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Enterprise damagedThis week, Health Care Reform was, at long last, signed into to law in America.  While this particular episode of tomorrow’s History Channel took over a year to film, the final cut is going to play like a great Star Trek episode.  
 
Fan or not, we all know the characters and we all know the situation will eventually be desperately grim, and the chances of survival will be infinitesimal at best.  This moment comes when a Klingon Bird of Prey suddenly de-cloaks and sends a Scott Brown proton torpedo, along with some well placed laser fire, right into the unshielded hull of a caught-off-guard Enterprise. 
 
Federation President Obama himself happens to be on board and as a Commander-in-Chief that had proven himself worthy of battle in the past, he takes charge from the Captain.  He immediately calls for “shields up” but the damage is already done and it is immense. With the red alert now blaring on all decks, panic breaks out among some of the crew.  But the President remains unfazed, he has his Vulcan half to thank for his temperament, and his logic. The damage report reveals breaches on many decks. 
 
They had started this mission with a skeleton crew and already had barely enough bodies to man the 216 stations it would take to arrive at their planned destination.  The first crew count was sketchy, roughly 200, it was impossible to tell how many were lost for good and how many simply lost their way in the smoke-filled chaos.  Warp drive was lost and there was heavy damage to the weapons stations.  The crew was losing hope, they started to give up.  But with his uncanny ability to feel their pulse , President Obama’s very human core takes over and he opens the comm channel to all decks. He talks with passion, his words bring about a calm amidst the turmoil, he reminds every soul on board of their mission, he reminds them all why they signed up and how each of them promised themselves they would act in the face of insurmountable odds, he reminds them of pride, honor, dignity … and sacrifice. Always a student of history, he invokes Lincoln to paint the strongest stroke,  ”we are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.” 
 
The comm starts crackling with chatter, the voices of the crew thought lost to the carnage start checking in. Engineering reports they will have warp drive up shortly, the weapons systems start coming online, and all stations are now manned, with three souls to spare.  The Enterprise is back in the fight! 
 
You know the rest, President Barack Obama makes his rendezvous with history.  He and his crew are granted a brief reprieve to reconstitute themselves in a fragile sanctuary. He and his crew boldly go where no president has gone before… 
 
But just as the climactic ending starts to wear off and our pulse returns to normal, we hear that oh-so-familiar refrain, “Stay tuned for clips from next week’s episode.”  And I must say, it looks like one heck of a scary ride.
 
The Klingons are mad as hell, turmoil and dissent are spreading on the home-world. The escape of the Enterprise from their clutches has damaged the very essence of the Klingon empire, their pride. They have broken into family factions, and while they have all been part of the Federation of Planets for some time now, they have always loathed the weakness of the Federation’s current leadership and their constant strive to pursue social justice and equality.  In a Klingon mind, war is always the right answer, sheer brawn triumphs all, compromise is forbidden, and the weakness exemplified by mercy and compassion is a plague that must be contained at all costs. 
 
From the hallowed high council floor, a bellicose Brigadier Boehner incites his home-world, vowing to fight the Federation’s agenda tooth and nail in the halls of power, every step of the way.  He calls them liars, he calls them corrupters, he calls them thieves of Klingon treasure, he admonishes them on every front imaginable. 
 
But one of the families that make up the empire, a family that has been slowly growing in strength, doesn’t think words are enough.  This family had tried to organize around a matriarch in the beginning, a simpleton from the northern lands named Commander Palin, she was launched to prominence when Admiral McCain surprised everyone by announcing her as his second-in-command during his failed bid to become President of the Federation, but she had thus far refused to completely take the reins, although she did leave the door open in case future events would dictate such a move could serve her own self interests.  So instead of a tight knit family with purpose and direction, it was more like a headless monster, wobbling along, with family members of lower standing and recognition trying their best to seize control through tactics of fear and terror.  
 
Fanatical nobodies start crawling out of the woodwork in the vacuum of power, riling up the mob mentality with talk of militia, revolution and weaponry.  The sting of defeat started to allow the tone of defiance to evolve into the actions of treachery. The division of idealism saw the chasm grow wider. 
 
How will things turn out?   Will the President and his crew be able to withstand the confrontations they are sure to face on their perilous trek back home though hostile territory?  Will their precious cargo survive the trip?  Will the Federation stand?  Will the Klingons acknowledge the possibility of an alternate path to a better mutual future?
 
Stay tuned to find out!
 
Now that I’ve had some fun taking creative license to blur the lines of fiction and fact, and I got to have a little chuckle inside from the images in my mind of Rep. John Boehner with tussled hair and crooked teeth, launching spittle as he rants , or Sen. McCain with long flowing hair and a moustache, or Sarah Palin (sorry,  I don’t know what title to give her these days, adventurer, author, huntress, commentator, wilderness girl, almost-full-term-governor, Tea Partier?) with protruding skeletal features on her forehead, and of course the hint of those points on our President’s formidable ears,  I do want to make sure that the message itself  is not taken lightly.
 
The sad truth is, there really are misguided fanatics out there like Mike Vanderboegh, a self-proclaimed revolutionary militia leader, part of a small group of lunatics that seem to be gathering on the fringe of the Tea Party movement.  It’s not a rumor mind you, I heard his words myself in this interview
 
Somewhere along the line, these geniuses jumped the tracks from the righteous fight of our Revolution for Independence from a real tyrant, and landed on another track of our history, the Civil War.  You know, only one of the darkest pages of our past that saw American brothers dying at the hands of one another.  
 
