For years I’ve heard the cry, “we need take back our country!” My question is simple. “Take it back from whom?”
Implicit in the phrasing “our country” is a very serious and disturbing sense of ownership and entitlement. I’d like to get a definition of exactly who makes up the “our” group.
Before you read too much into this piece, it is not an attack on Republicans, per se, but if in calling out the vitriol leads me to there, so be it. The acerbic rhetoric has been escalating for years. For some time before, but definitely after 9/11 the politics of persuading through fear has gone wilder than drunk coeds on spring break.
Recently, we’ve witnessed Joe “You Lie! Wilson during the state of the union in January. Just yesterday Bart Stupak, who had been threatening to block the health care reform bill in the House of Representatives because he believed it provided federal funding for abortions, was hecked with “baby killer!” by Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer on the floor of the House.(Neugebauer has subsequently clarified, if you will, why he shouted that phrase. Clean up on Aisle 9!)
I understand there is a throng of small government people out there who fear that the federal government is becoming this all-controlling entity. I’m sure most of us could sit down and, in a manner of minutes, enumerate a few government initiatives or programs that seem invasive or expansive. I’m not one of these people who feels the government can or should cure all ills. However, I do feel there’s a role for the government to play in making sure that people with smallest of means are treated just as fairly as those with the most.
This is what is particularly interesting about the protesters. Most appear to be low, to middle-income individuals. I can’t help but wonder if this hostility terribly is misplaced, and the federal government has simply become the easy target. Unfortunately, I fear that there’s something a little more disturbing lurking behind the patriotic sloganeering. Why are people so angry? The hostility is open and raw. No longer are feelings being veiled behind nuanced, code words. It’s in your face with a extra heaping of spit in your eye.
What seems to be at the heart of this “I’m taking back my country” movement is fear. Whether real or imagined, it’s clear that this groundswell of Tea Party picketers believe that their freedom is eroding…quickly. It’s amazing that, given all the mess that we’ve experienced in the last decade, fear of being reduced to serfs on a manor overflows just a year into Obama’s presidency.
People have been freely tossing around terms like socialism, communism, totalitarianism. I was listening to one exasperated caller after another on C-Span last Sunday during the health care reform votes. It became very clear that most of these callers were merely repeating slogans and sound bites they heard from Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or some other pot-stirring commentator. I have a profound affinity for intelligent people. Accordingly, I admit that I harbor a fair amount of loathing for ignorant people. Just because you disagree with me–even passionately–does not translate to ignorance. It’s when you cannot stand on your own two feet and defend your position that I lose respect for you.
Is Obama moving too fast, and risking our financial future? That remains to be seen. Is there a chance that this administration is going to run this Titanic into a glacier and sink the country? Highly unlikely. In my opinion, the fear-driven actions of the uninformed and uneducated could prove to be far more destructive than a shift in how health care is delivered in this country.