Harry Reid, in a speech on the senate floor, has angered Republicans by making comparisons to those who oppose health care reform, to those who opposed abolishing slavery.
While Reid could have used a better speechwriter, healthcare reform is in fact the most important piece of legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
I made this point three months ago back in September in a column here and with the criticism Reid has been getting, I decided it was worth reprinting.
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From the very beginning, the movement to reform healthcare and those who oppose it have had eerie similarities to the civil rights battles of the Sixties. Even the town hall meetings have been filled with the kind of anger and contorted faces not seen since opposition to civil rights more than 40 years ago. There was even one man opposing healthcare reform who showed up at a town hall meeting with a gun.
Comparisons between health care reform with a public option and The Civil Rights Act of 1964 are valid, both on the substantive issues and on the reactions of those who so steadfastly oppose it.
Healthcare reform and the public option is the most significant piece of legislation to come out of congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It will do more good and affect more people for a longer period of time than anything since civil rights. And the resistance to it by those who oppose it just as just strong and just as venomous as those who opposed civil rights..
Heath care reform really is all about civil rights. It’s not about race or gender but it is about equality. And an equality where everyone regardless of income or status, has access to something every bit as important as individual freedom — quality healthcare. And the public option is what levels the playing field.
Health care and access to it should never be about ability to pay.And it should never be about insurance companies making life and death decisions regarding a person’s health based on their bottom line. For anyone who thinks that violence is what made the civil rights movement different from health care think of all the violence done to people by insurance companies denying needed treatment, some which results in death and much of it as damaging and painful as any billy club cracked across a person’s skull..
The public option is the government giving people the choice between the tyranny of insurance companies who have been part of the problem and the freedom to go elsewhere.
Health care is something, as Ted Kennedy had been saying for almost 30 years, that has to be thought of as a right and not a privilege. And according to a recent CNN quick vote poll it’s a proposition with which over 80% of the American people agree ( yes I know, the polls It’s hard to believe the accuracy of most of them but 80% is still a pretty big number.)
The crowds and mobs organized by Republicans which made Obama’s knees buckle when he was quick to consider dumping the public option ( in spite of his explanation to the contrary) look and sound a lot like the people who opposed civil rights legislation back in the Sixties.
They wrap themselves in the flag and the constitution, claim the government is interfering in their lives and is trying to force something on them, (which has been made clear is not the case. As with civil rights, their argument isn’t about what they want or dont want, its about what they don’t want other people to have.
It is a group that, despite all their false declarations to the contrary, do not believe in freedom and certainly do not believe in choice but believe in conformity, and doing it their way, the old way no matter how screwed up and unjust. And when people stand up and don’t see things their way they feel threatened. And when a mob feels threatened you get the cage rattling, red faces and veins popping in the necks of the opposition at the town halls. And just like the people who tried to stand in the way of civil rights , their common bond is ignorance.
The healthcare system is not working for all people,anymore than the constitution was working for all people prior to 1964. And for some people that was just fine.
The line from the Hippocratic Oath that most people quote is, “At first do no harm”. That was written by Hippocrates but isn’t in the Hippocratic Oath. The line in the Hippocratic Oath to which most people are referring is even more to the point. The line is ” I will keep him from harm and injustice”.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine as a profession said that keeping people from injustice was an integral part of health care and the idea goes back as far as ancient Greece…
The current health care system is filled with injustice, and it’s injustice and righting it that makes health care reform the civil rights movement of this decade.
And insurance companies are at the heart of it. Which is why the public option is so important. Other aspects of health care reform matter but they are just that — reform. The public option is about somethng more. It’s about turning injustice into justice. It’s about civil rights. Something that the Democrats in congress seem to understand but in signaling he was ready to sacrifice it, something that unfortunately, the county’s first president with African blood still doesnt get.
It’s ironic that with news that Obama in his upcoming speech is going to attempt to use the public option as a bargaining chip he’s willng to drop,. that its the country’s first president with African blood who doesnt seem to have the fortitude to overcome. But the Democratic congress is making it clear that they will..