Friday, October 17, 2008

Will Versus Wallet

Have had an interesting exchange in the last couple of days with a well-meaning, active and engaged fellow- resident of Norwich who is, bless him, an optimist, making him a bookend to my nearly terminal pessimism. I've come by my world view honestly-the most wonderful thing about being a pessimist, I've told him, is I can only be surprised and never disappointed.

He, on the other hand, tends to see issues and people from a 'where they should be' perspective and cheers small steps as opposed to my 'where are they right now and what are they doing?" frame of reference. We're at different philosophic points on a meeting held last night about health care accountability. I mentioned it Monday and (between us) wasn't all that surprised when it turned out to be exactly the meeting I feared it was going to be.

My neighbor, on the other hand, was pleased to reaffirm the stances and dedication to a process that almost produced a state wide health care program last session until the legislators blinked when going eyeball to eyeball with Governor M. Jodi Rell. That those days, regarded as 'tough economic times' at that time, now appear in the rear view mirror of memory as halcyon means (to me) less chance of success in creating universal, accessible and affordable health care. All I came away with from last night's meeting, because I'm a half-full glass kind of a guy, was that this year we can't afford glass and the chances of a new paper cup aren't too good either.

I admire his positivism but I wish there were more reasons to be cheerful. We used to say for some social initiatives and programs that 'we have more will than wallet.' That might be true but it shouldn't have meant we hardened our hearts to those in need of help (sort of why government exists, or should be the reason) but, instead we've had a hardening of other arteries. Our moral and political health is in about the same shape as health care for far too many men, women and children in what is supposed to be the wealthiest state in these Fifty United.

When we have a system of publicly financed governance that demands we choose between firefighters and teachers, when some of us eat cat food to pay heating bills or cut medications in half because we cannot afford to live otherwise, it's hard (for me) to see anything but the grey cloud, but good on you if you can find the silver lining. As we muddle along in the third century of our democracy, it sounds preposterous to suggest we are living in a critical time, especially in comparison to our beginnings, the War Between the States and two World Wars that sandwiched a world-wide economic depression, so maybe, by nature, democracies are always fragile and those who live in them are always in danger. That may be more accurate and truthful.

We need to agree that, yes, making an effort is important but so, too, are measurable results. It does no one any good to create healthcare delvery, or smart development or socal services networks if none of us can afford to pay for them. We can neither allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the challenges we face, nor believe that someone, somewhere, will save us from ourselves.

This is the world we created-we need to embrace it and work to improve it everyday. Talking or typing about making things better is fine-the trick is in the doing, and doing it everyday.
-bill kenny

No comments: