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Franckly speaking: Seeping reform meets resistance at home

By May 13, 2010

Democrat columnist

As I watched President Obama speak after signing the health care reform bill, I realized that he had been in conversation with my husband and had even covertly sided with him in the battle over remodeling our house. In fact, he stole words right out of my husbandÕs mouth.

ÒItÕs been easy at times to doubt our ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing, to wonder if there are limits to what weÉ can still achieve,Ó Obama said.

ÒWe are not a nation that scales back its aspirations,Ó he continued. ÒWe are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust. We donÕt fall prey to fear.Ó

Rather, he said, we do Òwhat is hard, what is necessary, what is right.Ó

When my husband made these remarks, about three weeks before Obama copied them, he was referring to the repairs being done on our house to bring it up to date.

I had argued that ÒrefreshingÓ our home would drive family debt to unacceptable levels, and I said that eliminating a bathtub was an extreme choice that would lead to marital Armageddon.

Apparently, a Republican congressman also used the word ÒArmageddonÓ to decry ObamaÕs health care plan, so once again the president cribbed from my husband.

ÒTwo months from now, six months from now,Ó Obama said, Òyou can check it out. WeÕll look around. And weÕll see. You donÕt have to take my word for it.Ó

Well, if I look around my house right now, IÕll tell you what I see, which probably isnÕt very different from what I foresee in the early stages of the health care plan.

Our place is a mess. A huge mess. Apparently, to make something pretty, you have to make it ugly first.

For example, in order to paint a wall you have to scrape off wallpaper, and if that doesnÕt come off easily, you need to hang new drywall. If you want a shower instead of a bathtub, you first strip down to bare wood. Sometimes you find dry rot. Or termites. None of this is easy and clean.

This whole process marches from room to room, so that just when one room is looking better, itÕs time to take the next one apart. This is what I predict will happen with health care, where one change will lead to unexpected and messy consequences that will require further change, some of it unanticipated, so that even those of us who support the new plan will be disappointed now and then.

The part I least anticipated about home improvement, however, is a positive thing. If I close my eyes to dust and disorder, I enjoy the process Ñ and not only because it fills my house with well-muscled men in T-shirts.

I find that making a series of small decisions is much easier than making the big one to start the project. One month into it, things feel manageable now. I enjoy choosing wood over tile or one shade of blue over another, and I donÕt mind taking framed pictures down in one room and putting them up in the next. I no longer feel as if my whole life has been thrown in the air.

ItÕs human nature, really: We resist change like crazy, digging in our heels like a bunch of angry pundits, until change becomes inevitable and then we slowly adjust. Even something as wrenching as replacing a well-loved 25-year-old rug, becomes bearable, if you like the new color.

This pattern gives me hope that as ordinary Americans who oppose the health care plan encounter better care or faster care, or when they enjoy better health because routine health maintenance will be more fully covered, theyÕll pause, as I have with this remodel, and say, ÒThis isnÕt as bad as I thought it would be.Ó

Or, as our daughter stated, echoing language used by Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, ÒWhen Mom realizes the benefits of the remodel to herself, sheÕll come around.Ó

This week, as President Obama hits the road to sell the measure to a still-skeptical public, my husband cornered me in the family car. Because I spend my days at home, IÕm the one who has borne the brunt of the disruption.

ÒHowÕs it going, Marion Ñ really?Ó he asks.

I canÕt give my final answer yet, any more than Republicans can admit that some provisions of the health plan, such as permitting children to remain on their parentsÕ policies until age 26, or allowing people to buy insurance despite pre-existing conditions, are good.

Instead, I say simply, ÒNot as bad as I thought.Ó

Like Obama, Bob is using a maneuver called reconciliation.

I think it might work.

Marion Franck is a part-time resident of El Dorado County, with her primary residence in Davis. She writes a weekly column for the Davis Enterprise. Her column appears occasionally in the Mountain Democrat.

Marion Franck

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