He actually said their ranks comprise of 3% of America’s gun owners, 3 million muzzles that can be pointed at the hearts of tyrants, and he actually advocates getting good and prepared to do just that! 
 
Well, I’ve got news for Mr. Vanderboegh, 3% is not a very mighty number when your talking about a slice of pie.  When a person threatens to take aim at the heart of another citizen because they failed to have the majority voice in a civilized democracy, it is not tyrant-hunting, it’s treason, and I know how America will respond.  I just hope they skip a few chapters to the back of the book on the Civil War and see how it ends before they go and do something stupid. 
 
Just to help them along, America has fought on this ground before.  The Union, the banner under which the federal government fought, was led by a noble man by the name of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican I might add, and they fought for the ideals of equality and social justice that still define our nation today.  The Confederacy, a band of 11 Southern states that declared secession from the Union, was the enemy of that government, but their undoing proved to be numbers, Southern “Unionist” armies formed in every Confederate state, sapping the strength of the Confederacy from within.  So if you and your cohorts really want to tread this dangerous ground Mr. Vanderboegh, I advise you to take a good look at the size of the piece of pie in your hand, because I assure you, I’m not the only one that would stand in opposition with the ability to  snuff out a candle at 100 yards. 
 
But let’s be wise enough not to repeat that dark chapter of history, shall we?  Today’s America is better than that.
 
  
***Donations and/or writing jobs greatly welcomed, you name it, I’ll write it!  :)
Fiery Obama“The character of our country.”  With those words the final line on the health care debate was drawn in the sand by President Barack Obama at a raucous, campaign-style rally on the Friday before history would be decided.  
 
After over a year of heated debate, after over a year of enduring every dirty trick in the book thrown his way by a desperate opposition trying to frame health care reform as a vehicle to socialism, bankruptcy, or worse, Barack Obama rekindled the fire that launched him to the highest office in the land and captivated the entire globe in the process.  Yes, the Barack Obama that made millions of disillusioned Americans stand up and believe in “Yes We Can” again was back, front and center!
 
For a man with a slight frame and narrow shoulders, he proved without a doubt that what you see can be quite deceiving. On this day he heaved the Democratic party, and a nation spiraling to disaster, right up onto his back and proved that his sinewy limbs may very well be able to tote the load right across the finish line to a victory of historic proportions.
 
The character of our country, that is what is being decided Sunday for the world to see.  I’m reminded of a powerful scene in the movie A Few Good Men.  Two Marines were on trial for following a “Code Red” hazing order from a superior officer that left one of their fellow, weaker Marines dead.  When all was said and done and it was proven that the two were following a direct order, a basic principle they were trained to adhere to without hesitation or question, they were still charged with conduct unbecoming and discharged from their service.  Baffled, one of the Marines turned to the other and asked why they were still being discharged, it had just been proven that they were simply following orders, just as they were supposed to.  The other Marine thought about it and said, “we didn’t do what a Marine is supposed to do, we didn’t stand up for the little guy.” 
 
That is, and always must be, the character of our nation.  That is the code our selfless men and women in uniform embody.  That is the code of our American character, the character that leads us to fight tyranny and oppression wherever it is found, be it on our own home soil or far away lands.  That is the character of our American ideals and it is what makes us the beacon of hope the world turns to for guidance and support in trying times and the example by deed we hope they will follow.  That is the character that every legislator granted the privilege to carry our voice to the halls of power must always strive to adhere to.
 
The opposition to health care reform is a formidable force.  They use their constitutional right of free speech to give an amplified voice to despicable vermin like Rush Limbaugh, a man so pitiful he used his pulpit to denigrate an eleven year old boy that chose to take up the banner of his now-dead-mother and carry her voice to the battle at hand. 
 
Or another blight on humanity like Glenn Beck, a disgusting man that uses his soap box to preach the same kind of wretched fundamentalism that culminated in four ghastly fireballs exploding into our collective consciousness on September 11th 2001.  What noble purpose can he possibly hope to serve by waving around the swastika of Nazism, or the hammer and sickle of Communism, symbols that still instill nothing more than fear and hatred? What kind of person uses the imagery of tyranny and oppression as the tools of progress other than those our collective American character has always chosen to fight against, and defeated, time and time again?
 
That is not the imagery we need to paint, it does not speak to our character and it certainly doesn’t speak to the very real suffering that millions of hard working American families are enduring each and every day, with their legions growing by the minute .  If you want imagery to encapsulate the true magnitude of the choice before us, imagine the coffins of those that could have been saved, imagine their grieving families putting those coffins in the ground, torn apart by the anguish of losing a loved one. Imagine the family that’s living in their car because they chose to save their child instead of keeping their home. Now imagine if it was your own family bearing that cross. Now that would be more appropriate imagery.
 
So today I ask every legislator with our future in their hands to ask themselves the real underlying question and look past the theatrics and chicanery meant to befuddle and confuse, to look past the flawed logic that is being trumpeted from the mountaintops to cause paralyzing fear.  I ask them and every American to look at this vote and choose if they are willing to strengthen the character of our great land, or unravel it.  I ask every legislator not to look at the future though the lens of their own career, but through the lens of little guy that needs their help.  I ask them to show the strength and courage it takes to fight for what’s right, and the fortitude and resolve to see it through to the finish.
 
