The previous posts have dealt, independently, with the issues of town hall disruptions and the propagation of misleading information about healthcare. Recent news reports demonstrate quite strikingly that these problems have become joined. The unfortunate result is an increasingly inhibited dialogue that has taken a nasty turn.
Suddenly absent from the political limelight since her resignation, Sarah Palin attempted to insert herself into the debate with a recent Facebook post. In addition to unabashedly ignoring facts and conjuring rumors about so-called "death panels," the former governor also introduced her son, Trig, into the fray -- relying upon his innocence to evoke concern and effectively exploiting her own child. Suggesting that her son could somehow be executed as the result of healthcare reform is patently ridiculous -- and a grotesque strategy.
Thankfully, many Republicans more interested in an intelligent and constructive conversation -- such as Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) and Jack Kingston (R-GA) -- quickly distanced themselves from these remarks (though Palin still found support among the more radical elements of her party). Far from instituting the mandatory euthanizing of older Americans and toddlers -- something which is, in fact, illegal in 49 states -- reform proposals provide for nothing beyond Medicare funds for concerns such as "designating a health care proxy, choosing a hospice and making decisions about life-sustaining treatment." Nowhere do they even suggest that doctors counsel their patients to refuse medical intervention.
This despicable dissemblance has woven a tapestry of fear and panic that has exploded into town hall meetings. For instance, while Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) was certainly expected to face significant opposition stemming from his defection to the Democratic Party, it was the issue of healthcare that forced him to repeatedly plead with his audience to remain civil. Interestingly, one constituent (likely drawing from President Obama's statement supporting rigorous debate) claimed, "I don't think we have bad attitudes... We're just being Americans." It is hard to accept this assertion. Shouting over others in the audience, disrupting the discussion, and booing politicians and questioners alike is harmful to the democratic processes that Americans hold so dear; such behavior is hardly representative of the noble ideals and high standards for society inherent in the American consciousness.
It is completely understandable that so many should be so concerned. As one sixth of the nation's economy and, more importantly, a system directly tied to the well-being of citizens and their loved ones, the topic of healthcare is an extremely sensitive issue. There are very good reasons to engage in a vigorous debate of the proposals being considered in Congress, and it is inevitable that even reasonable, well-informed individuals will vehemently disagree on the right course of action. The solution, however, is not to descend into a state of chaos that precludes the realization of some type of reform. Nor, as several conservative groups seem to have expressed, is the solution to reject compromise, halt negotiation, and kill any chance for actual reform. According to the notes of the AFL-CIO, one conservative organizer acknowledged that "the purpose of Tea Parties is not to find a solution to the health care crisis." What then, might one ask, is the purpose of generating so much fear and anxiety?
A viable proposal for healthcare reform must be effective, attainable, and beneficial to most Americans. Any system will have flaws, but a good proposal will not have failings that seriously harm even a small number of individuals. Finally, a good proposal must not lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to improve the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of the citizens of the United States of America. There are perhaps many ways to accomplish this goal, but a resolution will only be reached through open, honest, intelligent debate. This is not encouraged by the current state of affairs and one would hope that the tenor of the controversy changes very quickly. When the most powerful nation in the world fails to provide the best healthcare for its citizens, it is a disservice them, to the dedicated healthcare professionals who struggle to work within the system, and to future generations of Americans.