Sunday, August 9, 2009

Health care and the unruly mobs

Have you ever studied American history? Have you ever noticed the horrifying behavior of unruly mobs who just couldn't be bothered to enter into civil discourse with anybody, and whose actions and rowdy conduct ultimately spoiled fair debate, interfered with the plans of well-mannered people, and poisoned the political atmosphere so much that nothing good could possibly grow out of their rage-based tantrums?

Take the civil rights movement, for instance. Unruly mobs staged sit-ins at lunch counters, shouted at politicians, marched with signs, misbehaved on buses, and otherwise made spectacles of themselves. Sure, we might all support civil rights, but really, was there any excuse for such rude behavior?

Or go back a bit earlier, to the labor protests of the turn of the last century. Granted, wealthy people holding all the cards were making employees work inhumane hours under really bad conditions, but isn't that kind of free-market capitalism what America is all about? How dare those labor protesters of that day stage protests--even before any of them became violent, it was just wrong of them to disrupt the economy, shut down fair conversations between politicians and major industrialists as to how they could best exploit America's cheap labor, and distract the nation with headlines about riots.

In fact, our whole nation suffers from its origins in this kind of mob rule and protesting. I'm sure the British of King George III's day thought we were nothing but tea-dumping rabble, who needed nothing but the business end of a few bayonets to be brought into line--and when you think about it, no matter how much we may appreciate American independence, it's lamentably true that we trace our origins to groups of angry people shouting a lot about unfair government actions. Embarrassing, really, to a civilized person these days, no?

And now, in our present day, we have unruly mobs of people showing up to do a lot of vicious, mean-spirited shouting at town hall meetings. Wow. It's like a throwback to the uncivilized world of 1776, isn't it? I bet some rival tea-company paid the Sons of Liberty to dump that tea in Boston Harbor, and if we only knew it, the tabloid-style early American newspapers were spreading an awful lot of disinformation about the King's plan to finance British wars on the backs of unrepresented Americans; just like talk-radio today, their only possible purpose was to stir up rage against their political opponents (because we all know that any information that deviates from the administration's talking-points duly parroted by the MSM is clearly biased, misinformed, partisan, rage-induced, and flaggable) . If only someone had controlled those badly-behaved colonists way back then!

Of course, if some civilized person or group of people had managed to calm down--by force if necessary--the outraged colonists who were so blinded by their rage and partisanship that they actually saw something wrong with the way they were being treated by Mother England, every single American today would be enjoying the British National Health Service. Although "enjoying" might be too strong a word, per the referenced article, unless one is a canine-American.

Our elected politicians have had few unruly mobs to deal with in recent years. Oh, sure, there was Cindy Sheehan and the "Bush lied, kids died" chanting emanating from the penumbras of many a street march; there were globalism/WTO protests, often well-coordinated; there have been some attacks on military recruiting centers which have gone mostly unnoticed by our MSM many of whom remember (if that's the right word) the patchouli-scented anti-military protests of days gone by, and thus can't get too upset when a recruiting center or ROTC booth gets targeted for protests; there have been the usual run of anti-nuke, anti-corporation, anti-lobster-eating efforts by the usual suspects.

None of these things has particularly bothered our kinglike elected officials on either side of the aisle, who serenely bypass such vulgar displays on their way to the next congressional fact-finding mission in some nice tropical climate. What does it matter if the little people vent their frustrations circulating another useless petition about some issue which most people don't care about in the first place?

But when the little people start showing up at town hall meetings to discuss health care, only to be shut out while pro-Obama signs are circulated among the supposedly friendly crowd, and when even some of the friendly people in the crowd start shouting in anger at the congresswoman speaking because this time they're not buying the fragrant compost she's selling--well, clearly, these are rage-induced talk-radio zombies who've read just enough disinformation about the beneficent government's zygote-to-crematorium Total Health Universally Doctored (THUD) Plan to be capable of some manufactured outrage that is clearly different (though how, we can't exactly tell) from all the principled and noble examples of protest behavior that used to be called "Civil Disobedience" even if it was anything but civil.

And these groups of citizens--these probably highly paid professional mobsters--are lowering the tone of political discourse for the rest of us. Why, how are we supposed to sit around with our loved ones, fellow church members, random strangers at the grocery store etc. and praise the government health care plan or plans (which exist in multiple versions none of which anybody, least of all congresspeople, have read in their entirety and all of which could be altered drastically before anybody ever votes on them, though of course as a loyal American let me hasten to assure you that a trifling thing like that shouldn't stop anybody from giving his or her total unqualified support to the government plan! or plans, etc.) when gray-haired or baby-toting thugs keep on poisoning these elegant and civilized propaganda sessions--er, conversations--by their unruly, rude, mob-like behavior?

