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Gary Horton: Fear shouldn’t be a pre-existing condition

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: August 18, 2009 8:52 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.

American conservatives project the myth of the “rugged individualist” — America as part-Marlboro Man blowing smoke at the American Cancer Society and part-Sarah Palin gutting a caribou and flinging the bloody entrails at PETA.  

Vested interests peddle fables that we’re the “go it alone” nation.

America, they say, is where the strong survive, the weak should fail and the mediocre should be left to the foibles of their own laziness or just bad luck.

They say our first duty as Americans is to let God, nature, social Darwinism and free market forces have their way with us, just as unimpeded water seeks its own level.

They believe well-intended meddling in societal concerns muddles the life-giving waters of capitalism and competition, inevitably vexing us all with excessive taxes and inefficiencies that grind the wheels of production to a halt.

Activist government, they say, only gets in the way and needs to be stopped.

Business operatives pitch this myth for their own profit, getting us steamed and lathered up, time and again.

Angry talking heads from cableland blather about surrendering rights.

Republican congressmen — who wouldn’t otherwise have much to say, save for “sorry” for that last affair in Argentina or bathroom stall — sow fear of the unknown in return for lobbyist loot.

And the result is the screamers and stompers at town hall health care meetings acting out like programmed drones, calling for return to some wild frontier where government can’t reach, to every man for himself.

Not that any of us — red, blue or invisible — loves our medical system as it stands.

We all fear the dreaded “pre-existing condition,” exorbitant drug and hospital fees.

We fear the financial consequence of illness in America so strongly, most have set up our own “death councils” — our living wills — prudently keeping our bodies and bank accounts out of an often imprudent and self-serving medical establishment.  

“Hell, no, I won’t go!” is the mantra of many oldsters when faced with dying in a hospital bed.

We don’t need someone deciding to unplug Grandma. More often than not, she’s already unplugged herself.

Why run up an extravagant tab and suffer, too, when you have only days or weeks left on your treads?

Believe me, when those choices get made, we become sympathetically communal in a hurry.

Doctors, parents, children and friends gather ’round in tears before saying “enough pain already.”

So, we’re not so rugged and we’re not so independent.

The loner Marlboro Man’s HMO fell short and he’s dead in deed and dead in myth.

We’re not the blood-stained caribou gutters we see roughing it on SarahVision.

We’re not so tough, and we recognize we’re happy in life together, working with and depending on one another, even when those relationships are professional, organizational and even governmental.

We’ve tasted the fruit of shared society and most of us — red, blue or invisible — like it, even when the taste defies that persistently manipulated rugged individualist myth.

We love our public beaches and beautiful national parks.

We love our public colleges and the thrilling football games that come with the deal.

We love our Social Security checks that didn’t get crushed in the stock-market meltdown.

We love our public cops and firemen, public teachers, men in uniform and the men and women who fly into space.

We love the engineers paid by public taxes paving our roads and building bridges.

We love mailing letters for 44 cents, as the U.S. Postal Service humiliates FedEx day after day.

And we love Medicare, as our own insurance companies fail us when we’re old.

But now, thanks to myth-making fear-mongers, some prefer to fight and shout over cooperatively repairing our broken medical system.

But the same shouters cry like colicky babies when they’re the ones declined for treatment by someone more concerned with saving a buck than the patient’s throbbing thyroid.

“Help!” they plead to public courts for protection from Big Med.

“Help!” as they crash the Emergency Room.

So why fear thoughtful fixing of a medical system we all know is broken?

Most want government for our mail, our wars, our rescue, safe transportation and even college football.

Tomorrow you could lose your job and lose your health care right with it. And you’d rather shout and act out than get it fixed?

Time to see a psychologist to analyze your irrational anxiety. Let’s just hope what’s ailing you isn’t denied as a pre-existing condition.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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