Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Passes. Right?

Politicians are what we have made them. It's popular now to growl menacingly about the next election when things don't please us. Then we turn around and complain that they're always campaigning and they'll take funds from Satan himself to pay for the next election victory. Thinking is always someone else's job, and then we complain about how it gets done.

Because leadership in this country is a popularity contest every leader loses the ability to lead in the process of getting elected.

The private sector is no better. I've experienced the management style and social skills of a number of business leaders. They can be as loud, confident and wrong as Joe Biden is reputed to be. It's great to have their energy and their delicious money behind projects like a local bike route, but some of these go-getters make up in decisiveness what they lack in cycling experience and technical knowledge. And their egos restrict who they will allow to educate them.

A manager does not need to know how to do everything. He or she needs to know where to find the people who do, and how to motivate them to produce it. If the underlings don't do well with the overlord's personality, less gets done, or it gets done less well. Observers on the sidelines can simply watch the waves crash on the shore as the two forces interact.

Because the campaign never ends, politicians need to show miraculous results on questions that don't succumb to quick fixes, like health care. We needed to pass some comprehensive legislation a couple of decades ago (or longer), but we could dicker about it for 20 more years and never get anything better than we just got. So there it is. If it survives the court challenges already brought against it it will still be a deformed monster put together by the mad scientists of Congress.

Truly progressive citizens complain rightly that it doesn't go far enough. Conservatives complain that it exists at all. They say they want to do something, but they want to do it thoughtfully and, by their reckoning, "right." A good time might be several Congresses after all of them have retired as Taxpayers' Heroes and gone on to that great golf course in the sky.

Let's give the supporters of this bill credit for going out on a limb with it. They have much more to lose than the opponents, because things WILL NOT get instantly better. The opponents will have plenty of time to say "I told you so" before the next election. They can blame domestic turmoil on the failed bill rather than their own obstructionism.

Imagine some people clinging to a rock as heavy surf smashes them. Progressives say we should make a human chain toward the cliff and try to climb up to a more secure perch. Conservatives point out that only a minority of people are getting sucked into the ocean to die, whereas this hare-brained human chain project looks dangerous to them. The status quo is manageable.

The human chain requires more people than the progressives can muster. Every attempt to make the human chain with only the willing ends in disaster. The conservatives look on smugly as their prophecies of failure come true time after time. At the same time they inch higher on the rock, oblivious to the rising tide which will eventually crest above its peak.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

And the Grief Goes On

A month into the grieving process, the bereaved is like a Superball whipped hard into an empty room in a vacuum at zero G. Other objects and substances are injected into the room from time to time. Sticky items impede the ball or stop it completely, but inevitably something explodes and launches it again, up, down and off the wall.

Actually it's not like that at all. You can use physics to predict the motion of the ball, but you have no way to know which way the aching mind and heart of a human being will go next. You might predict with 80 percent accuracy, but the remaining 20 percent error is more than enough to make a situation worse. Grief amplifies every stress you already had, as well as dumping on its own unbelievable load.

At times she can be deceptively normal. Don't be fooled. The year is only a twelfth gone. And some vestige of the pain will be with her forever. Hopefully the random outbursts of anger and the harsh comparisons to the lives and luck of others will cease. There is no set schedule for these things, only some data on averages.

People have to decide early in life: do you want to be lovable and beloved, and leave a gaping, aching hole when you die, or be surly and cold, however useful and virtuous, so people are just as glad when you're gone?

I've tended to be clinical. Some view that as cold. I think of it as keeping a solid stance from which to offer genuine help, not just sympathetic emotion. I have to stay on balance as much as possible in a surging tide of unbalancing forces that can as suddenly turn into a placid sea, only to spew forth a monster from the depths that turns out to be a playful otter that gets eaten by a shark and a beautiful sunset leads to a black night and so on.

All the while, important decisions have to be made, as in any life. Advice from others who have grieved says to avoid making important decisions for as long as the random agonies are going on, but life doesn't wait. You can only make what seems like the best decision at the time. To those inclined to worry, there's always something to worry about. To those inclined to regret, the same principle applies, even under the best circumstances. You move forward even when you try not to move.