When it comes to government and bureaucracy, most of us simply want to be left alone and allowed to live as we please. Don’t we have enough demanding voices telling us what to do in our families, our personal relationships, our religion, our jobs? Enough! We don’t need any more demands from government! All we want is some freedom, some independence, some space. And while we’re at it, some respect. “Is that too much to ask?” We shake our fist at big-brother government: “What part of that don’t you understand?”
Paradoxically, we want our needs to be taken care of. We’d like to be protected from the vagaries of life, please. (Vagary comes from the Latin, “to wander.”) We wander through a world of troubles — failures and successes — broken relationships, financial hardships, illnesses. The fears are not so clear when we are young and invincible; it all becomes more obvious as we get older. We want to be protected at least from the most fundamental brutalities, i.e., hunger, pain, violence, and failing health. At rock bottom, we’d really like to be protected from death.
Once in a while, democracy lays bare the paradox, confronting an issue that speaks to our innermost needs to be left alone and at the same time to be taken care of. A life-and-death issue, you might say. No wonder we are angry, divided, frightened and perplexed about health care.