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Individual Rights v. Societal Responsibility

March 25, 2010

The ongoing debate over the recent Health Care Reform bill has been a catalyst to my thoughts lately. It’s made me ponder the value of an individual’s rights when compared to the cost of being a responsible member of society.

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights grant us many individual freedoms. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have the right to say what we want and believe what we want. We have the right to a fair trial. We have theย  right to own property* and to have representation in government.

The rights that American citizens are granted have been limited by government for the benefit of society. The right to free speech has been limited so that speech that incites violence is not covered by that right. We can believe what we want, but we are limited from imposing our beliefs on other American citizens. We can pursue happiness, but not when that happiness comes by violating another person’s rights. We have the right to liberty, but not if we commit crimes against individuals or society.

There might be some temptation to see society as a thing, or as an entity completely separate from the individual. It can be argued that Society is, indeed, an entity, but only in that it is a single unit composed of many individuals with a shared cultural identity. We are all Americans, and we are all part of the American society.

Our government is one of our rights. We have, as individuals, elected other individuals to represent our interests, and all these elected individuals come together, in a form of sub-culture, that helps define and direct our society as a whole. I used to think that government was corrupt, and that the only way to “fix” it was to revolt. I’ve changed my mind. Our government is no more corrupt than we are as individuals, since each Senator, each Congressman and Congresswoman, and each President are simply the elected representation of the individuals in society. Every election is a revolution, and every politician in office is there because we chose to put him there. Should we demand a more perfect government? Then we have to demand a more perfect society, and in doing so demand more perfect individuals.

The Tea Party is making those demands. The health care debate has brought into the forefront the demand for individual liberties, and the elimination of societal limits on those liberties. “I’ll decide if and when I’ll give to charity” has become the anthem. They argue that it violates their rights because it requires them to be insured, and because it takes their property (taxes) to pay for health care for those who can’t afford it.

To answer those demands, I first have to explain what the rights society provides. Society is essential to individual liberties. I’ll explain what I mean.

One of the basic functions of society is to provide services for the good of every individual.ย  Society creates and maintains roads and transit systems. This might be one of the most tangible of the “rights” provided by society, in that there is tremendous freedom in being able to easily and comfortably move from location to location.

Society also provides for the right to own property, the right to life and the right to pursue happiness. Police officers literally are the enforcers of the law, maintaining and protecting each individual’s ability to pursue these rights. They protect individual properties from vandalism and theft, they protect life from assault and murder, and they protect lawful order and peace.

Society protects it’s individuals from unlawful threats to their individual rights, but it also defends it’s citizens from the abridgment of their rights from outside influences through military action.

Thus, society also grants rights and privileges to it’s members. But, as with anything, being a contributing member of society also involves responsibilities.

Society has the responsibility of providing care of the elderly, young, poor, and infirm individuals who are incapable of taking care of themselves. In our past, communities used to care for these people as best they could, although more often than not the poor and downtrodden, the elderly and orphans were neglected and ignored by society, unless they were fortunate enough to have relatives who provided for them. As our society has become less isolated and as technology created a global market for goods and services, this smaller, outdated model is no longer even possible – small communities cannot effectively compete in a global health care and insurance market. Long gone are the days of the local doctor who would make house calls and accept payments in eggs or fresh butter. Since there are, and always will be elderly, poor, young and infirm individuals who are unable to take care of themselves, our larger society, led by the government we elected to represent us, has the responsibility of providing societal benefits to these people.

The very rights that individuals enjoy are dependent on society. Society gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Society enforces the laws of society. What happens when the contraints of society are removed?

During the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, mobs of individuals, unrestrained by the laws of society, looted and pillaged private property, and murdered individuals in the city. In L.A., the race riots over the Rodney King incident led to temporary anarchy. Without society, individual rights no longer exist.

Any individual who breaks the laws of society has his freedoms revoked, often quite literally by revoking his freedom through incarceration. But what of the Tea Party protests? What of American citizens who demand the recognition of their individual freedoms while denying the responsibilities of society?

