If you wish something long, hard and bad enough, chances are it will happen. Or so it would seem from today's Occupy Wall Street movement, which I have wished for for more than a dozen years now. Let me explain: my good friend, Dr. Howie Wolf, a doctor's doctor, one of the best family practitioners in Boulder, Colorado, has had one obsession for last three decades -- universal health care. Like all true believers his every sentence seems to revolve around health care of all; he in fact was a charter-founding member of a group called Healthcare For All: Colorado. Like him, I too, as a physician and as an ordinary human being believe that every American -- man, woman and child has a right to affordable and universal healthcare, something I have written countless columns and given many speeches about.
Even as the numbers of uninsured have soared from 30 to 45 million Americans in less than two decades, as the cost of health care has mushroomed (a form of financial rationing of healthcare), the growth of power of HMOs as measured by their political clout and deafness to the entreaties of both the sick and the uninsured, Americans as individuals and as a nation have remained remarkably docile. Except for letters to the editor, columns in national papers and the ever-growing numbers of bankruptcies from those uninsured who get sick and incur exorbitantly large medical bills, one would have thought that Americans didn't care about the fate of the uninsured one quarter of the population, or were under a spell cast by HMOs' CEOs, or were anesthetized or suffer from the Thanatos syndrome with its attendant death wish.
On the many occasions we have discussed health care reform over the last decade, Dr. Wolf has steadfastly and truly believed that the coming of universal health care was but a matter of time. But with my finger over the pulse of the ever-expanding American body and my pessimism about Americans' attitudes I didn't believe it likely -- the HMOs, our ruling class, and the insured majority of the nation were too content to care. The solution, to my way of thinking, was a revolution, or in any case, an actual Civil Rights-like movement -- with marches and raised voices. I have been saying that for a decade, well aware that it takes an earthquake to move Americans into action. Indeed, when the earthquake represented by the George Bush presidency -- with its bogus WMD Iraq war and loss of personal liberties, the diminution of the middle class and the growth of plutocracy -- occurred, the majority of Americans went back to their sleep mode.
It has been fascinating to watch, first the Tea Party movement (a gathering brought into existence by the economic woes left by the Bush administration, the housing bubble and the election of a black man to the presidency) and now the Occupy Wall Street movement: OWS. I was not surprised by the Tea Party's noise for to me it was but an extension of the noise one hears on Fox TV every day. It was indeed a movement backed by men with millions of dollars to burn, folks who can't believe their eyes that a man with a Muslim sounding name occupies the presidency and have promised that it will be a one-term presidency.
What's wonderful, beautiful and totally gratifying is the ever-expanding "ordinary citizens'" movement, which has at last coalesced around those points I have believed seemed to erode this country's democracy: extreme capitalism, so much money and so much power concentrated on so few hands, the callous treatment of the poor and total disregard of the majority's wishes by legislators who since Obama took office have used the word "NO" as their legislative mantra. Americans are famous for their short attention span; that said, one hopes that the OWS movement might mushroom into a true "take back America," based on reclaiming the individual's rights, wresting power from the few self-appointed rulers of America. It's what I have wished for for a long decade during which I slowly gave up on America. My friend Howie Wolf is pleased that somehow this day has dawned -- when those who see the travesty that has become our political system have decided to march -- again.
Universal healthcare is still not a reality but is somewhat closer -- thanks to the so-called Obamacare. Dealt an awful hand, Obama has done his best to make lemonade out of political lemons. It's hard to see where the movement will be in another six months but wherever it goes, I'm overjoyed it happened -- glad that like me, many Americans saw and were irritated and angered by the callous, stultifying behavior of a tiny segment that believes itself extraordinary and above all other Americans. I'm once again reminded that perhaps as a nation we do believe in the dictum: "All men are created equal."