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“silly me, what was i thinking”

August 27, 2009

I’ve been avoiding the Great Health Care Debate. Here, that is. It features a bit in my professional life, but that is an entirely different beast.

I’ve been avoiding it because it’s been awful. But i was reading our local indie paper this morning, and i read what may be the only peice of journalistic journalism in the country about the health-care town-hall protests. That is, as compared to reporting about heroes or nutjobs (same folks, turns out). It helped me clarify my thoughts on all this. Even clarified, i’m unsure they will be clear, but perhaps mildly intelligible.

I have political thoughts on this – do i ever (don’t i always). They are coming, but that is not what has struck me recently.

What struck me was the personal; not what people say about policy, but their descriptions of how they feel about what is happening. Taken out of context, they could as easily be a progressive (myself!) seven years ago as a conservative today. Primarily, fear. There is anger (is there ever), but the more personal aspect of it is fear. I saw a particular quote somewhere along the lines of “I feel like i can’t be myself; i’m afraid to say what i think.” I don’t know it exactly, but it resonated with me. In that i’ve said the exact same thing before.

I have a wide range of reactions to that.

One short-lived, quick-arriving one was “now you fucking get it!” Not exactly gracious. And probably not exactly true. If it were true, in fact, i wouldn’t feel it ungracious; however, it’s minimally vindicating that someone who was (institutionally) involved in making me feel crappy now feels similarly crappy if they are not themselves aware of that connection. If it could be made clear that this is what we [nutjob liberals] were talking about i feel like it would really be worth something; like there would be some progress being made.

Taking that view means, of course, that i must be gracious about that connection. Even “take that! Now it’s your turn!” is an acknowledgment of our similarity. Even if our similarity ends here, it proves one very important point, which is that we are all people. Notably important! We are people and we should treat each other as such. Not as “enemies” or policies, faceless groups or thoughtless masses. People. Can we civilize a bit?

On the other hand, i’m a bit incredulous. Perhaps it is just me being an unsympathetic bitch, but i certainly think that it is more thoughtful than that. Where i live is – the only places i’ve lived are – very conservative, generally speaking. My state was one of the 10 highest McCain-voting states in the past election. So i hope you can understand if i am a bit incredulous of your statement that you feel uncomfortable speaking your conservative mind. I have seen a lot of people bringing guns into public forums. They have all been on the right-wing side of things, so i hope you can understand if i am a bit incredulous that you feel unsafe airing your conservative opinions.

Some of this is reactionary; i am a bit affronted that you are laying claim to “my” feelings. I feel as though, in doing so, you are comparing bank regulation to the war in Iraq (i might note that President Obama – the apparent cause of this awful liberalism – is continuing that war). I feel that you are comparing universal healthcare to torture (i might note that President Obama – the apparent cause of this awful liberalism – is not pushing any investigation into torture either). I feel, in short, that you are crying wolf, and coopting the feelings i had when there was a wolf to do so.

In saying all of that i do not mean to say that i disbelieve. I am not trying to negate anyone’s feelings. They are, after all, feelings. I understand, as shown in my first reaction mentioned above, that sometimes these reactions come unbidden. The point, however, is that you can choose to embrace or reject them. Or, more importantly, you can choose to examine them. Take parts, reject others.

Wherever you stand, can you – please – recognize one another. Disagree, by all means! i love disagreement. A little civility, please? On all sides, if you please.

Lady Brett

"Empty Spaces" - Mary Gauthier
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