It is a form of thievery to demand the individual rights and freedoms that being a member of society creates and protects, while refusing to accept the responsibilities of being a member of that society. It is thievery to take the assistance and protection that society provides, while demanding that assistance and protection of the vulnerable in society be an individual choice. It is selfish, unpatriotic, and ultimately self-defeating to attempt to escape the responsibilities that being a member of society entails.

Individual rights are of tremendous importance, and must not be usurped by society. Civil rights, or the rights of sub-groups of society, are equally important, and must not be usurped by either individuals or the larger society. The rights and responsibilities of society as a whole are also of utmost importance, and must not be usurped or destroyed by individuals. To weaken or destroy one is to weaken or destroy all… and America is far too great to allow it to be destroyed because of selfishness and thievery.

* I’m glad to be able to state that I have the right to own property and the right to vote for my representation in government. When the Constitution was first written, women did not have the right to own property. Women did not have the right to vote when every state voted to take away this right in 1777. It wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment rectified this. The fact that I am now able to own property, and to vote, is a testament to the importance of promoting civil rights for all people.


Why I Support Health Care Reform

March 23, 2010

Many Americans believe we need health care reform. They are not sold on this particular reform bill, but much of the problem is that “talking heads” have been spinning this bill to be something it is not. There are no Death Panels, for example, and never were. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh… anybody who told you that this bill was an attempt to kill Grandma was lying to you. This bill helps ensure that Grandma can afford her life-saving medications.

This bill also prevents an insurance company from dropping people as soon as they get sick and need insurance. We pay our insurance premiums because if someday, God forbid, one of us needs medical intervention, we have that protection. Insurance companies take our monthly payments and, in return, promise to cover our medical needs. They get profit from our payments, and this bill prevents them from backing out of the agreement when they have to keep up their end of the bargain. It expects companies to honor their commitments, which is good, because we already expect this of our citizens. Reform is needed when insurance companies post record profits while dropping people who end up needing the insurance they’ve paid for.

This bill also helps insure adults and children with pre-existing conditions that currently prevent them from getting the health care they need. Right now, 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have health insurance, and don’t seek medical care that they can’t afford. Our citizens are honest and hardworking, to the point that they die rather than take something they can’t pay for. It is right and good that we all do what we can to make sure nobody ever has to choose between honor and life just because of insurance.

This bill also helps save money. Right now, millions of uninsured Americans do end up seeking medical aid. They often go only in the most desperate situations, and when they need emergency intervention. If an American can’t afford insurance, they probably can’t afford to pay for preventative health care, and they definitely can’t afford to pay for expensive emergency care. Who ends up paying for this now? We, the tax payer already pay. We pay through higher insurance premiums and through our tax dollars. Health care reform just makes sense, because it does save us all money in the long run.

The problem with criticizing this bill is that there’s no way to do so without being a bit of a hypocrite. If you’re against government involvement in our health care, then you also have to be against Medicare. If you’re against government safety nets, then you have to be against Social Security. If you’re against huge deficits and big government, then you had to be opposed to Bush’s administration. This bill is less “socialist” than Medicare and Social Security. Should we stop those programs too? Some poor fools might say yes. It’s sad that they protest fictitious death panels, but are so willing to pull the financial plug on the elderly.

The Tea Party and Republicans might think they’re acting in the best interest of the whole country, yet they forget the value of human life, and think only of dollars. They might forget that our country is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the people elected Obama. The Republicans are the minority, because the voters didn’t like the job they’d done, and voted them out. Health care was passed because people supported Obama, who promised it during his Presidential campaign. He is doing what we elected him to do.

I’ve heard Republicans complain about the lack of bi-partisan effort from the Democrats. It’s short-sighted to claim that Republicans were shut out of this health care reform bill’s creation progress. President Obama desperately wanted Republican votes for this bill, going so far as to meet publicly with Republicans to directly answer their questions. The bill itself is similar to Mitt Romney’s health care plan. The Republican Party had plenty of opportunities to negotiate, using their votes, to influence and help further shape this bill, which already uses Republican ideas as its very foundation.

When, in every instance, the Republican response to health care reform was to say no, to obstruct, and to blatantly lie, it’s hard to find much to commend them. Could a compromise have been reached? Could the reform bill have been better because both parties compromised? We can’t ever answer that, because it was never attempted. This didn’t have to be a conservative loss, but it ended up that way, and we as a country are sadder for it.

