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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on Jun 26, 2009 7:07 AM PDT

This essay is dedicated to Eric Shinseki, a soldier's soldier who stood up to Rumseld in telling Congress that the projected fighting strength Rummy was preparing to deploy to invade Iraq was grossly inadequate. 

Unlike political generals, the men and women who served under him were not mere cannon fodder for the politicians working for the international corporate terrorists who started that war and planned the occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. As a military man, he knew better than the chicken hawks in the White House what would have been necessary to give our military a fighting chance of success at carrying their mission out. 

It has been customary for centuries to pray to God when preparing for battle, hoping that God will favor our cause. We inevitably believe that our forces fight for justice, and we pray that God agrees. The battle for a single payer health care system and the larger war against the corporate assault on democracy is one cause whose righteousness no one can doubt. Therefore, it is a moral imperative that as we engage in this battle, our confidence must not falter. When the fate of our children depends on our success, we cannot worry about our chances of success, because failure is not an option.

Human progress depends on the vision of those who dream of a better world and have faith in their own ability to create it. To lose hope in the sight of difficulties is to abandon that faith and to risk  leaving future generations to the vagaries of fate. 

According to the second law of thermodynamics, the natural tendency of things is to decay. Humanity must continue to resist entropy in order to survive and to thrive in the Universe. We must learn from our mistakes and constantly devise new strategies to ensure human progress, even as threats to our survival and vitality multiply in number and dangerousness.

As we stand at the edge of the opportunity to bring a single payer health care system to America, we also have an opportunity to strike a blow at the heart of one of the most dangerous enemies of freedom. The insurance industry is one of the corporate forces which have thwarted the democratic will in America since 1889, when the Supreme Court granted corporations human rights under the Fourteenth amendment clause assuring that the Bill of Rights applies to all “persons.” 

In a blatant reactionary response to Teddy Roosevelt’s attempts to rein in the dangerous power of corporate monopolists, these counter-Revolutionary “justices” used this precedent to systematically grant human rights to these legally fictitious “persons.” Ignoring the fact that a corporate “person” cannot be imprisoned or executed for the crimes it commits in the name of free enterprise and the pursuit of profit over human need, the court gave them the same constitutional protections that you and I enjoyed until they began to be stripped from us under the guise of a “war” on terror.

Belief in progress is not na├»ve. Self styled “realists” will tell you that human nature is such that moral compromise is always necessary and will inevitably lead us to accommodate individual self interest in any personal or governmental decision. This assumes that men and women are not capable of governing themselves either individually or collectively. Thus, those who hold this view essentially reject the core assumption necessary to believe that democracy can work.  Why do these people hate America so much?

Religious conservatives take it as an article of faith that we are all “sinners.” While it may be true that we all fall short of the Christian ideal, this should not stop us from making every effort to follow Christ’s example, rather than allowing this to become an excuse for our willful moral failings. Abraham Lincoln pointed out that we must strive to become a "more perfect" union so that the American experiment in democracy would not fail and the hope for freedom in the world would be ended for generations, if not forever.

Just as striving for perfection is a moral issue on a personal level, so does the manner in which a nation addresses social justice issues determine the character of its soul. The fight to assure that medical care is available to all when needed is one of the great social justice issues of our time.

If the United States is truly a nation whose people believe in the principle that all humans have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness then we must ensure that all citizens have the right to physical and emotional health. We must preserve life in order to use our liberty to pursue the means of happiness.  

It is a sick society in which the murder of those who regretfully terminate potential lives is condoned and even encouraged by men and women who call themselves "Christians." The majority of the morally twisted individuals who approve of this form of murder in the name of God are typically willing to callously abandon children once born, in the delusional belief that individual responsibility is the defining feature of the American character. Those who reject the idea of social responsibilty ignore the fact thar our collective well being is also the responsibility of each of us. Those who choose to be willfully ignorant of this truth commit the gravest sin of all.

As Reverend Martin Luther King observed, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. When we allow injustice to be done to one of us, democracy is endangered. Those who care only about accumulating wealth and power would use our divisions to conquer us all. We have to recognize that the  well being of each of us is intimately dependent on assuring the well being of all of us.

A society that does not care for the least among it is a dying society. Strong citizens build strong governments and will fight any attempt to undermine the foundations of democracy through the authoritarian rhetoric of self-interested power-mongers. They believe they have a divine right to rule over the rest of us. This is the greatest threat to our democratic Republic, which is founded on the principle that every citizen has the right and duty to help make decisions that affect all of us.

Rick Staggenborg, MD

Ketchikan, Alaska

1 comment:

  1. As with the previous essay, I took a chance on offending my atheist friends by using a religious metaphor to discuss the importance of not giving up the fight when prospects for immediate victory in the war against injustice seem dim.

    Just as the Civil War took years of bloody strife to free the African-American slave, so will the battle to end war and take care of the poor will take longer than we would like. Atheist must join the religious left in this battle to save humanity from self-destruction if we are to have a prayer of winning.


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