A few weeks ago I decided I would allow myself only one news story to get upset about. There isn’t enough time in my day to work myself into as many frenzies as I am capable of. So I chose to Stand with the Sisters, the nuns who are bearing up with such grace under the bishops’ unseemly prosecution of them. The bishops are all men who have probably not even spoken to a woman in 50 years.
When I decided to begin reading the entire works of Shakespeare, my preoccupation with the nun story shrunk to pre-Internet, if not bucolic standards. Then we got the announcement that there would be an announcement about the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act hereafter known as the Obama Cares Act. I had been dreading the day that the ruling was to come down. Last Thursday morning I didn’t want to open the computer at all-didn’t even want to get out of bed- but I have a responsibility to my Scrabble partners.
When I got on Facebook to play Scrabble, I saw the post of a friend who shall go unnamed because she guards her FB privacy in ways that I don’t pretend to understand so I’d best take no chances. The post said, “We can have our broccoli and eat it, too.”
“Oh my god!” I thought. “I don’t believe it!” I raced to the New York Times to read the full story. I was stunned. The Supreme Court upheld the A.C.A. pretty much as it was written.
In case you don’t know, the broccoli comment was an allusion to Antonin Scalia’s famously fatuous argument against the individual mandate in the A.C.A, the bit where all Americans are required to have health insurance just like all drivers must have car insurance:
“Can the federal government make you buy broccoli?” he asked.
What is it with these guys and broccoli anyway? George Bush maligned it, and Scalia is afraid he might be forced to have it in his grocery bag, hobnobbing with the lemons he must regularly eat.
In any case, this country has finally taken a step toward doing something about our abysmal health care situation and a lot of us feel relieved. That relief would have kept me afloat all day on Thursday but there was a comic short to accompany the major feature. Shortly after the ruling came down, Facebook and Twitter exploded with the outrage of people who were not happy with the ruling. They were, en masse it seemed, all non-ironically moving to Canada to get away from this stupid, socialist country. Canada. Which has had publicly funded medical care since 1966.
Now that I’ve gotten all that out of my system, I’ll get to my larger point, something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve listened to people expressing their opinions about the law. To some folks, it’s signaling the end of the world: Obama is finished. The Dems will never get back the house after this. This law now guarantees a nanny state. It will bankrupt us. I don’t want to have to pay for your contraception. From other perspectives: Finally I can get some decent insurance. The Constitution, the States, and the People won! Yay for America!
What struck me was how certain we all are of what we think this ruling will mean for us as individuals, for our state, for the country, for our standing in the world. We are all. so. sure. Guarantees are what we go looking for when the anxiety is overwhelming. We’ve never done anything quite like this in our country so it’s uncharted territory. Adam Philips who I like to read when I think the world is coming to an end, says we are all experts when it comes to experiences we haven’t had.
Up until now, with such expensive but lousy insurance as I’ve had, I have known I was screwed. This health care ruling signals an experience I haven’t had. There’s a long way to go before all the wrinkles are ironed out and the country actually experience any changes, good or bad. Meantime I am optimistic. Now excuse me, I’ve got broccoli on the stove.