Saturday, May 06, 2006

Derby Day

The first Saturday in May, Kentucky Derby Day! A day I always enjoy. As a kid I loved horses, as teenager I rode horses and off and on through adulthood the opportunity to ride or be around horses presented itself and I cherished each one.

Growing up in Arkansas I was aware of horse racing a bit. My dad was an avid horse racing fan. During the month of February he spent his Saturdays driving from Little Rock to Hot Spring so he could go to Oak lawn race track. He would return home with a racing form and read the strange sounding names of thorough bred horses that had run that day. He would hand over a deck of betting slips. They were always a pale yellow, green or pink with words like win, place, or show. I quickly learned that you could come in first, second or third or you could win, place or show. I spent many Sundays playing on the front porch with those cards sometimes cheering for an imaginary horse in an imaginary race. And I always won and the horse always paid big.

Later in life I knew someone who raised Arabian horses. I would go to the barn in the afternoons and help with chores. Cleaning the stalls and feeding the horses hay and oats. We would open the barn gate and these wonderful animals would run down the center and into their stalls. I made a connection between horse racing and farming. It seems to be a thing that went deeper than my dad betting on a Saturday.

It has become my personal tradition to watch the Kentucky Derby each year. To smoke a very nice cigar –a Butera, a Jose Maritnez or an Arturo Feunte- a Churchill that would last from “the call to the gate” to end of the race.

My dad always said the best President was Franklin D. Roosevelt. It had a lot to do with the effects of the depression. I think I knew all about the W.P.A. before I entered the third grade. I remember taking my kids camping in Arkansas to Long Pool in the U.S. Forest area where there had been a W.P.A. camp. Yes, of course I attempted to teach them about the W.P.A. and Roosevelt.

This year after the Derby I found myself watching Seabiscuit. There is a scene where they serve the “red headed” jockey soup and it flashes to the soup kitchens of the depression era. The narrator says something to the effect of “it was a time when someone finally cared.” I found myself wondering how the country had changed from programs that expressed care, programs that even conservatives like my dad believed in to programs that people begrudgingly support. Sometimes you hear people talk about how “those” people take advantage of the system. Perhaps the difference is that the depression affected the dominant classes and now our social programs are perceived as benefiting minorities. When confronted with the data that shows this is not true we fall back on the myth that anyone could make it if they just put forth the effort.

We seem to live in a time when gas prices are out of sight and young people can not seem to get started on their own because the minimum wage is so low and the rent is so high. Even in the face of this data some of us cling to the conservative mantra that anyone can make it if they try. So we complain about the government programs of assistance and how it drives up our taxes. We read about the lack of health insurance among working and nonworking people. We complain about the cost of our own health insurance. And we resist any plans for universal health care because someone may take advantage of such a program. Where is the grace in that?



Blogger gawilli said...

Maybe one of these days we will see a horse race up close and personal. Until then we can continue to celebrate the Triple Crown in the living room. The view is good and the price is right!

I had never thought about relief as opposed to welfare and the perception of who is being helped, but you are right. You are also right that the gap between "haves" and "have nots" is growing larger and larger. It is amazing how quickly this becomes an issue for people when it touches them on a personal level. It is pretty easy to hardnosed about health care when you have insurance.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read your entry, I think of two recent news articles. One story is about a kindergarten teacher in Texas, who saw a little boy licking his plate because he was so hungry. From that incident, the teacher initiated a program through her church to send home packets of food with children in need for the weekend. Since the feeding plan was started test scores in that school rose remarkedly. The other news story is about the low rank of newborn survival rate of the United States among modern nations.

Maybe in this land of plenty, we tend to think that most of us are doing all right, but there is great disparity with hungry and dying children. Your dad was right FDR was great president. Even though FDR was a wealthy man, he understood the needs of the people and addressed those needs. And, you are right times are difficult for the working and nonworking poor. As a nation, we desparately need to address the health care issue. Caring for the health of the nation's children is an investment in the future.

7:01 PM  
Blogger gawilli said...

Very well said mjd. Even the working poor, if afforded the opportunity to purchase insurance, must choose to pay rent and feed their families and pray they remain healthy.

9:46 PM  
Blogger willi said...

Very well said mjd. The articles that you refer to about children, hunger, and newborn survival rate highlight the severity of the situation. Over the last 20 years I would submit that many U.S. citizens perceive that health care is out of their reach. Why would an expectant mother think that prenatal care is possible when they are already conditioned to believe that they can not afford to see a doctor?

The initiative of the teacher you mentioned is very similar to a "faith based" program. I remember when Reagon started to cut government programs and sought to take up the slack with "other" sectors. My mom asked me about that. Having just returned from Bolivia, I suggested that the U.S. would look alot like the "beggars" in the street in Bolivia. Not so long afterwards our country was faced with a growing homeless problem.

When gawilli talks about people working for the health care it seems to describe the present situation quite well. It also makes me think about the great "Socialized Medicine" debate of the late seventies and early eighties. As I recall the premise said that health care would seize to be high quality because doctors would not be able to realize the financial benefit. It seems to me that in the 21st century doctors in the U.S. are no longer able to live up to this premise because it is the insurance companies that make all of the decisions and perhaps the money. And the pregnant women are left with the belief that prenatal care is out of their reach.

Perhaps what is needed is for people to practice grace, especially when it comes to casting votes and taking political positions related to health care.

I think I am with you, mjd.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Health care is a winner...not place or show. Henry Ford had the right idea when he paid his factory workers the big sum of five dollars a day. A fiver was very big money during that time. There were fights in lines for jobs at Ford. Henry was sharp. His workers could then buy the Model T's that they were building. Here we are with cars all over the place.

Jobs make jobs. Money makes money. Health care will make wealth for the whole of society. Taking care of people through the social system is just good business. And this says nothing about being graceful as we should be graceful.

8:11 AM  

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