Sunday, November 22, 2009

Take Your Hope Where You Find It

I choose to take mine from these news:

Invoking the memory of Edward M. Kennedy, Democrats united Saturday night to push historic health care legislation past a key Senate hurdle over the opposition of Republicans eager to inflict a punishing defeat on President Barack Obama. There was not a vote to spare.

The 60-39 vote cleared the way for a bruising, full-scale debate beginning after Thanksgiving on the legislation, which is designed to extend coverage to roughly 31 million who lack it, crack down on insurance company practices that deny or dilute benefits and curtail the growth of spending on medical care nationally.

The spectator galleries were full for the unusual Saturday night showdown, and applause broke out briefly when the vote was announced. In a measure of the significance of the moment, senators sat quietly in their seats, standing only when they were called upon to vote.

In the final minutes of a daylong session, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Republicans of trying to stifle a historic debate the nation needed.

"Imagine if, instead of debating whether to abolish slavery, instead of debating whether giving women and minorities the right to vote, those who disagreed had muted discussion and killed any vote," he said.

The Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said the vote was anything but procedural — casting it as a referendum on the bill itself, which he said would raise taxes, cut Medicare and create a "massive and unsustainable debt."

At least we are going to get a debate. Compare that to the last time the health care system of this country was changed in a way which truly benefited the patients, and you have to go back almost fifty years, to the beginning of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Even with all that is wrong with the reform proposals (and much is wrong with them), to even have such proposals is worth a little optimism. President McCain would never have introduced health care reform (because you can afford health care if you can afford five houses).

So yes, I'm pleased to see these news. I'm also furious about the way women's health care needs are treated. But the underlying reason for that despicable treatment is not just cowardly or calculating politicians. The real reason is that a large number of Americans do believe in women's second-class status. Christian fundamentalists are quite explicit on that score. Anyone spending time on the Internet finds that anonymity breeds expressed contempt towards women, that there are many more avid misogynists than one might have guessed in those innocent pre-Net times, and that even various types of humanitarians or lefties often turn hesitant when women's issues crop up.

All this means that the work I do on this blog is still needed, though of course it feels like an ant trying to lever off a mountain.