The Tea Partiers’ Bad Manners
Wednesday - March 31, 2010
I sure wish I had a magic wand. I would have so much fun waving it around whenever I wanted something done. Like housework: A little wave of the magic stick and the broom would come dancing out of the closet and little mice would scurry around with dustcloths on their feet. Voila! Clean house.
But I don’t have a magic wand. That means that after an historic vote in which health care reform finally - finally! - became the law of the land, we are going to have to watch as its opponents try to shred it, stop it, destroy it or neutralize it. There is no magic to make the raucous discontent go away, and no time at all to savor any sort of victory.
I want you to understand, it’s not the opposition I mind. That’s healthy, as long as the disagreeing parties maintain civility and respect for each other.
Unfortunately, that is not what we’re seeing and hearing lately. What is getting me down is the sheer bellicosity of it all. This is a fight that got progressively uglier, and the nastiness is likely to continue.
Weren’t you shocked at what you saw happening? Protesters who call themselves “Tea Partiers” screaming, yelling racist and homo-phobic slurs, even spitting on at least one lawmaker as the deadline for the vote approached. One congressman yelled out “baby killer!” on the House floor - an unsuccessful attempt to use the abortion issue to ensure the bill’s failure. It’s as if some people decided they just would not even bother anymore to behave like rational human beings.
These morons represent a very small percentage of the Republican opposition, but they were the loudest voices out there and so got the most attention. What I wanted to see was the party leadership shut them down. I would have liked to hear more of the respected members of the GOP come out and say, “Be civil or be quiet. Your bad behavior reflects badly on us - you do not represent us.”
I can understand why some people are so upset over this new law. It is pushing them into unknown territory. To a lot of these folks, it may look like America truly is headed toward Armageddon.
But as the law kicks in - and it’ll do so incrementally over several years - I suspect many of these same protesters will appreciate and come to expect, and even demand, their rights as health care consumers.
As for us, Hawaii already has the Prepaid Health Care Act, which means we’ve gone through the growing pains the rest of the country is about to experience.
Our congressional delegation made sure Hawaii has an exemption, and that we would retain what we have.
But that doesn’t mean we can ignore what’s going on in the rest of the country. Our system will have to mesh with federal law - and whether that’s better for us in the long run remains to be seen. I think we’ll all be better off.
So there will be a lot of kicking and screaming. The lawsuits have already started, with 14 states filing suit the very day the bill was signed.
Rush Limbaugh will continue hurling inflammatory rhetoric to set fire to a certain gullible set of the population. Tea Partiers will continue to protest, although my fervent hope is they will discover that bigotry and bad manners won’t win them points in the PR department.
And maybe, just maybe, the majority of the public will ignore all the noise and get started on the hard work of learning exactly what this sweeping new law means to them. As Vice President Joe Biden put it - a tad inelegantly - this is a big (insert adjective) deal.
Yes, it is. And thank you, President Obama, for making it happen.
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