In the aftermath of the very unexpected decision upholding the constitutionality of the law commonly referred to as “Obamacare” I have frankly enjoyed the spectacle of conservatives gnashing their teeth and acting as if the Mayan December 2012 doomsday prophecy had come early. My overall favorite reaction exemplifying a supreme ignorance of world are the conservatives proclaiming their intentions to leave the United States since “socialized medicine” was going to be allowed and move to say Canada, Costa Rica, or Australia. Of course, the joke is on them being that for decades all three of those countries have had some form of the very health care system that sends tremors of cold terror down their backs.
There is a bit of a quandary though in my observations that generally defies any explanation of logical, or dare I write, rational behavior. Since my wife is an attorney I have the opportunity to view her white-collar professional world many times and while it is chalked full of its own special and unique nuts nothing beats the blue-collar types I have worked around all my life.
Since I left college back in 1992 I have carried around in one form or another the sanctimonious title of “electronic technician” when in fact I am closer to a bruised knuckle wrench turner. Do not get me wrong, I cannot complain because in terms of salary I am doing pretty good and have the added benefit of actually enjoying my job. Would I like to be making heaps of money as a professional author? You bet your ass but I would also like to win the lotto but I am not holding my breath on either ever coming true.
Nevertheless, I have spent the last twenty years listening to a vast majority of my fellow blue-collar types complaining about both the falling standard of health care and the exploding costs of a simple visit to the doctor’s office to the financial ruin associated with sudden illnesses or traumas. Each and every one of these people understood the pre-Obamacare combination of employer sponsored health insurance along with the laissez-faire attitude of many that for various reasons was leaving tens of millions of Americans without any health coverage was not working.
The last thing I want to do is offend anyone but from my point of view watching these people bitch and moan about the health care problem but resist any attempt to fix the issue to the point some call for armed insurrection is sub-moronic behavior to me. The most unconscionable conduct comes from those who have some form of health care and simply do not give a damn about anyone else, all they truly care about is that their premiums stay manageable. While they might have some empathy for their next-door neighbor a stranger and his or her family are shit out of luck if they have to deal with a pre-existing condition, sudden devastating illness, or simply cannot afford health care for some reason.
I would be wrong not to point out those dedicated American individualists of varying forms who chose not have health insurance figuring the emergency room is always open along with others whose lifestyles make them poster children for cancer and heart disease. The committed maverick who chafes at the idea of anyone telling them what to do and the fast food connoisseur for whom a daily Big Mac and gallon of soda are rights guaranteed by the Constitution are both candidates for the annual Darwin awards because of their stupidity. Now if both these types were willing to forgo emergency medical care and do what former-congressman Alan Greyson said was the republican solution to the health care issue (Die Quickly) when their behaviors finally caught up with them everything might even out. The problem there is that both the proud individualist and the fast food connoisseur usually have a health care coming to Jesus moment and realize they want to live when suddenly faced with their own mortality.
Now considering all of this, I am happy to state that I have personally seen how an old and purposely ignorant and narrow-mined individual can learn from their mistakes and change. All it took in this case was a loaded shotgun.
This story begins the day I entered college way back in August of 1990. Yes, it was a glorified community college with a student body primarily made up of freshly graduated high school kids who had been given the choice by some parent over the summer of getting in the fast food career field or going back to school. A minority of the students were adults like me returning to school to drink from the educational waters of higher learning. I had just finished a four-year enlistment in the active army but others were single moms looking for a better chance for themselves and family, a few old congers desperate for a new, non-backbreaking career, and then there was Ben.
I had the misfortune to be sitting next to Ben in the main auditorium during orientation. As the different department heads informed the new students about the nature of our community college Ben began a running commentary on how they looked and acted on stage. The comments were meant to be humorous and for Ben, he believed himself to be a laugh riot, for me I was mildly irritated at his incessant talking but being a former soldier I had the ability to tune out his country bumpkin-inspired diatribe.
Much to my surprise I soon found out that Ben was going to be a fixture in my life because, like me, he was enrolled in the electronic technician curriculum. Making matters even funnier in an attempt to get to know the guy better I found out he was a born-again, redneck, Bible thumper with political views that placed him on the far right-wing of American politics even in 2012 terms. Ben especially despised welfare which he believed was something close to criminal since it took hard earned money from those with “real jobs” and gave it to lazy bums. He actually used much stronger, racially inspired terms but I will not go down that route. Since my objective was to earn an associate’s degree so I could get a decent job, I quickly learned to get along with the guy in an attempt to avoid trouble.
The one thing that pushed me to the limit was that since he lived in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, directly along my daily driving route between home and school. Not really owning a dependable car he offered me five bucks a week to catch a ride to and from the campus. Needless to say, I said yeah, but he did not ride with me for very long. About two months later, I got a curious phone call from his wife one day saying he was dropping out of the electronics course and that he would not be riding with me anymore.
Fast forward to my final semester in March of 1992 Ben returned to school and it was clear why he had suddenly dropped out. As Ben approached me in the hallway, I noticed he had a severe limp and since he was wearing shorts, I soon saw the reason why. Ben was sporting a massive array of scar tissue on his right leg that made him look like he had gotten in a fight with some sort of shredder. See what happened was that a couple days before I received the phone call from his wife Ben had been driving his daddy’s truck down a bumpy dirt road with a loaded shotgun sitting on the seat next him. One inconveniently placed bump allowed the shotgun to go off leaving his right leg barely attached to his body. I was not particularly happy to see the guy given his attitudes but as he further explained his situation it was clear he was a significantly changed man.
Before Ben almost shot off his leg, he worked primarily as a construction laborer for close to minimum wage and without any health benefits. After his sudden, massive, and idiotic injury, it was food stamps that kept his family from starving and Medicaid that paid most of his hospital and rehabilitation bills. Having to jump through so many hoops for the aid changed his mind about government health care and the usefulness of programs like welfare. While far from joining the liberal/progressive cause, he no longer thought such programs were commie inspired attempts to overthrow America. Even this modified and reformed Ben was still too obnoxious for me and luckily, because of our different schedules, I never had to deal with the guy again. But, I could not help but think that maybe God does work in mysterious ways.