Personal Health

Memo to the Tea-Baggers: God and Country Aren't with You

You don't appear to know what "freedom" means.

There must not be a tea-bagger alive who has ever had to sit all night in the Charity hospital in a city like New Orleans, waiting for the morning shift to call their number.

In hospitals across America, the uninsured wait there through the night in the midst of all that painful sickness, some with swine flu, others on the verge of a heart attack.

Others sit there in agony reading old magazines and drinking bad coffee, waiting for something as simple as a cup of pink-cocktail, the drink they mix for those who suffer severe acid reflux disease, a malady that sometimes hurts in your chest so bad you think you are having a heart attack. It is a mix of the anti-acid Maalox, Novocain to numb the esophagus, and the tranquilizer Xanax to relax the muscles and relieve the pain.

The only place you can get it in the U.S. is in a hospital emergency room. They serve it by the drink there, in a little plastic cup — for about $1,000 a drink.

I don’t know if there is a specific provision in the health-care reform bill just passed in the House to make sure poor people who need it can get that drink — without losing their houses or any chance at credit if they can’t pay that bill. But if a so-called “public option” means the hospital cannot deny you that drink and that the government must pay for it, the Senate better vote for that bill, and not just to save America’s poor.

Every time a poor person, who may be poor by no fault of their own, has to seek treatment in an emergency room, the doctors who get paid $700 an hour to treat them send the bill out anyway, knowing the cost will be borne by the rising costs of the bills of those who do have insurance. What do the insurance companies do to continue making their 30 percent profit so they can pay their white male executives a million dollars a year? They raise rates on everybody else, of course, which is the number one factor contributing to the growing squeeze on the middle class.

It is a vicious cycle that escalates until a few people have all the money and most people have none.

That, my friends and enemies, is not even close to the American dream everybody seems to be so concerned about, including the far-right lunatics who believe it should be legal to shoot the president not only because he is black, but because he had the gall to propose that poor people deserve to be treated for their maladies — just like everybody else.

We are a people who have completely forgotten our history, like the Baptists in the South who cannot answer the simple question: What was the man’s name who founded the Baptist Church?

How can we forget that our most visible symbol of liberty contains the words, “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, longing to be free.”

It is kind of hard to feel free in this country if you cannot get a job that pays enough to house and feed yourself, much less one that provides health insurance.

Do the tea baggers even know the stories of their families who came here to escape one oppression or another at one time in history? That is why most of us are here, after all, except for those of us who descend from the natives. We all mostly agree Native Americans deserve a version of health care of their own in return for the genocide we committed against their people — as long as they are willing to be segregated and live on a reservation.

Are the rich not willing to allow the waitresses who serve them to be treated when they get sick? What about the guy who cuts the grass, or the writer you like to read so much on the Web?


Just because you have your Blue Cross insurance because you worked for the phone company for 30 years, or because you inherited enough money to buy a hospital, do you have no sympathy for those who were not so well-born or lucky in life?

Everybody cannot grow up to play in the NBA. There’s only ten men on the court at a time. Not every artist will be able to sell enough paintings or photographs to buy into Blue Cross-Blue Shield. What are they to do if they get sick? Curl up and die and to hell with them?

What will become of the couple living in the trailer in the woods with no electricity in Pinson, Alabama, who escaped a corrupt sheriff in another county who had it in for their family?

What about the woman who walks ten miles in the rain at 4 a.m. to cook those biscuits you like so much at the Hardee’s, who had that stillborn baby all by herself in that little apartment in Center Point? Does she just not deserve to talk to a doctor for a little prenatal care?

What about those 2,266 veterans we are honoring this week who died due to lack of insurance?

Have we as a people just grown so downright mean because of everything we’ve been through that we cannot find a little compassion in this country that most economists agree is the richest in the world, even though the Bush recession knocked out about 20 percent of our value?

President Barack Obama did not cause the economic problems we face today, but he was elected by a majority of smart people in this country who believe him when he says he wants to work every day to try and solve the problems, rather than blaming them on the tired, the poor and the Latinos who aspire to come to America and work hard.

For that you want to shoot him, and pray to your god that he die today?

If that is your prayer, you have no god. Either he doesn’t exist, or you have no clue what a god should be like. You can’t even heed the words of George W. Bush’s favorite philosopher, who spent his short life on earth serving food to the poor and healing the sick. The American empire these days is often compared to the Roman Empire. You remember what the Romans did to Jesus, surely, with the tacit approval of the Scribes and the Pharisees.

Unless no one has ever told you before, let me tell you to your face today. You are not being “Christ-like” when you oppose a national health care plan in this country. You need to crawl back into that dungeon you call a den in your suburban house, go back to watching Glenn Beck on Fox News and eating your greasy meat, and shut the hell up. You do your country and your religion more harm than good by showing your ignorance in a public park.

On the other hand, just keep on protesting. The more you do, the more normal Americans will wake up and realize they have no stomach for the right wing of the Republican Party. It was independent exurbanites — and college kids — who put Obama over the top in 2008, not hippies or queers in San Francisco. Get over it.

Once this health care bill passes and everybody moves beyond the emotion of the fight and sees that the world did not end as we know it, things may actually improve in this country and we may actually inch back toward the promise of freedom that exists on that Statue of Liberty.

Maybe the American Dream is just a fantasy and always has been, like some of my artist and writer friends think. Maybe there is no such thing and never was, but I for one will not lay down and stop believing it’s possible. I can’t. We can’t. That is the fight. That is the cause.

Besides, I have experienced real freedom in my life and times, mostly back in the 1970s, when I think American freedom hit its historic peak. I have also seen a little bit of heaven in my time, along with a fair amount of hell.

The people who are showing up with those signs in the park, protesting a plan for real progress in this country, do not represent freedom. They don’t represent heaven. They are the devil in cheap blue jeans with bad hair cuts.

Maybe I will show up for one of those protests one day soon and tell them that myself. Or maybe I will just sit here and laugh at them from a distance for being so ignorant, and take pleasure in knowing their day is almost done.