The character of our county is at stake right now. There are not many alive today that were around when this fight started.  Will our children and theirs perish before we show the true colors of our character and do what’s right?  Or will we help our President tote this mighty load across the finish line as early as tomorrow and start a new chapter in the history books?
 
Yes, the character of our country, that is the question at hand.
The Road ForwardIt seems that many Americans tune right out when they see another story about health care these days, so I’m not going to make this a story about health care.  Instead,  I’m going tell you a tale about a dream and two buses.  I hope it delivers the point I feel compelled to make.
 
It’s like I’m trapped in a dream, a dream so vivid and real I find myself questioning if I’m awake or asleep. It starts with me finding myself crammed in a crowded bus terminal with scores of other Americans waiting for a bus, any bus, to arrive at last.  We’ve been huddled together for the last fifty years, watching one bus after another just pass the terminal right on by, but now, finally,  after the eternal wait, two buses pull in together, but neither is marked. 
 
Desperate to leave the station, I spring to my feet to go ask the bus drivers what their destinations are.  I’m filled with hope that this miserable way station will soon be behind me once and for all. 
 
So I approach the first bus. It’s old, dusty and dented and has obviously seen a lot of hard miles.
 
I climb on and pose my question to the driver, “What’s your destination?”  The driver sets his beaten cap back on his head and says, “This bus is on the road to a new beginning. You should know before deciding on which bus to take that on this bus there are going to be many stops along the way, there will be bumps and potholes, curves and traffic.  This bus is always crowded, we’ve got nurses and mechanics, teachers and plumbers.  We’ve got hard working couples and single parents,  we’ve got seniors and students, and a whole bunch in between, all of them doing what they can to make ends meet. Since there are so many that need to ride this bus, the fare will be what you can afford and no one will be turned away. I should also tell you that we will be stopping for anyone broken down on the side of the road and offer them assistance or even a lift.  If we happen to break down along the way ourselves, we’ve got all the tools with us we could possibly need to fix any problem that arises, but we will be asking everyone on board to work together to get us back on the road and you may have to get your hands dirty. Our destination is the journey itself – we’re going that way my friend.”  He points his calloused finger through the grit covered windshield and adds with a smile, “forward.”  Not knowing what to think, I thank him and climb off for the other bus.
 
This bus is different, this bus is shiny and clean.  This bus looks sleek and fast. This bus not only has a driver, but a tour guide with a microphone sitting right behind him.  This bus has air conditioning and little plasma TVs on the back of every wide, comfortable seat. This bus is really, really nice. 
 
So I pose the same question to the driver, “What’s your destination?”  This driver doesn’t answer the question, he just shrugs and points over his shoulder to the tour guide holding the microphone and says, “don’t ask me, I’m just the driver, the guy with the mic tells me where to go.” 
 
Mr. Microphone takes his cue and starts his well polished pitch, “Welcome friend, you’ve come to the right bus.  I heard you ask where this bus goes, well, that’s the beauty of it, this is an express-liner that is going exactly where we know you want it to go.  There will be no stops along the way, no delays, no traffic and you will feel like you are driving on air. We mainly cater to captains of industry, CEOs and leaders of business, so there is plenty of elbow room and we have spared no tax dollar to guarantee a comfortable and enjoyable ride for our select clientele. Our fare is simple and affordable, only one crisp, new, three dollar bill.  If you don’t happen to have one, have no fear, we will gladly sell you one for five dollars. Should we experience any unexpected trouble on our journey, you will be comforted to know help is just a cell call away, I have the best cell phone money can buy right here.  We will have a highly skilled team on the spot in no time and be right on our way. If you want to arrive in style, this is really the only choice.”
 
That’s all I needed to hear.  After 50 years in a crowded room with stale air, only one word popped in my head and just as quickly escaped from my lips, “Sold!”  I reached into my pocket and found four singles and enough change to make five because I certainly didn’t have a three dollar bill. It’s all I had left, but this was going to be well worth it.  It was a meager price to pay for such comfort and luxury.
 
As I made my way to my window seat, I was pleased that no one had sat down next to me when I heard the hiss of the doors closing.  I looked around and counted six other people, well dressed professional types, all sitting relaxed and in comfort.  From my seat I had a view of the other bus and had spent the last few minutes mesmerized by the chaos.  So many people were trying to squeeze in, there were kids running around, and they had a devil of a time trying to get an older gentleman in a wheelchair up and onto the bus.  But the driver I spoke to was on the case and had a few husky men from the bus get out and help lift him in.
 
Their bus got on the road before ours.  We were still getting a speech from Mr. Microphone detailing all the frills available to us, champagne, sparkling water, roasted duck, filet mignon, and 4 spacious bathrooms for the seven of us.  Our seats could fold open into beds and there was even a Swedish masseuse available at no charge.  Ahh, this was the life.
 
I was so comfortable and relaxed, I must have dozed off, but I was awakened by Mr. Microphone and felt the bus starting to slow down.  “If you were wondering if you made the right choice choosing our line, let me draw your attention to the roadside just up ahead.” 
 
