"Frankly, I'd like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry." -- Milo Minderbinder in Joseph Heller's Catch-22.Y'all might remember a while ago, when I met a lady who was deeply confused about the Affordable Care Act. If you're not a speaker of southern, then perhaps you might remember it. I talked to a woman on edge who was inclined to suspect "government," and, with some kindness and simple logic, laid out for her what the A.C.A. is. However, she called Uncle Ned to check out my story, and he set her straight.
She then saw me walking along a sidewalk and came to yell at me that I was all wrong. Her tone said that I was worse than wrong, that I was a Deceiver (which is one of the lowest orders of devil -- worse than a manes but not quite to demon -- which means that you can't eat any of the food they bring to the church picnic).
I believe that I have just met Uncle Ned, and I have to apologize to everyone who read my original diary. There, I argued that we must understand and sympathize with the motivations of those who choose unreason. I see that I was mistaken, because, with whatever wit I have, native or bottled, I simply can't account for Uncle Ned at all. In fact, I think, like a lussus naturae, he is a thing that we must behold with horror and protect ourselves from with prophylaxis.
"Parturient montes nascetur ridiculus mus" -- Horace, Ars Poetica
"We are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed." -- Thomas Fuller, 1696I have, one might say, a rather
Blue Dog Democrats are a lot like that stuffed doll of El Kabong, in my opinion. Very embraceable ewes, mostly, they begin to leak first principles while getting re-stuffed with campaign contributions. The shining black sun for the whole movement, in my view, is Billy Tauzin. If you don't know about how many tears he has caused, how much rapine and graft, then click this link from the Sunlight Foundation.
I work with people, and again, it helps if you speak Southern here, who put a great deal of emphasis on the act of "witnessing." My personal polite deviations from the denominations around me may begin there, as I have a case of 18th century historian phantods when it comes to the idea that telling one's story of conversion is an efficacious or sufficient means of affecting salvation. Seems to me to be a better way of promoting a strain of theatricality in one's religion. Anyhow, let me witness at y'all for a moment, and it may help you understand how I came to my spiritual awakening in regard to Blue Dogs.
I moved to where I am now, after working in Manhattan and Baltimore, to look after my mother. She had "C.O.P.D." (I reject that euphemism and the impulse behind it.) Now, along with cancer, outliving one's money is one of the greatest terrors of age, and my mother had planned well. She had been a real estate agent in Atlanta and become a lifetime member of the "Million Dollar Club" for housing sales. She built a house in rural Georgia designed for older age and expected to die in it (truthfully, she expected lung cancer). Instead, she got emphyzema.
For my part, while I was in graduate school in the 1990's, I worked in a biochemistry lab near Research Triangle Park, and I remember the battle against the Clintons' health care bills. Drug companies swore that they weren't making any money, that they were all in it for charity, that it cost so much in R&D that they had to have patents and that even then they barely made enough money for keeping the lights on. I knew differently, because I worked for folks who invented drugs with N.I.H. funding that were then purchased by GlaxxoSmithKlineBurneyBarneyFredBurrowsWellcomeZinicaXenaBayer and Borne. I also remember Clinton 2 being very pro-genetic patents and wondering why Monsanto was giving money to people near us working on human growth hormone.
Emphyzema meant ever-patented inhalers (it's not the albuterol that's under patent; it's the special super duper injector that costs $150) for my mother, and she hit the "donut hole" of the Medicare Part D every year, to the tune of $60,000 total, and that's after that drug benefit came online. Before that, it was all out of pocket. I saw, first hand, a woman who planned out a wealthy retirement lose her house, independence, and dignity for Blue Dogs and their "middle way" and "business friendly" agenda.
I gave a donation to John Barrow's campaign the first time he ran in my district. He ran as a conservative Democrat, but a Democrat. The second time, he ran as a Republican on the Democratic ticket, and this last time his commercials did not mention is party affiliation, and the ad copy sounded exactly like Reagan-era Republican campaign ads. I have stopped taking the "virtual town hall" phone calls, and, when he sends a communique to his district, I'm liable to mark it up like a freshman essay and send it back. However, the man does come to his district.
This last Saturday, I was sick as a rabid dog, so I decided to attend his "Congress on the Corner." If I couldn't pass on my ideas, at least I could pass on my germs.
I was the only Democrat in attendance.
