So, earlier today a smiling President Obama signed into law the landmark health-care overhaul bill that was passed by the House this past Sunday night. If the polls I've seen are to be believed, nearly half of you are overjoyed by the bill's passage, while slightly more of you are outraged.
I'll get to my thoughts on the bill in a moment (I love building up the suspense...), but first I'd like to discuss my feelings about the individual who tirelessly spearheaded the year-long political battle that led to this moment.
It wasn't long ago that Mr. Obama was enjoying widespread public support and enviable ratings in the opinion polls. Over the past fifteen months, however, that broad backing has slowly waned.
In addition, the opposition, in a surprising display of unity, came out firing on all cylinders against this health care overhaul. Many citizens were persuaded by these arguments, even resulting in quite a few Democratic representatives voting against the bill—perhaps fearing that a vote in favor would translate into votes against in the upcoming elections.
As a rule, once "common wisdom" declares something to be a lost cause, elected officials are quick to wash their hands of it. No politician can afford to be associated with failure. And common wisdom, up until almost the very end, had deemed the health care bill's chances of passing as slim.
Yet, despite it all, the President persevered. And by the skin of his teeth – by a majority of only seven votes – the sweeping health care reform was passed into law.
Obviously, the President strongly believes in the importance of this cause. And to his credit, he didn't give up once the going got tough. Democracy notwithstanding, a true leader who is given a mandate must have the courage to run with the ball, also in face of the ever-vacillating see-saw of public opinion.
What an appropriate message for these pre-Passover days. On Passover, we try to liberate ourselves from our personal restricting "Egypts." We need to make bold decisions and commit ourselves to reaching the finish line—without regard for what others might say or think. We must all be real leaders—starting with charting the paths of our own lives.
As for the bill itself, I'm opinionless.
Honest to goodness. This is not an attempt on my part to evade giving a political opinion (something which perhaps I've been guilty of in the past), but the honest truth.
In principle, I'm all for universal health care. I strongly feel that a nation that has the means to do so – as ours does – should ensure that no citizen goes without adequate medical care due to inability to afford it (for more on this topic, see The Blessing of Rising Healthcare Costs). But this particular bill: will it bring relief to the needy, or will it – as the Republicans claim – serve to hopelessly bankrupt insurance companies and even our nation, lead to a government takeover of the health care system, and cause a drastic decline in the quality of our medical care?
I don't know.
The bill is more than 1,000 pages long, and written in language mostly incomprehensible to the average Joe (which happens to be one of my nicknames). In fact, from what I understand, the bill cannot be meaningfully read from front to back, because its tenth title is a list of amendments to the previous nine titles, which must be applied to the titles and sections to which they refer before the bill can be interpreted properly...
And then, to fully understand its impact would necessitate a study of the bill's assessment by the Congressional Budget Office (a mere 36 pages).
So, my opinion? I cry uncle!
Nevertheless, it seems that there is no shortage of people who have very strong opinions about the bill—both pro and con. Which leaves two options: a) They're all way brighter than me, and have much more time on their hands. b) Their opinions are largely based on what their spouse/father/pundit-sister-in-law says, ingrained political affiliation, or a few CNN or FOX sound-bites.
I suspect that the latter option is the one most often true.
Where am I going with all this?
I think it behooves us all to reexamine many of our perceptions and beliefs, and to ask ourselves: how may of them are based on real information and data, and how many of them have we simply absorbed from our environment? And how many of these opinions are we incapable of honestly evaluating because we lack the skills?
We all have opinions about ourselves, what we can and can't, should and shouldn't do; about others; about religion and spirituality (exactly what is a spiritual act or lifestyle?); and every other area in life. If we truly want to be liberated this Passover, we must take the time to develop substantiated opinions and values.
And for us Jews, this quest starts at home. We have a 3,300 year old system of wisdom, values, and principles.
What's your opinion on your heritage?