There was the other bus, broken down on the side of the road. They had blown a tire and caused some damage to the underside.  We had slowed to a crawl so everyone was sure to have a good look at what they were missing.  I noticed a few passengers getting the spare, another working the jack and the mechanic I had met at the terminal sliding under to see what he could do.  The teacher was leading the children in a game to occupy them and the nurse was caring for the elderly gentleman in the wheelchair that seemed to be having difficulty in the desert heat. 
 
“Shouldn’t we stop to help?”, I asked. 
 
Mr. Microphone took on an arrogant tone and said,”This is an express, remember?  We don’t stop for anything or anyone.  They made their choice and picked that bus, and now they are just going to have to live with it.  I consider it a lesson well learned for the next time they face the choice.”
 
I felt dirty and cheap, but there was nothing I could do.  I couldn’t go back to sleep after that.  I just found myself thinking about those people stuck in the hot sun and I started connecting some dots about what Mr. Microphone had said earlier.  I hadn’t spent one second applying any kind of thought when he was originally making his pitch to me about this wonderful bus, I was too blinded by all the bells and whistles, and I was too eager to get the hell out of that terminal at along last. I began to feel genuine fear wash over me. How do they know where I want to go without ever asking?  How could the seven of us be trying to get to the same place if we are from such obviously different stations in life? 
 
Just then came a loud bang, quickly followed by the familiar rat-tat-tat of a blown tire.  Our bus veered out of control and went off the road, nose first into a ditch and came to a jarring halt.  Everyone seemed to be physically OK, but very angry none the less.  These passengers were not used to inconvenience and it showed.
 
“Don’t worry people, we’ll be out of this in no time, I’m just going to make a call,” bellowed Mr. Microphone with his amplified voice.  He dialed and held the phone to his ear.  A frustrated look flashed on his face and he hung up and tapped the keys again, only to have the same look on his face with a tinge of panic creeping in this time.  He held the phone higher, nothing. He went outside and tried again, same routine and the same look, anger added this time.
 
When Mr. Microphone re boarded the bus, he tried to put on the calmest look he could, “I don’t seem to be able to get a signal out here in the middle of the desert.”  This was bad – this was really bad, and we all knew it.
 
After a few tumultuous hours, panic and anger had a solid grip on all of us.  There was not enough food or water for this delay.  There was no help in sight and all other emotions were quickly turning to rage.  My fellow passengers, new to calamity and desperation,  were coming apart at the seams. 
 
Just when all hope was almost extinguished, there was a faint sound getting louder.  The steady, rhythmic beat of an old engine was heading our way.  It was the other bus and they were coming to a stop right behind us.  The driver stepped out and came tapping on the glass doors.  “You seem to be in quite a pickle, what can we do to help?”
 
“Do you have  a cell phone I could use to call for some help?”, Mr. Microphone asked, somewhat humbled by what he had been through for the better part of a miserable day. 
 
“Don’t carry one, everyone knows there is not a reliable signal out here,” chuckled the driver,  “we’ve picked up quite a few troubled souls stuck out here in the desert already, so I don’t have enough room for all of you, but let me see what I can do to help.”  
 
With that he disappeared back to his bus.  I could barely hear him trying to get his passengers to settle down so he could explain the situation. After a few minutes that were inaudible to me, the doors to his bus swung open again and he stepped off  onto the parched earth below.  But this time he was not alone.  One by one, every able-bodied passenger on board filed out behind him, and there were a lot of them.
 
The mechanic had a look and determined that the stranded bus could still drive if they changed the tire and got it out of the ditch.  The other bus driver started forming groups and telling them what to do.  As the mob circled us, you could sense nervousness from the pampered elite that I had shared my journey with so far, but not one uttered even a single peep of protest.  The way the bus was perched in the ditch, the mechanic didn’t even need a jack to change the tire and did so in a flash.  Then I heard the bus driver in a loud baritone voice, “One…two…three…LIFT !” It felt like the earth started moving. One back breaking inch by back breaking inch, the bus leveled out and when he finally called for everyone to drop it, you could tell we were back on even ground.
 
The driver came back to the door dripping with sweat and said, “There you are, all ready to go, enjoy your trip folks, make it a safe one.”  With that he waved his hand and called for his passengers to get back on their bus.
 
When Mr. Microphone said, “See folks, nothing to worry about, I told you I would get us out of here,” I almost threw up, what arrogance, what gall. I knew I had to get off this bus, I knew I didn’t belong here.  So, I snatched up my things and bolted for the door, not even saying goodbye.
 
I ran to the bus behind us and pounded on the door, just as the the driver started it up.  “I want to ride with you, can you take me with you?”  He cracked the door and said smiling, “I think we can make room for one more, how much of a fare can you afford to pay?”  An electric shock pummeled my system when I heard those words, I had given everything I had left in my pocket for the other ride.  “I gave the other driver everything I had left,” I said with a quivering voice. 
 
“I told you back at the station, no one will ever be turned away, climb on and find a seat.” the driver said with a knowing nod.
 
With that I started a new journey.  Maybe it wasn’t going to be a journey of comfort and convenience, but I did have peace of mind and I knew that on this bus I would never have the sick feeling in my stomach as we drove by troubled souls without bothering ourselves to stop and assist.  I also knew that I would never find myself stuck in a desert all alone with no one there to hear a cry for help.  Everything we could possibly need to make the journey forward is already on our bus and if we work together, there is no problem we will not be able to fix along the way.
 