The US is the only industrialized country that treats health care like a service, not a right. That’s sad. 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have insurance. Talk all you want, but if less people die needlessly because of this bill, we all win.

Today’s 10 Random Thoughts

December 2, 2009

1. I’m pretty sure Starbucks adds heroin to their holiday lattes. I can’t seem to get enough caramel brulee yumminess lately!

2. Reheating a latte in the microwave is dangerous, because it’s MUCH hotter than you’d expect. Mah tongue ith thore…

3. I find it kind of funny that Tim picked out nail polish for me today that was named “Camouflage”. I wanted something Christmas green-ish, so it worked out perfectly for both of us. What are the odds I’m gonna end up with something in “Blaze Orange” next week ๐Ÿ™‚

4. I never knew you could get varicose veins in places other than your legs. My world would be a better place if I still didn’t know that…

5. I find it highly amusing that Gabe insists I turn off country music when I try to play it, but loves dance music with a heavy beat. I’m not so amused when he loudly disagrees with my jazz though.

6. Tim and I still haven’t completely agreed on our little girl’s middle name. I’m afraid that she’s going to end up with something totally wacky cause they’ll ask me for her name when I’m just out of surgery and high as a kite.

7. High as a kite really doesn’t work as a metaphor for me… I generally fail at flying kites, and they end up nose-deep in the dirt. I think I’m too afraid of imitating Ben Franklin to really let loose and enjoy myself.

8. I’m very punk at heart. If I was a braver person, I’d cut my hair, dye it blonde, and chunk bright pink through it. Or maybe go goth black with a bunch of bright red streaks.

9. I love outlandish and dramatic displays of weirdness. Sometimes it’s refreshing to realize there are other freaks out there… and sometimes it really is just funny to watch the reactions. If anybody ever asks me who I’m wearing, I truly hope I can say “Kermit”.

10. I think that the point of life is balance. Extreme anything is kind of scary. Photography is all about capturing the beauty of light, shown through the balance of shadows. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Love is something we celebrate because we know apathy. If evil didn’t exist, could anything be good?

A Game of Cat and Mouse, where I am the Cat.

November 9, 2009

When I was young (but still old enough to know better) I used my allowance to buy an illicit hamster from the pet store. I smuggled it up to my bedroom, and my brothers and sisters “helped” keep the hamster a secret from Mom. When I say they helped, what I really mean is they giggled and whispered loudly to each other about it, and made such blatant innuendos during dinner conversation that it’s a miracle Mom didn’t know exactly what was hidden in the critter cage under my bed. Probably she did know, and just didn’t want to have to deal with the situation if she could avoid it.

Well, even denial has limits, and eventually Mom reached that point. My brothers had been playing with my hamster (his name was Chuck, if that interests you) and accidentally let him escape. The Great Hamster Hunt didn’t turn up anything, and Chuck wasn’t tempted by all the morsels of food us kids tried to trap him with. Apparently he had decided that the hamster cage with soft bedding and personal water bottle was inferior to his new chosen home…. Mom’s shoe. It’s rather ironic that all of us kids, searching frantically, couldn’t find what Mom’s foot found with such ease. And Mom, for all the blind eyes she’d already turned, couldn’t ignore one furry rodent foot-warmer.

I don’t quite remember what happened to Chuck, other than that I was soon hamster-less. That part isn’t as memorable, I guess. What I do find amusing is that I was so frustrated that Mom was so unfairly anti-rodent. Turns out I’m rather anti-rodent myself, especially when the rodents are illegal aliens stealing their daily bread out of the loaf I’ve got saved for supper!

At this point in our lives, Tim and I have a little home in the country. We’re happy here, and that’s really what’s most important. Gabe loves his home. It’s a special little place. Even the little creaks and quirks that come with it are part of the special-ness that we love. There is a line that I’ve come to draw in the love-fest though. I may love my house, but I do NOT love the annual fall mouse invasion that comes with it. When the wind has a bite to it, and the first snowfall’s on the ground, all the mice around here start thinking about their winter vacation, and my home, with it’s ready supply of kid-dropped food, warmth and cozy quirks,.. well, it’s kinda like Bora Bora, mouse-style.

