A spring awakening to big possibilities

04/08/2010 12:00 AM |

A new energy is in the air. Spring? Well, it’s nice to feel the warm sun, but I think it’s something more. All last year, it seems, we were just slogging along, dutifully watching health-care deals being made in Congress, listening to an earful of nonsense on both sides and steadily sinking … sinking. The hope for health care for everyone was dying and all we could do was watch. We were exhorted many times by e-mail to rescue this or that, sign a petition or send money, but it was always the same — people seemed to be going through the motions and nothing was really happening. A lot of us were discouraged and disillusioned. In their own way and for different reasons, Tea Partyers expressed those feelings, too.

Then something happened amid the posturing and spin. Suddenly some real things were being said. The whole struggle merged into a larger context, and we were talking about what we believed and what might be. Health care for all was suddenly in reach: We were racing to the finish line, and even a few votes beyond the predicted photo finish.

Let’s stop for a moment and reflect. We are on the way to establishing health care as a right. No more watching your sick child and wondering how you can afford the care she needs. I remember the days when doctors would discount their fees according to what you could pay, and I was always grateful when they did, but how much better to know, as we do now, that the bills will unquestionably be paid. And no more “charity” care that often shames the recipient even as it rescues her.

Now we can believe in the impossible. People are energized all over again. If you were for the health-care law, the good goal has been achieved — how seldom that happens! If you were against it, the energy is gathering around repealing the law and starting over. Here’s another interesting thing: Those who wanted more in the law than it contains have also begun organizing to change it. Now the law is in place, let’s make it better. If we can do the first thing, we can do a second, and maybe even a third, making the law better each time.

If I were in the prediction business, I would never have come up with all those scenarios.

There are some other things to think about, however. I hope some of the new energy will lead us, however we feel about the health-care law, to take on the bigger thing: the debt our nation is in and its predictable increase in the years to come. The health-care law is necessary if we are to reduce our national debt, I believe, and we still have to spend our way out of recession. But it’s more than time to begin looking at problems emerging with Social Security and Medicare. The sooner, the better.

Somehow we have to come together, the “yes we can” folks and the “no we can’t,” and tackle some really hard problems. We do, in fact, live in the same world, we all care about our country and we need each other more than ever.

Ms. Amussen, of Greenport, is a freelance writer and a copy editor at Times/Review Newspapers. E-mail: damussen@timesreview.com.