Roger and “Death Panels”

I will assume everyone knows the film critic Roger Ebert.  He nearly died from bone cancer in his jaw.  He has two good articles reflecting his opinion of health care reform and those who oppose it.

His first, “Death Panels.” A most excellent term, expresses where the roots of this whole opposition appears to be planted:

 One result has been that our national life expectancy ranks 42nd among all developed nations. We spend more on medical care than any other nation, and get less than 41 of them. These figures are pretty clear.

I don’t pretend to know if this information is available to the angry people who have shouted down their representatives at town hall meetings. I think I do know where their anger is fed. The drumbeat of far-right commentators fuels it. Their agenda is not health care, but opposition to the Obama administration. It takes the form of demonizing Obama. It uses the tactic of the Big Lie to defame him. An example of this is the fiction, “he wants to kill your grandmother.” Another is the outrageous statement that he is a racist who hates white people. A person capable of saying that is clearly unhinged and in the grip of unconditional hatred.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) stated as such when he said that defeating health care reform would be Obama’s “waterloo.”  It’s obvious Mr. DeMint isn’t against health care reform because he dislikes what is in the various proposals, he is just against it because Obama is for it.  Opposition for political purposes, not for the public good.   Who do these people work for?

Ebert’s second article, “I’m safe on board. Pull up the life rope,” cements his position on health care reform:

Having read through some 600 comments about universal health care, I now realize I took the wrong approach in my previous blog entry. I discussed the Obama health plan in political, literal, logical terms. Most of my readers replied in the same vein. The comments, as always, have been helpful, informative and for the most part civil. My mistake was writing from the pragmatic side. I should have followed my heart and gone with a more emotional approach. I believe universal health care is, quite simply, right.

It is a moral imperative. I cannot enjoy health coverage and turn to my neighbor and tell him he doesn’t deserve it. A nation is a mutual undertaking. In a democracy, we set out together to do what we believe is good for the commonwealth. That means voluntarily subjecting ourselves to the rule of law, taxation, military service, the guaranteeing of rights to minorities, and so on. That is a cheap price to pay.

Further down in the article, Mr. Ebert makes another point:

Every time you learn from the news about our latest jobless statistics, consider this: A newly jobless person who was insured through an employee health plan is about to become a newly uninsured person. It’s for our mutual good that we live in a healthier society. To provide universal coverage is the moral thing to do.

A friend of mine recently told me that the problems of others should not be paid for by everyone else.  He’s a pretty hard-core libertarian.  When it comes to, say, the Bill of Rights, I agree with him whole-heartedly.  Government should not be snooping on our conversations, selectively denying Habeus Corpus, taking our guns, or telling us who we can have in our bedrooms (or what we can do, for that matter), I completely agree with him.  But on this case, I completely disagree.

Let me make this clear:  I am against a huge, confusing bill that would do nothing but increase bureaucracy and create unnecessary government programs that run up our national debt.  I am also against anyone using the topic of health insurance reform as a political bludgeon by spreading lies and misinformation solely to score political points.  But I am absolutely for health insurance reform that would decrease insurance costs and allow for universal coverage.   If the “public option” is part of that, I would not be opposed to it provided it doesn’t contribute to the deficit, it pays doctors at rates that keep them in business, and doesn’t completely undercut current insurance plans (which I think it will do since current insurance rates are priced way to high, in my opinion).

The phrase “The problems of others are not our concern,” was used in an episode of Babylon 5: Severed Dreams (full episode available until Sept. 7, 2009).  It was used as a rallying cry to insist the opposite is true.  Jesus said we should care for others. Mr. Ebert points this out by quoting from Matthew 25: 31-46:

 31 When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?

38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?

39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?”

40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?”

45 Then he will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”

46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

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