“Those many had not dared to do that evil if the first man that did the edict infringe had answer’d for his deed: now ’tis awake; takes note of what is done; and, like a prophet, Looks in a glass that shows what future evils, – Either now, or by remissness new-conceiv’d, and so in progress to be hatch’d and born, – are now to have no successive degrees, but where they lived, to end.”
– Angelo, Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare
The men in suits sat around the oaken table uncomfortably, the dour silence saturating the air. One man fidgeted with the buttons on his coat nervously, while another tapped his cane against the floor in agitation. All of them stared at the President sitting at the head of the table, his hair turning white from the burden of carrying the free world on his shoulders. His face was buried in his hands, and through his long, wrinkled fingers, a heavy sigh breathed out, then dissipated quickly, lost in the choking depression that hung like a London fog.
“What are the numbers, again?” The President’s voice was sharp and clear, though his hands quavered.
“Intelligence reports say…almost six million killed. Mostly Jews. However, the numbers keep rising. We’re not quite sure when they’ll stop.” The man’s voice near the end of his statement trailed into a near whisper.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, scion of the great conservative Theodore Roosevelt, finally looked up, his eyelids drooped with the long years of the great war on fascism. The war had officially ended against Germany just last week, but reports of concentration camps scattered throughout the German frontier chilled the Allied victory, dampening the celebratory spirits. First, the eye-witness accounts of men and women emaciated, walking skeletons, barely living. Then, the photographs. Oh, God, the photographs! Looking at them would cause his stomach to churn, his heart to wrench as if an invisible hand reached through his ribcage and attempted to rip it out of his chest.
“How was it done?” The Secretary of State, Edward Stettinus, asked.”How could Hitler have killed so many people so…efficiently?”
“Well,” the young man continued, “you could say they were all killed with…inefficiency.”
A collective, puzzled murmur spread throughout the room. What could that mean?
“This monster killed millions of people by…it’s almost too horrific to tell.” The paper the young man held begin to shake, and a tear spilled down his face.
“Please, excuse him, Mr. President,” Stettinus said softly. “He…was one who saw the aftermath firsthand.”
Roosevelt nodded compassionately and then turned to the young soldier. “Officer, take your time.”
“Thank you, Mr. President.” He wiped away the tear and begin to read, his voice ringing clearer.
“He was killed by a most monstrous, diabolical plan, created to systematically kill off entire populations on the sole basis that he considered them ‘inferior’ to the Aryan race. He -” The man’s voice broke. “He killed them…with public option health care.”
The entire room broke into a angry frenzy. They shouted in anger, bewildered how any one human could stoop so low, lose his humanity so thoroughly as to promote such a terrible, destructive policy.
“Public option health care?” President Roosevelt spat out, as if the phrase tasted of bile and consisted of poisonous venom. “How in all of hell did he come up with such a plan and had the gall to so offend God and implement it?”
“As hard to understand, it’s true, Mr. President,” the man said. “Millions of Jews, Poles, homosexuals, gypsies and other ‘malcontents’ were deprived of their private insurance policies and placed on a government run insurance policy instead. They could not choose their doctors, Mr. President.”
“No choice of which doctor to see!” Bewilderment tinted the President’s exclamation.
“Yes, Mr. President.” The man shook his head and continued, ignoring the shocked, disgusted expressions on everyone’s faces. “Not only that, but he stifled innovation within the medical industry. Because of this, German medicine is years behind the rest of the industrialized world. I have reports that even the Communists have better medicinal technology than Germany.
“In addition, he implemented a policy where the government owned doctors would talk to elderly Jews about long term health provisions, such as living wills, under the pretense that they would be able to decide difficult life-and-death situations in a clinical, non-emotional setting, but the Jews tell me that they were in fact more appropriately called ‘death panels.’
“Because of this, millions of ethnic and religious minorities were systematically eliminated, forced to wait in long lines for diagnoses and organ transplants, and the diagnoses they did receive were determined by Nazi bureaucrats shuffling papers back in Berlin rather than trained medical doctors. It is a tragedy beyond tragedy, sir. Despicable, deplorable, abominable. Some have begun to call this the ‘Holocaust,’ meaning wholesale burning. I believe this term is more than appropriate for the destruction wrecked by the hands of one clearly insane megalomaniac.”
The room lay silent once more, as everyone watched the President for a reaction. Roosevelt’s face had transformed into a stony facade, revealing no emotion, until finally, his hands gripped the sides of his wheelchair and he pushed himself up, forcing his polio-stricken legs to support him. An aide rushed forward with his braces, but he pushed them aside with a wave of his hand, and turned to face his cabinet.
“Gentlemen,” his steady voice intoned, “We today have seen the very face of evil. The Nazis have done terrible things – they have started a world war, plunging the globe in a bloodbath, and today we continue to fight the aftereffects of their greed as we struggle to triumph over the Empire of Japan. But today, we have learned a Nazi policy so terrible, so incredible, that it pales in comparison to the rape and pillage he has committed across the face of Europe, Asia, and Africa.”
Roosevelt coughed, and his aide rushed forward again, but Roosevelt simply shook his head before continuing to speak. His eyes clear and wet with tears, he paused momentarily, before finishing his statement.
“Let it be known, gentlemen, that no matter what atrocity the Nazis may have committed against us, the United States of America, for now and forever, Nazism and fascism will be synonymous with the damnable policy of the so-called program of universal health care. Let America be warned – should we as Americans decide that caring for our elderly, our poor, our sick, our needy, our uninsured is somehow important enough to raise taxes on those who can afford, a tragedy akin to the Holocaust, perhaps even greater will occur.”
The entire room remained soberly somber. Not a single cough or rustling of fabric could be heard as each man sat still, contemplating the staggering cost of destruction the Nazi program of universal health care had caused. Roosevelt gently eased himself back into his wheelchair and then turned, staring into each man’s eye.
“Mark my words, gentlemen. Mark my words. Universal health care equals the Holocaust.”