Image: Men and women at a town hall meeting. (public domain)
A while back I wrote about the ethical implications of the new healthcare bills in Your Money or Your Life – Why the AHCA is Contrary to Torah. At the time I was writing about the healthcare bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, but its ugly sibling, the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 was if anything worse.
Tonight we received the good news (and the majority of the American people appear to agree that it is indeed good news) that there are not sufficient votes in the Senate to pass the bill. This happened not because of derring-do in Washington D.C., but because ordinary citizens let their elected officials know how they felt about the bill. Thousands and thousands of Americans called, emailed, faxed, tweeted and wrote to their senators. Hundreds of others took even stronger action, staging die-ins, demonstrations, and various actions to dramatize their feelings about the legislation.
And their senators listened!
The Jewish tradition teaches us:
When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say: I will go to my home and I will eat and drink, and peace be upon you, my soul. – Taanit 11a
Everyone who spoke up to protest this cruel legislation deserves credit for saving lives. It is up to us to keep on emailing, faxing, tweeting, and writing, to keep on showing up at town meetings, to let our elected officials know what we want and what America needs.
It is not enough to have opinions. It is not enough to yell at the TV. Our opinions only count when we make them known to the people we have elected to represent us. We cannot simply sit at home and grouse about the “bad people” “out there.” We must use our limited resources and energy in the most constructive ways available to us: showing up at the polls for every election, staying in touch with our reps, keeping an eye on the news.
What we learned today is that we can make a difference.
There is still more to do. People need decent jobs, decent affordable housing, and healthcare. We need to find an ethical and effective solution to the situation of immigrants and migrant workers. Climate change threatens our national security and the existence of many species, including our own. We need to secure basic human rights for so many of our citizens and for those who want to become citizens.
Torah demands that we act. The good news today was that when enough of us act, good outcomes are entirely possible.