Hard to be right

My post-election plan was to not put up with Republicans or political apathetics whining about Social Security, war or the dismal state of health care. I’d roll my eyes at “I can’t get the surgery I need” or “How am I going to retire?”

I’d rub misguided choices in voters’ faces. See what you get, reelecting an administration intent on comforting the comfortable and flipping off the afflicted? As far as Republicans are concerned, democracy in America works the way it’s supposed to work—making gargantuan profits for stockbrokers, insurance companies and weapons manufacturers. At our expense.

I tried my hard-nosed strategy on a sick, uninsured adult who’d registered to vote but didn’t feel compelled to take four hours off work to vote on Election Day.

“See, health care is important,” I said, wagging my finger. “Politics has an impact on your life.”

The tired, strep-infested reply—“Yeah, I know”—made me feel like a right-wing meanie.

There’d been a call to Health Access Washoe County, clinic of choice for uninsured workers. No openings for five days, though. And while it’s not hard to purchase meth or weed on the streets of Reno, penicillin is a rare find.

My self-righteous indignation dissipated. I can’t say “You blew it, sucker” to a sick person or to a senior who can’t pay the power bill or to a mom whose child needs surgery. I can’t wave a never-ending, poorly planned, unjustified war in the faces of people whose loved ones serve in the ill-equipped, under-trained U.S. military.

My kids’ friends and former schoolmates are being sent overseas. A couple of months ago, I met a new mom, excited that her newly enlisted husband would be home for Christmas but sad that he’d be going to Iraq right after the holidays. He’d miss her 18th birthday.

Recently, I overheard women at a craft store discussing in low tones the impact of Iraq on the pregnancy rate.

“So many babies being born this winter.”

“It’s the war.”

“Could be.”

“People are going over and not coming back.”

On Christmas morning, I watched my kids (including two adult sons) open gifts—Playstation 2 games, socks, snowboard goggles, art supplies, a skateboard. We laughed and took photos. They wadded gift wrap into balls and threw them at each other.

I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d be together next year.

Not to worry, I’m told. It’s unlikely that my boys would volunteer for military service. In October, Congress voted against legislation that could have led to reinstating a military draft. Reelection-mode Bush said he didn’t support a draft.

If I believed him, I’d not fear for my adult sons, both of whom are registered with the Selective Service.

Yet who can forget Papa Bush’s 1988 promise—“Read my lips, no new taxes”—that he broke within a year of being elected? The make-up of Congress is shifting fascism-ward. I don’t think fears of draft reinstatement are entirely irrational.

This month, the Scripps Howard News Service reported that nearly 900 kids had lost a parent in Iraq. Tears welled up when I read the last letter of one Texas soldier, a 28-year-old father of two killed in November. He wrote to his 5-year-old son: “Be studious, stay in school and stay away from the military. I mean it. Always be a man. If you make mistakes, stand up and say so.”

Be nice if our leaders could hear that advice, the bit about admitting mistakes. There’s zero humility in the Bush administration.

That’s why I don’t have the heart to thumb my nose at those who couldn’t make themselves care enough to vote or even at those who trusted BushCo. When they wake up and realize what they’ve done, they’re going to feel rotten enough.