I woke up the other morning to a priest and a rabbi talking on the radio about how that day, which was the seventh anniversary of the war in Iraq, was passing unmarked. While the 20 people protesting in New York seemed a pittance, their numbers were big compared to all of the places where there was nobody.
It's health care time in America, and it's like the Super Bowl of politics, with last minute bets and polls and lobbies and money concentrated on getting something through -- no matter what the cost to a democracy that functions on informed choice. Abortion cut? No problem. What matters is that this passes, right? We don't want to consider that everything that passes can be withdrawn, undone or defeated in a couple of years.
So what if Huffington Post's brilliant cover of the other day (meriting a signature by Jules Feiffer), showed print so fine as to be illegible as it invited the reader to look into the details of the hotly debated House health care bill. Absurd as it was meant to portray the confusion of the ordinary citizen, a category where I am pleased to include myself. I confess to not comprehending where passage of this bill this will put my own medical care, the quality of care in general, care for students and the poor and the adequate functioning of the medical profession. My doctors have told me it will be a disaster, but all I can see is that President Obama will not address one more issue until he gets this passed.
The bigger question for me: Has "Iraq" become just another term for forgetting our past and our present obligation as we confuse the two words: passed and past? Iraq is not the past, but it is a forgotten war because there are no pictures of it. The scandals have gone away for everyone except those few tirelessly working on peace, on the abolishment of torture, on not using the will to dominate and humiliate as modus operandi for our military or domestic operations.
The Obama election was the first in a very long time when I voted for the candidate, not against the other side. And as I have written before, I can't fault him for getting where he's gotten by the shrewdness of his political tactics of seduction or through promises he couldn't have kept even if he wanted to. Yes, we need to know more about the lobbies of insurance companies, religious institutions and their influence. Yes, we need to learn about the last minute bargaining and what it's taking for people to change allegiances and votes.
The priest and the rabbi lamented that there would have been crowds at any event that featured Tiger Woods and even John Edwards, someone who could add spice to the lust we disown in our religious services but crave on our porn sites, our internet fixations and in our movies. Even health care has lured the sentiments of hate and ruthlessness against which no war memorial could compete.
Why isn't the war in Iraq -- let's start there -- attracting and demanding our attention? Is it because it's not enough fun to watch or to consider? Is it like any of the incredibly well made films that are too "slow" and too demanding of our conscience and consciousness? As I exited last night from the movie "A Single Man," I felt immersed in a mixture of thoughts and feelings, twists and turns and unbelievably wonderful performances. I heard the familiar Long Island accents blaring, "That was so long!" "Who said this was such a good movie?" "Oh my God, can we just eat?" It's not just Long Island but all over America where too much depth brings us into deep places we don't want to go.
A couple of questions for us all: Who are the individuals deciding not to publish stories by U.S. soldiers and Iraqis with pictures on our televisions daily? I'm not talking about special assignments, rather news about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as a daily obligation that might arouse our excitement, fuel our rage or grief or something visceral? And has been it arranged (through manipulation) for the health care feud to reach a fever pitch so as to take up most of the space in our media?
We all know how misdirection is used in magic tricks: look over there while I do something over here. Get the health care bill passed, dammit, like Obama wants, and don't worry yourself with the details. As for Iraq: let that remain confusing, out of reach, so very far away so that we can't even remember to remember.
Frankly, it's not even a question anymore. We are being dangerously manipulated by media to focus where the fever moves. But, just because there is no fever registered on our national quotient of compassion and thoughtfulness, doesn't mean we don't have a serious illness.
As the season turns to spring, very depressed people turn more depressed because the contrast between the life inside and the blossoming outside is too much for the system. While I would never recommend clinical depression for any human being, the capacity to be depressed by a war whose beginning and middle are replete with horror, might just be what the doctor orders.
I have to wonder, is there a provision in health care reform for our national illnesses of general insanity? Or is everyone so grabbed by induced passions and stimuli of the moment as to forget that unless we care about each other and our actions here and abroad then what we call "democracy" is seriously compromised?
It may not take a doctor but a village of doctors of political and historical and psychological tools to collaborate about a country that may be losing its capacity to care...and to remember.