Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another Letter

Forgive me that I'm stuck in this political rut as I approach the end of my sabbatical (I have the day after Labor Day in mind as my planned return to the usual Buddha Diaries action). But this feels to me like a make-or-break moment not only for Obama and for the trust we placed in him but also, more broadly, for the political future of the country. We're about to see in how tight a grip the oligarchs hold those we elect to "represent" us! In view of which, I can't just keep my mouth shut. So...

A friend, a comrade, a man who served this country well in time of war and who is, well... more conservative in his political views than I in our advancing years, wrote to let me know that he disagreed profoundly with my position on health care reform. He included a long article exposing what the author claimed to be Obama's "lies" about the administration's health care reform plans. Without his permission, I choose not to share my friend's letter, but here's the response I sent him, lightly edited to protect identities...

Hello, my friend... and thanks for writing.

Yes, we do disagree on this--as I'm sure on many other political issues! But it's still good to hear from you. I'm sad to hear that your wife is having to deal with a frightening disease, but pleased that she is winning the battle. Good for her!

My own years of experience with national health care systems, both in Europe and in Canada, have been very different from those you allude to; in my experience they do address the needs of the less fortunate, many of whom are finding that our system, here, has been failing them in disastrous, if not catastrophic ways. I can't agree with you that a system is "the best in the world" when it fails to meet the health care needs of so many of our citizens, leaves so many uninsured (because they can't afford the premiums) and uninsurable (because they have a condition that would require an insurance company to actually fork up!)--and runs many other, responsible people into bankruptcy when their insurance proves inadequate to cover long-term illness, expensive surgery and medications, or disability.

I am obliged to trust our government to provide for numerous services, from education and public safety (fire and police) to the Medicare that currently serves my needs; and a good deal of other things in between, most notably the military, as you well know! I don't see any of these as signs that "my freedom is being taken away." I'm also not sure why the government should not do a good job (not perfect! Nothing ever is!) in providing for the insurance (NOT the health care itself! That's where choice comes in) that would offer protection to so many of our citizens who are currently without it. According to countless polls, there are statistically few seniors or veterans who express dissatisfaction with the coverage provided for them by the government.

And by the way, with reference to your footnote: it's surely indisputable that National Socialism was a hideous mockery of everything that socialism was about. You're too well-informed and, I believe, too good-hearted a man to hold it up to me as an example of the supposed ravages of "socialism." Please. If anything deeply angers me, as one who lived through the horrors of World War II in Europe, it's the bandying of that word "Nazi" as a political weapon.

Them's my sentiments, friend. I honor yours, and wish you all good things.

Blessings, Peter

And for good measure, as a complement to the article he included for me, I sent him this excellent op-ed piece by Nicholas D. Kristof in yesterday's New York Times.

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