Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said recently, “If we’ are not helping people, we should go the fuck home.” She was right. Indeed, the operative word in public service is service. Sadly, this sentiment isn’t shared by enough of her colleagues.
Watching Senator John McCain – who is fighting cancer and receiving taxpayer-subsidized health care – fly to Washington D.C. to proceed with Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act is a perfect example: “I got mine, so I don’t care about you.” We see white men in Congress crowded around a table agreeing to undermine insurers’ coverage of women’s health. (Okay, if I’d been in abstinence-only education and had as little sex as they look like they’ve had, I might think a stork dropped me off too). We see doctors in the Senate who have taken the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” working to advance legislation knowing that it will result in tens of millions fewer with insurance, but with so much “freedom” to go without care because of prohibitively high costs. We see wealthy senators without a care in the world voting to strip care from the nation’s most vulnerable populations, while claiming to embrace Jesus Christ, who, like, TOTALLY was all about just helping the rich and the healthy.
Of course, if we’re human, we’re fallible, and if we’re fallible, we can fall ill. The good fortune we may have had shouldn’t serve as a license to deprive basic needs from others less fortunate. And it’s almost like the Bible had a lot to say about that… What can I say, the religious right seems to be a lot better on memorization than reading comprehension.
Twitter is at times a fun, and at other times a disturbing place, where I have made friends with some and been told by others that my autoimmune conditions are my fault and that I’m a drain on the health care system. (Me, personally? I had no idea I was that powerful!). I’ve seen people freely say that their own ability to get health insurance should mean other people are on their own caring for their needs. And I’ve been left baffled by their transparent disregard for fellow citizens (don’t get me started on many people’s views on non-citizens…).
When did basic kindness and decency come to be viewed as prohibitively costly, as opposed to a moral imperative?
I’ve been asked more times than I can count whether I’ve had an abortion since I write a lot on Planned Parenthood (not that it’s anyone’s business, but I haven’t), whether I’m in the LGBT community since I’ve long advocated for LGBT rights (not that it’s anyone’s business, but I’ve explored with women but for all intents and purposes am basically straight, much to my chagrin at times), or whether I’m on Medicaid since I’m fiercely committed to its expansion (up until this month, I’d only ever had private insurance). I’ve been asked if my life is at stake with the repeal efforts and while it most definitely is, my passion for this issue preceded the decline of my health.
I care because I’m human and I care about people. But this isn’t me patting myself on the back, though I think I was brought up right. This is me saying that other people should care too. Indeed, it shouldn’t require a majority female Congress to have basic health care protections for women. And while greater LGBT representation in our government would be ideal, that shouldn’t be a necessary condition for opposing infringements on their basic rights, with the most recent attack being the barring of transgender individuals from the United States military.
I may be overly idealistic, but I’ve always believed that those who are self-serving rather than believers in loving thy neighbor shouldn’t opt for careers in public service. And for the love of god, if you hate government, don’t work in it. Instead, be businessmen on Wall Street, where they reward being a soulless schmuck if it means improving the business and one’s financial earnings.
Senator Ben Sasse recently wrote a book on the “vanishing adult,” viewing young adults as lacking the personal responsibility and independence observed in prior decades, rather existing in a perpetual adolescence. What he fails to truly confront is that this generation was graduating from college amid the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression, and has a Congress working to demolish safety-net programs on which millions rely but on which members of Congress have not themselves depended.
The reality is that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to take personal responsibility when conservatives’ self-serving economic policy plunges the nation into deep recession. It’s difficult to take personal responsibility when white, heterosexual men make it easier to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and identity, or to maintain job security and maternity benefits when deciding to have a child. It’s difficult to take personal responsibility when Republican determination to micromanage women’s bodies means that women with unwanted pregnancies in some parts of the country may need to either obtain dangerous, illegal abortions or else have children for whom they cannot properly care and for whom a Republican-led government will not care either. It’s difficult to take personal responsibility when wealthy, healthy men never relying on safety-net programs work to gut Medicaid funding, thus leaving one with the “freedom” to choose between untreated illness and bankruptcy.
Selfishness under the label of “personal responsibility” is still selfishness. And while this selfishness under the guise of limited government (government so small it fits in bedrooms and bathrooms!) has been the Republican mantra for quite some time, we see it at full force now with unified Republican government as well as Republican-dominated governorships and state legislatures.
When the Republican budget won’t even provide for the bootstraps by which we can pull ourselves up, it is difficult to see their party as doing anything other than engaging in naked partisanship and selfishness to a degree that is now dangerously normalized, if not embraced.
Claiming to love America while showing utter disregard for helping tens of millions of Americans is no way to govern, or even to exist in the diverse, pluralistic society that defines America.