Rarely in a free country has a sense of elation among its leaders been so overwhelmingly matched with a feeling of dread among the people.
The morning after Democratic leaders toasted their health-care reform victory with champagne, Americans who respect the Constitution and the values that made this country the world's lone superpower -- self-reliance, individual liberty, thrift, limited government and more -- are wondering if the American experiment is ending before their eyes.
Democrats in Washington have voted to turn America into a European-style socialistic society, with unprecedented, and likely unconstitutional, federal power over both states and individuals on truly life-or-death matters. Sweeping new mandates will order individuals to buy health insurance and will fine business owners for not providing it. The Internal Revenue Service will be beefed up to make sure of it.
At a time of joblessness and uncertainty second only to the Great Depression, the Democrats have passed one of the biggest job-killing bills in the country's history -- crushing mandates and taxes on businesses, when regulation and taxation ought to be lessened to spur an economic recovery.
At a time when government-run Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all facing insolvency or unsustainability, the government has now taken upon itself to run the entire health-care system -- one-sixth of the economy.
At a time when this country is already passing trillions of dollars of debt onto future generations, Democrats have just voted to hand our children trillions more in debt. How could this not be remembered as the most selfish generation in history?
A number of liberals around the country, and perhaps moderates and independents, are alarmingly sanguine about this and other leaps down the path of socialism. Socialism has never worked for long as an economic model -- and as a political instrument, it is absolutely anathema to the individual liberties upon which this country was founded.
When Barack Obama said he wanted to fundamentally transform America, he wasn't kidding.
Most Americans -- a majority oppose this health-care bill -- are increasingly distressed and heartbroken at the direction their country is headed.
But the good thing is that they are angry , too -- and it's an anger that will lead them to rise up against what is happening.
It's likely the Tea Party movement will grow exponentially now. This year's elections will be the most spirited, populated and pivotal in generations. And dozens of states are already planning legal challenges to the bill.
Indeed, the bill ignores states' rights and trashes the 10th Amendment, and remarkably establishes a heretofore unheard-of right of the federal government to force you to buy a service: health insurance. (By the way, it is in no way analogous to state mandates for car insurance; driving on public roads has ever been a privilege, not a right).
Nor do we yet know all the ways this byzantine 2,400-page power grab will change our lives and alter our sacred contract with the government -- a contract that we, the people, were supposed to be in control of.
No longer. Your federal government is at once in control and out of control.
What effect will Medicare cuts and government rationing have on senior citizens' health care? Vast majorities of Americans are satisfied with their health insurance; how will this bill affect them? How will employers resist dropping that coverage, when federal fines for doing so are less than the cost of coverage? How will the body politic absorb the cost?
How intrusive will government efforts to require you to have insurance turn out to be? Are Americans really willing to live in such a nation?
Is the American experiment on life-support? Does the Constitution mean anything anymore? How much freedom are we willing to hand over in the name of government health care?
This long ago ceased to be about extending health care to the uninsured or lowering health-care costs. There are much less meddlesome, and much more effective, ways to have done that. This is about growing the power and reach of the leviathan in Washington -- and about creating a larger dependent class that will be ever-more reliant on the caprices of a paternalistic bureaucracy and the diminished private sector forced to fund it.
Be careful what you wish for: An American patriot once said, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have." If this government can take over health care -- and car companies and financial institutions and the student loan program and more -- what's next? If your health care is the federal government's business, what isn't?
We must take this country back, for it is being taken from us.
It has to start in the streets, with protests and rallies -- such as the one the evening of April 15 at the Augusta Common.
It must continue with the upcoming elections. Those who do not respect the limited role of the federal government as clearly spelled out in the U.S. Constitution must be turned out of office.
And students at every level must be taught once again the infinite wisdom of the restraints on government so beautifully articulated in our founding documents.
Surely a country once strong and gallant enough to liberate Europe and the Pacific can rescue itself from a ruin of its own making.
Pray it can. And then take action to make it so.