Filtering Fear and Fascism

March 23rd, 2010 Comments

My thoughts on Sunday’s health care vote…

.. .. — .

HospitalThe passage of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), otherwise known as Obamacare, universal healthcare, and other terms, is arguably one of the most controversial issues of our day.  To me, it seems like more heat was generated after the passage of the Bill, then before.  It also seems that much of the debate has degenerated into name-calling, generalizations, and ignorant statements.  This sadly has generated more heat than light.

While I have tried to be a relatively open-minded participant in the discussion, contributing links and observations via Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, and other online media, for the most part it seemed as if those discussions would quickly spiral out of control.  More than once I deleted inflammatory comments.  Recently, I asked my followers if my contributions had influenced anyone.  I only received one response (thank you Brandi!) to the actually question, and then paragraphs of derogatory remarks and hateful speech.  Again, I deleted the conversation.

Today, I do not want to debate the merits or concerns of the actual Bill. (feel free to add your opinion to the poll below)  I do not want to hear how horrible the passage of this legislation is to us as a country.  I also don’t want to hear high praises for the changes coming in 2014 (when the law is fully implemented).  Instead, I want to talk a little about how we, generally, as individuals, and groups, process ideas and communicate.  If you start commenting, please don’t try to debate the actual healthcare Bill.  I will moderate comments freely.  This post isn’t about healthcare, freedom, taxes, poverty, or partisans.  This post is about how we filter ideas and how those filters keep us from communicating clearly.

First of all, let me say this straight up, we, as a people, did a horrible job of cooperating, communicating, and building common-unity in this issue. For the most part, we shouted at each other, but failed to take other’s viewpoints into consideration.  As a country, if I were to give us a grade, I’d say we get a D-minus.  The polarization that we have chosen, yes, chosen, is abysmal.  Again, let me caution you from throwing stones at those who don’t agree with you.  I don’t believe either side handled this well.  Whether liberal, conservative, progressive, pacifist, or libertarian, we all failed.  We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Secondly, I believe this is a core issue we have in our society – the lack of good dialog. This is why most relationships fail, because people fail to hear other’s point-of-view.  We, as selfish people, tend to put our desire to be right, above the survival of the relationship.  My wife doesn’t care a rats bit about how best to back out of the driveway.  My pushing her to learn, by pushing logic, only harms the relationship.  Instead, I need to expend positive energy to empower her with love, commitment, and affirmation.  Churches, especially those with a fundamentalist bent, could learn a few things in this arena too.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~Steven Covey

It is my opinion that fear is often at the root of not listening (more than just hearing, but understanding) what the other party is trying to say. Why are we afraid?  What harm is there to understanding another person’s point-of-view?  Is it time?  Are we afraid that there isn’t enough time to hear them out?  Are we afraid we will be convinced by their logic?  I certainly hope not.  I hope our convictions and arguments are not that fragile.  So, why won’t we hear each other out?  Why do we spend so much energy trying to convince others to think and behave like we do?

However, the bigger question, really, is this: Why can’t we better cooperate and compromise?  Do we really have to polarize, divorce, excommunicate, and ostracize?  Is this really the culmination of Western Civilization to date?  Is this the best we can do?

If anything will bring the demise of America, it will be our inability to communicate. Irreconcilable differences are the cause of many marriage failures in the US.  Doesn’t it seem like this could also be the cause of the demise of our country?

So, What Have I Learned from the Debate?

(Below I’d like to share my generalized observations.  These don’t apply to everyone – and I’m not hear to debate the merits of the various arguments.  This is my last warning.)

Here are the fears/arguments I’ve heard from The Left (for lack of a better term):

  • Good people, through no fault of their own, are lacking adequate healthcare.
  • Working “poor” families, good people, are suffering financial ruin because of healthcare costs.
  • Without this legislation, we are being unmerciful and uncaring.