I’m awake now, and I hope you are too, because today is not a dream.  Those two buses are arriving at the station right now. 
 
So keep this in the front of your mind.  It’s not about the divisive rhetoric you’ll hear spewed from a microphone, or the zeal and practiced polish with which it is repetitively delivered, it’s about knowing which driver is content to leave you stranded in the desert and which one won’t be.  It’s about choosing substance over flash and style.  It’s about realizing that it’s the crowded bus filled with fellow Americans from all walks of life that will always allow us to overcome any and all adversity we may face on the twisting, bumpy road that stretches ever forward to the glowing horizon we all instinctively seek.  It’s about which driver will incompetently trust your fate to a missing signal in the desert, and which one will have you trust in each other instead.
 
I hope this will help you choose wisely … but if you don’t, make sure you have a three dollar bill handy, or the ride to nowhere is going to cost you almost double the advertised price.
 
And yes, I lied.  I guess this story is about health care after all. Fifty years of waiting is long enough. 
 
All aboard!
speed limit infinityThere are moments in each our lives that we just know are going to be the snapshots our minds will use to remember important events that must never be forgotten.  Sometimes they are snapshots that are uniquely our own, like watching a child’s first steps, or the first moment you laid eyes on your spouse-to-be and felt the invisible lighting wrack your senses. But sometimes they are snapshots that we all share, like Armstrong’s boot hitting the surface of the moon, the last moments of Kennedy’s life as a sniper’s bullets found their mark, or the still vivid horror of September 11th 2001. 
 
Thursday’s health care summit may very well turn out to be the snapshot of the Obama presidency and a seven hour highlight reel of how the 21st century will see to it that Lincoln’s words remain immortal, that a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
 
I originally envisioned writing a different piece  to recap Thursday’s historic health summit. I thought I would be doing what every pundit does, giving you my own blow-by-blow account of who the winners and losers were in this free-to-view, televised, bipartisan match up that was intended to be a political game of Bridge, not only as a metaphor about closing a divide, but as a game intended to see if opposing parties could be thrust upon each other from across a table, check out the cards they were dealt, and try to work as a team to actually win a hand for the American people.  But, I changed my mind. This turned out to be too important and it deserves to be more than that. I can only hope I can rise to the challenge and find a way to articulate the history that I saw unfold Thursday.
 
I’ll admit it.  When President Obama got in front of the cameras during the most viewed television event in history, this year’s Super Bowl, and presented the challenge to Congress to come together and try to move forward on Health Care Reform legislation, something  that has been held just out of our reach for the last five decades, I thought to myself, finally, here will be a forum to separate the posers from the players.  This will be the chance to for the American people to see if their wishes are truly being represented by those they charged with the task to be their voice.  What I was privileged enough to witness instead was a mechanism of transparency that I hope will be repeated with every major piece of legislation that proves to be so philosophically contentious that our legislators simply can not find a way to build bridge long enough to span an ocean’s divide and put the American people back into the conversation.
 
It was amazing to hear from so many old-time career congressmen and congresswomen that they have never been part of anything like this summit in all their years and that they have never seen this body act so civilly with each other for so long when meeting over a piece of legislation that has such deep party lines drawn in the sand.  Why not?  If they don’t normally behave like the quasi-nobles they want us to think they are, why do they insist on calling each other distinguished?  Now we know they can all walk the walk when the cameras are on, let’s hope they can take this obviously new lesson to budget meetings and the endless hours of debate that are required to build a meaningful consensus and hammer out the details on the things that Americans want and deserve.
 
When President Obama made his opening remarks, he tried to set the tone that would be needed for progress.  He didn’t want it to be another day of focusing on the details that divide, he wanted to focus on the details that both parties seem to embrace, things like the unacceptable practice of allowing pre-existing conditions to be used as a device to deny or drop someone’s coverage, bringing down premiums for everyone, and getting decent, accessible health care for the frustrated legions of hard working Americans and small businesses that have nowhere else to turn for help.
 
But the moment I saw the Republican Whip, Eric Cantor, and Republican Minority Leader, John Boehner, walk into the room risking a hernia by lugging in the 2400 page House and Senate Bill, I knew where this was meeting was going to go.  What I didn’t know is that they would be getting my thanks today.  Thank you for sticking steadfast to your guns and personifying the word “unyielding” from a minority position, thank you for having such an obtuse opinion of the American people that you thought courtroom theatrics would provide the smoke and mirrors needed to misdirect the viewing public from the big white elephant in the room.  Thank you for showing us all your true colors.  Thank you for helping America see the light.  And most of all, thank you for lighting the torches for us on the once dark path to a reconciliation vote that will see the simplest and most ancient tenet of democracy find its bloom, the majority rules.
 
Barack Obama did what great Presidents do, he engaged the American public in the process.  But at the same time, he showed us once again what kind of truly unique enigma he is.  Every time he faces an opponent, they think it’s going to be a cake walk.  Ask Hillary Clinton, or even better, ask John McCain what it is exactly that he is reminded of every day. They all seem to make the mistake of thinking that because he doesn’t engage in the customary chest-pounding we’ve grown accustomed to, they will be able to lead him around like a puppy on leash and have their way.
 
