It’s ironic that half of America uses the word “Obamacare” as a curse and the other half dreams they are living in dark, cold places like Norway, Canada or Sweden, where health care is virtually free—for everybody.
As I grew up in Norway and took this human right for granted, I would never have dreamed I would actually live most of my life in America, self-employed and healthy, but precariously uninsured. One serious health problem and I’d be seriously in debt; or, if not too serious, on a plane back to Norway.
Once, my meniscus went out, either because of too much sitting in lotus watching my breath repeating mantras, or, perhaps due to my early years playing soccer, or both. At any rate, the American doctor wanted to operate, and it would only cost me about 15 thousand bucks, he assured me.
The American doctor with a second opinion also wanted to operate, only for 13 thousand bucks. So off I went to Norway and talked to a doctor who just happened to have worked in America. He laughed and said: “If we’d been over there, I’d say you would have needed an operation too, but here I make the same amount of money either way, so let’s take a closer look at your MRI scan.”
He looked and looked and then said: “It looks to me that you’ll be able to sit in lotus soon without an operation because your tear will reshape itself if you bicycle regularly and practice these exercises I’m going to teach you.”
That’s exactly what I did. And that’s exactly what happened. Well, to be on the safe side, I’ve actually mostly been sitting in half-lotus, or siddhasana.
Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh keeps calling Obama, who actually does seem to care, a communist, or, depending on what his coffee tasted that morning, a fascist. But unbeknownst to Rush, if Obama had lived in Norway, his policies would be to the right of our right wing party. That’s right, says the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. That’s quite ironic, is it not? Except to Rush, of course.
I like to think of my own political convictions as neither left-leaning nor right-leaning but somewhere beyond some kind of political padhastasana toward a more flexible, more sustainable future.
Whenever Rush screams his right-wing venom through the airwaves when I visit the local hillbilly hardware store, I am reminded that this tobacco spitting store owner listening to this crap is also the same person who left a whole bunch of merchandise outside his store after closing time to be picked up by a commie friend of mine—a person whom the big-hearted Republican had never met, by the way. He simply said over the phone to my friend, “You can pay me for that stuff whenever you come by some other time.”
Incidents like that remind me that beneath all the political bickering and the attack ads, we are all just people who actually do care. Even those who hate Obamacare. Even those tobacco chewing rednecks, they are yogis at heart, even though their minds often seem to be as restricted and closed as their tobacco-stained lips.
Obama won the election, but the country is still divided. He won by democratic means, but due to all the money wasted on buying lies on TV, we the people, we lost. Our so-called democracy lost.
We lost, and America is still divided between those who are open-minded and closed-hearted and those who are open-hearted and closed-minded.
As one woman from New York City told me when we struck up a conversation at the grocery store in the liberal oasis of Asheville, N.C., “This would never happen in New York. You people are so nice and friendly down here in the South.” Yes, we are, I thought, even though I’m actually from Southern Norway.
In all irony, people were nice where I used to live also. And so I had to remind her that when I lived in the liberal New Age Mecca of Ashland, Oregon, we used to speak about “those redneck idiots” living in Medford, Oregon—an old logging town about 15 minutes away.
Now, I live about 20 minutes away from the coffee shops and vegetarian restaurants of Asheville, N.C., a liberal oasis in the Blue Ridge mountains. Now, I live among those people I used to criticize. And although it can be challenging, I love the realness of it. It’s like yoga, you go with the flow, and you embrace the inflexibility the best you can.
Smaller places make people nicer, for sure. There seem to be more chances to rub elbows. “But we so-called leftists, we know how to mudsling, too,” I reminded my new friend from New York. “And, frankly, I got tired of it. So, I moved down here. And now I live right smack in the middle of the Bible Belt listening to Rush Limbaugh every time I go to the hardware store.” We both laughed, exchanged emails and walked out into the humid southern sun.
So, the point is: we need a culture that is both openhearted and open-minded. And that’s what yoga, for me, is all about—the union of heart and mind, the union of tradition and innovation, the union of old and new thinking, the union of rationality and intuition.
So, here’s my political program. America needs to move beyond the bickering of the two-party system. We need to move beyond left and right. In the spirit of Rumi, we need to move beyond rightdoings and wrongdoings and join hands and form a partyless democracy. I’ll join you there. I’ll dance with you there.
In that new field of dreams, the Tea Party folks will understand the irony of holding onto Medicare while hating Obamacare. And we, the liberal leftists, we will understand the irony in our hate for those who are as narrow-minded in their hate as we sometimes are. Then we can move on and get some real work done. What about working on our economic democracy for a change?
In that new reality, Obamacare would just be the beginning. After all, Medicare, that’s what all of those people living in cold places like Norway, Sweden and Canada have. For everybody, all of the time. Indeed, nobody wants to touch Medicare. So, let’s just have it for everybody—in America, too! Indeed, not even the most radical right-wing party of Norway—Fremskrittspartiet—would ever conceive of depriving people of that fundamental human right.
Ed: Brianna Bemel
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