Tea Party Protestor, Staten Island, NY - April 15, 2009, originally uploaded by indigo_belle.
I'm not sure which America she's talking about either.
To be honest, I find these town hall meetings distressing. Grown ass people are practically throwing tantrums over a social reform agenda that they'd in all likelihood would benefit from. Most of these folks appear to be part of a socio-economic class that gives them health care, but still would lack adequate coverage if they were inflicted with a serious illness.
Rachel Maddow did an excellent account of the strategy or, strategery behind these town hall disruptions. Reasonable people can see through the menagerie and recognize that this is in fact, a politically orchestrated effort.
These details notwithstanding, it's still important to parse out language here.
This rally cry of 'I Want My Country Back', 'I Want My America Back' or some of my other favorite invocations, 'socialism', the Obama/Hitler analogies, ---the 'birthers', and good lord, the 'deathers'--- just drips with racism. I don't say this flippantly, but the supposed fringe parts of the conservative movement have invented so many ways to say nigger it's ridiculous. The language is loaded is white racism that it would be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge it.
However, in acknowledging racism in language is dangerous territory. When you're trying to coax people to the middle ground, acknowledging racism shuts down communication. People get tongue-tied and lock-jawed on old narratives. They get angry, hurt and defensive. They feel guilty. They stop listening. They act out. No one wants to be seen as a bad person. I think what I'm getting at is that intent behind words like socialist in relation to the Obama Administration's policies doesn't sit well. I'm not sure if these folks know what socialism is. I think these words get tossed around and sits on tips of tongues without full awareness of the historic implications behind them.
I'm not sold on health care reform as it stands either. I'm in desperate need of concrete details from Congress and the White House. But I live in a democracy. I understand that the point of town hall meetings provides me with access to my elected representatives to listen to differing points of view that may ultimately (or so I hope) influence public policy to the benefit of my community. Shouting down anyone to the point that nothing is discussed isn't free speech or democratic. It's stupid. It's selfish.
The left or anyone who was opposed to the Bush Administration certainly felt put out about the direction of the American experiment. I certainly felt that we were falling in a pattern that didn't represent the values that our nation purported to uphold. I protested the Iraq War, and I could look to the left and right of me and see a broad based coalition of like minded people who felt as I did. I don't imagine if town halls were held to levy support for the war six years ago, the left would be shouting down those who supported it. I don't think we'd burn Bush in effigy.
While I can appreciate opposition to health care reform and that the extremes of the opposition may very well constitute a minority of the total population, I cannot ignore the pejorative nature of their critique. There's bloodlust behind those words.
I want my country to find the middle ground.