Here are some of the fears/arguments I’ve heard from The Right (again, for lack of a better term):

  • It isn’t the Government’s responsibility to provide charity, that is the role of the Church.
  • We are enabling people who are too lazy to work, illegal immigrants, and creating a welfare state.
  • One word: socialism.
  • This is the abrogation of the American freedoms as we’ve come to know them.

My Thoughts:

  • It is very difficult to develop protocols to discern the truly needy form the system-abusers. In my role as a paramedic, and in my role as a pastor, I’ve seen a lot of people who abuse the System.  I’ve also seen a lot of people who were truly deserving of a break – financial, social, medical, etc.  On first glance, it can be difficult to tell the difference.  Generally speaking, it is a bell-curve.  Though there are many on the extremes, there are also many in the middle.
  • We struggle as a country/culture – not in ideation, but in the activation of those ideas. I also agree that the government shouldn’t be put in the position to provide this care, but given the scope and complexities of the situation, there may be no better way to handle it right now.  I’m not saying there aren’t better ways.  But none have bubbled to the surface.  If someone can come up with a better solution, and push it through, then more power to them.  The hard part isn’t in the design.  The hard part is gaining momentum and passage of said program.
  • I do not believe that the passage of this legislation is the best solution available. But I also don’t think it is anymore socialistic than our fire or police services, Interstate Highway System, NASA, unemployment insurance, food stamps, the military, et cetera.  However, many do think we’ve gone too far.  I understand this.  The passage of this legislation, and the transition required, is difficult.  But I don’t believe we are anymore predisposed to social-democracy than we were 30, 40, 50, or 100 years ago.  For many of us, this isn’t where we choose to draw a line in the sand, but I understand the threat some feel.
  • I don’t have any immediate hope that, nor do I see signs of a movement in this arena, that the Church, or it’s members (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Atheist) will step into this void. I do wish the Church would step into this void.  More importantly, I would like to see individual Christians step into the void.  I believe there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to “love others as much as we love ourselves.”  And along these same lines, it appears that unconditional love is misunderstood.  Giving to others, without expecting them to change, can be harmful (eg; giving spare change to the street-drunk), but it can also be good (eg; charity usually benefits the giver far more than the receiver – not matter who it is, or how it was provided).  And certainly Jesus healed more than one ungrateful leper.
  • To me, it’s important to be pragmatic.  Here, we are offered  a solution, that has enough momentum to at least limp across the finish line.  We will probably never see anything of this magnitude again.  Sadly, tt is simply too difficult to gather enough support to ever put someone on the Moon, explore the Louisiana Purchase, or effectively eliminate Polio.

Is this the end of the United States?  Probably.  But it didn’t start with this healthcare legislation – and it won’t end here.  But we have been on the decline ever since we stopped having civil discourse.  In the end, its probably about your experience, your filters, and your worldview.

But you already knew that, right?

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  1. Gary Walter says:

    So, have I scared away all the potential commenters? Did you get the point? Do you have anything to say about cooperation, community, and civility?

  2. Steven says:

    Most people that are awake are ready to move on and start the process of changing the way health care is done. I am used to not going to the doctor, unless something is very wrong with my internal works. I know that I will have to now sign up for the health program that my work has, which means less take home pay.

    Because I screwed up with lots of credit card debt, I will be ending up with more phone calls from the companies once the pay check is smaller for the needs. My view of what is important has really changed and I find the way most people react to the ideas comes from having a big ego.

    It's been said that if we don't learn the history then we are doomed to repeat history. This is great truth. We have two views that are so in conflict that a third and lasting vision can't be seen. All need to set aside the ego and just be for a while. Then the way will be seen on what we need to do as a nation.
    Until then, we can pray for the way forward.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Steven, from what you've shared with me, obliquely, your family probably would qualify for subsidized healthcare. It doesn't kick in for another four years, but either way, I know this was not enacted to put a strain on "working poor" families such as your own.

      Good words on remembering history. Thanks!

  3. I find it difficult that have an intelligent discussion on any topic that is so large and unwieldy that no one, including those that voted on it, have a grasp on what it really is or its effects on the country or its people.