Until we Americans repudiate once and for all the notion that we have the right to assemble in public meetings and just learn to accept that so-called "town halls" are meant to be political photo ops for our elected officials and their favorite quislings, until we realize that free speech doesn't mean we can rudely shout just because our elected representatives utterly refuse to answer or even to entertain our questions, until we turn away from the public-protest as a means of getting our grievances addressed, we're just going to keep seeing the purveyors of hate and rage stirring up their demented, brainless followers into the kind of people who actually think that there ought to be limits to the federal government and its ceaseless quest for Leviathanian power. And we can't have that--we all know that without the government's watchful nanny-eyes upon us, most of us couldn't put on a Band-Aid (tm) successfully, let alone manage our own health care.


Anonymous said...

We should shove this post up Rod Dreher's keester:) He's so sensitive about conservatives/GOPers doing *anything* that looks the least bit criticizable.

Kim said...

GREAT post!

Red Cardigan said...

Anonymous at 10:21, I'm leaving your comment up, but only because it gives me the opportunity to clarify something. I disagree with Rod about the people showing up at town halls (in re: their ties to talk radio and general motivation), but Rod is a friend, and you're really not being fair to him here. I'd appreciate it if we don't make this about him personally, and will delete any future comments on this thread that try to do that.

That said, this is the kind of thing about which I do sometimes disagree with both Rod and a conservative Catholic writer whose name I'm not mentioning, but who has also written in this vein. I *do* agree that we need to avoid the "Well, the Dems do worse things!" line of argument to justify inappropriate speech and behavior. What I disagree with is the notion that the town hall incidents are any kind of organized tactic or in any way being orchestrated by talk radio figures or anyone else for that matter, or that they are anything but spontaneous outbursts, at least thus far.

I've linked to one Florida town hall in the post above. By the time the Congresswoman starts speaking, people had already had to deal with being turned away at the doors while the seats inside were filled with people who looked like supporters (though they didn't all turn out to be), pro-Obama plan signs being passed out (and then collected when it was pointed out that the homemade anti-Obama plan signs would also have to be allowed), pro-Obama plan leaflets being passed out, and then introductory remarks that made it clear this was supposed to be a good photo op or evening news piece about all the people eager for government health care.

When it became clear that the Congresswoman had no intention of addressing any specifics of the plan, answering people's questions, and so forth, even those people who seemed to be supporting her started to shout. This health care plan (or, I should say, these plans) scares people, and for good reason. By their own admissions most of our reps. haven't even read the entirety of any of the proposed bills. We're just supposed to trust them that all the scary details are really fine, and that nothing bad will ever happen to our health care--we should just sit back, hand it over to them, and trust them to do the right thing.

If people protesting this latest push for government run health care really were planning to show up, blockade doorways, fill the rooms with their own supporters, heckle the speakers to make them look bad, and maybe even become violent, I'd be right there with Rod calling for that to stop. But the whole "Well, then, let's be the mob!" cry is sarcastic--a response to the fact that the Dems keep labeling the moms and seniors and businessmen and students who are showing up to these meetings as professional agitators with no purpose other than to stir up trouble.

People are turning out to these meetings to ask questions and get answers--only to be turned away at the door because they look Republican, or to be told, as some seniors were at an AARP meeting, that these are health care "presentations," not Q&A sessions, and that if people aren't showing up to support the program and sign up for community activism they're not welcome.

Americans have a grand tradition of vocal protesting about a lot of issues that we care about. Health care should not be off limits, and if politicians don't want to engage their constituents on this issue, then they should quit scheduling what appear to be honest, open discussion sessions but what they intend to be only photo ops and sound bites. I think the American public isn't willing to play that game anymore, at least not when it comes to our generation's chance to stop the creation of a new huge government entitlement program that will raise our taxes, take away our freedoms, and probably, in the long run, not improve the health care situation for those truly in need at all.

LarryD said...

I was trying to shout you down this entire post...ha ha

Great post, as usual, Red.

While the townhall you linked to in Florida was instructive, there's been plenty written about at Gateway Pundit on Rep. Carnahan's townhall meeting last week in St Louis, where violence did break out, a black man was severely injured by several people, two of whom were wearing SEIU shirts, and protesters were locked out of the event.

It serves no purpose, as you pointed out, to say "Yeah, well, the Dems are just as bad". However, the fallout from the comments made and tactics used by the Administration and some high-level members of Congress (Pelosi and Hoyer, for instance) may yield interesting results in the 2010 mid-term elections.