The thirty-eight year old spoke first and consumed about twenty minutes. I will try to present his remarks faithfully from my notes:
What's with this Obamacare? Cause we cain't go on like this. My boy is a slave. He's never going to pay off the debt they done got us under and I got a call that my insurance they say is now going to be five hundred thousand dollars a year cause they count my three small businesses -- I own three small businesses and I done that so I could bid as small business, but now they say that I'm not a small business, and I have to provide health insurance, and I cain't do that. They's taxing us to death. They talk about taxing the rich people more, and when I was comin' up, that was people'z making ten, fifteen million dollars. And now they talk about what's rich, and they think that $400,000 a year is rich, but when I made that much, I wasn't rich, cause I got overhead. I cain't even get no work. They got it now so they ain't no jobs so how can I give insurance to my employees when every last job goes to the big contractors? I work in construction, and all my bidness is for defense contract building, and they got it now so I can't do any work at all, because I'm not a minority, and what am I payin' all these property taxes for? It's making my son a slave. There id'n even going to be a country if they don't do something about it. People is fed up! I don't know how they think we're supposed to go on like this.That, my friends, was Uncle Ned. His crazy quilt (my apologies to quilters) of complaints failed logic, of course, but it also failed emotional sense. Previously, I had wanted us to each remember that these are wounded souls. Well, this turducken passing itself off as a human being (yes, he was wearing camo. . . why do you ask?) is a wound. He is simply shoveling any material into sense of entitlement that fell in arm's reach to add to the pile. His two most common words were "them" and "we."
John Barrow did stand up to a bit of his weird crazy. Thus, Uncle Ned developed his argument into,
"How come you didn't stop Obamacare which is going to bankrupt this country? There is no way the nation can default because it makes too much money a month."Tick . . . tick. . . tick. . . tick.
I gazed around the room. Was anyone going to see the problem with this statement? ("We" make too much to default, but "Obamacare" is going to bankrupt "us"?)
Well, Barrow went into why he kept voting against the ACA but why he voted to end the shutdown (even though he voted against the clean CR). He didn't want to address the fact that the ACA is not a revenue expenditure. He did not want to debunk any of the ACA lies. Instead, he later wanted to engage me on how his NFIB and Chamber of Commerce bill was better than the ACA. (And my single payer bill is better than that, but opposing an extant law because of wishing for something else is the same song as the TEA Party sings, just with a different lyric.)
I did get to make my little point about the ACA to Barrow. I spent 17 years uninsurable due to birth defects. I have seen COBRA in action. Let no man or woman tell me about how well a capitalist model works. (I was polite and did not mention how the NFIB operates or who the Chamber of Commerce serves.)
Other than Uncle Ned, though, the other speakers were . . . sane, but perhaps fermented. They did not reek of "Gimme! Gimme now!"
Elder #1: "Oh, I've got too many things written down here. One is Benghazi and if we're going to get to the truth of that. Another is Obamacare and how they're going to force you to buy the Obamacare. And why are we spending ten million dollars to make MYMARINES (TM) wear a hat modeled on Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood?"This was a man who had been in town politics before, and in party politics in the town.
Elder #2: "I want to know why it is that my premiums are going to go up so much? I don't want Obamacare, and I have Medicare, and now I hear my premiums are going to go up so I can get the Obamacare."John Barrow did slap down some of the Pajamas Media bellfry escapees, but always by going back to, "And this is why I voted against the worst parts of Obamacare but for the parts we all agree on."
By refusing to ask one simple question of his ranters, he allowed them to dwell in darkness of their own devising: "Who is 'they?'"
As for Uncle Ned, before the Representative showed up, he had been spreading juicy worry with the others. He had heard, from a buddy of his, that They can tell where you are by your cell phone now. What's more, even when you turn it off, They can listen in on you. I did not yet know who I was talking to, so I said, "That's because you have a Smart Phone." He said "Yes, but now the gov...." I cut him off and told him that the privacy concern dated to 2004 and that Obama was supposed to restore eroded 4th amendment rights and has disappointed us. "After all," I said, "Guantanamo Bay is still open." The entire room told me then and there that Guantanamo Bay could never be closed and that the real solution was to shoot all the people there.
You see, there is an artifact of complaints: if you have a "How's My Driving" number or a "Contact Us" link, you'll get the impression that your drivers are awful and your business stinks. This is because there is a bias inherent in taking the effort to contact someone. Happy people don't write Congress, or companies, or restaurants. As a teacher, I long ago realized that evaluations at the end of the course split between "perfect" and "sucked." This is because students have to fill them out, and so it's all good or all bad.
I can understand the retired people who are stuck on the swooshing noises and flashing blondes of FoxNews. However, Uncle Ned deserves no real pity, no compassion. He might need some therapy, but since he's "not rich" at over $400,000 a year, perhaps the ACA will give him a subsidy to get it. I make much less than a tenth of what he does, and I can get at a shrink and afford it (if only I believed in the efficacy of that, either). He has rage, and he is looking for someone to be mad at. For him, "the government" is an all-purpose villain. It doesn't have to be logical, doesn't have to be near or far. It only has to be hated and oppositional. It is of the same value as Dr. Moriarity or the Boogey Man, and if there is a bi-racial individual involved, then that just makes it better for someone like Uncle Ned.
His favorite pronoun, after all, is "they."
From now on, every time I hear it, I will ask for a precise referrent. If each of us did likewise, we might at least make creatures like Uncle Ned pick a new hobby and solace -- one that might not destroy the institutions of government by accident.
[Prolog apology: This diary has been written with a fever of 101 F, so if it's more stream than consciousness, that may be why.]