Monday, August 31, 2009

One of My Favorite People Provides One of the Best Quotes Ever

On Facebook today, a friend wrote a status update about how she is truly terrified for this nation under its current president. On television, at many town hall meetings, news cameras have captured people (largely women) crying for the future of this country they love, dismayed over what it is becoming (ostensibly Socialist, according to them).

I'm incredibly annoyed by people who are choosing now to be angry. Now is not when a president has used political capital after a heinous attack to get us into a war with an "enemy" who had nothing to do with said attack. Now is not when a president is abusing his power by expanding the executive branch of the government more than any time in generations. Now is not when a president is backing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Now is not when a president is refusing to admit mistakes committed by either himself or his country, all in the name of American perfection (the best quote from Obama on that subject, sort of: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism").

Instead, now is a time when a president is seeing that there is a big problem with our nation being the only developed one that treats healthcare as a business. There is something wrong with the system in this country, and whatever you think the solution is, acting as though those who would act to solve the problem are Nazi-esque is insulting and ignorant. The idea that the status quo is just perfect is something only a blind man would believe, though he probably went blind when he was unable to get treatment for his glaucoma or cataracts or whatever.

I honestly do not know the solution, but I'm man enough to admit it. Where is that humility among those at the town hall meetings, weeping for their "lost America"? You can't be a member of a party that decries "big government" when it comes to healthcare, but then advocates it when it comes to laws that legislate morality (gay marriage and adoption, for instance); or laws that take control over certain citizens' bodies (abortion rights); or military expenses topping $12 billion in wars on two fronts.

But thinking that healthcare means big government is a fallacy as well. I don't want to hear that the government can't run anything else well, so why should we let them run healthcare. We're all still here in this nation, and though it has its problems, if we couldn't rely on the government for anything, this nation likely would have crumbled years ago. I'm not even saying that I believe that government will do a bang-up job; I don't know how it will do, but I'm willing to at least hear some options before yelling and screaming about Socialism and welfare crack whores and pulling the plug on grandma.

In short, I don't care if you don't want "socialized medicine." That's a fair view to have, I guess, but it's not what this "debate" has been about, by any means. You want to argue healthcare, do so, but don't pretend that everything is just hunky dory the way it is.

My friend Piper wrote a response to my Facebook status (after a few other people had weighed in), and she had this to say, which I found entirely necessary to pass on to all of you:

those crying protesters think "i did nothing wrong, why should i have to pay to help others?" but it's not that they did nothing wrong. it's that they did nothing. every day they do Nothing about a whole host of injustices so regular they're mundane. these people should weep because the country Is changing. when someone says so&so is running for president, you don't even know what the person looks like! they might not be white or male or christian (or straight, some day i hope). this is a hardship for people who've never given a single thought to how the country could be better for everyone else. they wrap themselves up in the warm & fuzzy disconnect between american promise and american reality. they've done nothing wrong by this blanket which shelters them from the unknown. how dare we take it away. it's just not fair.

Emphasis mine, because that's my favorite part.


Mr. Customer said...


Great stuff. I like the eclectic mix.

I have friends of every political stripe, but some topics are just off-limits with some because it doesn't end up being debate or dialog in any meaningful sense.

Bruce Paine said...

I wrote a really good response to this but blogger wouldn't take it because it was 14,038 characters long. Sigh

I am not trying to bust anybody's cash and prizes. Let me just say that I think you, and your responder are wrong about this or at the very least the logic is flawed. The notion that they did nothing is clearly off. Obviously, "they" are doing something. One may not like it or the tactic, because the tactic is based on preventing discourse, but that does not carry with it an inherent "disconnect" between reality and promise. I would think, after reading the desperate bewilderment, fury, and exasperation offered here about other topics, one might have a little understanding about how frustrating, vicious and frightening a developing sense of disenfranchisement and disillusionment can be. Flag burning is often offensive, and makes little sense to those offended, but is an expressive action and therefore protected. What unholy distaste must reach a man that it would possess him to cast off such a liberty soaked icon and turn the heel of his boot upon it? It behooves one to ask.

Philosophy matters. The brush you are offering up here throws a broad stroke about "people who've never given a single thought to how the country could be better for everyone else." Hogwash. They just have different thoughts about how the country should be improved. Is it not a somewhat accurate generalization to say this is a teach a man/give a man a fish parable? Here we are, on a forum that is ripe with offerings indicating anger at those who would take from one to satisfy another, and the irony consumes me. This is my mother's white linen table cloth stained with the ejection of my broken heart. Its my fault, I shouldn't be such a romantic.

Erin said...

