Synecdoche

No, not the movie. The rhetorical device, which, to refresh y’all’s memory, is the use of a part for the whole (or the whole for a part). I’m fascinated lately by how often a single action on the part of a relatively small player can give insight into an entire system or organization. For example, I know a woman who yanked her child — now in his thirties — from a private school after the pre-school teacher sent home a note reading, “Sam needs to work on staying inside the lines when he colors.” Fifteen years later, I elected not to consider the school for my kids after hearing that one story – and sure enough, it’s still a very rigid, “traditional” school that isn’t at all the kind of environment I wanted for my kids.

Anyway, I thought about synecdoche this morning when I learned that Jane Harman, one of the House Blue Dogs, has decided to change her mind and support the public option. Why the change of heart? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that in August, her 27-year-old son was dropped from his health insurance after suffering a torn eardrum. She’s already taken Loretta Sanchez with her, and, a And as electoral-vote.com points out, “As Harman tells her story to other Blue Dogs, it is entirely possible that another dozen will be peeled off and a bill with a public option will narrowly pass the House.”

Now, you know.  Somewhere out there, there must be a health insurance employee – perhaps one of those who gets a “bonus” for every claim they can avoid or sick person they can dump – who thought he (or she) was scoring one for the team last August when he found the loophole enabling the company to lose the unproductive young Mr. Harman (I’m assuming his name is Harman) and his defective ear.  I’m sure it was with a feeling of satisfaction and a job well done that this individual went off to lunch or home to dinner, because, I can only assume, the file wasn’t flagged with a Post-It reading “Do You Know Who His Mother Is?” and the worker, who may not have even resided in the same state as Rep. Harman, just didn’t recognize the name.

And now, all hell might well be breaking loose.

There’s a diary, or maybe a couple, over at Kos about this, but I couldn’t bring myself to read the hateful comments about “the Repukes” and how Ms. Harman is being forced to become “slightly more human.” I prefer to think that she honestly was opposed to the public option out of a sense of fiscal responsibility and a worry that it would do nothing to halt, indeed might help accelerate, the frightening spiral of health care costs in the US (a worry I share). But now, as the Kossacks point out, what’s been happening to millions of Americans has happened to her kid, and she changed her mind. Because, while we like to think that our leaders make decisions based on grand, sweeping questions of Policy, and I’m sure they like to think so themselves (“When history calls, history calls,” said Olympia Snowe) really the way all of us make decisions is usually based on relatively insignificant events, small personal experiences. A story about a overbearing preschool teacher. A canceled policy. Synecdoche.

Ain’t it sweet.

5 Responses to “Synecdoche”

  1. Loretta Sanchez says:

    Just for the record, Jane did not “take me with her”. I can make up my own mind and, in fact, was supporting a public option before Jane. I actually approached Jane (with a draft) about writing an op-ed together on why we support the public option.

  2. Del says:

    Thank you, Ms. Sanchez. I will correct the post.

  3. Del says:

    And my apologies. I now see that you expressed your support for a public option several months ago.

  4. Kathy says:

    Del, it’s amazing how much power personal experiences and stories bring to a discussion. Whether Rep. Harman’s experience with her son changed her mind or simply validated what she already knew, her telling of it really can bring other members around — or, again, solidify their current thought processes. This is something I hope the Democratic leadership takes to heart for future bills — the Republicans are great at scaring people with personal anecdotes (which, in their case, may or may not be accurate representations of what really happened or what really could happen); the Dems could take a page from their playbook to say, “This is what is happening to real people right now; here’s how our approach will help them.”

  5. Kathy says:

    Rep. Sanchez, I am so glad you and Rep. Harman support the public option. I hope you can have some sway over our Democratic reps from Alabama, and I hope to see your op-ed piece soon. Your voices make a difference, and we’re grateful for them.

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