By Ben Cohen
I sat next to a young mother with two small
children on a flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles the other day,
and chatted about her struggles to pay her bills, feed her children and
provide health care for her family.
She told me how her husband
had lost three of his fingers in an accident, and could only afford to
get two of them re-attached (one of them not fully). She told me how
her three year old son was turned away from surgery for a painful
hernia unless she could come up with $25,000 cash and had to apply for
charity status to get him seen to. She told me about her father, who
suffered a series of serious heart attacks and had to have triple
bypass surgery. Her father then picked up a flesh eating hospital
disease, and never fully recovered. He declared bankruptcy, lives on
welfare, and owes the hospital $650,000 (paying them off at $20 per
Her stories were horrendous, heartbreaking, and enraging. I sat aghast,
horrified at how the richest nation on the planet could fail to help
it's citizens, especially those not looking for hand outs. The woman I
spoke to works as a massage therapist, and her husband a laborer. They
had saved up for 6 months to send her to see her aunt, and you could
sense how big a deal it was for her to travel with her children.
I asked her who she liked out of the Presidential candidates, and my heart sunk.
"John McCain," she told me. "Hillary is a liar, and Barack Obama's Pastor hates America."
It then began to dawn on me just how big the problem is in the United
States. I tried to explain to her that the crumbling health care
system, declining wages and rising prices were a direct consequence of
policies John McCain is running on, but it seemed pointless. She was an
intelligent, but uniformed person subjected to endless hours of
advertising by the candidates, and non stop 'analysis' from the
corporate media. Her mind was made up on image alone, and she would be
voting for John McCain because he seemed 'honest'. I told her that the
Democratic candidates would at least provide a minimum safety net for
working Americans, while McCain would go further to strip it away. She
listen politely, but I did not feel hopeful that she had been swayed.
As I said goodbye to her, I wondered what the progressive community
could do to reach people like her. She has been failed by the
Government and media institutions that are supposed to serve her, with
very little in the way of replacement. The future for her and her
family is filled with fear and economic insecurity, and McCain offers
virtually nothing in the way of serious solutions.
If people like the woman I sat next to are voting for John McCain, the
progressive community, while growing in size and power, still has its
work cut out.