I.V.’s resident comedian takes a look at all things Obama from a lefty comedian’s standpoint
By Debra M. Cole
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from my gay and lesbian friends in conversations and on the web about the Obama administration being slow to act on LGBT issues. The emotions range from mild disappointment to outrage. They’re upset that he hasn’t repealed the “don’t ask don’t tell policy of our military.” They were angry that he kept quiet when California voted on Prop 8 and when Maine rejected gay marriage at the ballot box. And even though he extended health benefits for same sex couples who are federal employees. That was considered a small step and perhaps just a gesture.
I’m quite open about my support of gay marriage. I sincerely believe all Americans should have the right to humiliate themselves on the Divorce Court Show. Everyone in this great country should have equal opportunity to appear on daytime trash TV. However, when I was asked on Facebook to sign a petition protesting Obama’s decision to have Rick Warren do the invocation at the inauguration, I wasn’t into it. Even though I support gay rights and don’t care for Rick Warren mostly because he’s annoying, I didn’t like that a group of liberals were falling into the “trap.” Democrats know too well how liberals can succumb to the trap that has the attitude “I want perfection right now, or I’ll bitch and withdraw support, resulting in shooting myself in the foot.”
I empathize with the gays. It is unfair they have to move to Iowa and live amongst the tacky people who would all qualify for the What Not to Wear Show in order to get married. I don’t even subscribe to the basic argument that being gay is not a choice, and therefore gay relationships should be considered on a par with straights. If being gay were a choice, I would still support gay marriage. However, at this time the gays need to chill out with Obama. Expectations of the President are too high. Some gay activists are acting like a drowning man who complains the life jacket thrown to him came from Walmart instead of REI.
Despite support even among some conservatives to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” Obama can’t spend political currency on the LGBT community right now. I know the gays don’t want to hear, “you have to wait in line behind healthcare, a recession, and two wars.” But the truth is you have to wait in line. And quite frankly, you should. No one has died because he or she can’t get married. But thousands of Americans die each year because they don’t have access to healthcare. And the numbers don’t account for the people who live in sickness because they put off visits to the doctor. Or people who take half of a recommended dose of medication to save money. Or people with mental illnesses that could flourish with basic medication and counseling. Anyone at anytime can be subjected to cancelled policies, denied claims, and denial of coverage. We are all at risk for bankruptcy and death even with insurance. Our healthcare system is so ridiculous that the words of Lady Liberty should say, “Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But don’t bring us you’re sick because you’re screwed if you get off that boat with a pre-existing condition.”
I’ve got my own healthcare horror stories. I’m currently pregnant and fainted while working on a film set. I smacked my face on a desk on the way to the floor. The accident resulted in two root canals after a trip to the hospital and more stress on my new marriage. My health insurance told the dental secretary she needed to code the claim correctly in order for them to pay. But they also said that she has to figure out the codes on her own and promptly hung up. The dentist then muttered 30 seconds worth of expletives and told me how insurance companies put them through administrative hell with all their claims. It is still unresolved.
And even getting the health insurance I have was a nightmare. When I left teaching for the freelance, entrepreneurial life that America claims to support, I had to purchase an overpriced self-employed policy. Two companies turned me down because of pre-existing conditions-asthma and anxiety. And one said they would give me insurance but not cover anything related to mental illness. I asked the underwriter how much obesity cost their company. I told her that my 112-pound never smoked cigarettes or abused drugs, never been hospitalized body should count for something. She then pointed out that I have two mental problems-anxiety and depression. I told her she was looking at my situation all-wrong. These mild disorders, that are quite manageable, actually balance out and save money. If I were just depressed, I would become lethargic, constantly eat, and develop a fat ass. That’s because people who are simply depressed are often too lazy to be anxious. And if I were just anxious, I would engage in dangerous impulsve behaviors. My anxiety shows I have gumption and will exercise consistently. The insomnia, pacing, and nail biting burn a lot of calories and will prevent me from falling into the obesity category that is so costly. And my depression keeps things in perspective. It slows my anxiety down so that I don’t tell people like you and your company to go $%#@ themselves.
Needless to say, we didn’t work out a deal. I got insurance somewhere else with a company I can’t afford, and who won’t pay for one of my medications. I have to buy if from Mexico because I can get 6 months of pills from Javier at the same price it would be for one month here in the land of freedom.
There are thousands of stories that are obviously much worse than mine. Sadly, Insurance companies have wealth, political influence, and the mindset of many Americans on their side. It is an outdated, discriminatory, and cruel mindset. It’s a belief that people, who are unable to pay for medical care, don’t deserve it. In fact, confronting an insurance company has a power balance similar to a 19th century slave woman telling her master he’s unfair. Imagine a ridiculous conversation like this one. How far could she get with her complaint? “Masta, I needs to talk to you. You said if I had 4 strong chillun with that slave man Alfred, that my mama and the 3 chillun I had with you would be set free on yo 50th birthday. Today you turn 50, and now you say no?” “You say it gone cost you too much to let go of my mama and yo 3 light skinned chillun.”
Healthcare should be a right for all Americans. What we have now is a disgrace. And we should be ashamed of our hypocrisy. For example, there are memorial services, films, books, art exhibits, and music dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The tragic events that day took just under 3000 American lives. The victims certainly deserve our thoughts and attention. But we should be just as angry that this country has allowed at least 40,000 people in one year alone to die because of a system based on neglect and greed
However, not everyone is moved by these statistics the same way. Not everyone sees the relation of the terms liberty, equality, and justice to denial of care. Change is difficult and reform is complicated. And complexity doesn’t sit well with our ADD barely literate instant gratification pursuing culture. So given the challenges of our time, along with The Tea Party People, Birthers, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh, who have had success making things more difficult for Obama and reform minded Democrats. Imagine what it would be like if Obama got loud about gay rights in the midst of all this craziness. Nothing would get done. We saw how the remarks Obama made regarding the police and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates resulted in a media frenzy that dominated the news for weeks. It was a waste of time and a distraction for the President and everyone involved. Turning up the volume on gay rights at this time would turn into a bigger mess. Healthcare would get tossed, and Americans would continue to suffer.
The majority of Americans do not support gay marriage. And Obama never promised help on the marriage issue anyway. However many Americans, even some conservatives, do support changes that give gays and lesbians more rights than they currently have. Gay activists should concentrate on achievable goals right now, and demand changes in the courts and at the local level. They should table their resentment against Obama and take a wait and see approach. If Obama wins a second term, and at the end he still hasn’t done squat for gays. That would be the appropriate time to raise hell because at that point, he would very much deserve scorn and rebuke from the gay community.
Debra Cole is a self-professed ‘lefty’ who calls it like she sees it. She was a public school teacher in Georgia for 9 years. Currently, she performs regularly in Atlanta area comedy clubs. She’s known for her sophisticated and smart humor that’s delivered with a seemingly sweet and yet surprising sarcastic Southern Georgia twang. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.