I had this conversation with one of my in-laws after Christmas dinner when everyone was sort of tired and full and sluggish from all the sugar in the cookies. She: "How's your Mom doing?" Me: "Fine. Slowing a bit as she gets older, but still
December 26, 2010

I had this conversation with one of my in-laws after Christmas dinner when everyone was sort of tired and full and sluggish from all the sugar in the cookies.

She: "How's your Mom doing?"
Me: "Fine. Slowing a bit as she gets older, but still active, fighting eyesight problems..."

[More small talk]

She: "You know, my mother had cataracts they wouldn't operate on because you know, she was under that [somewhat disgusted tone] "government health care plan."

And then she expanded on that thought with this:

"When I think I need a test or treatment I speak up and say so and I get it, but no government health care plan would do that."

To which, I bit my tongue so hard it bled because I knew in my heart of hearts she would not hear anything I had to say about it. Not one thing. She wouldn't hear me say that the entire reason she has health care for a nominal cost is strictly due to that "government health care plan" she demonizes, and if there were no "government health care plan" they'd just as soon let her die in the streets as take care of her. Unless, of course, she wanted to deed her lovely home and their lifetime savings to a local hospital and specialists.

She wouldn't hear me say that the reason she is fortunate enough to have health care where she can ask for and receive tests which she may or may not need is because she has that "government health care plan" as a foundation for affordable supplemental care, which would not be available to her in any shape or form had she not had the government health care plan.

At that moment, I realized how the Republicans get away with it. They play on pride. This person grew up in the Depression. She and her sister were abandoned by their father at a young age and raised by their mother who cleaned other people's homes to scrape together enough for heat in the winter and clothes for school. They relied on the charity of others -- the holiday food baskets and occasional gifts from neighbors -- to survive. They had no safety net. Then.

Eventually, that changed. She won a scholarship to university and married. Her mother received a small widow's pension under Social Security which was enough to keep her secure. But knowing them as I do, I suspect that small pension felt like charity, the thing they hated to take but needed to keep themselves alive.

Conservatives keep that tradition alive. This is why they demonize the unemployed as lazy scammers and employees' pensions as charity, and call Social Security and Medicare "entitlements", as though somehow paying into something and receiving a promise that it will be received is shameful.

This person has health care because she is over the age of 65 and entitled to receive it for all the years she paid into it. This person has a pension because funds were withheld from her paycheck when she was working so that when she retired she would always have that safe foundation under her and never have to worry about relying on the capricious kindnesses of others.

But to her, it's shameful. It's somehow taking a government handout.

And where are Democrats in this? Are they out there extolling what these programs like Medicare and Social Security are doing to help the parents of those of us out there still working? No. They also call them 'entitlements' and talk about how they have to be "fixed", which plays right into the conservative tropes about how recipients of these "government programs" are on the dole.

Democrats apologize for what they should be celebrating.

My parting shot in this conversation was made with all the calmness I could muster, and it was simply this: Without that 'government health care plan' it's likely she wouldn't have even known she had cataracts. So there's that. And then I reminded her that she, too, benefits from that very same government health care plan.

She didn't believe me. Because Glenn Beck is somehow more trustworthy to her. Therein lies the problem, and it's unlikely to be fixed anytime soon. Take our money, then shame us for claiming a benefit from something we paid for, because that's the conservative way.

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