Friday, March 26, 2010

Civility (or lack thereof) Following Health Care Reform; Justified

Hi. It's been a long week, and I haven't had a lot of time to put into the blog. Big week, though. Health care reform was finally passed this week (the final fixes to the law having been passed by the House last night). The new reform package may not be perfect, but I think it's a very good thing.
Some Democratic leaders have been dealing with vandalism, threats of violence, and other forms of retaliation after voting in favor of the health care bill. This coming after last weekends health care protesters spit on Democrats, cursed at them, and hurled racial epithets at them as legislators tried to go about the work of getting health care reform passed at the U.S. capitol. Republicans, in response to these attacks (and yeah, I definitely consider them attacks- spitting on people, committing acts of vandalism, threatening them, and even cursing at people and shouting racial slurs are all things that are not only morally reprehensible, but also against the law), have issued a few muted calls for civility, but they're primary response seems to have simply been to accuse Democrats of leveraging these attacks for political gain.
Well, there may be a small amount of truth to the GOP accusations (it made me cringe a bit when I learned that a few Democrats had discussed attacks and threats against them in some of their fundraising correspondence), but I have pretty limited sympathy for the Republican position, especially given the fact that Democrats wouldn't have the opportunity to talk about being victimized in the first place if they hadn't actually been victimized by angry conservatives. And while it's true that the individuals responsible for these attacks may represent fringe elements of the conservative movement, it's also true that the inflammatory rhetoric of the GOP during the health care debate certainly isn't helping to create an environment that fosters civil discourse (remember all of those claims that Democrats are communist, Nazi, death panelling grandma killers?).
When I first heard about these threats and attacks I was pretty much furious. Eventually, though, I just got sort of depressed about the whole thing. It's weird how I can (and do ) have some friends in real life who are very conservative in their political views, and we generally get along pretty darn well, but it seems like, in the abstract, it quickly becomes easy to demonize people with opposing viewpoints and become very angry. With the political leaders that we see on television, it becomes very easy to demonize them because we come to know them only through soundbites and ten second news clips. Media exposure to political figures lets us sort of cherry pick everything that we don't like about a person while ignoring all of the stuff that might mitigate or change our bad feelings, and this way we can build people into monsters that symbolize everything that we stand against.
It seems like it's really mostly a trick of the media and of political parties. The media probably get better ratings when their audience feels compelled to keep track of (i.e., keep an eye on) all of those extremely bad people that they don't like, and political parties probably have an easier job of fundraising and keeping people involved when they have some good ol' political monsters on the other side of the aisle that they can point to as a sort of threat or cautionary symbol of what will happen if the party doesn't receive enough support.
I don't know. I go back and forth. Some days I think that the progressives and the conservatives in this country are actually a whole lot more alike than either group would ever care to admit- that we're all just really quarrelling over differences that are actually relatively minor, but that we make huge mountains out of molehills (after all, the end goal of both parties is to have a country full of happy, prosperous Americans- it's just that we have different ideas of how to achieve that end). Other times I think that we have some groups of people in this country who are extremely different and barely like one another at all, but our deep seated differences are barely covered up by a thin veneer of shared language, some shared popular culture, and little else (this is sort of the way I think of things when people say that it's possible to get along with anyone so long as you don't discuss religion or politics. What does that really say about us? We can all always get along, but only so long as we don't talk about any of the things that are really, truly important to us and which play a defining role in who we are? Is it worth bothering to talk to people at all if we always have to avoid talking about the things that we really find important?).
Anyway, it should go without saying, but the threats, vandalism, and cursing needs to stop. These protesters need to realize that they're not an oppressed people living under an oppressive regime. They're living in a democracy, and they've lost some elections. That's the extent of the oppression that they're enduring. In truth, the refusal of these protesters to accept the legitimate work of duly elected leaders with opposing viewpoints sort of makes the protesters and vandals the ones who are trying to do the oppressing.
Well, I'm all talked out on that.

What else? I watched a new show on FX this week called Justified, and I thought it was pretty good. It's not exactly the most original premise (it's about a U.S. marshall who kills a man in a "justified" shooting, and then gets reassigned to work in the same part of Kentucky where he grew up), but it's a well written show, with well developed characters and good dialogue. Timothy Olyphant (who I know best from Deadwood, but who was recently in a remake of The Crazies and has done a bunch of other stuff) does a good job of playing the sardonic, soft spoken, quick shooting marshall who's the show's main character.

Annnnyway, I don't have much else.

Happy Friday!! Have a good weekend!!

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