Do They Fear?
stopped listening to coverage of health care reform on Wed.,
March 17, immediately after hearing a short interview
on NPR. Reporter Don Gonyea was talking to protestors on both
sides of the issue gathered outside the Columbus, Ohio, office
of Democratic Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy.
For months now, we’ve been overwhelmed by media coverage of
those opposed to health care reform: We’ve heard the absurd
objections to insuring young people, jobless in this lousy
economy. We’ve tried to parse the logic that says it’s more
important to not fund abortions than it is to insure millions
of people. We’ve cocked our heads at hearing health care reform
called “socialism” and Medicare called, well, Medicare.
But something in particular struck me during the four-minute
A 42-year-old father had come out to protest health care reform.
He had his five-month-old daughter in a sling across his chest
and he told Gonyea, “We just took the time to come out today
to try and stop this stuff from getting rammed down our throats
when we really don’t want it.”
just took the time to come out today to try and stop this
stuff from getting rammed down our throats when we really
don’t want it.
That’s what got to me.
Now, I know—those are not the most vitriolic of words.
They’re not as racially-charged as Investor’s Business
Daily claiming that health care reform is “affirmative
action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a
doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color.”
Nor are they as cynical as Newt Gingrich saying that if health
care reform passes, the Democrats “will have destroyed their
party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party
for 40 years by passing civil rights legislation.”
Nor were they as rage-fuelled as the epithets and spittle
hurled by Tea Party protestor at the openly-gay Barney Frank
and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Nevertheless, something about the image of an early-middle-aged
father holding his infant daughter and saying that what he
really doesn’t want is health care reform made my blood run
cold. It convinced me this country has a sickness that insurance
coverage will not cure.
It’s the sickness of certainty, mean-spiritedness, selfishness,
nay-saying, narrow-mindedness and fear. It’s more infectious
than swine flu and more widespread. It’s a corrosive sickness
of the soul. It’s propagated by politicians and right-wing
media personalities and it preys on people who are not-too-smart
or are happiest when they can complain at the tops of their
(Yes, I know—there was some vitriol and generalizing in those
words. I’ll just keep in mind Woody Allen’s quip from Annie
Hall: “I’m a bigot, I know—but for the left.”)
I tried to be heartened reading Paul Krugman’s column in Monday’s
New York Times.
Contrasting the unscripted talk President Obama gave to House
Democrats on Saturday (“Every once in a while a moment comes
where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes
. . . about this country, where you have a chance to make
good on those promises that you made. . . .”) with Newt Gingrich’s
earlier-cited cynicism, he concludes that the vote is “a victory
for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear
offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out.”
And yet, even that joyful conclusion was prefaced by his description
of this “campaign of fear”:
hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to
the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment
has been involved and approving all the way. . . . On the
eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned
that ‘American freedom dies a little bit today’ and accused
Democrats of ‘totalitarian tactics’ which I believe means
the process known as ‘voting.’ ”
Precisely because it is not only fringe radicals, but elected
officials, as well, mobilizing to thwart or at least hamstring
health care reform, my elation that “fear struck out” is more
than a little tempered by the potentially ugly specter of
things to come.
By midday Monday, attorneys general from Florida, Virginia
and Idaho were promising to file lawsuits to “protect the
rights of the American people” from the bill. Legislatures
in three dozen states are considering proposals to challenge
The pundits are already at it: This is “the end of America
as you know it,” says Glenn Beck. And in a backhanded swing
at Hispanics and Roman Catholic sisters, he declares, “Jesus
Martinez might vote for this bill . . . not the Jesus of Nazareth
Rush Limbaugh claims of President Obama, “This is the guy
who believes in infanticide.”
And The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans
have promised to keep the health-care debate alive through
the 2010 midterm elections in the hope of ensuring that dozens
of House Democrats lose their seats.
response will be, ‘This will not stand’,” observed Newt Gingrich,
“and every GOP presidential candidate in 2012 will be committed
to repealing the corrupt, dishonest legislation.”
Like that middle-aged father from the NPR interview, a lot
of people like him will do all they can to stop this stuff
from getting rammed down our throats when we really don’t
And just exactly what is it that they apparently don’t want?
That by 2014, fully 94-95 percent of Americans and legal residents
below Medicare age will have health care coverage.
I guess that will be the end of America as we know