The vast majority of those wasting their breath screaming inanity into the wind and calling it healthcare debate are the very same who would balk at anyone who dares to question the sanctity or purity of this nation. The idea that the United States is not the greatest country on earth, or that it is a nation that needs any sort of improvement, is appalling to them. Yes, I'm being general, but it's out there. For eight years, I was told I'm un-American or that I hate my country, simply because I suggested there's a chance that American superiority is not really a reality.

So, in that sense, these people have not given any thought as to how the country should be improved, because they don't think any improvement is necessary.

I don't believe healthcare is "taking from one to satisfy another," but that's because I'm a liberal and I believe my government bears a certain responsibility when it comes to citizens' life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I happen to believe access to adequate and affordable healthcare falls into one or more of those categories, and I therefore believe my government should be in some way involved. I have seen what happens with capitalism running the show; I'd like to see what else we can do. If it means I pay more in taxes, then I pay more in taxes. That doesn't mean I'm interested in giving handouts. It's not called a "handout," for instance, when a city needs to pay more police officers and introduces some sort of tax to fund that notion. I've never needed assistance from 911, but I pay the tax that supports it because it's required, but also because other people need it, and, hell, I may need it one day, too, god forbid. The point is, healthcare reform could benefit every citizen just as police presence and emergency services do.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, I should note that this is coming from someone who will be fully covered under a great plan in just one week.

Erin said...

Also, my friend Piper's point was that the protestors believe that a government-run healthcare is punishment to those who have done nothing to deserve an extra tax or whatever it will be to pay for the less fortunate in this country. The protestors don't belong to the group that might need help (because they likely already have employer-provided healthcare, or are already using government-run healthcare in the form of Medicare or Medicaid), so they don't want to pay for those other people. She's not saying they did nothing with regard to town hall meetings or debates. She's saying they did nothing but stand by and watch as injustices were committed against the citizens of this country, and now they're complaining that suddenly they're the victims here.

Bruce Paine said...

Again, you are swinging a broad and inaccurate brush. There are a ton of punishing generalities offered up in what you are saying and many of them are based on supposition of a reality that is far from universal. I don't want to go into specifics in your comments. I really don't. You are, however, carrying obvious angst over one thing into another that may not be related. That is dangerous for you, reckless for your citizenship, and harmful to your logical abilities. There is an excellent book by Robert Dahl called On Democracy. It can be read in an afternoon. I think you should go root out a copy. I believe you would enjoy it. I think it would help you focus your argument. It is a very practical and plain spoken text. (For deeper philosophical stuff I would suggest Mills On Liberty and The Subjugation of Women, and John Locke Two Treatises on Government. It would seem you buy into a Hobbesian viewpoint somewhat like what he makes in Leviathan. It is important to note, however, that the people that designed this country did not approve of Hobbes in his entirety, and used more of Locke's views in our formation.)
The verification word is "slexper". How filthy is that? I feel dirty typing it.

Piper said...


i am a black female, a child of the 80s. i went to school with white kids and indian kids and taiwanese kids. i was sheltered from any obvious signs of racism.

my mom would see racism, not quite everywhere, but in most interracial conflicts. i thought this was drastically unfair. one wouldn't've Had to be racist for that situation to have happened! i thought. i believed in giving people and society the benefit of the doubt.

in 2008 i was a grad student at princeton university. by this time i had learned that well-educated people who respect women and think all people are equal can still hold sexist and racist views. they sometimes even defend their right to be offensive because it's not fair to them otherwise.

in 2008 i became obsessed with and worked hard for the obama capaign. i watched for every sign or change in the campaign. i watched the rallies and then waited to hear what the soundbites would be.

how do you define racism? i'm not comfortable assuming racism as a first choice for why something is happening (just like i'm not going to assume someone has a problem with me cuz they're "jealous"). still, i was hearing things that made me uncomfortable. it gave me pause, let's say, whenever i heard someone say they didn't know why they didn't trust obama. it was just "something about him." the non-fox news started asking about code words.

then the lovely people of west virginia came forward with things like "i'm no bigot, but you just can't trust the other race."

my post was not literally about healthcare, because i don't believe that the women erin was referring to are crying over healthcare.

and i'm not saying that as individuals they are what you would call racist. i'm sure some of their best friends are black. but i remember watching people weep that if obama became president, it would be the end of america. and aside from the fact that it terrified me, i also thought it was funny. i figured when obama became president, they'd have to concede that it was not in fact the end of america.

but i guess i was wrong. apparently "public option" (which has the word option right in the title) is the end of america. and when i see them weeping, i don't see someone who is concerned about a vote in congress or a bill that might become law. i see someone who has vague ill-defined notions of what america is (ie their first-hand account of america, nothing about how others may struggle. certainly nothing (true) about history; most of them don't seem to know the government is already involved in healthcare) and sees barack obama as the death of that.

