“Of all forms of inequality,” said Martin Luther King, “injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” We need a world that works better for all, not just some. And I know that the way there involves figuring out so many details. But this is not a time to peck our vision of a better America to death with an endless number of “how” questions. How this, how that. You can stall anything by demanding to know every detail up front. In the case of health care reform, the answer to how is YES. We need to take advantage of this historic opportunity to create real change to the status quo. The answer is YES.
But we face tremendous obstacles. Reminds me of an old story by Aesop, about a man and his son taking a donkey to market. Didn’t matter what they did, they did it wrong. Bystanders screaming at them. Mocking and jeering. Don’t let the donkey go without a rider—what’s a donkey for, but to ride upon? The boy shouldn’t ride while his father walks—it’s disrespectful! The father shouldn’t ride—what about his poor little son? Scoffing and jeering like this. By this time the boy and his father don’t know what to do—they are besides themselves. They try something different—both ride the donkey—but the complaints still come: this time they are being cruel to animals. The boy and his father think hard—how can we make sure that no one is going to be dissatisfied by what we do? And then the solution hits them. They cut down a pole, tie the donkey’s feet to it, raise the pole and the donkey to their shoulders, start walking. When they get to the Market Bridge, the donkey gets one of his feet loose, kicks out and causes the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle, the donkey falls over the bridge, and because his forefeet are tied together, he drowns. Please all, and you will please none.
I’m thinking about this story today. We need to bring quality, affordable health care to market. We need to get it safely across the Market Bridge, get it there all in one piece, don’t allow ourselves to go to crazy lengths to please everyone, don’t allow ourselves to be dismayed or discouraged by bystanders along the way who are saying one thing and then saying another thing. Blue dog Democrats who criticize the public health insurance option, even though this is truly the tactic that will create the most change and challenge the greed of the medical-industrial complex. Then there’s the right-wing propaganda machine—screamers on talk radio and Fox News—spewing out lies about death panels and government take-overs and how reform is going to ruin the economy and mortgage our country’s financial future. And then there’s the gullibility of people who believe the lies. All of these represent bystanders telling President Obama and telling the Democrats that that they are doing it wrong. But it’s the Democrats who are wanting to get that donkey to market. Leaders in this country have been trying to get that donkey for almost a hundred years now. And now is the time.
Clearly, health care reform—especially with the public option—is not going to please everyone. It’s absolutely not going to please Republicans and right wingers who care more about ruining Obama and galvanizing their party than doing the right thing. It’s absolutely not going to please insurance companies who speak out of both sides of their mouths, saying that they want to ensure a competitive market but then refusing to see how the public option will do just that. My prayer is that we don’t fall all over ourselves to please these groups. Got to love them—they are children of God like we are. But we have to be strong in our resolve. We have to bring that donkey straight to market. Get it across Market Bridge safely. The answer to how is YES. We need a world that works better for all, not just some. Let our prayer be for God to strengthen our leaders, strengthen the moral vision in them to do the right thing. May they be undistracted. May they be undaunted. Though screamers surround them and cast frightening visions of how the world will end if health care reform with the public option is passed, may they be calm and confident. Calm and confident. Let it be so.