Cooper: Shock and awful

The Midwest farmer stood alone and spoke for himself. The farmer didn’t belong to a tribe or claim sacred lands. He didn’t carry a sign of protest and claimed no membership in a group opposed to or in support of anything.

He stood in front of a landscape that turned out to be the ground he had tilled, sowed and harvested in the Midwest for decades. He was being interviewed following the President’s approval of the construction of an oil pipeline that would pass through or under the aquifer that nourished his land. I was too late to the interview to know much more except that he loved the land that was his life.

The farmer was visibly concerned; he held his hands together as if to stop wringing them. Or maybe he was nervous being on national television. He claimed that an oil leak from the pipeline would destroy his and the vast agricultural land for a very long time to come.

When asked, he said he wanted President Trump to visit his farm so he could show him his land. He wanted the President to know the risks and consequences of the pipeline to his soil rich land.

By now we are used to seeing the colorful map of our country with populous blue states bordering the oceans and huge red areas consuming the middle and southern states. Analysts tell us that the election turned on the votes of disenfranchised and angry rural voters from those red states.

Even though our own state is blue, our rural areas voted red Republican mirroring the national rural outlook. Trump carried Clallam County and other rural counties in our state and across the nation. There is no way to know for whom the Midwest farmer voted.

Power disrupts

The irony is that rural communities will reap the least benefit and may even experience a decline in local services given the President’s cabinet picks that forecast coming policies and executive orders spewing out like parade confetti from our new President.

As much as I would like to say the dust is settling, I don’t think it ever will. Trump and those that surround him are intent on convincing every American that we live in a terrible country and that anyone who says otherwise is stupid, dishonest and sad.

Trump is in a rush to give orders, apparently so much so he doesn’t take the time to read them. He seems removed from the intended and unintended consequences whether it’s not allowing green card holders back into the country or making the Joint Chief of Staff an ad hoc member of the National Security Council in favor of giving a permanent spot to a political crony.

The disruption and uncertainty swirling around executive orders that pretend to fix a problem that never existed either doesn’t matter to Trump or, as many have speculated, is all part of a strategy to manage change that would otherwise be unacceptable.

Either way it is a terrible thing to do to Americans. Either way it undermines the trust and faith in the institutions that protect and serve the public good. Hyperbolic language from the President, his staff and the Republican Congress warns us that just about everything is either dishonest, incompetent, imploding or all of the above.

Not broken, break it

The generalizations we are asked to believe are astonishing and remain unproven. “The media is dishonest. Crime is higher than it’s ever been in the last 47 years. The CIA can’t be trusted. (Terrorists) are pouring into our country. Millions of votes were fraudulently cast.”

I know best the industry of my career, healthcare. Our leaders used to say that we had the best health care anywhere, which was and is true if you have Medicare, adequate insurance through your employer, Medicaid or can otherwise afford the high cost of care.

What started as a promise to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, better known as Obamacare, became a promise to repeal and replace and has since morphed into “our healthcare system is imploding.”

The Republican Congress is positioning to introduce “free market healthcare,” which involves a voucher system through which each eligible person receives a voucher to purchase private health insurance or put it in a medical savings plan.

The voucher system is the replacement for Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid. The Republicans really believe that the lack of competition is what ails all of healthcare.

And for that matter K-12 education. Try as I might — and I will continue my own research into voucher systems — I can’t get my head around the concept of relying on the market to take care of our health and the education of our children.

If this plays out as planned, we, in rural America, will wonder how we allowed ourselves to believe that competition would be the driving force for quality and cost control in a geographical area that can barely support one hospital or one high school.

There is a reason many rural counties have only one insurance provider under Obamacare. Health insurers flocked to the cities where the people and dollars were.

Ill-conceived foundationless fixes in education and healthcare that are being proposed promise to have us in turmoil for years to come.

If we suspend our belief in our own eyes, ears and mind to sort fact from fiction and only listen to the President who claims he is the only one who knows, we will be like the Midwest farmer who wonders how our country can so easily put valuable agricultural land at risk. Only we will wonder how it happened that our hospital was bought out and our only choice is to travel to the big city to get chemotherapy.

I will resist telling the story about the emperor who had no clothes that has come to many minds of late because I find the imagery so unappealing. Besides our country is so much more than a mythical land ruled by a monarch who expects blind faith in all that he says and does and humiliates and punishes those that don’t.

Instead, I’ll tell the story of the old woman who threw the baby out with the bathwater in an effort to fix the faucet that wasn’t broken so that the elephants would stay off her grass.

Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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