Tempering tantrums

Way busy these days, and not enough time to comment on current events the way I’d like (aside from some late-night Twitter spew), but I do have a couple of things to say about this whole shutdown business:

1. Contrary to some of the arguments presented by my side, I’m not opposed to the shutdown on the “democracy” point. The fact is that the US is not a democracy (direct or representative); it’s a representative republic. Majority rule is not absolute, especially if the majority in a given case passes (or tries to pass) a law that would violate constitutional rights. For instance: instead of the ACA, imagine that the law in question required trans* people to have wrist tattoos of the letter representing their assigned-at-birth sex. This would be a blatant violation of human rights, and damn right, I’d lobby for the government to be shut down in protest even if the Supreme Court (say, if it were stacked with Scalia and Thomas clones) had approved the law. So, yes, I do believe that there is legal and moral standing for actions such as this in extreme circumstances.

2. This is not an extreme circumstance. There are no basic human rights being violated by the ACA. There’s plenty of court-approved precedent for the one potential sticking point (forcing people to buy a product or pay a fine if they don’t) and there’s nothing else about the act, regardless of the bizarre rumors and conspiracy theories to the contrary, that could be considered a constitutional violation. Thus, there’s no legitimate reason to go to such extremes in this case. The TPers who are doing this are the ones who sincerely believe in a Randian Utopia, and thus believe anything the government gets into is automatically bad. They don’t have any actually legitimate objections to the act itself, just the principle, which they already apply to every other government program, from the CDC to food safety inspections. They’d be happy as clams if the federal government ceased to exist permanently, so no matter how well-crafted, useful or necessary, anything implemented by it is, to them, a violation of rights. If it ain’t a bill turning us into 50 little nation-states, or at least allowing the Confederacy to secede, they ain’t for it. So don’t be fooled into thinking that the ACA itself is their problem.

3. The act itself is a giant mess, absolutely. We should, like the rest of the functional first world, have a public-funded health care system, with private options for people who can and want to pay more. That kind of system already works perfectly well for dozens of things, from education (public vs. private) to retirement funds (SSI vs. 401(k)s) to security (police vs. private bodyguards.) There’s no reason we shouldn’t have this kind of two-tiered system for health care. Hell, we already have it in the form of Medicare and Medicaid. All we needed was an expansion so that middle-class working folks who were being priced out of both insurance and care could still have access. Simple, right? Unfortunately, the insurance lobby was having none of that, so this was what we got stuck with after they made certain that putting them out of business was not an option. Given that people are literally dying with the system we have now, we must have something new, and we can’t wait however many years it would take to get something better. This is the best we can do under the current political circumstances.

4. I think most people understand that. Polls have shown that when folks are presented with the actual structure of the act, rather than the whole Obamacare name (or even the ACA), they approve of it. Most of us who want something better also understand that we’re hamstrung by a handful of gerrymander-elected nitwits from getting it. Yeah, there are still some radical lefties out there who think otherwise–who think that we can simply demand justice and we’ll magically get it. Most folks, though, I like to believe are sensible and understand the limitations of the system we have, and also understand that doing something imperfect but in the right direction is far better than doing nothing at all when the stakes are so high. Because most people understand that, they do actually want what the ACA is giving us. And after a couple of years of it, we’re going to wonder how we ever survived without it (and, well … some of us didn’t, which is the whole point.) Eventually, we’ll come to accept it as part of civilized American life the same way we expect our food to be safe. And maybe in the process a few minds will be changed and people will understand that working together for the common good doesn’t at all look like the totalitarian dictatorship they were led to believe it would.

5. THAT, folks, is what the shutdown is really about. Honestly, if the ACA really were such a disaster, the smart GOP money would be on letting it be implemented, in all its crash-and-burn glory, which would give them an enormous wave of anger upon which to ride into office in the next few elections. What they’re terrified of is that it’s going to work, and well, and people will know exactly who should get the credit for that. Worse, people might come to like the idea of well-funded public services, and vote for the folks who back that. Ack! Frankly, the TP brigade shouldn’t be frightened of that–they’re in the heart of conspiracy-crowd territory, and shouldn’t have to worry. But the mainline GOP does have something to worry about, which is why most of them are letting the TPers run amok with this. It’s a win-win for them: if the shutdown succeeds, then the ACA gets delayed past the 2014 elections, and they’re safe. If the shutdown doesn’t succeed, they can lambast the TP wing during the primaries and have a hope of retaining their seats.

