I’ve been watching the news clips featuring the rampages at some Democratic town hall meetings. I also watched the Rachel Maddow interview with Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the leading organizers of opposition to health care reform. Two things struck me.
First, Mr. Phillips is quite proud of his organizing skills, and unabashedly asserts the evils of health care reform without the slightest embarrassment at the falsehoods used to make his argument. Claiming, without fear of contradiction, that the Democrats are out to ration health care, deny treatment, increase costs, mandate government care, put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor and so on, his self confidence is both impressive and, for some, persuasive. One is inclined to be speechless in the face of the brazenness of it all.
Second, I don’t think it took much organizing to turn out the hysterically anti health care reform zealots to try to shut down any form of democratic assembly at Democratic Town Halls. These are people who are truly scared, but of what? I suspect they are the same ones who participate in tea bag parties, believe that Obama is not an American and are certain that the federal government wants to kill the elderly. They believe that “their America” is being taken away from them. The elderly among them railing against government health care insurance are happy they are on Medicare and have no idea what a contradiction that is. Those who claim to be happy as can be with our current health care system are like persons content with oppression because they have never known freedom from it. Those who are frightened that the Constitution is under threat by the Obama administration seem to have no recognition of the damage done to it by the Bush-Cheney gang and how close we came to De facto dictatorship. There is no more deadly threat to democracy than ignorance combined with a generous proportion of fear, and these are truly frightened people, but frightened of what?
Are they afraid of a “black” man in the White House? I’m not sure it can be reduced to something that simple, and yet I believe it does strike at the truth. A huge population shift that brings people of color and non-European ethnic heritage into positions of power and influence is threatening to those who never questioned their own exclusive right to power and influence. Or, having little of either, never questioned their superiority over those others who are not like them.
As one of my very conservative friends said the other day, “Everything I’ve feared about this president has come to pass; it’s even worse than I thought.” What is it that he feared? A recovery plan that prevented a depression and is slowly leading us out of the worst recession in history? Renewed respect for America in the community of nations? More support for troops in harms way and assistance to returning veterans? An effort to reduce costs and increase options for health care? Tax reductions for the middle classes? No, to the contrary, all of these things are seen as nothing more than cleverly designed camouflage for the real agenda of turning us into a socialist state ruled by people who are not like us.
I feel sorry for these people. I know that the fear they have is genuine and raises their anxiety levels of astronomical heights. On the other hand, if their fear is allowed to dictate public policy we will all be the losers.