I haven’t entirely worked out my own reaction to the passage of what is euphemistically come to be known as “the health care bill.” (Well, I guess that sentence indicates that I’m kinda getting there.) I’ll address that in a series of articles to come.
But after one day of hearing about threats against U.S. Representatives and rumblings of violence against public buildings, my views on citizens of that mindset are fully formed:
My grandsons are not allowed to use that word, but I’m all growed up, and it fits. They’re also not allowed to say “shut up,” but let me amend that first reaction thus.
I don’t care if (I’m addressing those furious souls now) you think:
-- that the law is hopelessly dumb and cannot possibly achieve its promised results;
-- that it was achieved by corruption that is breathtaking even by the relaxed standards of the United States Congress;
-- that it threatens the overall health of residents of the United States;
-- that it promotes abortion;
-- that it will permanently damage the economy, and your economy, and your descendants’ economies;
-- that it represents a palpable move toward socialism in this country;
-- that it was achieved through fraudulent misrepresentation at every step of the way, beginning during the presidential campaign;
-- that its passage willfully ignored the demonstrable will of the majority of Americans;
-- that President Obama is a bad man who has surrounded himself with, and appointed to high office, bad people;
-- that it is immoral;
-- that it erroneously designates certain things as “rights” and rewards the undeserving;
-- that it violates principles of federalism, the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, substantive due process, or any other constitutional emanation;
-- that it surrenders United States exceptionalism and promises our reduction to the level of failing economies and health care systems elsewhere in the world (and some more locally) that have adopted stuff like this, to their toothless and advanced-medical-procedure-free regret; or
-- that it represents the triumph of academic, Rawlsian “social justice” theory (John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, that unreadable book with the bright green cover that the present generation of leaders were breathlessly assigned in their philosophy/poli sci/econ courses) over the evidence of your own eyes.
Don’t care if you think any of those things (if you’ve forgotten the beginning of that sentence). Screaming bloody murder and threatening -- or doing -- violence is not only criminal, it is incredibly damaging to your own cause.
First, even if you don’t really mean it, even if you yourself would never participate in a crime, it may inspire the weaker and more impressionable among you to do so.
Second, the publicity it attracts makes the opposition to the law look like a bunch of know-nothing peckerwoods. If anything, it will have the effect of driving away the thoughtful opposition and stiffening what modest popular and political support the thing now has. It will turn the debate from what actually appears in those two reams of congressional prose crafted by low-level staffers (and, ack, lawyers) and towards your bad behavior. The Sixties violence against the Vietnam War did nothing to bring it to an end. That happened only when Americans understood its folly through the information they received from Walter Cronnkite. Revulsion toward the radicals probably sustained official support beyond what it would otherwise have been.
Third, it exposes you as hypocrites. If you support American democracy, practice it. November 2 is coming up. Modern communications and analytical technology (which, with the exception of Al Gore’s contribution and the encouragement of some national security dollars, has not been a government initiative – if you doubt that, take a look at the hardware at your local government office) gives you the tools to analyze the law and communicate your conclusions to nearly every citizen, pretty much for free. Raise money for candidates who will promise repeal, modification, whatever you think is required to rid the statute books of whatever it is you so loathe. Communicate their views to voters; encourage others of like mind to vote for them.
Fourth – now think about this one – if you really believe, I mean really, truly believe that the administration and its congressional supporters are promoting the kind of tyranny that justifies what is starting to sound like, in your rhetoric, a proto-revolutionary response, what prevents you from believing that your reaction will not call forth even greater oppression and bad policy from these very same leaders? What, for example, do you think Congress would do with the next gun-control bill that came before them if one of your number took a shot at a congressman or, heaven forbid, a more senior leader? (I can’t bring myself to say it.) Anyone remember what happened when Kennedy was assassinated? We got an enormously sympathetic Congress giving Lyndon Johnson The Great Society on a silver platter – a giant step towards the kind of welfare-state collectivism you hate. (I know, Oswald was a communist, but the point is that leaders succeeding to power after an event like that tend to get what they want – not what the opposition wants.) Putting it more simply (about time, I know): Do you really think that destructive acts will make people agree with your point of view?
Agree with the law or disagree with it, the fact is that as we sit here on March 24, 2010, the riptide of history is on the side of those who would legally recompose the national legislature and the executive branch through the ballot box. That box, it’s quite a tool. Have some confidence in it. It’s your right to holler all you want, and to communicate in a way that conveys your anger in a civilized and rational way, but if by your actions – or your language -- you drive away those who want only to understand to the best of their capability and make the right decision the next time they install their representatives and executives, you will have done nothing but ensure that your blithering will fade to the margins of history, where it belongs.