Healthcare protest mobs

2009/08/09

Like most of you, I’ve heard about the protests taking place during the various “town hall” meetings that the President’s allies are using to promote their proposal for a public insurance option funded and administered by Fedgov. While I do not deny that there is much to protest in the new proposal, the tactics employed by these protesters seem to be more counter-productive than useful.

The first issue here (and I know I’m not the first person to express this thought) is that these sorts of bully tactics do not address the issues themselves; while I understand the frustration felt by many of these protesters, it does no good to simply state this fact without at least attempting to engage the opposition in rational discourse. Let us not forget Thomas Jefferson’s words with regard to similar such opposition: “…let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” [1] Of course, such sentiments are only usable if one is actually willing to engage is rational discussion; one could, of course, argue that since the President and his sycophants have already resorted to the bully pulpit, there is little chance that rational discourse could take place. Even so, it seems to me that the opposition would appear far more convincing were they to promote the appearance of reasoned, informed citizens, rather than an undisciplined mob; honestly, who would have the better position in such a case, the calm and rational citizens of the Republic, or the President and his allies who appear hell-bent on cramming this proposal down our collective throats?

What concerns me even more in this situation, however, has nothing to do with the protesters themselves, but with the venue for their protests. One wonders, of course, if the Congresspersons holding these “town hall” meetings, not to mention the rest of the President’s Congressional sycophants, realize anymore what their actual role was supposed to be. If they need to expend such effort to convince us that their proposals are truly the best option for us all, can it really be said that they represent our ideas and our needs? While I understand that the original concept of our representatives did involve some measure of “guidance” when the citizen “mob” was resolutely pursuing a poor course of action, it seems to me that the intent for said guidance was that it should be negative, not affirmative, i.e. it should prevent the People from doing something massively foolish, not attempt to “protect” them from themselves. [2] Given that, do their current actions appear truly “representative,” or more dictative? Are they truly representing our ideals, or telling us what our ideals should be? Are they our servants or our elected betters? My answer to these questions, of course, is quite simple: our representatives have no right to tell us how best to live our lives; they are not our superiors, but our servants and should not feel free to ignore our will when there are good and rational reasons to oppose their current plan of action; ultimately, they answer to us, the loyal citizens of the Republic, and should not turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to our complaints. Much of their efforts on “our” behalf appear to indicate a “parent knows best” attitude on their part; while it is often the case that parents do know best when they take action on behalf of their underage children, we are not children.

That said, I suggest that anyone with legitimate arguments against the current proposals voice said complaints in a reasonable manner. It does no good to present such arguments in a juvenile manner, and it undermines the assertion that we, the citizens of the Republic, possess the capacity to make our own well-informed decisions; if we continue to act like children, do we not deserve to be treated as such?

Notes:

[1]: Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, Paragraph 2; delivered 04 March 1801.

[2]: “The republican principle demands, that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they entrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance [sic] to every sudden breese [sic] of passion, or to every transient impulse which the people may receive…it is a just observation, that the people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. This often applies to their very errors…when occasions present themselves in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.” Alexander Hamiltion, The Federalist, Number 71, Paragraph 2. Note that this sentiment seems to apply more to active errors, rather than compelling us to support actions that our representatives believe to be in our best interests. Can the latter behavior be considered to be qualitatively different than a dictator telling his subjects what they should believe? A tyrant is still a tyrant, even if he happens to be a friendly one.

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