Yes…I am still talking only to the white males.
With regard to the current health care reform debate and the fear of a loss of “civil liberties” associated with reform proposals, why do white males feel the need to display guns at otherwise “peaceful”—admittedly a loosely-used term given the often raucous nature of the debate—town hall meetings and rallies? It’s not as if health care reform is a rational slippery-slope toward a totalitarian regime reminiscent of America’s Cold War-era adversaries…or is it? Sadly, and not understandably, many of you who feel threatened by the prospect of the federal government getting involved in the business of providing affordable health care insurance for those lacking seems to evoke fears of an encroaching “Socialism” monster coming to, among other things, take both your guns and your civil liberties.
Historically, it’s not as if you have a leg to stand on. There is no historical instance of white males being interned in concentration camps within the borders of America since the end of the Civil War, not based on their identities such as what happened to Japanese-American citizens. There have been no laws created to curtail gun ownership of white males (again, based on identity) in conflict with the Second Amendment, such as black citizens have had to endure…well into the 20th century (see Part 1). With respect to what happened at Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho during the 90s, those tragedies do not measure up to the wholesale violations of civil and individual rights of non-white citizens that have happened many times throughout both the recent and distance history of America. So why do you fear of a loss of civil liberties? What would make otherwise reasonable men fight so hard against potentially reforming a broken system in opposition to their own self interests? The answer is simple: belief.
Like religion, personal beliefs have no place in policy. Beliefs fuel ideological dogma, which in turn impedes the need to change what needs to be changed. In the case of health care reform, it is the irrational belief that “Socialism” will lead to many other negative government actions. Many opponents of health care reform believe that an increase in their taxes to help insure uninsured fellow Americans amounts to an erosion civil liberties. Needless to say, this is unsound reasoning given the fact that their taxes already fund “government-run” health care-related programs for the otherwise uninsured: Medicaid and Medicare. What this amounts to is, based on politically-inspired fear alone, Americans will cherry-pick which programs they support and are willing to allow their taxes to be used for, while ignoring the fact that by simply thinking or looking beyond the rhetoric, they could easily find many other unpopular programs—most with track records—that their taxes already pay for. So why should health care insurance and/or affordability be different?
Again, the fear of a Socialism Boogey Man is at the heart, most of it based on nothing more than ignorance. To illustrate, many these individuals often associate this fear of a socialist encroachment on their lives with the common practice among the former communist regimes of the Cold War era to suppress the various freedoms which we as Americans enjoy. Not only does this lack of knowledge ignores the distinctions between socialism and communism as economic policies, but assumes that a free market automatically equals personal freedom. Just look at modern-day China, an emerging capitalist juggernaut whose citizens dare not cross the boundaries of certain policies ambiguously codified by the state in regards to speech, assembly, religion, or even to have children. On the other hand, many of America’s traditional (and closest) allies may have certain economic policies that critics may slander as “socialist,” but that fact makes these countries no less democratic than ours; most European countries that opponents of health care reform enjoy all of the same rights and freedoms which we as Americans enjoy. In fact, one could argue that these “socialist” countries represent democracy far more readily than America, given their multi-party politics and parliamentary legislative structures. As a further example, in many European countries, the electorate and other special interests are forbidden from making contributions to political candidates for office; the government foots the cost for political campaigns, keeping Big Money out of the democratic process. And thankfully, these realities strongly challenge these over-patriotic Americans’ assertion that our example of democracy is the example of democracy. So again, I ask white males who feel free to intimidate the discourse regarding health care reform by displaying guns why?
Such a groundless, baseless, and uncivil choice of tactics is reminiscent of bloodthirsty and mindless mobs of days past who armed themselves, just before they gathered to lynch, burn, or otherwise do away with those who dared to think differently than they. Is that the message you want to send?
Addendum - (09/02/08)
WUNC, the local National Public Radio affiliate in Chapel Hill, North Carolina aired a segment on it's daily program, "The State of Things" about the word "socialism." It's an interesting look at how both the idea of socialism, and the usage of the word as a loaded term is typically not fully understood (outside of its negative connotation) by those who use it as a political tactic to derail questionable policy proposals. Open minds should give it a listen.