Monday, March 14, 2011

Wolves Shall Defend the Lamb

Among Aesop’s fables is the short tale about a wolf and a lamb. Readers know immediately that if a fight occurs, it will not be a fair one. The wolf has experience, weight, and carnivorous intent on his side. The poor lamb is slight in both the ways of the world and pounds.

Seeking to justify slaughtering the lamb, the wolf accuses him of a personal affront, a charge the lamb easily deflects by saying he was not yet born when the wolf claims to have been insulted. Next, the wolf attacks the lamb on grounds that the little creature has invaded the wolf’s pasture and watering hole. The lamb honestly and innocently proclaims that he has not yet tasted grass or water. Mother’s milk sustains him.

Having run out of rationales for his bloody, bad behavior, the wolf simply asserts the evolutionary principle that has so often led to the slaughter of innocents. He declares that he will not go hungry even though the lamb has defended himself so well. The wolf falls upon his prey and consumes the delicate lamb just because he can.

Human kind has often been the wolf. As this blog has suggested, wolves preyed upon early Native Americans, justifying the wolves' possession of lands and, in some cases, wholesale slaughter by arguing the privileges and rights of Manifest Destiny, also known as social Darwinism. British wolves took lands and lives in Africa, India, and much of the world simply because Britain granted itself the right on the basis of skin color, religion, and productivity. African Americans in America from the 17th century forward have faced and survived enslavement and domestic terrorism. One threat of domestic terrorism occurred this year, last month.

NPR* reported (February 25, 2011) that a man in the crowd at a town hall meeting in Georgia on February 22, 2011 called out a question: when (or who) is going to shoot Obama? The crowd laughed at the question, and the Representative, Paul Broun, moved on, saying: The thing is, I know there's a lot of frustration with this president. We're going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we'll elect somebody that's going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, [sic] who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Broun should have quelled the crowd. Good sense, common sense and common decency demand a stern reaction. When is it ever acceptable to suggest the death of a public figure, a neighbor, a friend? It is never acceptable, yet Congressman Broun dodges the real offense and reverts to the tried and true Obamacare complaint. He, as a doctor, had an opportunity to speak some truth about the new health care reform act of 2009.

That bill will require health insurers to spend 80-85% of every insurance dollar on direct medical care, not dividends, private jets, expensive corporate conferences, and other non-medical care costs. The new health care legislation will prevent insurers from denying insurance to people with pre-existing conditions or expensive conditions such as childhood autism or cancer or muscular dystrophy. (Beginning to see why health insurers want the public confused and the law repealed? But if they must live with the legislation, they want everyone to be required to buy insurance. Why? Money, money, money . . .)

Representative Broun had a chance to set the record straight--to say, the Palin accusation that the bill includes a provision for death panels is just plain untrue. Broun had a chance to explain that every citizen already pays for every other citizen’s health, including the health care required for a twenty-year-old who saw no need for health insurance and bristled at the requirement to buy some. After all, he did not smoke, he exercised, and he was not overweight. His only vice was his motorcycle. Not only was it a fast, fun ride, it was also inexpensive to maintain. He carried motorcycle insurance--sure; the law requires insurance in exchange for the privilege of holding a license to drive and owing money on the motorcycle. He had to have motorcycle insurance, but he declined when asked to purchase insurance against uninsured motorists and any health insurance.

This young man, one fine sunny day, on a dry clean roadway, looked at the scenery beside the road only long enough to miss the oncoming pickup truck drifting left of center. When the cyclist saw the truck, his reactions, even at 20, were not sharp enough to avoid the collision. He lost a leg and was thrown, landing so hard that he could no longer speak, read, write, or see to his own hygiene.

This young man died on that roadbed, but extraordinary medical care saved his body and what is left of his mental abilities. He requires long-term, nursing care. No insurance company was there to offset the emergency, hospital, and rehabilitative care. Taxpayer money will provide; it comes to him through Social Security disability benefits, SSI, or Medicaid. These will provide for this young man from the moment of his collision to his death sometime in the future. He’s 20, remember? His parents, if they are still living, are not responsible. If they try to pay their son’s debts, they may become poor themselves.

Had this young man been required to purchase health insurance, the taxpayer would be off the hook--unless the insurance company could install lifetime limits as a ceiling for his and anyone’s care. But the new health care legislation removes those limits. Insurance companies can no longer pay until the patient reaches his limit, then hand him or her over to the taxpayer.

Yes, Representative Broun could have explained all of this to his public rather than justify the egregious words of a man in the crowd. Even more important, Representative Broun could have shown some moral courage by saying: How dare you, sir? Barack Obama is the President of the United States. I value his life for many reasons, foremost among them being that as a physician, I value all life. I will not tolerate hate and threats, sir. I wish the President success. We all should.

By the way, Broun’s aide said that Broun simply moved on because the remark was inappropriate, and he did not wish to acknowledge it. But you read what Broun moved on to say. He simply suggested that we need someone else who will repeal legislation that is unpopular, thereby feeding in to the misinformation and misdirected hostilities.

More to the point, had any one of us overheard a threat made against someone, our legal and moral duty is to report that threat in order to save a life. Representative Broun and his aide are not exempt from that duty.

We may take some comfort from the work of the Secret Service. After interviewing the man who was so outspoken, the federal officers learned that he regrets the question.

I will be comfortable when people do not step back when the wolf sees its next victim. I expect people to speak up and out against injustice and carnivorous instincts. I expect the eyes of civilization to have grown wiser and less crafty. I expect each of us to be the shepherd, insuring that the entire flock is safe, rather than cutting one from the herd before running back to the corral.

*Thank you, NPR, for reporting the story and for doing so in an impartial manner. Woe to us if a truly impartial news source fades.