Time and time again he proves to be something else, something I can best describe as a shy matador. I know it’s an oxymoron, after all, there is nothing normally shy about a matador, but it sums up what I see in this man.  Before he get’s into the ring the spectacle has already started, the crowd is already electric with anticipation and it is the matador’s job to take charge of the bull’s final passes.  He has to be on his toes and posses the agility of a feline, he has to use brains before brawn, he has to know when to flash red and instigate a charge, and he has to know when to move and allow the bull’s momentum to offer him a clear shot with his blade that will make the beast’s vulnerable spot his undoing. 
 
After a day of the same tired talking points, his closing statement did exactly that, and more. The look on John Cantor’s face when President Obama, Mr. Hope himself, actually mouthed the words that a compromise may not be able to be reached, you finally saw the dumbfounding realization wash over him that they had blown a perfect opportunity to affect the change they want by choosing theatrics over substance, by distancing themselves from opportunity instead of embracing it.  It was almost as priceless as watching Obama completely baffle John McCain by agreeing with him flat out on the point he was trying to make and turning him into a stuttering mess.
 
In 21st century America, forums like this have got to be made common practice. As everyday Americans rehash Thursday’s events with conversations around the water cooler and kitchen tables, as people ask themselves if they want to put their boat in a ”pool” or a lake, as they grapple with the logic presented by both sides and make an educated determination about what is truly best for themselves, I would be stupefied if there is not substantial movement in the polls, now that a lot of the shadowy mystery has been dragged into the light.  If I’m wrong, I’ll grin and bear it, but if I’m right, I will be delighted and filled with a newfound confidence that we really can take our government back if the doors and windows are wide open for all of us to peer in on the proceedings that decide our future. 
 
If these legislators want to keep saying that America rejects this, or embraces that, at least have the common decency to let us see what’s actually behind door number one and door number two.  I think America is quickly getting sick and tired of making every decision based on whether it is stamped with an R or a D.
 
Everyone agreed that health care must be reformed.  Everyone agreed that our current trajectory is unsustainable.  Now that America finally had a chance to hear everyone’s positions loud and clear, I am confident that we will have a law in place by April and I really do hope that Republicans in Congress can look past their own nose and work across the aisle to represent their constituencies and do their very best to get more of their ideas implemented before they are simply left out of the discussion altogether as Democrats have been 16 out of the 22 times a reconciliation vote has been used in our recent history. 
 
If the majority was really against the bill on the table, as every Republican on Thursday professed, wouldn’t it be President John McCain calling the shots? Obama wasn’t miming his intentions to overhaul the system when stadiums were filled with the hopeful and the entire world tuned in for 2 years of tire kicking and checking under the hood.  And I hope that everyone agrees with the mathematical truth that 51% still constitutes a majority.
 
President Obama will not wait to bring desperately needed relief to struggling Americans because time will not stop for anyone. This moment is too important, this moment decides the future, this moment is in our hands.  It’s time to do the right thing.

Joust

Will tomorrow’s health care summit get the historic attention it deserves?  Will the problems of attainable health care and skyrocketing costs finally be solved?
 
This is going to be an opportunity for more than just Congress to get on the same page, but Main Stream Media (MSM) as well.  It will also be a first look at what real Washington transparency should look like when our fate is decided by a chosen few.
 
Sensationalism and saturation were the guiding principles during the election campaigns, but will this important gathering get the same unbridled attention?  Will MSM be taking names and breaking heads, making anyone that is not at least trying to legitimately move our country forward pay for it the way they crush anyone else that lands on their target list?  Will FOX stay true to form and be against everything uttered from Obama’s mouth, will MSNBC or CNN play their own favorites? Time will soon tell if the word unbiased is the golden rule of news that it should be.
 
If MSM can make Joe the Plumber a household name, I would hope that when our opposing parties converge in Washington to grind out a solution to a problem that has plagued administrations for decades, they will be stepping up to the plate as well.
 
The theatrics have already started.  Some prominent Republicans have already made up their minds that this whole thing is an exercise in futility.  Words like “trap” and “non-starter” have been flying around since President Obama threw down the gauntlet of bipartisanship during the Super Bowl.  Ridiculous issues like whether or not the President can stand at a podium, or must be seated at eye level with the rest of the attendees so as not to have a perceived position of strength (this is our President, right?) are actually topics of battle right now and I find that kind of small minded thinking distressing. I don’t care if they get together at a Denny’s and hash it out over some hash browns and eggs.  I don’t care if it’s done in a big circle around a campfire with everyone sitting Indian style, just get it done and put America first for once.
 
If anyone thinks this is a trap, they don’t have any ideas.  If anyone thinks this is a non-starter unless it starts with a blank page, they are an obstructionist.  Seems pretty simple to me.  Both sides should get over themselves and finally put the American people first instead of any silly partisan point scoring or career maneuvering.  Democrats better go into this thing with an open mind as well, or the repercussions they could suffer in November from the fallout could be severe.  America is tired of the playground antics and if good, tangible ideas to finally end the stalemate come from the Republican corner, Democrats better embrace them.  By the same token, if good, tangible ideas come from the Democratic corner to bridge the divide, the same holds true of the Republicans.  No party can ever be allowed to trump the will of the people and Obama’s election crystallized where the majority of Americans want to go at this moment in time.
 
