A CULTURE OF RAGE


Margaret Randall

This

week’s mail brought a letter quite suddenly and unceremoniously informing me

that my health insurance provider is discontinuing my group policy. "Your

existing QualMed health care coverage will end on October 31, 2000. . . this is

the only notice you will receive" is the way the company’s account

representatives put it. I am one year and three months away from 65, the age I

will be eligible for Medicare (if Medicare still exists). And if HMOs still have

senior plans by then, I may be able to draw on some combination of government

and private coverage. Last year I earned $11,000. My partner is our

household’s main provider, but I cannot be on her health plan because she is a

teacher and the Public School System for which she works does not recognize

domestic partners as families. For the past good many years we have been

spending an additional two to three hundred dollars a month on my individual

coverage. Now this cost will no longer be an option.

I

am one of the lucky ones. The same mail that delivered the above letter brought

another telling me that longtime peace and justice activist Marv Davidov is

currently fighting prostate cancer, diabetes, and a broken ankle. The letter

asks for donations to help a man older than I am and with neither health

insurance, a 401(k) plan, stocks and bonds or even a guaranteed job. I put what

I could in the enclosed envelope, hope many others will be moved to do the same,

and made a mental note to call my old friend.

Still,

I am not representative of the millions of U.S. Americans currently living below

the poverty line, without health insurance, often even without adequate shelter

and food. When compared with these citizens of the richest nation on earth, I

have little about which to complain. Yet I am complaining. I am furious. A

cursory look at either presidential candidate’s campaign promises in the area

of health care and prescription drug accessibility shows cheap promises of

"caring and commitment." Never mind that neither major party has

placed our nation’s health high enough on its political agenda to insure the

coverage enjoyed by citizens of all other industrialized countries and some

countries that have nowhere near our level of industrialization. Attention to

people’s health, education, and other basic needs is forever subordinate to

maintaining the U.S. death machine.

Those

in power—whether they be our elected officials, the CEO’s of tobacco

companies, manufacturers of automobile tires or insurance industry

magnates—continue to seduce our support and then, when we need them, tell us

they just can’t afford to help or that they want to "apologize to the

American people" or say sorry: the coverage you’ve paid into all these

years will end on such and such a date. Quite in spite of whom we vote into

office, it is clear that corporate interests rule our lives. Further,

increasingly sophisticated handling techniques are aimed at giving us the sense

that our disempowerment is our fault. Any reassignment of priorities is our

responsibility.

The

ever widening gap between those in power and those whose needs are not being

met, the rhetoric that describes promises never intended to be kept, and the

subtle and not so subtle shifting of blame from those in power to the victims of

such a system, is creating a culture of rage whose effects upon our way of life

are impossible to compute. But we can make some predictions. If we continue to

spend more on prisons and the military than on people’s health and education,

if corporate CEOs continue to draw six figure salaries while one fourth of our

country’s children live in poverty, if more and more U.S. Americans swell the

ranks of the homeless, the downsized, the throw-away elderly and those without

healthcare, we cannot be surprised by the social rage that is everyday more

evident.

Road

rage. Telephone rage. Massive depression and despair. A sense of

disenfranchizement that forces people who care, in one election after another to

swallow hard and cast their vote for whomever they presume to be the least

damaging of the available "choices." This rage has been palpable for

years in poor minority communities, inner city ghettos, on Indian reservations

and in areas of rural poverty. The only change is that it has now invaded middle

America: white middle-class suburbia. We are no longer surprised or even shocked

by the teenager who goes on a killing spree or the presidential candidate who

lies about his opponent’s and/or his own record and intentions. Still saddened

but not shocked.

An

impotent rage courses through the nation’s veins, all its veins. Whether or

not we as a people have a future with any degree of dignity and peace depends

upon our collective ability to channel that rage into constructive action.

Through lesson after painful lesson we are learning that this constructive

action will not work if it is within the framework of electoral politics as we

know it.

 

 

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