PAT LaMARCHE

Terrorists aren’t the only ones with a price on our heads

Posted May 03, 2011, at 9:18 p.m.
Last modified May 11, 2011, at 10:09 p.m.

The banner headline in Tuesday’s Washington Post declared, “Obama: ‘The world is safer … because of the death of Osama bin Laden.’”

Safer for whom?

Not safer for the millions of Americans who live without access to health care.

Let’s face it, if revenge is salve for the wounds of the 9-11 victims’ families, then that may be the one good thing to come from Osama bin Laden’s death. But there’s no way I’m buying the implication that more Americans are at risk to rogue demagogues than are imperiled by unbridled greed, fear-mongering rhetoric and perverted political agendas.

Let’s start with the easiest concept — fear mongering rhetoric — first, although they’re all painfully interconnected. President Barack Obama explained the true price exacted by Osama bin Laden’s diabolical attack: “The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.”

To be exact, New York Magazine’s count as of Sept. 5, 2002, had the death toll at 2,819. Now a couple of hundred of those folks weren’t U.S. citizens, so if we’re talking about U.S. lives, the numbers are about 270 fewer. And that number pales in comparison to the loss of U.S. life in the Iraq war, a war based on fabricated evidence and costing the lives of untold numbers of Iraqis.

In that war, the total number of coalition force deaths in Iraq is 4,770 — with about the same number of foreigners involved in this count — making the U.S. total number of empty dinner table seats 4,452. If you’re wondering where the conspirators to that loss of life are hanging out, you can check them out online commenting on bin Laden’s death.

So no, the world isn’t safer because of our enemy’s execution. The world still has us: a superpower with enough weapons of mass destruction to obliterate all human life many times over.  And if you’ve seen the videos of the U.S. Air Force cluster bombing, then you know we’re not afraid to use them.

But the president had more to say Sunday night. He wanted to remind us that we don’t turn our back on each other. “On Sept. 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.”

We may have come together, but you can’t say the same for our government and the for-profit insurance industry. The New York Times points out, “The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not ensure that all its citizens have health care coverage, the United States spends a [much] higher percentage of its gross domestic product on health care than its peers. It also spends [much] more per person on health care than its peers.”

And Harvard University says this for-profit health care system of ours costs about 15 times as many people their lives each year as died in the 9-11 attacks.

About 45,000 people die each year because insurance companies are more important to our representatives than everyday citizens, and still, Sunday, the president insisted, “We will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.”

There is one thing I agree with the president about: “The cause of securing our country is not complete.” But this week in the Maine Legislature we hopefully moved a little closer to the president’s alleged goals of  “prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values,” at the public hearing on LD1397. LD1397 would establish a single-payer health care system.

Urge your legislator to support it and use your president’s words: “Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@ hotmail.com.

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