Friday, December 17, 2010

9/11 First Responders

Last night, Jon Stewart, after weeks of talking about the inability of Congress to separate and pass the bill to help 9/11 first responders pay for healthcare, brought four of them onto his show to get their reactions to the holdup in the Senate.

Stage four inoperable throat cancer.  Heart disease.  Lung disease.  Back problems.  Brain problems.  Other cancers.  Over  two hundred 9/11 first responders cannot walk anymore.  Workman's comp is apparently fighting them every chance they get, because "how can you be sure that those illnesses were a result of 9/11?"

No.  They worked in that toxic cloud of rubbish for months on end, were proud to do so, and now an inordinate number of those first responders are horribly ill, and some have died; the first was James Zadroga, who died of a respiratory illness "attributed" to the toxic environment he spent so long working in.  The House of Representatives, years after 9/11, passed the bill for the first responder healthcare in September.  Now it's being held up in the Senate, where the Republicans are refusing to pass anything until their tax deal goes through, no matter how much people are suffering, and no matter how often they used 9/11 to stir up emotions in voters when they wanted something.  As Stewart said,  “You know what, Republicans? You use 9/11 so much, if you don’t owe 9/11 first responders health care, at least you owe them royalties.”  The entire clip is here.  

Fox News is a media machine.  Remember the outrage over the mosque built two whole blocks away from Ground Zero?  Yes.  Remember every other time they've invoked 9/11?  Yes.  Not one word has been uttered about the Republican filibuster of this bill, and only one person at Fox, Peter Johnson, even covered the Zadroga bill.  CBS, NBC, and ABC have not covered the bill at all.  At all.  What is wrong with the media in this country?

This week, the Senate finally split off the 9/11 first responders bill from the tax cut package.  It still hasn't been passed, which is an outrage in itself, but an even more staggering outrage is that Senate Minority Leader Jon Kyl insisted that working during the week between Christmas and New Year's would be "disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians."

To get some feedback from Christian ministers about that statement, check out Faith In Public Life.  

But, honestly, I think the best response to that pile of steaming excuses is from the Jon Stewart show, on which New York fireman and 9/11 first responder Kenny Speck said: “It just goes to show the disconnect between those who we elect to represent us. Because you won’t find a New York City fireman who considers it a sign of disrespect to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.” 

It's a bit much to insist that you'd rather celebrate your Savior's birthday with a family dinner rather than do as he did and help people who are suffering and desperately in need of help.  

Yes.  That's exactly what Jesus would have done.  Exactly.  

I do hope, and I am restraining myself when I say this, that those opposed to doing any work around Christmas wash down their Christmas dinner with a pitcher of guilt.  Because if they don't, then I shudder to think of how selfish and self-absorbed they really must be:  enough to blot out any tinge of humanity from their souls.  

To send a donation to the 9/11 first responders, to help them while the Senate tries to decide whether it's worth their time to work during the week after Christmas, check out the FealGood Foundation, whose primary goal is to get 9/11 first responders healthcare and whose secondary goal is to raise awareness about the problems they face.  They take all major credit cards and Paypal.  It's the least we can do.