liberal, I'm lost in the fog of fuzzy socialist logic, brainwashed by those who hate America. The society is all of us. If there is compassion, commitment, and possibility, well, then we all share the same table. Ignoring the poor, the sick, and the ill is an act of denial. It is much like one conjoined twin cutting off the arm of the other.
Those in opposition smugly note that I haven't bought just a big lie, but all the big lies.
Champions of this country's sovereignty are content in the warm arms of the Constitution that they view not as a linear, reasoned document but rather as though it were a painting into which to tumble. Not through the looking glass, but rather through the oils, they imagined they are in an endless museum. Hall after hall, all display material in support of this country's traditional moral values. Every little breeze whispers their names. "Forget the rigors of the Constitution," the breeze adds, "it is all about you."
It has not snowed. Not in a long time. The Chronicle's annual health insurance bill just went up by more than 11%. Evidently the good news is that all that money will go to insurance company shareholders' stock values and executives' compensation and bonuses. We know this because the amount of co-pays and deductibles were also increased, while the benefits stayed the same, meaning the Chronicle and its employees are now paying more for those benefits. The first six years of the Bush administration were militantly partisan in a way unprecedented in our lifetimes. Even though the very ideal of civil service is to remove politics, it politically vetted bureaucratic appointees. It got this country involved in two wars and then cut taxes. Not to balance the budget, but just for spite, it gutted the social safety net. Now, it seems somewhat odd that good old pro-business fiscal conservatives would cut taxes (the funds coming into the government) and increase spending (wars are never cheap), doesn't it?
Most outrageously, it spent federal money like never before, ensuring that the debt from its half-decade bacchanal would be our descendents' to bear. Along the way, its attitude toward regulation and economic policies resulted in the financial conditions this country faces today.
When Republicans talk about their vision of health care now, it does make one wonder why they didn't take the initiative to change it during the last administration. Why did they not reshape Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and close unnecessary military bases? Instead, they initiated two wars and endless spending with little to show for it. There was no real reform but instead a horrifyingly expensive drug bill passed to benefit senior citizens. Meanwhile, the even more terrifyingly expensive bill for fighting a war against drugs (against our neighbors and children) seems inexplicable.
Despite their record, trust them. Think about what they are saying, not what they did when they were in power.
Listen to them. Celebrate paranoia, honor hatred, and desecrate community with them.
They know President Obama is an alien, a grand Muslim archbishop, and the last true descendent of one of the great Zoroastrian bloodlines. A child-sacrificing Hebrew, he was born in Kenya. He was created in a test tube. Obama, like Frankenstein, was put together in the laboratory from different pieces of dead humans sewn together. Born in Uzbekistan, Argentina, and Atlantis, he is not a citizen. He is a Marxist, a Bolshevik, a Trotskyist, an anarchist, and a socialist.
I am voting Republican in the next election, because they are patriots! The massive spending by congressional Republicans during the first half of this decade left precious little in terms of a trail. Certainly, it seems nearly impossible to track. Money was spent, and then even more was spent. The country's infrastructure, education system, debt, health care system, and working poor did not benefit at all.
Instead, funds were so brilliantly misapplied and badly appropriated that the end result of these unprecedented expenditures of Republican binge spending was the collapse of financial markets and the economy.
In many ways, it is like one of those movies in which the shiftless heir will inherit a fortune if he can spend $1 million in 24 hours and have nothing to show for it.
There is no doubt in my mind that those Republican politicians who have metaphorically achieved exactly that will be amply rewarded.
In order to facilitate recovery from the many disasters the Bush administration involved us in, the Obama administration's spending is far more substantial than that of previous administrations.
And what for? To try to clean up the messes he inherited? To save the American economy? To help most citizens? Obama is a socialist/communist, voodoo-practicing foreigner! There really is no way that the very rich are benefiting from Obama at all!
I am voting Republican in the next election, because no group can ignore its own history so effortlessly. The Bush administration was vigilantly and violently partisan beyond reason. Now the Republican leadership intones the word "bipartisan" as though it was one of the 8 million names of God. And they do that while their politically pure partisanship is neither altered nor dented.
Sure, their spending did pass along a burden to future generations, but instead of wallowing in knee-jerk liberal guilt, they show up on the floor of Congress, blaming others as they hold babies.
There was one massive diplomatic blunder after another and at least one totally unnecessary war. The Bush administration alienated nations traditionally friendly to the United States, while their military intrusions and arrogance empowered our enemies. But did this get to the Bushites? Did they end up whining babies? Damn no! Have they capitulated since? Hell no! As with all red-blooded, real, 100% patriotic Americans, they've refused to admit any fault and would far sooner be caught apologizing to Rush Limbaugh than to any foreign leader.
But that Andorra-born, Vatican-birthed, Outer Mongolia-delivered Obama has gone around apologizing! Doesn't he understand American exceptionalism?!
I'm not entirely sure what American exceptionalism is; I suspect it has something to do with those ranting about how illegal immigrants will destroy our culture, which I guess means Wal-Mart, Transformers, NASCAR, The Real Housewives of Orange County, and McDonald's. Not that I have contempt for any of those, but they do seem safe from being corrupted by illegal aliens.
The Chronicle pays 100% of our full-time employees' health insurance coverage. Those clever, pro-business, free-enterprise-loving conservatives who are certain that a free, unregulated market will inherently solve all problems have saved our small business. We used to pay far less for health insurance and get far more. What's American about that?
Now we still pay 100% of the full-time staff's health care insurance. But in less than a decade, that cost has gone up more than 50%, with substantial increased financial liability for the insured, accompanied by cuts in benefits.
This is America at its greatest! This is the unregulated market in a free-enterprise system self-correcting and healing itself.
Okay, maybe not.