It was amusing to see the Republican party inveigh against health insurance reform as if they were a synod of Presbyterian necromancers girding the nation for a takeover by the spawn of hell. This was the same gang, by the way, who championed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, then regarded as the most reckless giveaway of public funds in human history. Along the way, they enlisted an army of nay-sayers representing everything dark, disgraceful, and ignorant in the American character. If the Republicans keep going this way, they’ll end up with something worse than Naziism: a party that hates everything but believes in absolutely nothing.
The most striking elements of so-called health care in America these days is how cruel and unjust it is, and in taking a stand against reforming it the Republican party appeared to be firmly in support of cruelty and injustice. This would be well within the historical tradition of other religious crusades which turned political — such as the Spanish Inquisition and the seventeenth century war against witchcraft. Whatever else the Democratic party has stood for in recent history, it has tended to oppose institutional cruelty and injustice, and notice that it has also been the party for keeping religion out of government.
Now a health care reform act has passed and there’s some reason to hope that insurance companies will be prevented from doing things like canceling the coverage of policy-holders who have the impertinence to actually get sick, which has been their main device for revenue enhancement, and we’ll see how they cope with the idea that being alive in a treacherous world is the fundamental pre-existing condition.
I surely don’t know if the nation can afford to pay for what this law requires, but then can we really afford to pay for anything? — including the salaries, retirement benefits, and health insurance of congressmen, not to mention two wars, bailout life support for banks, rising unemployment benefits, shovel-ready stimulus projects, et cetera, blah blah? Probably not.
My guess is that the health care “industry” will unravel in the years ahead under the weight of its own hypercomplexity just as all the other hypercomplex systems of normal American life (such as it is) groan and collapse under their own unworkable immensities — and I speak here of industrial-style farming, Big Box “consumerism,” Happy Motoring, too-big-to-fail finance, centralized public education, and the pension racket. All the activities of daily life in this country have poor prospects for continuing in their current form.
At least this once a workable majority in the government has stood up to the forces of cruelty and injustice, and whatever else happens to us in the course of this long emergency, it will be a good thing if the party of fairness and justice identifies its adversaries for what they are: not “partners in governing,” or any such academical-therapeutic bullshit, but enemies of every generous impulse in the national character.
I hope that Mr. Obama’s party can carry this message clearly into the electoral battles ahead, painting the Republican opposition for what it is: a gang of hypocritical, pietistic sadists, seeking pleasure in the suffering of others while pretending to be Christians, devoid of sympathy, empathy, or any inclination to simple human kindness, constant breakers of the Golden Rule, enemies of the common good. In fact, the current edition of the Republican party has achieved something really memorable in the annals of collective bad intentions: they have managed to create a sense of the public interest whose main goal is the destruction of the public interest.
This is exactly what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court did earlier this year by deciding that corporations — which are sociopathic by definition in being answerable only to their shareholders and nothing else — should enjoy the same full privileges in election campaign contributions as human persons, who are assumed to have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the common good (and therefore to the public interest). This shameful act by the court majority only underscores the chief defining characteristic of Republicans in their current incarnation: an inability to think. And so, naturally Republicans gravitate toward superstition and the traditional devices of improvident religious authorities — persecution of the weak, torture, denial of due process, and dogmas designed to spread hatred.
I hope the American public begins to understand this, because they have been manipulated in their own pain and hardship by these dark forces, and their thrall to the likes of John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush, Hannity, and the rest of these vicious morons could easily increase as their economic hardships deepen. We’re facing a comprehensive contraction of wealth and economy that is going to challenge every shared virtue in our national soul, and we’re not going to meet these difficulties successfully without a sense of mutual obligation and sympathy for each other. The Republican party is just itching to turn a giant thumbscrew on the US public — that is, before they try to start burning their enemies at the stake. We understand that the Health Care Reform Act is a first stand against that.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of “The Long Emergency,” the novel “World Made By Hand,” and the sequel, “The Witch of Hebron, coming out in September from The Atlantic Monthly Press.