Any one foolish enough to say America has already spoken and resoundingly rejected health care reform must be living in an alternate plane of  existence where John McCain is their president.  For the rest of us, Thursday is going to be a grand test to see who deserves to be called a legislator and who the imposters are. 
 
I’ll be watching the whole thing tomorrow and I’ll be back on Friday with my own take on who the winners and losers from both factions were.  As long as America isn’t on the loser’s list again, I’ll be one happy clam.
 
See you Friday!
The Lion of the SenateTo the good people of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
 
What an honor.  If you are a resident of Massachusetts, or have been one during the last half century, you are part of one of the greatest legacies that American politics has ever known.  On Tuesday, January 19th, you will get the chance to define that legacy with the power of your vote.
 
For almost 47 years the Lion of the Senate prowled the halls of power making your voice, our voice, heard.  He was a selfless servant of the people, an unyielding warrior fighting for the American ideals that define our nation, and while he was a stalwart Democrat and Liberal, you would often find him reaching across the partisan aisle to move the wheels of history forward.  He was at the forefront on fault-line issues like racial inequality and women’s rights.  He always stood tall for average Americans and made sure our voice was never silenced.  Until his last breath, he never stopped his relentless pursuit of what would be a fitting crowning jewel to a lifetime spent in service of others, health care for each and every American, regardless of our station in life. The world shed tears of respect and admiration as they watched the great Lion roar on in his final days, defying his doctor’s constant reminders that the strain born from his brand of battle could prove fatal, but like any great crusader of the people, his needs were always second to ours.  He touched us all in so many ways that we don’t even realize.  It is this grand legacy that now rests squarely in your hands.
 
The fact that the Lion did not get to witness the dawning of the new day that he dreamed of for decades, to see health care reform finally become a reality, pulls at the heart strings of any patriot, no matter what side of the issue you find yourself on.  It is in our genetic makeup to want to see dreams fulfilled, it is the spark that lights the fire of the American Dream. 
 
On Tuesday, the fate of much more than the political will of the state of Massachusetts is at stake.  On Tuesday you will likely be deciding the fate of health care in America, your health care, my health care and the health care of everyone that you love.  On Tuesday you will either bring the train of progress to a grinding halt, or you will be the ones that finally give the conductor a long awaited whistle, signaling him to give the “all aboard” for this mighty train to leave the station at long last. 
 
Martha Coakley is a fine and capable woman, and I’m sure she will do her level best to do right by you.  I’m also sure that Scott Brown is a fine and capable man that will do his level best to do what he believes to be right by you, but lets not kid ourselves, this election is about something much bigger than both of them put together. Precedent shows us that the chances that either one of these committed individuals will be remembered forever is slim at best.  But, reforming a broken health care system that is on a trajectory to bankrupt our nation and rob so many hard working Americans of their dignity, hope and will to continue WILL live on, making this YOUR chance to be remembered forever.
 
For 47 years you chose the indefatigable Senator Ted Kennedy to be your voice.  Now, he is roaring one more time from beyond for you to take up his greatest cause.  You know you can hear the roar, now you just have to answer the Lion’s call one last time and vote for Martha Coakley on Tuesday.  Ted Kennedy used his life to serve you, it will only take moments of your life to repay that debt in full.  You will also be writing a wondrous new chapter in the history of tomorrow’s America, and for that, the rest of us will be forever in your debt too.
 
So get out there and vote for Martha Coakley on Tuesday, January 19th … and hear the Lion roar … one last time.
Photo by Danilo Rizzuti
Photo by Danilo Rizzuti

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  These are our inalienable rights, laid down in our founding documents.  That pursuit is what led to biggest movement for change seen in our lifetime. That pursuit is what led millions of individuals to get engaged in politics again for the first time in a long time or even for the very first time.  These are the ideals that Barack Obama so eloquently vocalized into our consciousness that inspired that all consuming thirst for change.  I know that’s what happened to me.  I was inspired enough to spend all of my free time for the better part of two years trying to lend my voice to the chorus of a nation that wanted a better future, opening one mind at a time to the possibilities of a more perfect union.  The peace of mind afforded by healthcare, the dignity of a job that pays a living wage and a rekindled moral conscience that the suffering of others makes each of our lives poorer were the cornerstones of that grand movement that I was so happy to be a part of. Now the debate that could finally see one of the central components of that vision realized is upon us, healthcare for all.  This is not the time for silence and complacency, it is a moment that cries for action.

 

I understand the pressures of life. I understand how easy it is to leave things in the hands of others, I too found myself guilty of inaction.  I had a death in the family at the beginning of the year that turned my life from calm into chaos and I laid down my pen, but after a lot of soul searching and contemplation on just how fickle the spark of life can be, I’ve been reinvigorated to add my two cents worth on what far too many people are overlooking in the health care debate before us, the true cost of sickness and death. 

 

Dollars and cents can be debated from now until the end of time, but in the long run it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  Sickness doesn’t play favorites.  Wealth doesn’t buy immunity.  Even health care for every man woman and child in our great land will not keep the reaper chained to the radiator forever.  Death will always be inevitable. 