Last year Shaun was living with us, and his puppy Mia helped evict the mouse invaders. This year Shaun’s in Germany, Mia’s three hours away, and our first line of defense is gone. The mice know this, and for a few weeks now, it’s been a war between me and the mice, with the mice winning. I’d set traps (okay, I’d have Tim set traps, because those wire thingies HURT when they snap on my fingers!) and the mice would eat the peanut butter, and leave the trap. I’d find special mouse turd presents left behind, like little taunting “While you were sleeping” notes just for me. Thoughtful little shits, pun intended!

This weekend I started “Operation Ocelot”. I thought about naming it “Operation Cougar” instead, but I just don’t feel old enough to identify myself as a cougar quite yet. A-hem. Anyway. And, I’m winning! I’ve got this pulse thing that you plug in and it makes it uncomfortable for mice to be in the walls. It appears to work, considering the scare Tim got when a mouse jumped out in front of him last night (2 hours or so after plugging it in). It also seems to scare them right into the traps, which are finally snapping on something other than fingers. And, today I discovered that some sneaky mice had crawled into a storage area we barely ever use. They were lucky to find something to nibble on in there… unluckily, it was mouse poison left over from last year. I call that suicide by gluttony. Between the electronic pulse emitter, traps and unintentional poison access, I can finally say that we have inflicted more casualties than we have received. I am victorious!

Granted, tomorrow is another day. Hopefully one in which I do not have to share my bread. Turns out I’m not very good at sharing.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚


October 25, 2009

Gabe is turning into a little home-body. The first time he threw a temper tantrum because we weren’t home was Labor Day weekend, when we were visiting family. Tim and I thought it was kind of cute when he crawled into his car seat, crossed his arms and refused to move until we took him “home”. Unfortunately, it was 11pm, we were in Green Bay after a long day on the road, and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that was going to happen like Gabe wanted it to. It wasn’t so bad for the rest of the weekend, although Gabe still reminded us every now and then that he wanted to go home. We thought it was cute.

We made an unexpected trip home a few weeks ago. We’d gotten the news that Tim’s grandpa was in the hospital, and after I got permission for a trip from my doctor, we decided to visit him. Gabe again got really upset when he couldn’t go home, and was much more upset than before. He loved visiting with his Grandpa and Grandma, but wanted nothing more than to “Go Home!”. Again Tim and I figured that we were a bit more emotional than usual with the concern over Grandpa, and things were unusual, and Gabe was out-of-sorts as a result. We thought it was understandable.

However, Gabe is now more of a homebody than ever. When we run errands, Gabe has a short tolerance, then demands, loudly and insistently, to go home. Today he refused to put his shoes or coat on, was upset to see Tim putting his own coat on and demanded that he take it off, and wouldn’t even be bribed by ice cream (and he’s very partial to soft-serve ice cream cones). He finally decided to go shopping with us when Tim offered to let him drive – Gabe helps Tim steer down the driveway, then we put him in his car seat. One of the reasons we were running today was to pick up the new-ish Thomas the Train movie for Gabe, and the new Shaun the Sheep for me. Once Gabe realized he was getting Thomas, he of course demanded that we go home immediately to watch it. And interspersed through all of our activities today was the familiar, and slightly-irritating-at-this-point refrain demanding to go home.

It’s actually kind of convenient in one way that Gabe is so home-focused lately. I’m pregnant, and doing my best to avoid the H1N1 flu bug that, according to my doctor, is deeply embedded in Platteville right now. Doctor’s advice is to stay away from public areas more now than usual. Today was my first time out and about this week, other than my prenatal appointment. Maybe shopping wasn’t the best way to stay healthy, but I was going a little bit crazy at home so much, and just needed the change of scenery.

What I find most interesting about all this is that Gabe is so attached to the concept of home. When he first wakes up Monday morning, and Tim’s gone to work, Gabe is upset that Daddy isn’t home. When Tim calls to let me know he’s left the office each evening, Gabe always asks if Daddy’s coming home. And when Tim walks in the door, Gabe races over to him screaming “HOME!!!”. Gabe will frequently race over and plow into me during the day, giving me a very rambunctious, little-boy-hug, and comment that we’re home with a big smile. My son loves his home.

