About a week ago I found myself having a very strange conversation among a group of political activists. We were sitting in a library meeting room being asked whether we thought the group’s energies should be focused more on the current struggle for a new health care system or to push for the new green energy legislation.
What a choice! My God I thought, has it come to that, a sort of contemporary Sophie’s Choice for those that remember that great old film. Had it really come down to deciding whether we should focus on one absolutely critical issue or the other? Being forced to decide between using our limited resources on fixing the broken American health care system or working to avoid the looming planetary climate crisis. Sure, I realized that the moment did have some positive aspects to it. I mean, on one hand the fact that we could have arrived at a point when with great effort we could actually make progress on these two vital issues seemed amazing.
After all, only a short time ago most Americans did not have a clue what our dependence on fossil fuels was doing to us and on health care they were still confused by Wall Street’s professionally orchestrated marketing campaign that we had the best medical system on the planet rather than one of the worst health care delivery system in the developed world.
After all, only a few years ago I was picketed for warning of the dangers of climate change and when I spoke of the excellent universal health care systems available to people in so many other developed countries people looked at me as if I were nuts And now, here we were. On the brink of actual making progress on both critical long term issues.
But the question remained. Given the limited resources of our small group it was reasonable to suggest making a choice to concentrate on either health care or energy but not both – a question I’d been asking myself for months. But then I realized, it’s a false choice because neither challenge is a run of the mill issue of the moment.
Both literally call for revolutionary action to dramatically transition to new clean energy sources even as we transform health care from a system designed to meet Wall Street’s profits to one based on America’s need for healthy citizens
No, this time we cannot make a choice. Because the downside of the relative political stability American have long enjoyed over so many other countries is an essentially conservative democracy only very infrequently capable of making really dramatic changes . In fact such opportunities come along only a few times in a lifetime. And right now is such a moment, a very temporary moment when we can pass these two revolutionary changes; one of those rare moments when progressives have the votes in congress, and a president in the White House who understands the need for a radical overhaul of how we deliver health care and use energy.
Even as the defenders of fossil fuel and our Wall Street based health care market lovers are in retreat. Yes, right now is one of those rare moments when, as they say, the legislative stars have lined up to allow these revolutionary changes. So, there really is no choice.
We have to fight for a people not Wall Street based health care delivery system using every financial donation, e-mail and public march we can organize.
We have to fight for affordable universal health care as if the looming threat of climate change was not bearing down on us.
And take on the challenge of climate change, fighting off the rising waters, increasing drought, and growing public health threat it forces us toward, fighting with every financial donation, e-mail and public march we can organize as if the fight for an effective American national health care system did not exist.
Because only now are we in a position to fight for the real change last fall we merely voted for.