Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Freedom of Choice

As we in a general sense are not a very well educated society, it is relatively easy to manipulate the masses and in essence brainwash them. An example is our type of democracy which we endlessly try to push to nations which have never experienced life under such a principle and frankly, don't understand or care for it. But are we truly democratic? Politics is strictly divided into red and blue: independent people can exist only on a local level, if at all. And do we make sure everyone's opinion is heard? No, people will have to register to vote and there are numerous conditions. The millions who have served time behind bars usually aren't eligible, nor are any of the immigrants who hold onto their green cards instead of becoming citizens. I personally know many who want to stay out of the voting registration because it automatically places them into the pool of jurors in the legal system. Since unemployment is at record high levels, perhaps this wouldn't be such a big issue today, but should one have a job and be the sole bread winner for a family, a potential of being locked up in a court room for weeks or even months can be a scary thought. Surely, if one is smart, it is easy to be excused in a jury selection process, by making it known one has racist opinions or is opposed to the death penalty and so on. But many people in such situations feel they have to be honest and so they end up spending a lot of time in a courthouse, instead of job hunting for instance.

I wish such honesty would be present in the court system itself, which even at its highest level, votes strictly according to party lines. In civilized countries where judges are schooled by universities, they are taught that neutrality is a must without which a fair judgment is impossible. Someone wanting to become a judge can never practice law as an attorney, barrister, solicitor or any other type of jurist. In a true American way, a good attorney will get his client whatever this wants but often at a great cost. A great defense attorney will get his client free, no matter how guilty he is. Sooner or later this lawyer will end up on a bench as a judge. If early on he has had trouble telling the difference between right and wrong, fair and unfair, is a nomination enough to change his moral value system in a blink of an eye? I think not. Surely we have the above mentioned jury system, but that is overburdened and often consists of true simpletons, not the brightest minds it should. Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor will do their best to brainwash these people to see matter their way and one of them usually prevails, unless there happen to be strong individuals among the jury members who fail to bend and a mistrial is declared. At the top level, in the nation's highest court, the system should not tolerate a judge's biased view, usually based on the President and his political party that got him elected. The constitution and laws should be carefully examined and interpreted, but much of the time partisan politics overrule such documents and we calmly accept the usual 5-4 split as a fact of life.

When the people of Massachusetts elected a Republican to replace the late giant Ted Kennedy in the Senate, it was a slap on the face of everything the grand old man had represented during his many decades in public service. How quickly we forget! A person dies, there is a funeral and/or a memorial, touching words are spoken, tears flow and then everything is forgotten in no time at all. A death is not even necessary: a departing head of a business or organization leaves and the next day he/she is but a distant memory. In my field, a conductor who might have a fancy American title of Music Director, leaves or is made to quit, and people can hardly wait for him to be gone. A few orchestra musicians might miss him but only because they were his favorites and the new person in charge sees them differently. An orchestra in a pit continues to saw away the same music. Do they miss the man on the podium? You must be kidding. They have other things in their minds such as the survival of their workplace, certainly not taken for granted these days.

Senator Kennedy of course championed universal health care, a given in any other Western country. We have, according to some studies, 52 million uninsured people. Nobody is willing to say if this scary figure includes people in the country illegally, the unwanted but yet needed people who also get sick like you and me. We pride ourselves with claims that the elderly are taken care of by Medicare. Although by law it becomes one's primary health insurance at a certain age, good luck finding a doctor or a hospital willing to accept that coverage as the only one. A family member works as a doctor for a medical department of a major public teaching institution, specializing in geriatrics. They are not allowed to see patients who don't carry secondary insurance.

We like to find fault in "socialized" medicine systems, such as the Scandinavian countries provide, saying that we must be able to choose our own doctors. Yet any affordable insurance plan works on a Preferred Provider principle which strictly limits one's choice or otherwise covers only a fraction of high billed amounts. There are plenty of private doctors and hospitals in the Scandinavian countries, for people who insist on seeing a certain doctor or have the non-emergency surgery performed immediately. The cost for this is naturally high, but nowhere near the expense here, and the national health insurance will reimburse the patient for part of it. So, in essence we already have a socialized system, one with limits. An insurance company must give its preapproval for any planned surgical operation. The yearly deductible seldom is absolute. Unless one has money to burn, our options are actually far more limited than in those countries whose system we deplore. The government is already deeply involved in health care when you take into account the people on Medicare, Medicaid or who are treated via the Veterans Health Care system. And who do you think is paying for the ER visits to public hospitals? What about the health care for the millions who actually work for our government? People, don't kid yourselves with the idea of free choice as it is an illusion. Read an article in the NY Times about a messy situation between an insurer and a hospital chain and patients not knowing if they can continue to see their doctors.

Some of us are either blessed, or cursed, to see patterns everywhere. Part of an IQ test which we had to take during the last grade of middle school, we were given a logic test with letters and numbers. The nice lady said not to worry as nobody had ever finished it in the given 20 minutes. By eight minutes was I not only done with it but had also checked everything over, and asked to be excused. She seemed to be annoyed and demanded to see my paper. Then her face turned white and she quietly said everything was correct. Recognizing patterns in everyday life gives a person a window into the future of things. This is where I presently become pessimistic as it isn't a pretty sight. I'm old already and have no reason to worry about the rest of my life, but I have children who are just starting theirs and I just hope they'll be able to adjust to a new world. They will have to be like the most successful of wild animals, whose natural habitat is being destroyed either by the constantly expanding number of humans or the changing climatic conditions, in order to survive and thrive. Parts of this continent and Europe may have had an old-fashioned cold winter but the Arctic polar cap is still shrinking and the frozen tundra melting, releasing large amounts of very dangerous methane, a truly nasty greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. And all along we thought carbon dioxide was the real danger, but now it might turn out to be just an appetizer before the real meal.

I wish this country would wake up before something catastrophic makes us do so.

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