So basically, yeah: This shutdown thing is being generated by anti-fed conspiracy jackholes who clearly need professional mental health care, and allowed to flourish by the rest of the GOP who are starting to see the writing on the political wall, and trying to come up with any way possible of keeping their jobs. The ACA, messy as it is, is not in any way a real violation of rights or the doom of America or anything else these people are trying to sell. Their objection to it is just the same old political jockeying that’s been going on in D.C. for centuries.

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About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
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6 Responses to Tempering tantrums

  1. Good post.

    MY bible has a passage in it about the Good Samaritan. MY bible reads “Love your neighbor as yourself.” MINE advises us “As you treat the least of these, my brothers, you have treated me.” So denying health care coverage to has become the mantra of the right-wing GOP, including Evangelists! What kind of family values is that?

  2. SorchaRei says:

    I’m with you right up until you decide to call the TP mentally ill. Some of them may be; some are almost certainly not. A person can be scared, ignorant, and panicky due to said fear and ignorance without being mentally ill. A person can be downright evil without being mentally ill. At the same time, many mentally ill people are capable of being rational, empathetic, and in favor of the public option.

    Calling people who might be simply evil “mentally ill” is ableist in the worst way and not at all what I expect from you.

    • I understand your concern, and I probably didn’t express it well in the piece, but I actually meant the comment sincerely, not flippantly. I truly believe there are many in this movement whose beliefs are the result of treatable mental health issues. I have a background in psychology (and depression and ADD myself) and though I wouldn’t attempt a serious diagnosis of an individual remotely, I do think it’s clear that there are hallmarks of some classic disorders in some of the common behaviors and beliefs in that movement. Some of the movement’s leaders, for instance, exhibit such utter disregard for the needs of others, and such a willingness to manipulate others (including their followers), that I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d qualify as sociopaths. And among the conspiracy-fond and hardcore religious, the fear and paranoia are so high that there has to be something driving those beliefs beyond mere ignorance and gullibility.

      Additionally, having personally known some folks in this movement, I think a great deal of them are at least in need of professional counseling. Many of the rank and file are working-class folks whose lives have been so fraught with misery that they now see everyone else, especially those unlike themselves, as an enemy–as a genuine threat to their safety and security.

      Where the “evil” comes in, I believe, is with the people at the top who know very well what these weaknesses are in these populations, and how to exploit them for their own gains. At the same time, they also do everything they can to demonize seeking help of any kind, especially mental health care, to keep these folks fearful and vulnerable and doing their bidding.

      I think dismissing the people in this movement is inaccurate, unfair, and counterproductive. “Evil” may be a good shorthand to describe genuinely hurtful behavior, but it gets us no closer to solving the problem. It’s true that flippant “crazy” labeling does the same, but honestly, that’s not my view. I believe there are many good people who have succumbed to this hateful rhetoric because they’ve been deprived of necessary care. If we work on giving them access to that care–and thus the tools to see how they’re being preyed upon by those purporting to be on their side–we might solve the political problem in the process.

    • To be clear, though: Yes, I did express that poorly in the post. Sometimes when I’m in rant mode and don’t have time for well-thought-out writing, I stick my foot in my mouth. This is definitely one of those times. (And why I haven’t posted much since becoming a parent. The kid steals most of my bandwidth and coherency these days!)

  3. SorchaRei says:

    It seems that there’s a lot of nuance needed to talk about this subject! We need to be able to talk about mental illness and how it drives some TPs without succumbing to flippant ableism. And likewise, I need to find a way to express what I mean about pure evil without it appearing to my audience that I am dismissing the people who are that. I clearly also didn’t do that well, because I am not trying to dismiss them by calling them evil and moving on. Maybe I need another word?

    I agree that it is likely that some TPs are mentally ill. But I also believe that some of them are not. I believe that truly defanging the TP will require a combination of approaches. It will require recognizing who is ill, who is ignorant and scared, and who is evil (which I am trying really hard to use not in a dismissive way — there are evil people in the world, and to fight them effectively, we have to be able to recognize them and distinguish them from people whose similar choices come from some other motivation). People are where they are, and just because they are taking the same stand in issues doesn’t mean they are doing for all the same reasons.

    If we want to help move people from where they are, we have to offer them what they need. Treatment, education, security from the things they fear, and opposition to the flat out horrible people who know what they are doing and choose to do it anyway because reasons — all will be needed, and these will need to be applied where they will matter.

    My depression manifests in ways that look like anxiety from the outside, but that’s not what’s going on. You can’t help my depression by treating me for anxiety. Likewise, we can’t help scared people by treating them for sociopathy, nor will addressing legitimate sources of fear make a person stop what they are doing if they aren’t driven by being scared. Tarring all TPs with any brush is dismissive, isn’t it?

    I now understand what you meant, for which I thank you. I hope this has helped you understand my views more clearly, too.

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