Friday, August 21, 2009

No "Care" in Health Care

The political debate about healing is looking more and more like the last scene of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," a dazed doctor amid carnage mumbling "Madness, madness."

Not long after that 1950s movie about savagery arising from noble intentions, the psychoanalyst-philosopher Erich Fromm was obsessed with what he called "The Myth of Care." Stunned by social upheaval in the Sixties and rage over Vietnam, the author of "The Art of Loving" and "The Sane Society" kept searching newspapers and TV screens for images of people reaching out to help and comfort one another.

If he were alive today, Fromm would have an even harder time than he did back then finding evidence that, as they argue about health care, Americans haven't turned brutal and uncaring.

Barack Obama, who came to power as a healing figure, is being swamped by public anxieties and, the harder he works at being rational in an overheated atmosphere of fear and distrust, the more the President is judged as having passed the "point at which realism shades over into weakness" (Paul Krugman) and failing to take advantage of "the teachable moment" on health care (Peggy Noonan).

But whatever the potential damage to his party in next year's voting and his own prospects for reelection in 2012, the sight of Obama wandering the ruins of the health reform landscape, still trying to reason with unreasonable opposition, is less an indictment of the most gifted political figure of our time than a reminder that the best-educated, best-informed generations have not evolved much from the benighted days of half a century ago.

If anything, someone eligible for being hailed before a death panel might say that they have slid a long way back.

1 comment:

Holte Ender said...

You have to read the small country newspapers (mostly owned by media giants) to see where things change. They really don't change that much. The small newspapers promote small town values, whatever they are, infused with hard core editorials and just a dab of fear. These small circulations add up to millions of voters a election time. Obama is finding out what Fromm found out, that care is a myth.