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What We Fail To See

by John on 08/13/2017

charlottesville right wing protestsThe carnage and protests in Charlottesville illuminate what we have lost that was once fundamental in American society.

It is so evident.  But we ignore it because we fail to understand history and instead listen to our political parties and special-interest bought media pundits.

Here’s what they won’t enlighten or remind us about – that we so desperately need to embrace — in one quick sentence.

Our obsession with the “freedom to do what we want” infringes and sometimes destroys other citizens’ “freedom from.”

Put another way: gone is the fundamental balance in American society of the individual versus the common good.

In society, if that is a fair battle, then we thrive.

Some observers see it, but not enough of us.

We see what it should be in the beauty of baseball.  It propelled our society and economy for decades.  It was the bulwark against Communism in the early 20th Century.

There was a time in my youth when we participated in civic activities with our neighbors no matter what their politics, religion, or skin color, but now we seem to gather only to make money, not to share our citizenship.

Worse, we saw in Charlottesville that we don’t share that citizenship out of a phony paranoia of skin color.

This horrible imbalance strangles healthcare. We can’t come together to find a solution for the most essential aspect of our lives so we all have a chance to thrive.  Consider these:

  • Many people think they have the right to smoke. It is, they assume, their body and life.  However, that freedom infringes on others freedom from avoiding higher healthcare costs even if they avoid damaging behavior.
  • Listen to commentators calling for removing the individual mandate of Obamacare. They logically say government shouldn’t force a financial burden on someone while taking away their freedom to live their life their way.  But these commentators dismiss the other side, the responsibility side, of the argument.  This so-called freedom, in reality, places the burden on the common good, infringing on the freedom of many Americans that have to pay higher healthcare costs for people with high medical bills that don’t get coverage and either get hit with a catastrophic illness either by bad luck or failing to see a doctor on a regular basis.  So because of someone’s freedom, others are forced to take a job or go without healthcare cover that is too expensive.
  • Ironically, the same commentators want to keep the tax deduction for companies that provide health insurance even though that policy encourages higher medical costs and less competition in the healthcare market.
  • Look at Medicare recipients. They will tell you they deserve their Medicare because they paid into it.  But they ignore or scoff at the reality that they have only paid in 1/3rd of what they will use in their lifetime, leaving the rest of the bill to be paid by younger taxpayers.
  • How about the Opioid Crisis. Think about the incentives given to physicians by pharmaceuticals to dispense opioids for their freedom to make profits while dismissing the disastrous effects for the common good.  Notice the unintended consequences of the lack of regulations that allow the black market of illicit drug makers to fill the void to continue the addiction of our fellow citizens.
  • The book, An American Sickness, revealed how a cure for Type 1 Diabetes was near but no entity would fund the research because a lifetime of treatment creates more profit than a cure.

Why is this happening?

  • Being an individual is far more profitable and fun.
  • Rooting for the common good incites the fear or paranoia of Socialism. Although a logical fear in parts of the 20th Century, it holds little relevance to today’s new unequal society with precious few resources to share.
  • Rooting for the common good is no longer moral. We have dressed the teachings of Jesus with the clothing of Adam Smith that looks Darwinian.  Telling someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when you have taken away their boots makes little sense.  The fear of the Welfare Queen and the Daddy of Many is certainly there, but it is not everyone when you consider working families cannot afford the lives their parents offered. 
  • We see it in Citizens United ruling. Because someone is wealthy and has a particular special interest they have the freedom to voice their opinion that mostly profits them at the expense of the common good having the freedom from one sided arguments and an enlightened view of an issue.

But why do we ignore this?

Both political parties and the media won’t point it out.  They profit from special interest money – not the common good.  Winning elections and ratings are their goals: not making America healthy and wealthy.

How do we let this happen?  How can we as a people be so blind, so duped?

Hopefully it is time to wake up.

We need to take back our country.  And it is not with rebellion or violence.  It is with: knowledge; common sense; acknowledging that all ideas are on the table; and we are each other’s keepers.

What’s even more evident: we have the tools to speak – and more importantly to listen — to each other.  We need to start working with those we disagree – or else.

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