Paying Attention And Participating

Richard’s post below reminded me of a point that I wanted to make before the whole health care debate effectively ends, supposedly with a vote on Sunday in the House of Representatives.  Whether you support or oppose the “health care reform” legislation — and even a casual reader of the blog knows that Richard, UJ and I are on opposite sides of the fence on that point — I think we can all be proud of how politically engaged many Americans have been on the issues.  Although the media approach may be superficial, I think people are paying close attention to both the substance of the bill and to the process.  During the torturous path of the “health care reform” legislation, people have become knowledgeable about issues related to “the public option,” about certain insurance industry practices, about the role the CBO plays in estimating the budget and deficit impact of bills, about deals that have been cut to secure votes, about the Senate filibuster rules, the reconciliation procedure, and the role of the House Rules Committee, and about a number of other topics.

All of this is a good thing — a kind of civics refresher course that should make our body politic more attentive to important political issues and to the need for people to participate in the process.  We are already seeing this, through the various protests and the estimated 100,000 calls per hour that currently are overloading the congressional phone system capabilities.  I would guess that many of the people who are calling and advocating, pro and con, for the “health care reform” legislation didn’t vote in recent elections, or perhaps voted without a sufficient understanding of their candidate’s positions on issues like “health care reform.”

I expect that all of that will now change.  Although some pundits are predicting that the public interest in politics will wane, because some voters supposedly are disillusioned with President Obama, I think the opposite will be true.  If the “health care reform” legislation is enacted, the resulting law will have real consequences for people’s lives, their health care options, and their pocketbooks.  The impact of those real consequences will cause people to realize that, if they just sit on the sidelines, they have only themselves to blame if the consequences are not to their liking. 

American voters obviously disagree on “health care reform,” but I think we can all agree on one point — it is better to have our citizens  paying careful attention to what our elected representatives are doing and giving them an earful on what their constituents are thinking about the important issues of the day.  Democracy works best when voters are actively engaged in the process.

Channel 6 = Fox News?

I was taking a walk in Goodale Park during my lunch break today when a woman carrying a large stack of papers approached me, accompanied by a cameraman. She said she was from Channel 6 news and asked if she could talk to me about healthcare reform.

Predictably, the stack of papers was the healthcare bill itself. She asked me how long I thought the bill was, and I said, “it’s about two thousand pages, right?” “Yeah!” she replied.

She asked what my stand was on healthcare reform. I said I strongly supported it and gave my reasons. “Have you read any of the bill?” she asked. “Um, no,” I said.

After asking a few more questions, she thanked me for my time. Before walking away she smiled and said, “I’m glad the interview is over so I can put this down!”

I’ll be honest – when the interview ended, all I could think about was how excited I was at the possibility of being on TV, especially voicing my opinion on something I care a lot about. I went over everything I said and decided that I was satisfied with my answers.

Then the excitement wore off, and the more I thought about it, the more I was annoyed with the way she approached the subject. Mostly, it was her act of carrying the stack of papers. The papers weren’t held together with anything, so they looked especially messy. The reporter was a short, skinny woman, so the bill seemed about to topple her over.

This is not only a cliche, but a cliche usually used by ideological opponents of government expansion – not by local TV news stations. It reminded me of the Republican congressman who, in 1994, presented a chart of tangled bubbles and lines representing Bill Clinton’s healthcare bill to show how bloated and chaotic it was. And then there was the conservative guest on the Daily Show last year who carried the bill with her in a big, thick binder (even she was respectful enough to have it bound).

Anyway, so what if the bill is long? Do they expect a bill reforming the healthcare system for a country of 300 million people to be on a pamphlet? I would hope that a bill that is supposed to accomplish so much would be well thought out. Conciseness isn’t the number one goal in drafting a bill, effectiveness is.

I imagine that if they show my footage, they’ll present me as a liberal who supports the bill even though he hasn’t read a word of it. True, I haven’t read a word of it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a good idea of what’s in it, as the reporter would know if she asked me more substantive questions. Like most Americans, I don’t have time to read through every bill my congressman votes on. In fact, I think it’s the duty of the press to keep the people well-informed about such things while they carry on their lives.

This is a duty that Channel 6 failed on with this segment. Instead of filming a frail woman struggling to carry the bill, with the obvious message that the bill is dangerously expansive, why not identify what in the bill is actually dangerous and ask me questions about that? If there’s something nasty hiding in those two thousand pages, tell me what it is. That might not provide such a memorable image, but at least it would be good journalism.

80 Years Young

Well today is mom’s big day, 80 years young so I decided to check with some of our family historians and piece together her life story.

Mom was a depression era baby born in 1930, to her parents Gilbert and Maude, along with one brother Gil. Their childhood seemed to be pretty much a normal one and they were well provided for. From what I understand the family took annual trips to Ocean City, New Jersey and that during those trips mom was not always the little angel she is today, punching, poking and teasing her younger brother. 

Her parents were quite protective of her so they sent her to private school at Old Trail near Akron, then off to Mount Vernon School, a private school for women in Washington D.C. where she graduated in 1950. She then returned home to get her teaching certificate at the University of Akron and embarked on a brief teaching career starting out as a teachers aide working half days at both Seiberling and Schumacher Elementary School where she taught kindergarten and first grade before becoming a full-time teacher. 

While at Akron U mom met the love of her life on a blind date and after seven years of dating they decided to get married and would end up being together for forty two happy and contented years. She continued to teach up until eleven months into their marriage when everything changed and she had the first of five children in a stretch of seven years. Over the next thirty years she would spend most all of her time loving, encouraging and managing the lives of each of her five children, always giving of herself and asking for nothing in return.

From what I remember of our younger years if you would have asked any of us kids what we were going to have for dinner we would have said “I don’t know, but it’s gonna be on toast”. Yes, early on the toaster got quite a workout at our house, chipped beef on toast, creamed eggs on toast and tuna fish on toast, but mom persevered and later became a fantastic cook. Her mouth watering fried chicken was to die for.

We didn’t have lot of money in those early years, but some how mom made due and was able to keep us clothed and fed. Then in 1962 after a series of odd jobs dad hooked up with a college fraternity buddy and began working at Graham Ford where he would work for the next twenty six years. Dad’s working at Graham Ford afforded them a stable income with the opportunity to travel to the likes of Mexico, London, Paris, Bali, Singapore and the Caribbean to name a few.

In 1970 dad was given the chance to manage one of Mr. Graham’s dealerships so they packed up the family and moved us all to Columbus. Over the next fifteen years or so mom spent her time making our Buckley Road house into her dream home, redecorating,  renovating and finally wearing dad down convincing him to put in the backyard pool and jacuzzi sun room she always wanted.

In 1988 when dad retired and the last of us five children had left the nest they decided to purchase a condo in Hayden Falls and another in Stuart spending half of their time in Ohio and half of their time in Florida enjoying their friends and each others company until dad passed in 1997.  After dad’s passing mom showed her resiliency and continued to do some traveling taking a cruise each of the next three years to Scandinavia, Panama and Alaska.

Mom finally tired of the condo in Florida and wanted to spend more time with us children and her grandchildren all of whom still surprising lived in Columbus. For the past few years she has been spending her time hobnobbing with her Hayden Falls friends, playing bridge, playing poker, watching her vast collection of dvd’s, dining out with us kids, enjoying her ten grandchildren and just plain relaxing.

I think if you ask mom she would tell you she has had a rich, full and wonderful life.