They Need Help

     “Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign-ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of mandatory sign-ups for ‘train rides’ for Jews in the ’40s.”
     – Tennessee state Senator Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville
     If helping people buy medical insurance is the same as sending them to gas chambers, then the state senator is right.
     But he ain’t.
     To describe today’s Republican witch-hunters, it’s difficult to improve upon George Orwell, who wrote this in 1940: “Government, in its experience, was something which either interfered or persecuted. Consequently, it was a class with no tradition of public service and not much tradition of usefulness. What now strikes us as remarkable about the new moneyed class … is their complete irresponsibility; they see everything in terms of individual success, with hardly any consciousness that the community exists. On the other hand, (a character in a Dickens novel), even when he was neglecting his duties, would have some vague notion of what duties he was neglecting.”
     That pretty well sums up the past six years: the Republican attacks upon science; their 50 petulant, childish attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act; this week’s demand for a ninth congressional investigation of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi; the shutdown of the federal government; the Supreme Court dicta that throwing unlimited amounts of money at politicians is just free speech, but it’s OK to restrict people’s right to vote …
     Today’s Republican hysteria resembles nothing so much as the bickering in the 1930s between Stalinists and Trotskyists.
     Orwell wrote the selection above as Hitler rolled over Europe and the British government time and again revealed its ineptitude and short-sightedness, dragged down by political infighting in which all parties tried to wrest whatever pathetic propaganda victories they could from the deteriorating situation. Left, Right, equally self-seeking and self-blinded.
     Look: Hitler is dead. There is no reason to fear a domestic holocaust from either one of our arthritic political parties. Republicans should stop pretending that there is. They should assume the responsibilities of governing rather than preen in masturbatory rhetoric and obstruction of the public good. They should stop claiming that their part is greater than the whole.
     Orwell, no party-line man, excoriated communists and fascists, and made few friends by stripping bare the phony and dangerous practices of both sides.
     So in Orwell’s tradition, I should point out that the Democratic Party also is to blame for today’s domestic political situation – for their cowardice, mostly. For refusing to fight back for what they pretend to believe in.
     Each time the Republican Party pretends to try to repeal Obamacare, why haven’t Democrats responded by trying to repeal the Bush II law that prohibits Medicare from bargaining with drug companies over the price of prescription drugs? That’s a multibillion-dollar giveaway to some of the most profitable corporate behemoths in the world. It’s a law that should be repealed; what’s more, to do so would follow the Republican line of letting the free market work.
     Why hasn’t it been done? Because the politics of both parties today can be summed up in five words: What’s in it for me?
     What is to be done with officeholders like the vile Stacey Campfield? Well, since Campfield brought up the Nazis, and the sentiments he expressed should make him the enemy of every American with the smallest grain of human decency, it’s fitting to close with another piece Orwell wrote, from occupied Germany in November 1945.
     Orwell saw an imprisoned SS general being kicked by an American prison guard. While acknowledging that the American, who was Jewish, had every right to feel the way he did, Orwell saw no point to it.
     Our enemy, Orwell wrote – and here I can’t help but think of Sen. Campfield – was not a “monstrous figure,” but a “pitiful wretch, whose obvious need was not for punishment, but for some kind of psychological treatment.”

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