Like many Americans, my friends and family will gather around the dinner table this week, more than once, and catch up on each others complicated lives. Give the easy advice when it's someone else's dilemma and then spill our own, seemingly irresolvable challenges right on the decked holiday table, along with steaming sliced turkey meat and stains from past cranberry sauces. But we may be having one of those feasts in an unusual venue this year, a hospital room for a senior family member. She's been having some worrisome episodes, the kind of problem that is terrifying to the patient even though it doesn't appear to be life threatening, and most frustrating of all, the kind of problem that resists easy diagnosis.
That's enough to properly scare any family or patient. It means endless tests, lots of dead-ends, and doctor consults. But here in the U.S., there's one thing that never comes up: No one asks us kids to open up our meager checkbooks and cut huge checks right and left or the patient will get kicked right out of the hospital with a giant bill they'll never be able to repay.
It's not the ideal Thanksgiving, and yet there is reason to be thankful there. Follow me below.
I'm thankful that almost 50 years ago, in 1965, under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson and a democratically controlled Congress, we created Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide health care to people age 65 and older, regardless of networth, income, or preexisting conditions. Medicare was a simple proposition: we would all pitch in to make sure our parents and grandparents had high quality affordable health care available, something they had lacked until then, secure in the knowledge that if we lived long enough, our friends and neighbors and countrymen would likewise pitch in for us.
It was called socialism, it was called Marxism, it was called much worse, at time when those words carried a lot more than rhetorical weight, they landed squarely on a public whipped into a panic at nightmare visions of a thousand mushrooms clouds blooming over every city. Even without a nuclear war, some predicted the mere enactment of the law would mark the End of Freedom and Liberty. Now we know better; without Medicare and the expansions, fixes, and tweaks that followed, both my parents, millions of other seniors, and at least one popular front-page writer on this very site might not be looking forward to a relaxing Thanksgiving this week with their loved ones. I'm thankful for them and for that.
I'm thankful for the president who signed the ACA, a man who withstood and withstands to this day a 24/7 barrage of the most personalized, revolting displays of political contempt, hypocrisy, and open hatred seen in the post-war era.
I'm thankful to Nancy Pelosi, first Madame Speaker of the House, who put her leadership on the line—and BTW, lost it—to secure sorely needed peace of mind for tens of millions of ordinary Americans who lack health insurance right now. Being a patriot means a lot more than wearing a flag-pin, anyone can do that. Whether in war or politics, it means risking and at times taking a personal hit to save the lives and preserve the well-being of your fellow Americans. This lady could teach some big, rugged, tan men a lesson about professional courage: John Boehner would be well advised to take copious notes and start practicing right now if he wants to ever come close to her many examples.
Like many Americans, I'm lucky enough to have a big, loud, extended family, full of drama and rife with characters spanning the gamut, from quiet to boisterous, from reserved to adventurous, from left to right. Like many Americans I too often take them for granted, it's always been this way after all. And like many Americans, I should be more grateful for them, or at least show it more, or tell them how much I care about them. Maybe this week would be a good time to start thanking everyone we care about and depend on.
I'm thankful to you: The citizen-activists that spring up on Daily Kos and throughout the progressive netroots like digital minute men on a moments notice, battling evil—not just when its weak, but when evil seems invincible. The diarists, you guys and gals who somehow seem to be able to absorb the equivalent of a grad course on a new subject in hours flat, then take the time to turn around, become part web-page designer and part author, and artfully lay it out for the rest of us to learn and share.
I'm thankful I belong to a political movement that sticks up for the weak and vulnerable, the easily scapegoated, and speaks for those who have been systematically robbed of their political voice. There is nothing easier in this world than going to bat for the privileged few at the expense of We the People. But we will occupy the same place in the history books as abolitionists, you will find us in the same pages as those who demanded women be able to vote or who braved marching along hostile streets for civil rights, and all the many less known men and women who paid a steep personal or political price for American progress.
So I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. And come back soon, refreshed and ready to roll. There is much we have left to do.