I’m really concerned about our country.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you are probably aware that Congress passed a sweeping health care reform bill last week that will change how health care is provided in this country.
Will it be a change for the better or a change for the worse? Did the legislation go too far or not far enough? Only time will answer those questions. What concerns me, though, is the behavior leading up to the historic vote and especially the behavior afterward.
Texas Republican Randy Neugebauer shouted, “Baby killer” while Democrat Bart Stupak was speaking. Republican leader John Boehner stated that one of his fellow congressmen “May be a dead man.” Sarah Palin urged people, through her Facebook page to “target” 20 congressmen from districts which supported the McCain-Palin ticket but voted in favor of health care reform. She included maps with each district targeted in cross-hairs.
These people have not actually threatened violence against anyone, but in using violent imagery and inflammatory statements that is the message they send. At least that is the message that many Americans receive.
Congressmen who voted in favor of the bill have received a near constant barrage of death threats. Tea Party protesters shouted the n-word at a black congressman who said he was voting for the bill. Congresspersons’ windows have been shot out, their homes vandalized and coffins left in their front yards.
Consider the case of Virginia Democrat Tom Perrielo. A Web site run by Tea Party members mistakenly listed his brother’s address as his address. The gas line to his brother’s home was cut the next day.
This type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable in a civilized society and should not be tolerated. I imagine this is a bit like what the civil rights movement was like in the ’60s.
I’m not criticizing Republicans in general. I know a great many Republicans, having once been an active member of the party myself, and most Republicans are good people. The fact of the matter is that most people on both sides of the issue, regardless of how strongly they feel about health care reform, engage in socially productive debate about it.
If the bill had been defeated you can bet supporters wouldn’t have thrown bricks through the windows of congressmens’ homes or shot out their office windows.
They wouldn’t have left coffins on their front lawns.
How do I know this? History. Health care reform has been an issue in this country for decades. Supporters have lost before and never engaged in violent reprisals to this extent and degree.
It’s the fallacious notion that universal health care will turn this country into a totalitarian socialist state, a notion born out of ignorance and not understanding, that fosters these irrational fears.
I’m not suggesting that the health care bill is a good thing. Only time will tell on that front. I am suggesting, however, that this country is not going to sink into the ocean in an apocalyptic nightmare just because Fox News says it is.
Leaders on both sides of the issue need to do two things. First, they need to stand up and denounce any violent acts against politicians and supporters of the bill in the clearest and most unequivocal terms. They need to support a healthy exchange of ideas on the facts so that people can make their own informed decisions.
Second, they need to take a little responsibility for their own actions. While they may not be directly endorsing violence they have the public’s ear. On this issue more so than usual. With that type of power comes a responsibility to tailor their message carefully.
In other words, no crosshairs or violent imagery.
Over the next few months we will be hearing quite a bit about health care reform pros and cons. Passage of the health care bill was one of the most historic moments in our recent history, for better or worse. It’s important to debate the issue.
It’s more important, though, to ensure that the debate remains healthy and productive. Let’s not let this degenerate into a repeat of the ‘60s. Our country is supposed to have evolved since then. Let’s prove that we are capable, as a society, of better. We owe it to each other.
We owe it to ourselves.
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