(Last week: I ascend into the hills in search of "Badger" Bob Berserquierre, seeking his counsel as I embark on the thorny task of suggesting to leery Idahoans that "socialism" isn't such a dreadful thing, particularly where it concerns the health care of our citizenry. Part One ended with me witnessing a game of horseshoes behind the "Come Squat Inn" and hearing from "Hoot" that he objected to my presence because I was not a "member." The story continues ...)
"Member of what?" I asked.
"MOBBS!" spat Hoot. "You ain't a member of the MOBBS, gull-durnit!"
Before I could inquire further, Bob interrupted, "So, Cope, you come running to me for an opinion on why the country needs a government-run health-care system. Then I suppose you'll tell those kids at Boise Weekly you actually did some research."
"Sorta. But I already have the opinion, see. You just need to give me some reasons for having it. I thought we could use the classical dialectic method like I used to do with Red, only you get to be Socrates and I'll play the dumbshit guy."
"Ah. You'll be perfect for the part."
"The thing is, Bob, this may be the most important issue of our time. It may well define how America treats Americans as we go forward. And it needs to be talked about seriously, something beyond the Republicans just trying to scare the peewadding out of everyone by shouting 'Socialism! Socialism!' over and over."
Hoot threw a shoe and it missed the stake by so far, the people on the other end ducked for cover behind a derelict Volkswagen. Then he said, rather too loudly I thought, "There's a gull-durn good reason those Republicans are trying to warn folks about socialism. Because socialism sucks, that's why!"
"Hoot," said Bob, "you didn't seem to mind those socialist roads we took to get up here. Or that socialist bridge that got us across the river. And I assume you have no objections to the socialist cops that caught the guy who stole your truck, or those socialist firefighters who stopped your shed from going up in flames last fall. And if it weren't for the socialist VA, you'd ..."
"What you saying, Badge? Them ain't socialism. Them're just plain ol' government stuff we gotta have to get by."
"That's one of the problems here. Whenever it's good for you Republicans, it's essential government services. But when it's good for everyone, it's socialism."
"I ain't no gull-durned Republican, Badge. I'm a gull-durned libertarian. I told you that. And I thought you was one too, gull-durnit!"
"And I told you I am a libertarian, Hoot. I'm a libertarian by nature since I don't like anyone telling me what I can't do. But I'm a socialist by experience, because it's as obvious as your sister Hilda's mustache that if there isn't something strong enough and steady enough to keep some kind of leash on those corporate bastards, they'll end up owning every square inch of our lives, from what chemicals are allowable in momma's milk to what kind of casket we have to be buried in. It's not just about health care, either. By and large, we already got corporate health care, and any damned fool should be able to admit how screwed up that is. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. We got corporate farms, corporate food, corporate prisons, corporate old folk homes, corporate water, corporate armies and corporate wars. We got corporations setting the price of gas, telling us what's an acceptable level of bug shit in our peanut butter, deciding what kind of music gets played on the goddamn radio, deciding what trashy whorey-looking rags our little girls think they gotta dress in because corporate TV shows and corporate movies set the fashion standard.
"I'm telling ya, Hoot, if it's big conspiracies you're looking for, you'd better not waste all your precious paranoia on the government. Those corporate bastards can, and will, take everything we got, from our good sense to our freedom, and then use their PR divisions to convince us how we're better without 'em. And you tell me ... what is there strong enough and rich enough to counteract that? What do we regular citizens have on our side that gives us a fighting chance against a corporate machine that's only purpose is to chew us up, suck us dry, and spit us out?
"Government, that's what! That's why we have a government in the first place, isn't it? ... to keep the wolves from tearing the sheep apart. And does it matter if the wolves have names like Allstate or Pfizer instead of Ted Bundy or bin Laden?"
Hoot was so agitated, he was throwing his horseshoes overhand. "Ya know, Badge, when you talk like that, it makes me think you're not proper MOBBS material!"
The discussion was doing just fine without me, and the pitcher was empty again. Inside the saloon, I asked the barkeep if he knew anything about "MOBBS."
"Oh yeah sure. That's them guys out back what your taking the Oly to."
"But what's it mean, 'MOBBS?'" I asked.
"Hell if I know, bud. All I know is they come up here every year, throw some shoes, drink some beer and vote on who should get into their club or not."
"And what does the club do?"
"I just told ya."
Around the horseshoe pit, the debate continued. Hoot was hot enough to steam bagels. "I'll tell you what the solution is to all that gull-durn corporate control you're so worried about, Badge. Free market competition! That's what! Free market competition solves every problem that God don't wanna mess with Himself!"
(About that point in the conversation, I realized I had to stretch this into a Part Three. Between Bob's rant and Hoot's responses, I couldn't get a word in edgewise. And darnit, I so, so wanted to tell this Hoot character about how I suspect that conservatives are more worried about how popular government-run health care will be than they are about any ill effects of socialism. But I'll have to save it for next week. So I invite you back. And hopefully, we'll learn how Badger Bob reconciles his libertarian nature with his socialist leanings, and I'm also determined to find out what the hell MOBBS is and, if there's any room left over, maybe we can question the Republican position of why fighting terrorists and pirates and foreign dictators is a valid government concern, but fighting cancer and heart disease and diabetes isn't.)