Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Health Care Debate Brings Out the Worst in Humanity

Well unless you have been living under a rock somewhere in the desert you know there is a health care reform debate going on in this country and it has gone out of control. This post will not engage in a “for or against” argument of the proposed bill and I will only say that reform is needed in some way. Instead, I want to look at the debate itself and how it continues to bring out the worst in people both as Americans and as humans. There is a laundry list of problems that I see with the debate.


The use of scare-tactics and fear mongering is sickening. The use of misleading and outright untrue advertising and political commentary has spread like wildfire and only grown in the depths of lunacy culminating in the threat of so-called “Obama death panels” to sit in judgment of the elderly in order to decide the value of a particular human life. This is not only untrue it is irresponsible for elected officials and so-called “news” people to propagate this as fact. This was seen during the election against Obama when McCain/Palin tried to throw everything they could and nothing stuck. It failed then and it will fail now.

The truth is that those “great Americans” on Fox News who scare you with such false accusations are not doing so in order to help you. They don’t care about you. They are using you. They are scaring you in order to use you to further their own agenda. It is as simple as that.

Anger, Hatred, and Racism

Yoda has a great line in a rather disappointing Star Wars Episode 1: A Phantom Menace. When speaking to young Anakin Skywalker he says: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” There is no better example of this than the health care reform debate. People get scared and then they get angry. We have seen this many times in these town hall meetings. People scream, make signs, and wear t-shirts expressing their anger over the false facts they were fed the night before on Glenn Beck.

This anger leads to hatred and the inevitable ad hominem attacks. Obama and the Democrats are liberals and socialists and un-American and un-Christian. If you support health care reform then you are automatically lumped into the depths of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Fidel Castro. You not only become un-American, you become subhuman. I have heard as much from conservative talk show hosts. If a person is subhuman then his or her opinion is worthless and he or she can be shut up by force if needed. It really ticks me off when Americans are compared with Hitler. My grandfather and Obama’s grandfather both served in WWII fighting the Nazis and for anyone, Democrat or Republican, to accuse someone of being a Nazi is incorrigible.

Talking about hate leads to racism. We have our first African-American president. I wonder if a white president, even a liberal one, would face the same resistance and fear mongering. We have heard every racist comment one can imagine. Obama is a Muslim. Obama studied at a school for terrorists. This racism culminated with the so-called “birthers” who make the ludicrous accusation that Obama was born in Kenya, this again leads to fear and more and deeper racism. For anyone to make the claim that the election of a Black president somehow ended racism in the United States is foolish and misguided at best.


All of these heated feelings have led and will lead to violence. Scuffles and fights are breaking out in these town hall meetings. Congressmen are burned and lynched in effigy. Several people have been arrested for carrying or attempting to carry firearms into these meetings. I pray that it doesn’t happen, but I really think someone is going to be killed at one of these meetings. I also pray for the safety of our leaders, especially President Obama. I do not always agree with their politics, but they are still people with kids and families.

Selfishness and Greed

Another hateful aspect of humanity that this debate has brought out is selfishness and greed. People feel that money and health care will be taken away from them and given to some undeserving vagrant or worse still immigrant. It is in times of economic downturn when people recede into their shells like a scared turtle and refuse to help anyone but themselves and their immediate families. This selfishness is not limited to money, but I hear many people say that “My America” is gone and it is replaced by a socialist state. What is “My America”? First of all I thought it was “our” America. Secondly, if it is anyone’s American it is the Native peoples who had their land stolen by Europeans.

We cannot allow the debate to continue to deteriorate because at best nothing will be accomplished and at worst someone will die. We need to return to the things that united us rather than divide us. We are all Americans and we all need to work together and listen to one another rather than shout one another down. Remember the words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Friday, August 7, 2009

Making and Learning From Mistakes

I made a mistake today. Without getting into too much detail I did not make a pastoral visit when I should have. Instead of listening to my gut, I listened to my head and to another person and I waited. I waited too long for some people's comfort. There were some hurt feelings both theirs and mine. Sometimes it takes mistakes to learn lessons. Unfortunately, they don't/can't teach this stuff in seminary one must learn it on her/his own. I think the best move is to admit you're wrong and learn a lesson from the mistake. Is there a line between one's gut and one's head? How do we know which one to listen to?