that's why i said what i said. and i think it is generally safe to link it to healthcare, to say that people against reform largely don't care about the millions of people who desperately need it. and i think it's safe to say that they feel like any change to their lives is "unfair" despite the fact that the status quo is (more) unfair. but when i said they do nothing.. that was more... a writing technique. :) i have no idea What they do.

but to respond to one particular comment, i am a liberal and i think that improving the country necessarily means improving the country for everyone. but that is not a logically required belief and it is not everyone's belief and i don't think it is the belief of those in question. there are those who believe that improving the country as a whole will improve the country for "everyone" even with no data to support it, even with no obvious benefits for those in need.

so i fully stand by my supposition that they do not spend any time thinking about how to make things better for everyone ie for the uninsured or the underinsured or minorities or gay people. because i am as certain as is possible that whatever improvements they are working for (whatever it is they do), will not help "everyone else."

Erin said...

This is my main point, which I feel has been lost in the debate, during which I feel like it's been implied that I mean to say I hate all Republicans:

"In short, I don't care if you don't want 'socialized medicine.' That's a fair view to have, I guess, but it's not what this 'debate' has been about, by any means. You want to argue healthcare, do so, but don't pretend that everything is just hunky dory the way it is."

My point was to express my displeasure with those who would use such absurd scare tactics that have no basis in fact. I do not mean to imply that all people who oppose healthcare are also calling Obama a Nazi. It is those "protesting" at town hall meetings that get my blood boiling. I disagree ideologically that a "public option" (which, as Piper said, means we have an option to use it or not) means government-run, Socialized medicine that sends us down the path of Communist Russia. But disagreeing with people who would argue their side logically is the sort of thing I'm looking for, as opposed to people yelling at me about being afraid for their country because it's turning into Nazi Germany.

The trouble comes when even Republican senators are jumping on the "death panel" bandwagon and telling people that they should be afraid because this plan will kill their grandmothers (no one seems to be worrying about grandfathers in these arguments). When that happens, it's hard not to generalize the Republican Party as a whole as being only interested in scaring their constituents with lies to get the desired result. Obviously not all of them are like that, but in a nation of 300 million, we are often forced to generalize because it is impossible to get the complete opinion of each individual.

Also, I agree with everything Piper wrote above. I would have written it myself (minus the "I am a black female" intro, of course), but I was afraid that I would be condemned for suggesting race might have something to do with this.

Mr. Customer said...


I can't disagree with your premise, and I'm perfectly willing to accept that the sword cuts both ways, but it also presupposes that we are grown-ups (not excluding myself) that will be playing the same game by the same rules. This is, most of the time, not the case.

As stated in your first post, the preventing discourse does qualify as a course of action, but one that does not get us any closer to a resolution. Wanting reform versus not wanting reform, or Wanting socialized medicine versus wanting privatized medicine can produce dialog. Wanting reform versus saying you want reform is a frustrating waste of time, and I reserve the right to describe it as such.

When I said that I won't talk politics with person "A", I meant simply that we aren't operating from the same set of assumed facts, so we can never reach an ultimate point of agreement of disagreement.

Granted, I'm probably cherry-picking what resonates with me in Erin's post, and I can't claim to have the rhetorical chops to cross swords with you over philosophy. It's just hard to discuss opinion with someone when you can't first agree on the facts.

But don't take my word for it, I'm no slexpert.

Bruce Paine said...

I am a male. I have what can at best be considered an average penis but I believe history bears me out as a more than competent satisfyer of women. I am an infielder by trade but a closet center fielder. I am a pass-catching tight end. I own an assault rifle and am effective with the naked eye out to 350 or 400 yards. I am not a natural born academic, I have to work at it. I am very average in appearance unless you catch me in the right light, then i am gorgeous (or so i am told). Identity means things, and it is totally acceptable to use identity as grounds for motivation or to use it in framing a case. This sort of behavior has always been part of the American landscape because, despite the Framers obvious cultural handicap (white males), the American population has always been polycultural. Many political scientists will indicate that this single factor shows how the United States exists as an exception in democratic circles, and not the exception. Often, for a country to become a mature democracy, the population must be relatively homogeneous culturally for it to avoid constant and continued turmoil. The genius of what the Framers accomplished rests, in my opinion, in this conundrum. They were able to create, by doggedly and aggressively distributing their argument in a reasoned and logical fashion, a state that bases its homogeneity, not on cultural factors, but in a mutual belief in the political institutions they created. We are all red, yellow, black and white and rich and poor and horny and frigid and console and PC gamers (fuck consoles) but our collective agreement in our institutions make us "American". If someone is acting in a way that denies institutional access on the basis of race, fucking call them out on it. Go right ahead, I will be there with you and that is saying something because I cut quite the figure with my rugged good looks, roguish charm, and a demeanor that comfortably insists that everyone behave themselves. BUT, the argument you make has to be reasonable.

