Thursday, August 6, 2009

Crazy town

During my Rhode Island vacation, I had a long, wide-ranging political discussion with my dad. He is 77 years old. He grew up under FDR, remembers when we dropped the A-bomb and witnessed the Civil Rights movement.

I wondered aloud if the Republicans/right-wing were losing their minds (with more than a hint of racism) because Barack Obama is president. He disagreed. He told me they immediately went after Bill Clinton, and he's right. From the moment he was inaugurated they attacked him from all sides, for being a murderer, for being a rapist, for being a draft-dodger, for playing the saxophone. And I can recall the 2000 election fiasco when conservatives basically rioted in South Florida in order to stop the recount and with the help of five Supreme Court justices they installed their man into the White House.

Last November, Obama won the election handily, more handily than George W. Bush could ever have dreamed of. Yet most Republicans aren't even sure Obama is American. They are sure he is a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a Klingon all rolled into one. Gun sales shot up when Obama was elected. There have been several shootings from right-wingers since he took office. The president faces 30 death threats a day, up a good 400 percent from the previous administration. Of course, you have the insane Birther Movement, propagated by a lethal combo of idiots, morons, Fox News morons and racists.

Most recently, we have the town hall disruptions. All across the country, "spontaneous" outbursts are erupting at town halls meant to discuss health care reform. Events that are usually attended by five grandmothers who eat cupcakes and drink juice while a Congressperson drones are now turning into WWE-style cage matches.

For a solid week, these stories have trickled in and the health care debate is now a question of how similar to the Holocaust will these reforms be instead of how to fix a national embarrassment of a health denial er... health care system.

Note that when people took to the streets to protest the Iraq War, everyone in the media rushed to declare them treasonists and terrorist-sympathizers. They should be tasered. They should be arrested. Now right-wing loons are acting like complete jackasses in town halls, refusing to let anyone get a word in and resorting to violence in some cases. But unlike war protesters, these people are true, "concerned" Americans utilizing their free speech rights. Interesting ...

Anyway, are we going crazy as a nation? Even just a little bit? Certainly we went a bit nuts in the 60's over Vietnam and Civil Rights. Certainly the 2000 election was nuts. You can even count the Monica Lewinsky affair.

We're in one of those times, where people in the future will look back at this time and say, "Damn, what a mess."

Like a river current bringing a dead body in a tarp to land, the election of a black president was bound to bring out the racists from their rabbit holes. Not to imply all of Obama's critics are racists, but the ones claiming he was born in Kenya without a scintilla of proof, the ones calling him un-American, the ones wailing about "getting our country back" only six months into his administration, they should just admit their pro-white leanings. The white America of their youth is changing. A Hispanic is on the Supreme Court. A black guy is in the White House. And they don't like it one bit.

All of their inner demons bubble up to the surface in these town halls. The health care debate in this country has always been a bit loopy. More than 45 million people are without insurance. But listen to the protesters and look at the polls. Many Americans just don't care. Out of sight, out of mind. People with Medicare actually have "socialized" medicine, yet these are the same people screaming against "government-run" health care. To do so either requires a healthy amount of hypocrisy or an even healthier amount of idiocy.

Basically, Obama wants to set up a government-run option to compete with private insurers to keep them honest. He wants to ban insurance companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions. He wants to control the sky-rocketing costs of prescription drugs. These are mainstream reforms. They are far, far from socialism. Yet ask these rabble-rousers and they think differently. For some reason they empathize with the insurance companies, already making huge profits, to people who go bankrupt because they had the temerity to get sick. They side with CEOs in private jets over people who don't have their illnesses checked because they know they won't be able to afford treatment. They side with UnitedHealth Group over a person who paid his premiums for two decades but when he finally needed the company to, you know, actually provide the service for which he paid, the company flicks him the bird and drops him.

This sounds like liberal clap-trap? Maybe. But I just don't get it. I don't get why many Americans side with Goliath over David time and time again. I don't get why they can't see something which is clear as day to everyone else in the Western world: That the United States plays profit games with peoples lives and has done so for decades.

Bill Maher made a great point. Most countries don't treat health care as a profit industry. They don't get into medicine to buy Porches but to actually help people. He also says we're a stupid country. Well, there's certainly a stupid minority, the ones who speak the loudest. The ones who turns simple town halls into Royal Rumbles.

I don't know if America is stupid. I would hope not. But we're certainly going crazy right now. Like a horror movie villain after the axe has been buried into his chest, the radical fringe is making its last desperate move to survive. Then they should eventually fritter away, defeated by common sense, like their ancestors who opposed women's rights, Social Security, Civil Rights, Medicare, Medicaid and countless other reforms in history.

I trust sanity will prevail eventually, in some form. I hope so, at least. But we all know horror movie villains ... they always come back for a sequel.

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