It was a very partisan car I was riding in. I fantasize about having cocktails with FDR over his stamp collection. The driver sitting next to me wishes he lived next to the Bush family, so he could mow their grass when they are out of town. The House was debating health care reform in Washington, DC, and we were debating health care on I-35, north of Oklahoma City.
Our discussion in the car was painful. Sometimes I had to send my focus across the southbound half of the interstate, to the Oklahoma pine trees wearing late spring snow. Or I would see a nest in a tree and say to myself, hmmm, there’s a nest.
It was not easy to sit through the discussion. Maybe the cancer histories of various relatives were invoked. Maybe someone suggested that people who love European ways so much should go live there. I absolutely did not endorse Cuban dictatorships or mob-fueled economic revolutions. In fact, I joked about Cuba and coup d’etats. Jokes, especially self-deprecating jokes, are an antidote for poison that creeps into conversation.
What saved us was that it’s hard to hate a Republican when he’s driving you in his car on a fabulous road trip. And it’s hard to hate a Democrat when she just sneaked downstairs to the hotel lobby to buy you a bag of peanut M & Ms (your favorite). Also, I kept reminding my pounding, impassioned heart that no one had a gun to my head. Breathe deeply. It’s just politics.
Health care reform is almost a miracle. I was so afraid, so many times, that fear would win. We can’t find the money. We can’t try a new way. It will only get worse. We can’t let the government have more power. They mess everything up. We are too poor now. Health care will bankrupt us. I do believe this will be difficult to pay for. My insurance and health care costs are a significant expense. They would be an impossible expense if I had a serious illness or lost my job, however.
It is also impossible to know what any complex government program will cost– we have merely projections based on theories. But we will adjust. We are tough. We are cowboys. We have rearranged and held together Medicare and Social Security with duct tape. We have cut up welfare and sewn it back together. Not because it was easy or cheap. Because the value of a human being is not tied to her financial solvency, or her health. Because we want to protect our greatest asset: our people, and their muscle and creativity. They aint no good to us when they’re ailing!
I have to admit that later, when I saw the 6:20 pm update on the internet, I actually danced around my bedroom and made up a song about Nancy Pelosi and Obama and Rahm Emmanuel. None of them have easy names to rhyme, let me tell you.
Health care reform is almost a miracle to me. A real honest-to-God miracle, all partisanship aside, is being able to discuss controversial political issues in a moving car without anyone screaming, jumping out, or bursting into tears. A real miracle requires the strength to listen when your mouth wants to whip the other person’s argument senseless.
What if it even ended with people saying, “I love you anyway”? Let me assure you: it happens.