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Colicky Babies, Tea Party Tantrums & Compassion

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I got a call recently from a friend who was at the end of her rope. Her infant was colicky, and although they'd tried everything, their beloved bundle of joy wouldn't stop screaming. Singing, rocking, cajoling, feeding or changing his diaper had no effect. Even strapping him into the kiddie seat and driving around the block in the middle of the night -- telling him tales of imaginary dragons -- didn't assuage the cries.

Because he couldn't actually articulate his discomfort in a way that made sense or allowed them to relieve his suffering, they exhausted themselves trying to find both cause and solution.

Some days the frustration got the better of them, and both parents admitted feeling shame for feeling the urge to scream back -- which of course would have only caused more harm. What seemed to calm him during one episode had no effect during the next.

After watching the House vote on health care reform Sunday evening and thinking of the past 9 months, I marveled at the parallels.

Like these devoted parents eager to please and offer peace, it seems Obama's attempts at bipartisanship in health care reform were met with the same tantrums of the inconsolable child whose shrieks are inexplicable and incoherent.

So what exactly is the source of discontent? Is it really the deficit and big government? Is it the scary "socialism" for which we are all destined to hell for providing basic human health care services?

It is difficult to determine the roots of rage that ignited this nearly yearlong tantrum. Given that most of the shrieking is coming from those who supported an administration that ushered the country into two wars that drove the country into unspeakable debt, it is hard to imagine that fiscal responsibility is actually the source of concern.

Perhaps some of the colicky outbursts in Washington are rooted in the discomfort of contradiction. It certainly seems there is a disconnect between justifying the debt of waging war for righteous reasons -- concern for our "fellow man" halfway across the world -- and the inability to extend basic medical care for those dying right here at home because of a lack of insurance.

And what of the bankruptcy epidemic spreading across the country and adding to the national debt? If more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies are due to medical debt, how can the new legislation be a negative for the economy?

If small businesses can now offer health care to employees and receive substantial tax benefits, it seems that a rise in entrepreneurship is just around the corner. Isn't that what is needed to boost an economy during a recession?

And for all of us touting the slogan that "being an American means freedom," how about the freedom that comes from not having to keep a job you hate because you are terrified of getting sick? Is it possible that to be relieved of the fear of illness just might empower millions of Americans to dream bigger, take more chances and maybe even start a business, which until now seemed irresponsible or worst -- impossible.

The colicky, fear-based cries of obstructionists who opposed Social Security, Medicare or civil rights, and who predicted the end of civilization at top volume, were no more credible than the recent howling dissenters of health care reform.

Nothing would soothe them, certainly not the assertion that Americans might thrive and live better because of their existence. And yet in 2010, the prospect of dismantling any of these programs -- that benefit us all -- would be perceived as an affront to all Americans.

Beneath the screeching and preaching of socialist evils is an inarticulate terror that seems to suggest scarcity and competition. It is the illusion and mythology of equal opportunity that lies at the root of this mistaken idea and is cause for the vociferous objection that has infected the public dialog around health care. But it has been disguised as economic concerns.

It is with this knowledge that President Obama was finally inspired to act with clarity. Forced to accept that sometimes the cries of the people are rooted in historical fear and mania, he has finally picked up the keys and assumed the drivers seat in the car we gave him in November 2008.

Now we must be willing to take that middle of the night drive, patiently and compassionately enduring the tantrums of those taunted by the imaginary dragons of socialism, for they may continue to kick and scream from the backseat.

If history is any indicator, 30 short years from now, being without health care will be deemed un-American.

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