Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Becoming European"

This is perhaps the most concise and cogent analysis of why Obama won. (Warning: the article itself is sane and measured--a rarity for the National Review, in my experience. Perhaps predictably, the COMMENTS are BEYOND LOONY.)

U.S. conservatives consider non-American opinion beneath contempt...beneath notice, even. It would not surprise Republicans in the least to learn that if the rest of the world had a vote, Mitt Romney would  barely have registered; in their minds, that's just proof of American exceptionalism. What boggles the Right's collective brain is that their red-blooded America do-or-die-ism is, for the first time in a century, under attack from within America by some mad European-bred socialist fever. And damn it all to hell, in the case of Obamacare, the cure is the disease.

There's a part of this article that really resonated with me, and confirmed, if any confirmation was necessary, my progressive bona fides:

Progressivism always looked at the family with skepticism and occasionally hostility. Reformer Charlotte Perkins Gilman hoped state-backed liberation of children would destroy “the unchecked tyranny . . . of the private home.” Wilson believed the point of education was to make children as unlike their parents as possible. Hillary Clinton, who calls herself a modern progressive and not a liberal, once said we must move beyond the notion there is “any such thing as someone else’s child.”

 I should state for the record here that I have nothing against my family whatsoever. I love and respect my parents just as much as any Republican does theirs. Where I emphatically part ways with that Republican: while I love and respect my parents, I do not accept that parents should be the final authority when it comes to their children. I hold this to be self-evident, that all parents are not created equal. There are bigoted parents out there who see their offspring mostly as bigots-in-training; there are parents who neglect their kids, parents who abuse their kids, and many, many parents who, through no fault of their own are unable to truly nurture their children spiritually, emotionally or intellectually. Should we just accept the inevitably underdeveloped kids as the price of parental authority? I say hell, no.

That thing Hillary Clinton said, that we must move beyond the notion that there is "any such thing as somebody else's child"? I like that. I like that a lot. That's "it takes a village" writ large.

I have long misread American individualism. One of my core beliefs is that each person charts his or her own moral course. Like many of my core beliefs, this seems so obvious to me as to be beyond question; yet it's probably the thing that most outrageously offends right-wingers of my acquaintance. I'm told there is a right way and a wrong way to live, and it's a parental responsibility to "raise 'em right". Fair enough, I suppose, but I agree with Woodrow Wilson: your responsibility as a parent isn't to recreate yourself. It is, rather, to help your son or daughter to recreate themselves, every day, "in the grandest version of the greatest vision"they have of themselves, to use Neale Donald Walsch's memorable phrase.

 There are many tools available to do this. Family is a big one, of course, but it's far from the only one. Faith, or lack thereof, is another. Friends are a third; the wider culture is a fourth. Think of every positive influence you've had in your life. While many people will cite their parents, they won't always be at the top of the list; for some people they won't be on the list at all.

Yes, I mentioned faith--or lack thereof. I have, at various points in my life, identified as Christian, atheist, and many points in between. There's no simple way to identify me at this point. My belief system incorporates aspects of Buddhism, New Age thought, secular humanism, and Christianity by way of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, , John Shelby Spong, and Tom Harpur. What I am not, in any way shape or form, is exclusionist. I do believe that a faith can ground a person, can exert a positive long as it does not become a "blind" faith. The exact same thing can be said of a lack of faith...a "blind faithlessness" is every bit as frightening to behold as the most fundy of fundycostals.

Goldberg notes in his column that not only religious, but also married people tended to vote for Romney...but that marriage is in decline in America. I beg to differ: Maine and Maryland (fittingly) are only the most recent waves in a tide of expanded marriage. Moreover, gay or straight, marriage, like everything else in life, is a personal decision--in this case more personal than most--between you, your spouse, and possibly any deity or deities you hold dear. Republicans tend to hold (a certain kind of) marriage as an ideal, a building block of society. There are far too many divorces, to say nothing of awful, unhappy unions, to consider marriage a universal building block of anything at all. Once again, my marriage is fine, I love and respect my wife unto the ends of the earth, but not every man and woman can say the same. Should kids have available parents? Yes, they should, preferably more than one of them. Does a piece of paper and an exchanged vow make any two people ideal parents? Of course not. And is my family any less a family because we don't have kids? Be very careful how you answer that.

Europeanization is a fait accompli now that the man who wrought Obamacare has been re-elected. The Affordable Care Act has its flaws, and they are legion, but it was only intended as a first step towards universal, single-payer health care--the kind of system the rest of the civilized world takes for granted and the kind of system that utterly terrifies and enrages Republicans. Once Americans get used to looking to government to cover their health, they'll never let go, AND REPUBLICANS KNOW IT. So the boogeymen come out. "America will go bankrupt!" they shout.

Interesting, that. It's awful to contemplate a bankrupt United States of America...but it's perfectly acceptable if any number of Americans go bankrupt trying to pay onerous health care bills. Makes me wonder how many people without insurance voted Republican.

And, not to make too fine a point of it here, but it's going to take some mighty fine maneuvering for America not to go bankrupt now, Obamacare or no Obamacare. That said, it's only the profit margin that keeps American health care costs so ridiculously high. No country pays near as much per capita to insure all of its citizens as the U.S, does to insure some of theirs.

Yes, America will go bankrupt, and even worse, government will start looking to restrict freedoms in the name of reining in health care costs. Hell, New York's done it already: they've banned supersize pop. (Actually, as Catelli notes here, they've banned kegs of pop, which doesn't mean you can't buy fifteen glasses of pop and guzzle 'em).

I've noticed, and lamented, an uptick in this kind of thinking here in Canada lately. Only recently have I started to hear people musing about who does and who doesn't deserve health care. Oh, hell, I've been known to think this way myself. My thought process goes are you human? If yes, you deserve health care.

America, we up here to your north started down this path you're on over half a century ago. We're still here, and by many accounts, our economy's outperforming yours and our standard of living is higher. And as much as you bemoan Europe--as much as the world seems to tremble at every least debt-belch coming out of Europe lately--it seems like people have forgotten northern Europe. The Scandinavian countries seem to be getting on just fine. And they're a hell of a lot more socialist than you'll be any time soon...

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