    I am all for health care for everyone but darn why do they have to always make it so gargantuan and unwieldy that few have actually read it including the politicians?

    And how can someone who is supposed to be responsible to their constituents vote on something that they don’t fully understand?

    So the barrier for me to a good discourse is lack of true knowledge on the subject both by myself and those that I might discuss it with. I believe that most of the fear, anger, and down right hatefulness comes from being afraid of the unknown…

    And frankly I can understand the fear.

    But I do not think it is the end of the US, just another step in its evolution. Just don’t ask me if I like where its going…that is a completely different subject! I do believe that my grandparents would not recognize this country anymore, let alone our founding fathers. OK, signing off before I start a rant of my own, lol! Kim
    .-= the inadvertent farmer invites you to read this blog: ..Silent Saturday and a Mouse Update =-.

    1. gwalter says:

      I too understand the fear Kim, but for me, my compassion overrides my fears. It is a very complicated topic, I just wish we didn’t keep shouting at each other!

      Thanks for the comment! (We’ve missed your thoughtful replies)

      .-= gwalter invites you to read this blog: ..Do Conservatives _no_ Love? =-.

  4. Paul says:

    It seems to me that we are witnessing an increasing polarization of society which by default makes any civil discourse difficult.

    I think part of what is behind this is the erosion of the middle class. In the last year there were a record number of new billionaires created, while at the same time a record number of foreclosures. I have no problem with wealth, but this scenario doesn’t seem to support the ‘trickle down effect’theory. What is does support is the fact that the gap is widening between rich and poor and those in the middle are getting squeezed out.

    It appears to me, from various countries that I have visited and lived in, that political stability has a direct relationship to the size and power of the middle class. And poverty (or the threat thereof) is not a stabilizing influence that encourages people to have rational debates about issues that have such a profound effect on their lives. It inspires anger and since when did you see an angry person who was able to sit down and listen and discuss an issue in a rational manner?

    I think most of us have similar dreams and ideals for ourselves and our families, so why do we disagree so strongly as to how to achieve those? How can we bring unity back to a country so deeply divided? I think we somehow need to be reminded that we are all really on the same team. If we all pulled together as Americans rather than democrats and republicans in a constant battle to make political headway, then maybe we would make some progress. Misinformation abounds, especially in this internet age and although we in theory should be much better informed than ever before it seems that its becoming so hard to sort fact from fiction that we are all drowning in ignorance because of this. And ignorance causes fear and fear causes polarization.

    1. gwalter says:

      Indeed Paul, that polarization is what disturbs me too – especially with it’s accompanying lack of “civil discourse.”

      I have been hearing/reading about the demise of the middle class for years (decades?) and have kind of shrugged my shoulders. It wasn’t affecting me and my standard of living continued to rise – except when I left my previous career and returned to school 15 years ago. But you raise a really good point. With the polarization of the classes, and the decrease of the middle class, there is an incredible destabilization. Most of my friends who have argued against universal assistance for the poor, are in the middle-class and have never personally experienced the extreme poverty that I’ve witnessed. They, like me, have lived pretty comfortable lives and the chief argument seems to be that those who need assistance are lazy and won’t help themselves.

      However, with the demise of the middle class, some are going to win, and some are going to lose. Most of my friends are educated and are standing on the shoulders of some solid familial foundations. They will have better opportunities to succeed, but some articles I’ve posted on Facebook have noted that this current financial crisis will affect millions for decades. I wonder if the tone of some people would change if they found themselves being drug into the abyss, and there was nothing they could do about it?

      Those that are being drug into the pit, are crying out for someone, anyone to throw them a life ring. We don’t care if it is from a Democrat, a Republican, the government, the church, or some supernatural intervention. Sure, we could continue to fine-tune the system and the proposals for years, but what happens in the meantime? We cry out in fear and hopelessness.

      And it appears that those who are so vociferous in their opposition to universal assistance, are afraid of losing what they have. Could it be, that in the back of their minds, they know they too could end up where others have fallen?

      Good points Paul – thanks!

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