What I wonder is why Gabe has such an attachment to home. He’s never been in day-care, never really been separated from me except on rare occasions – and only when Dad, Uncle Shaun, grandparents or Aunt LeeAnn are there with him. He’s never had attachment issues, and is a confident, secure kid. We spend alot of time at home, and Tim and I both have the general attitude that our family is our top priority, so we do things as a family. I’m glad that Gabe feels safe and secure at home; that home is a special place for him. It means that I’ve succeeded, in a way, at being a home-maker. I just worry that his attitude is too-much-of-a-good-thing kind of thing. Then again, he’s three, so it’s probably not anything to worry about just yet. Now, if he’s 18 and refusing to leave the house, then I’ll have a problem!

Don’t Call the Pregnant Lady Hormonal. She Bites.

October 12, 2009

Well, maybe not bites, but there’s definitely tears. And a goodly dose of gnashing of teeth.

Actually, I’m always hesitant to use anything like hormonal to describe myself. Frankly, I find it insulting when some idiot suggests that women in general, and me in particular, are somehow lacking in logic or the ability to reason because of our hormones. It would be as short-sighted and limited an argument as if I were to point out that testosterone is also a hormone, and high amounts of testosterone can induce dangerous and life-threatening behavioral changes. Seriously, how did women get the stereotype as mentally unstable due to chemistry? Glass houses, people.

But anyway, enough soapboxing.

My family is completely wonderful and supportive, but we’re also very opinionated people, and we love the chance to share our opinions with each other. There’s definitely some of the “nobody gets to call my brother an idiot but me!” thing going on. And I love it. When I talk to any of my siblings, I know they’re going to always have my back… but they’re going to tell me the truth as they see it too. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

So when, in the course of a conversation, my sister starts agreeing with everything I’m saying and using her it’s-gonna-be-okay voice… well, I have to acknowledge that just maybe I’m a bit more emotional than is normal for me. Just maybe, pregnancy hormones haven’t passed me by, no matter how much I will them out of my brain.

Between the special migraines I get during pregnancy, the brain-fog-inducing hydrocodone I take to allow me to function despite those migraines, the midnight trips to the bathroom to empty my bladder because the baby’s using it as a pillow/trampoline, and the constant poking and prodding by different doctors,.. I’m starting to look forward to getting cut open and the weeks of recovery from surgery! Even more than that though, I’m looking forward to the moment my sister calls me an idiot again, because then I’ll know everything’s back the way it should be ๐Ÿ™‚


October 2, 2009

Somehow the seasons here in Wisconsin have a way of weaving themselves so completely into my mind, my emotions, my very life that they become more than just evidence of the passing of time, but an essential part of my own self. Last winter I felt as if my entire being was yearning for the newness of spring, as if the budding of leaves and grass would bring about the rebirth of my own heart. This summer felt more alive, more verdant to me than usual, and I’ve been relishing every aspect of fall (although I have yet to see a single red leaf. Fall isn’t fall without the russets set in a frame of gold.) This year has been an especially seasonal-ish year for me.

I think that spring brings potential, newness, promises. I find it impossible to enjoy the smell of fresh earth and the scent of new dandelions in spring without feeling my heart lighten. Summer is a rich and luxurious green. If spring is promises, then summer is sultry and passionate. Summer runs in my veins and intoxicates me like new wine. Winter is the season of opposites. It has a cold and distant beauty; it’s both untouchable and renewing. And yet I think that winter is one of the friendliest seasons, because my family stays inside; we enjoy each others company over hot chocolate and tea. My life is simpler in winter.

But my favorite of all seasons is fall. If winter renews, spring promises and summer intoxicates, then fall is fulfillment. Fall is the crowning glory of nature, the perfect blending of each season into a climax of nature. The promises of spring are realized in harvest; apple blossoms become rosy apples, new green leaves mature into golden crowns and russet cloaks. The new wine of summer ages into the golden brandy of fall, smooth and sweet with just enough bite to keep it interesting. And even winter adds to the splendor of fall, giving a brisk reminder each night to appreciate each moment while it lasts and creating appreciation for cozy fall quilts and cuddles with loved ones.