Did you see? Just last week? The boisterous waving of signs, the cheering in the streets, humans actually yelling and stomping their feet in celebration of the Supreme Court's narrow, pinched decision over exhausted ol' health care reform. Some celebrants were literally weeping aloud that their sick child or cancer-stricken relative will now able to receive a small amount of basic care without bankruptcy or foreclosure or doom. Amazing.
If you saw that, you probably also noticed the furious, ragtag army of deeply confused others, holding up hateful signs bashing illegal immigrants or displaying photos of dead fetuses, or perhaps a large, shamelessly racist graphic of the president of the United States with a swastika around his face. America!
Can this be right? Is it actually 2012, we have been an extant and functional society for dozens or perhaps hundreds of years, and most of us still find it necessary and important to actually applaud such a fundamental move as health care for all, such a seemingly primitive, obvious shift that, by all basic humanitarian measures, should have been there since the advent of the goddamn light bulb, medicine, God? So it would appear.
It is appropriate to be amazed. It is correct to be a little dumbfounded. It doesn't matter if it's health care, or gay marriage, or the Clean Air Act, women's suffrage, interracial marriage, the discovery of fire, or any similar turn of socio-political event that seems at first glance, to be just shockingly apparent, de facto, a given: the feeling is the same. These are moves that are so clearly such a basic boon to the overall social good that not only should we not be cheering, we should be sitting down and pondering just what in the hell, exactly, took us so long.
This is the essential question: 2,000 years after Jesus supposedly set the tone and 200 years into the fragmented, half-empty/half-full American experiment and only now we're pretending to give a damn for the basic well-being of our fellow citizens? Only now our better natures are barely, just barely, edging out our resentment, suspicion and fear? But only sometimes? What is wrong with us?
"We are fantastic!" the more progressive-minded of us nevertheless yelp from the rooftops (and from this very column) whenever twinkling hope barely defeats abject stupidity, simultaneously praising ourselves for not killing one another 10 minutes earlier over that contested parking space. "Millions of us can now receive a basic benefit you might think we should have had since we invented the concept of love itself! What a thing."
Is my tone of gentle sarcasm coming through? How about my shock and awe regarding the abject weirdness of it all? How we are the only species on the planet that praises ourselves for essentially not destroying ourselves at every turn, for maybe, just maybe, agreeing to take care of one another, just a little, so long as we don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses?
I believe we are alone in this. I believe no other creature on the planet literally celebrates -- much less violently debates -- choosing to continue on as a species with a tiny modicum of tenderness and without berating or antagonizing each other to death.
I have seen nature documentaries. I'm pretty sure the wildebeests of the Serengeti absolutely do not stomp around in joy when the leader decides against marching the herd off the cliff to their collective doom. I have witnessed flocks of geese absolutely not writing messages of delight in the sky after collectively enacting a policy of avoiding all jet turbines so as not to die in mangled, bloody heaps. Just not their thing.
Do not misunderstand. I was hugely relieved to hear health care reform, as fraught as it is, actually made it through a brutally divided SCOTUS on the meagerest of razor-thin technicalities, despite a firestorm of ignorance and anti-Obama hate from the right. I am thrilled to know that bloviated, old Antonin Scalia, who despises pretty much everything you and I stand for, is sneering himself to sleep right now. I truly believe an awkward lurch of progress has been made.
But I also found it terrifically weird to celebrate something that should be so built-in to our very chemistry, cells, worldview. It's heath care. For everyone. Why is this so difficult? What sort of God are we supposed to have? Or perhaps it's more appropriate to be concerned that a mere 55 percent of Americans even understand the ruling in the first place? Or that those who've been told to hate and fear it the most will actually be the ones who benefit most? Never mind that now....
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently learned how to properly spank a nun, requested that you please join his Tantric yoga sex cult and begged you oh my God please do not eat this. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...
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