Feelings About Sanity

Winston Churchill once said that Americans always do the right thing — after they’ve exhausted all other possibilities. Thus, we find ourselves at a historical moment, when, against great odds considering the toxic political and cultural atmosphere in this country now, we’ve managed to pass health-care reform. That it’s historical says more about how far the bar for sane policy has been lowered in this country than about how great this legislation is. It’s not completely curmudgeonly to say the best thing about it is that it’s better than nothing. It does extend basic health care to most Americans and it does reign in a good bit of the malfeasance of insurance companies, etc. But it’s far what sanity would dictate, or what we really deserve — which is, of course, a public option. Still, given the insanity of the times, something that is on constant display from the inchoate and increasingly frightening mobs getting frothed up beyond comprehension — only in idiot America would people get violent over not being picked apart like carrion by the health industry vultures — it’s a minor miracle.

So, how did we get to this place, where modest reform of a criminal health insurance industry is treated like the Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse? In other words, how did this country reach the apotheosis of ignorance it’s been rapidly accelerating into over the past decade? I believe it started with the dismantling of the world’s finest public educational system, something that began in earnest with the Reagan Revolution, which was a counter-revolution against the progressive fruits of the mid-century, GI Bill-fueled education explosion. Education means enlightenment and enlightenment will bread reason and reason is the enemy of pedagogic dogma — which is what the conservative, religious right lives on.

This is a minor victory in the larger cultural war Obama was elected to fight. It’s a signal toward the change a small majority of the country, frighteningly small considering the alternative, believed in when we elected Obama. The country is in a fight to embrace reason over ¬†ignorance and fear. That’s what the fight is about. And education is the best ammunition. It’s not just access to education, but it’s what’s being taught that matters. We used to teach young people how to think. Now, we teach them how to operate within a system. And that system can be sane. It’s had small and inspiring bursts of sanity throughout it’s history. Lately, we’ve seen how insane it can be — endless, immoral wars, plundering of the commonwealth, the sick and vulnerable being cast off like flotsam . Now, we ¬†again have a small glimmer of sanity. And you’ve seen what it’s doing to many of our fellow citizens, turning them insane. Must have been what it was like when the world was found not to be flat.