Will Congress choose public service or politics in Health Care Vote?

Sometime soon, perhaps within the next few days, our congressional representatives will show us – by their vote on health care reform – what matters most to them: politics or public service. Let us hope that the majority will find the courage to once again move away from a history of callousness and indifference and enact legislation that will, among other things, improve the quality of life for millions of Americans, who right now have inadequate or no health care coverage.

Nearly 50 years ago, our lawmakers displayed a high degree of valor that ended an era of blatant, racial injustice. I’m confident they again will rise to the occasion simply because, as President Obama recently said, “It’s the right thing to do.” Strong resistance is expected, but stronger winds of change once again will help a more civil, caring America to overcome.

Too often during the past year Republicans in the House and Senate have seemed determined to defy and, ultimately, defeat any health care program backed by the White House. How else can one explain their resistance to a proposal that would allow more than 30 million Americans first-time access to health care, something that most of us take for granted?

Instead of working to find a way to provide a health care program for those in desperate need, the Republicans have used a series of bogeyman, scare tactics designed to confuse, mislead, delay and deny. So vividly do I recall similar tactics used by congressional representatives who opposed the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. That legislation allowed African Americans access to public facilities, something that had been long denied because of racial bias and gave African Americans the opportunity to pursue careers in politics, business, medicine, law, journalism, also long denied.

Because many southern politicians, including President Lyndon Johnson, finally mustered the courage to see racial segregation for what it was – an immoral way of life – more than 20 million African Americans and their children now truly enjoy this sweet land of liberty. For years Civil Rights foes, referred to the Negroes’ demand for equality a “communist plot,” concocted by Yankee liberals “meddling in our way of life.”

If being a liberal means that I support a proposal that provides 30 million more Americans with health care coverage, then mark me guilty. If being a liberal means I side with those who say the health care industry should not deny or take away coverage from citizens because of so-called pre-existing conditions, call me an agitator. If being a liberal means that you are someone who believes in equality and fairness for all, I would hope that each of us would embrace that notion. That, in my mind, is what every caring, thoughtful American should do.

Even those of us who weren’t raised in a Christian environment know what it means to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We know, too, from this country’s struggles with other dilemmas involving morality, that we don’t always hold fast to what we feel in our hearts to be right. Too many of us too often allow ourselves to travel down a more hateful, divisive road.

A form of the massive resistance to integration that was formed in the 60s now looms as a major obstacle to President Obama’s health care package. And once again, health care foes are just as determined to deny to others what they so obviously enjoy.

Congress will pass an appropriate health care bill for the same reason it passed the Civil Rights bill: It’s time. And while many – especially Republicans – are expected to rail against it, the forces that count will provide safe passage. Just why it will pass is best expressed by this Sermon on the Mount biblical verse: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”

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