Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lessons from the Healthcare Debate

If we've learned anything from the healthcare debate in Washington, I think it is that the American Republic is unable to consider a complicated issue without reverting back to the most base of reactionary behavior.
To illustrate my point, I'll link you to two stories describing scenes from the final days of the healthcare debate: This post appeared in the AJC's Political Insider blog about racist taunts hurled at U.S. Congressman John Lewis last week; and here we have an aftermath story from the Washington Post detailing a spat of attacks and threats against Democratic Congresspersons before, during and after the healthcare vote Sunday.
"It was surprising and alarming to know that people, when they have so many opportunities for expression in this country, that somebody would resort to a brick."
It's amazing to hear about these kinds of reactions from people on an issue as innocuous as healthcare reform--and I say innocuous because this is an effort (at least initially) to open healthcare to more people. You'd hope debate would grow this intense when the government is thinking about sending its military to some foreign land or when lawmakers decide to write legislation that lets corporations send the country's manufacturing base to another part of the world.
As I posted sometime a long time ago--and yes it is sad that it takes me this long to read a book--I have been reading Rolling Stone Editor Matt Taibbi's "The Great Derangement" about the growing divide between Americans of opposing political view points. Well I finally finished the book last night and although I don't feel Taibbi did a good job of reporting his purported observation--going to the ideological fringes of society will undoubtedly illustrate your point, but does little to prove the depravity is seeping into our societal DNA--his thesis is definitely valid and a good primer for what we're seeing from this healthcare debate.
I think the healthcare overhaul has been a total failure in the sense that it could have been a conversation about expanding a sector of the economy that can't be easily outsourced to somewhere else. If the debate could have been couched as an effort to encourage Americans to get a medical education so as to train enough doctors and nurses to put federally-subsidized medical clinics within reach of every American, I think it would not have become this black hole in which bureaucrats are throwing taxpayer dollars by the bundle. I think that more accurately describes the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like Taibbi in his book, I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I know where I'd like to end up: A place where we can calmly talk over our differences, come to the best conclusion possible and then forget our differences and move forward on making the best America possible.
I get the feeling that may be too much to ask.

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