The South, the shutdown, healthcare— Lord, help us!

The implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act and the subsequent government shutdown have drawn out all sorts of boogeymen, a plethora of Doomsday prophecies, and a multitude of defiant oppositional gestures. While nothing changes, blame is being assigned at an astounding rate. Not a region to be left out of political controversy, the Deep South has its role to play, too.

On Monday, October 7, Salon.com ran an article titled “Shutdown shows the Civil War never ended.” This very crafty argument weaves its way around comparing the modern American culture war with some German thing called Kulturkampf and then puts the roots of the American culture war into a Civil War context, even going so far as to make these statements:

The equivalent of politically and economically freeing the slaves back then is now granting health care access to all Americans. In either case, the old order is about to be toppled and that leads especially Southerners and white conservatives everywhere, to fear for the end of the United States, as they know it.

The writer, Stephan Richter, outlines his comparisons between the post-Civil War Freedmen’s Bureau and the 2010 Affordable Care Act. What a leap! I’m not saying whether he’s right wrong— mainly because he seems a hell of a lot smarter than I am. Richter’s understanding of dialectics allows him to connect late19th-century efforts by the Catholic Church to uphold a status quo with early 21st-century political goals to set an entire nation  on a different course (a la the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012). It’s the same stuff basically, he tells us, but not exactly.

The real blast comes further down in the article, when the reader reaches the section called “The Old South and Medicaid.” There, a map (complete with little Confederate flags) tells the story. Which states used to have slaves? These right here. Which states won’t participate in the Affordable Healthcare Act? These same ones. Oh now, I get it . . . Let’s see, the Affordable Care Act is about extending healthcare to benefits to those least able to afford it, and the states who are most often refusing to participate are the states with the most poverty. Then somehow we get 19th-century German history again – this time, Otto von Bismarck – and he ends with a not-too-subtle indictment of a too-conservative conservatism.

* * *

On the Friday before that article ran, The New Republic ran another article in a similar vein, “The Factoid That Explains Why You want to Live in a Blue State.”  This very brief article takes a moment to compare Minnesota, whose Medicaid rules are very amenable to helping families, with Alabama, whose Medicaid rules are not friendly at all. The explanation points out how, if you live in Alabama and are very, very poor, you’re shit out of luck when it comes to healthcare.

Personally, despite all of its faults, I don’t want to leave Alabama . . . but if I did want to move to a Blue State, I’d have to drive many, many miles across several Red States to get to one. Honestly, from Alabama, it’s probably only possible to reach a Blue State by airplane. And if you can’t afford healthcare, how are you going to afford a plane ticket?

* * *

Third and finally, an article than ran on al.com on Tuesday, October 8, “Alabama ranked 3rd in states most impacted by the government shutdown, Republican states faring worst, WalletHub finds,” adds its own voice to chorus of why this shutdown is absurd:

A summary of the study stated: “Ironically enough, WalletHub concluded that states won by the Republican Party in the 2012 presidential election could be hit disproportionately hard by a prolonged government shutdown, as 15 such Red States ranked in the top 25 in the study’s overall ‘at-risk’ rankings.”

So what this poll is saying is: a Republican-led political tactic in Congress has shutdown the federal government, which is now budget-less at the end of the fiscal year, and Republican-leaning states are being hurt the most by that shutdown.

Lord, help us!

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