 

The one thing that each of us has been blessed with, however, is life … sweet, sweet life.   From our very first days, the wonders of life unfold.  Experiencing all of the “firsts” during our childhood is a magical time.  From our first laugh to our first step to our first day of school, experiences pile up and turn us into who we eventually become.  From our first crush to finding the love of our life, from having that brand new baby to watching those babies have their own, the beautiful cycle continues.  At least that is how the cycle is supposed to continue, but for some of us, destiny has a different plan.  For some of us will have to bear the agony of sickness and pain, the anguish of lost love or the devastation of watching those closest to us suffer, struggling to do the everyday things that we take for granted when we are healthy and vibrant.  Some of us will have our very souls torn apart trying to find a way to close the gaping whole that is left when that special someone is ripped from our lives forever.  Some of us will be the ones saying goodbye to all of those that love us, seeing the helplessness in their eyes while clinging to that last hope that we will never be forgotten. 

 

 What we have to keep in the forefront of our minds is the exponential devastation that comes from every sickness, every tragic death. I have seen this wrecking ball first hand too many times in my life already, although compared to my wife I have led a charmed life on that front.  She lost her father to cancer when she was 17, a brother to illness before he was 40, another brother to cancer when he was 45 and her live-life-to-the-fullest mother succumbed to heart failure unexpectedly and out of the blue. I’ve seen just how far the gruesome tentacles of calamity can reach, twisting from the victim to every life they touched, from family to coworkers to total strangers.   

 

I can’t even count the hours, days, weeks, months and years these events have affected our lives.  The pain never goes away completely and regrets can be a formidable opponent to anyone’s psyche.  All of her loved ones had medical care, so the only shred of peace she can cling to is that everything that could be done was, I can’t imagine how much worse things would be if that were not the case.   Like I said before, health care does not guarantee life, but on the other side of the coin, without it I would have lost her and she would have lost me as well as another brother.  Both of my parents and brother would not be here today either if we had all not received important care at various points in our lives.  We were indeed the lucky ones. 

 

Now that you know a little bit about where I’m coming from, you must understand how pathetic I find it to see these Grand Poobahs and their constant party-line bickering stalling any kind of measure that will bring a peace of mind to those enduring ailments that are robbing them and those around them of their dignity and hope.  No one should be smacked down for trying to stay alive.  No one should be punished for trying to do everything in their power to hang on even one more day to teach their child that one more thing about life that they have to impart, or to tell their soulmate that they love them one more time, or to experience the simplest of things that make life so precious, just one more time.

 

So as the healthy try to debate the unacceptable cost of health care for every American, imagine the costs we pay by not having it.  How many small businesses close when the owner is stricken ill or dies, leaving all those that depend on that income for their livelihoods unemployed?  How many projects collapse when the most important cog is removed because they are sick or worse?  How many jobs are suffering when our minds wander with thoughts of a suffering spouse or child that is not being cared for?  How many hours are lost trying to play Internet doctor for things that a trained physician could diagnose and cure with ease?  How many self-helpers will get it wrong with dire consequences?  How many small correctable problems, left untreated,  will rob a family of a father or a mother, a brother or a sister. a son or a daughter, or even the wisdom of a grandparent?  How many countless things are affected in our everyday lives because of those lost temporarily or permanently to correctable ailments?  How many deadlines will go unmet?  How many promises will go unfulfilled?  How many deals will collapse? How many of us will get inferior service because the best person to do the job is avoidably lost?  How many times will that inferior service snowball and cost us dearly in ways we don’t even want to imagine? 

So does the cost of health care, even if it’s over a trillion dollars, cost more than not having it?  I don’t know of a wealthy person that would not give away all of their treasure for a cure when they are the ones facing the abyss.  I don’t know of a parent or a spouse that would not give away all of their worldly possessions to save the person they love. I think we’ve all heard the sickening foreclosure stories that health care related desperation has caused.

 

The real tragedy here is that opponents to health care are going to see to it that it is so watered down that it will once again amount to no more than a finger in the dam.  The bad news is that none of us can know if we will be the ones moved into the valley that this particular dam looms over.

 

If only we could take away healthcare from every legislator voting on it for just 6 months. No checkups, no dental cleanings, no eye check ups, no emergency room visits, no vaccinations, no cancer screenings, no prostate exams, no prenatal care, no nothing . If by chance something terrible were to happen, they could go to the hospital and be treated as the uninsured, wait 5 hours and cross their fingers. If they do receive care, them or anyone their family…any care during that stretch, it will cost them at least three quarters of their net worth, whatever that sum may be, and if something terrifying were to be uncovered during that time, they would have to look for a new policy with that pre-existing condition. Maybe that would help them along on the road to understanding what it is they are voting on. I fear that the posh lifestyle our politicians are afforded is blinding them to harsh realities that are faced daily by millions.

 

So fight with all your might, write your elected officials and tell them how you feel, flood them with calls, put the power of your voice to the challenge once again.  History has already shown us what the power of a unified voice can do, even while facing impossible odds. There are a billion bricks still to lay on the road to a perfect Union and we can not let the opposition steal even one or the road can never be completed.  Those yelling in your face and spitting in your eye today would be singing a much different tune if they were the ones with a cancer ravaging their body or if they were the ones left to ponder their fleeting existence and that of their families … with no one there to help.  We must succeed, even for them.

 

In essence this is a debate over humanity, it is a debate that we, and those to follow, cannot afford to lose. 

Just think about how you want to be remembered?