Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Plague on Both Your Houses

When I was a small boy, my mother told me that a few things were true about the United States and the people who live here and those things always would be true, no matter which political party was in control of things.

And I still believe what she told me even though it is more difficult with each passing day.

Americans, she said to me, always tolerate more than one opinion. Americans are respectful of each other, she said, even when they disagree.

And Americans are fair.

She told me these things when there was a lot of polarization in America. Americans were polarized by race, by gender, by religion, by age. There were riots in the streets of every major city. America in 2013 is a day at the beach compared to that.

Mom was a Democrat. Until recently, I considered myself a Democrat, too, but I have come to realize that, if Democrats ever really were what Mom believed they were, they ain't that anymore.

I've never been an advocate of federal government shutdowns as a tactic, and I've seen quite a few in my life. They have occurred during Republican administrations and Democrat administrations alike. They have been engineered by both parties in Congress. Neither side is guiltless.

And, as far as I can tell, all that shutdowns do is impose unnecessary pain and suffering on average Americans while politicians in both parties use them as pawns.

In a way, shutdowns are like filibusters — desperate measures that are doomed to fail. A shutdown is more of a strongarm measure than a filibuster, though. It has more of a thuggish feeling to it whereas a filibuster is often idealized as a lone man — or woman — taking a stand against an unbeatable foe.

In Hollywood — "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," for instance — filibusters can alter outcomes. In real life, they seldom do.

I suppose the same is true of shutdowns. I don't recall any movies about shutdowns — unless you want to count something like the general strike in "Gandhi," which, in reality, was a "day of prayer and fasting" during which no work was done and really only represents a few paragraphs, not even a whole chapter, in his life's story.

Perhaps someday — maybe even someday soon — there will be a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" kind of movie that idealizes — even romanticizes — a shutdown and its objectives. Perhaps it will be presented as a noble, selfless, last–ditch effort to right a terrible wrong.

But I digress.

I'm not a supporter of Obamacare for many reasons, but, at this point, I'm just about resigned to the fact that it will be implemented regardless of how I feel. I've decided not to enroll, to just go ahead and pay the fine and see how it works out for others in the first year. I have a pretty good idea what is going to happen, but I'm not going to tell anyone else whether or not to enroll.

I wrote here the other day that I thought Ted Cruz's filibuster was a lost cause — and I did think that and I still do — but I admire him for taking that stand, anyway, ostensibly on behalf of those who have no voice in Washington — even though most of it probably was political posturing.

(Everyone claims to know what a politician will do, but, in my experience, that is seldom true. Some thought Hillary Clinton would run for president in 2008, and she did. Others thought Sarah Palin would run in 2012, and she did not. Likewise, there are those who think Cruz is setting himself up for a presidential run. I don't know if he is or not. Time will tell.)

Anyway, in the last few days, I have been contributing my thoughts to a thread posted on Facebook by a local minister with whom I am acquainted. I guess that was a mistake.

I found out pretty quickly that the contributors to the thread — Democrats all, apparently — had no interest in hearing dissenting opinions on Obamacare. They would only tolerate those who agreed with them, and when they found out that I didn't, they turned on me like a pack of savage, snarling dogs.

I was accused of racism (even though I never mentioned race until it was used against me) and I was actually accused of denying health care to millions of Americans.

(For the record, that is something else I never said.)

Imagine that! I haven't been giving myself nearly enough credit for the influence I wield.

I thought I was an underpaid adjunct professor in the local community college system — but apparently, my belief that a one–year extension should be available to anyone who wants it is enough to bring the whole Obamacare house of cards tumbling down.

It didn't matter to them that their accusations were false. When I pointed out what I really said and, at times, tried to explain myself more clearly, not only did no one apologize for making the original false accusation, they repeated it over and over.

As Hitler said, if you repeat a lie often enough, it will be accepted as the truth. The more outrageous the lie, the more people will believe it. Hey, I have a bachelor's and a master's in journalism. I know about propaganda techniques.

Democrats wanted people to believe they had learned from their many years in the legislative wilderness when they recaptured control of Congress in 2006. But all they really learned from the Republicans was how to slander those with whom they disagree.

Yes, I know about propaganda. I also know my Shakespeare.

There are no good guys or bad guys in this impasse. There is no compassion or tolerance on either side.

In Shakespeare's words, a plague on both your houses.

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