If you are going to have a freakout session because a bunch of jokers (who are as well groomed and organized on a national level to do exactly what they are doing) are being effective at shutting down the media access to your side of the debate then you are playing right into their hands. They want you to be polarized to their viewpoint and go over the moon about it. It heightens the sense of division and limits access to reasoned debate.

Bruce Paine said...

I don't want to be mean, but this isn't fucking checkers, this is chess. It isn't about moving straight ahead with no regard. It is about the last two moves dictating the next, and what the board looks like six moves from now. THIS IS NOT A MORALITY TALE, IT IS A LEGAL FIGHT. I don't want people to "flip flop" their politics, I want better fucking citizenship. The only way I can get it is if people use more reasoned arguments and establish better debates. If I didn't think you were capable of it I wouldn't be here. Passion is strength, yes. But, what wins, strength or technique? What wins, speed or strength?

Is everyone on the other side of your argument just acting in opposition socialism (look, it is, the present House supported plan is socialism. That doesn't mean it will kill us all. Let's stop calling it He Who Must Not Be Named and just call it Voldemort) or is that group just playing its game in symmetrical opposition to its political rival or is there deeper scope of dissent? Can a middle ground be hammered out with some, all, or none of the opposition? If you start swinging the big brush, none of those questions will be answered and YOU WILL PLAY RIGHT INTO THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE YOU ARE FIGHTING. If you continue to group A, B, and C together you WILL alienate C from the negotiating table you need to get what you want. You have to understand the motivations, mindset, and situation of C because you can't get you alliance without them. A and B are too strong to beat. If you understand how to get C, you out technique them. If you figure out a new way to rob the news cycle and steer the debate, you out speed them. Reality check, they are better organized than you which gives them strength.

I gotta go, we have a double header tonight and I am swinging a great bat right now. I have to have some time to zen out before the game.

I can't call myself a slexpert, but I cannot deny that I have extensive academic education in political science.

Mr. Customer said...


I'll keep it short and to the point, since I'm basically bogarting Erin's soap-box.

1. I'm completely on board with calling a duck a duck. If we aren't adult enough to debate things by their merit, as opposed to their label, what the hell is the point.

2. That said, you and I may be playing chess, but there's a teeming mass of humanity that is playing chutes and ladders (or follow the leader, if you will), and I don't mean that as an indictment of one side over the other.

Let's face it, I'm a policy wonk at heart, and I'd rather not get my hands dirty playing plain old politics, but that's a "me" problem. The beauty of democracy, though, is that we're each responsible for the shit we collectively get into. Nobody gets the safety of the ivory tower.

Piper said...

to bruce paine: okay i officially have No idea what you're talking about. at first i thought you were sticking up for the crying people's rights to assemble and cry. which doesn't make sense b/c a blog post certainly doesn't threaten those rights. (surely on one's own website one is allowed to wish for censorship that would obviously be illegal and technically wrong. though i sincerely wish it were possible to ban protests at funerals.)

but you keep mentioning this brush. and you also seem to think that we might secretly be in congress making deals and it would therefore be dangerous for us not to be extremely precise. we are not.

or maybe you're saying Hey, Don't say that to them! This will not make the crying ladies stop crying! This is a bad argument to pose to congress! If you said this at a town hall, you'd help No One!!!

to which i would say, duh. or today i might say obv. this paragraph leads only to further sarcasm, so i'll self-censor. but i'm pretty sure the audience of this blog is not meant to be town hall criers who no longer see the country they love.

at any rate, you seem to think i was trying to prove a point, which i wasn't. none of your responses have been relevant to my thoughts. i provided context b/c i thought it would help you to understand what i meant by what i said. Obviously it didn't. (thanks for the bio i never would have understood your point that context does not equal an argument without it.) so that was a giant waste of time, as probably is this.

i only ask that you cease to think you know what My point is. as i admit i don't know yours.

for the record, here is a site of protesters i hope never to spend time with and yet were *not* the subject of my comment. i couldn't find the video of the weepers:

Erin said...

I think Bruce was just telling us we're fighting the wrong fight. Or perhaps fighting the correct fight, but in the wrong way. Which may be true. I do get angry at town hall protestors, and maybe that is playing into their hands. But I don't control the media, who are the ones really playing into the wingnuts' hands by allowing them airtime all over the place.

But, to be fair, I don't think the town hall protestors are really as isolated or as much of a minority as you think. I have several Republican friends, and though none of them have been to a town hall to yell, they have expressed those sentiments to me in emails or on Facebook. They're not crazy, but they've been led to believe certain things, and they're maybe one step away from the town hall weeping.

Mr. Customer, you may bogart my soapbox whenever you want. It's part of why I like to write this blog. I agree that, at least with the people who have been pissing me off lately, we are not on a level playing field.