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Ron Cruger
The Starbuck's Seven meet about "The new law of the land"
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          Dick and Helen had arrived before the others. Dick ordered his tall coffee. It would be his fourth of the day. He was amped. He had a hunch that today would be an emotional one. The new Health Care Bill had just become law.
          Dick had pulled two of the Starbuck’s tables together so the seven members could sit as a group.
          Helen ordered a white chocolate mocha and sat down on Dick’s right.
          The others would begin showing up in a few minutes.
          Dick greeted Helen, then said, “I have a hunch that today is going to be something else.”
          Helen replied, “If you mean the Health Care thing, that’s all everyone is talking about. I’ve haven’t seen this much interest in Washington since before the election.”
          “It seems like things are exploding all around us. Now we have thirteen states getting ready to sue so the new law won’t take effect. They’re claiming that parts of the law are unconstitutional. All of this plus the jerking around that Congress is going to do when it comes to funding the new law. We could wind up with a fresh, new law that doesn’t have enough money to support it.”
          Mary, Aimee and Helaine walked through the front door of Starbuck’s carrying their caffe lattes. I followed carrying my simple decaf, heavy with cream and Splenda. We sat down outside and greeted Dick and Helen.
          Right behind us came Steve, carrying his espresso. Always the gentleman, Steve pulled chairs out so the three ladies could sit next to each other.
          Dick could barely wait to begin the conversation. “Well, what do you guys think? Do you like the new law, or what?”
          Aimee, the only Asian in the group, and somewhat of a conservative, offered, “I’m sorry, but this whole Obama Care Health thing is a crock. I don’t go for it. I’ll bet that our medical care costs are going to rise: they’re not going to go down. I like the part where kids up to the age of twenty seven will be able to be under their parent’s policies and I like the part where the insurance companies can’t cancel anyone because they’re sick. That’s all fine, but all the other stuff is a giant boondoggle to have the government take over the medical industry and the doctors.”
          Helaine responded, “What are you talking about? There are thirty two million people out there who will now be able to afford medical insurance. That’s thirty two million people who weren’t properly cared for before – now they can get adequate medical care. Why is there such a fuss over this new law? All the president is trying to do is make things better for millions of Americans.”
          Mary, usually the quietest of the seven, felt compelled to add to the conversation. “I think it’s shameful the way this whole thing has gone down. Of course the country needs a new way to care for our people. President Obama has really tried to come up with a program that would help our country. Modernizing the medical system, keeping rates down, people can’t be cancelled anymore, protecting the elderly with Medicare and giving medical insurance for over thirty million people who weren’t covered. These are all wonderful things. We should thank the president.”
           Steve, in his middle forties, black, athletic and a graduate of Harvard, had listened to the others. He weighed their comments and then added, “I don’t know about you guys, but this whole thing was forced down our throats. I don’t think most of the country really knew what the Health Care Bill was all about. There are over two thousand pages of details in the Bill. Most of the Senators and Representatives hadn’t even read it through before they voted on it. Don’t you think that all of this was a way to get the Democrats and Obama re-elected. The Republicans are doing their best to make the Democrats look bad. This is all more about getting re-elected than about a Health Care Bill. This whole thing is going to cost all of us a lot of money. It’s politics pure and simple.”
          I had waited to join in the conversation. I had been wondering about something for months and now was the time to bring it up.
          I asked the group, “Do you think that the color of President Obama’s skin has anything to do with how people feel about him? What I mean is, are some people against the president just because he’s black? I know that’s a difficult question, but it has to be asked.”
          Dick was the first to respond.
          “Are you kidding? The answer to your question is yes. There are millions of Americans out there that just don’t want a black man leading the country. That thought pervades all of their thoughts about everything Obama does.”
          Helen chipped in. “I agree with Dick. This country still has many of the same attitudes about race that it had fifty years ago, we just handle it differently than we used to. Many people still think that one race is different and better than the other. There are still plenty of white Americans who have prejudices about people of a different color.”
          “Look, I’m an Asian. I don’t look like most of you people and I’ll tell you that there are plenty of people that don’t feel comfortable around someone that looks like me. They just think we’re different. So many of them still have the stereotyped picture of Asians, so I know first hand that there are plenty of Americans who don’t like and don’t trust anyone that has different shaped eyes or different color skin than theirs.”
          Steve, listened to the comments and said, “Look, I’m black. I’ll guarantee you that there are people out there that don’t want this country to have a black president. They hate him. But, most Americans want to get rid of racism. In fact, I think that most Americans want Obama to succeed. But there are plenty of people who hate him and can’t wait for him to leave office. They want him to fail. It’s not what most Americans want, but there are plenty of racists out there.”
          Helaine thought for a few seconds and added, “I just hate to think that in this day and age, there are still people in America that are racists.”
          Dick, gulping down the last of his strong coffee, said, “There are plenty of racists out there, they just don’t use the same words and they don’t talk about it as much as they used to. They handle it differently, but they’re still racists.”
          Then Dick added, “Look, I have to go back to work. Maybe we can talk more about the Health Care thing next week. It’s important.”
          Steve and Aimee pushed their chairs away from the table and walked to their cars together.
          The Black man and the Asian woman were both thinking about what they had just heard.
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