26 August 2009: Will Obama cave on health plan?

Will Obama cave on health care plan?

In 1969, an estimated 400,000 Baby Boomers camped out in Woodstock, turned off the world and tuned in to alternative rock and another dimension. Today hundreds of other Boomers show up at tea parties and town hall meetings tuned in to country and western and an alternative reality.

Forty years later, the rebellious shoe is on the right rather than the left, and anger, rather than peace and justice, is now the motivating force. The problem is temper tantrums and hysteria in the guise of legitimate, focused anger falls flat.

Maybe the tea partiers should borrow a page from their Woodstock peers and mellow out by smoking a toke in lieu of embarrassing themselves. Colorado law, after all, does allow for medicinal uses of marijuana; but, then again, doing a few hits would only serve to increase their paranoia.

Merriam-Webster defines paranoia in part as “a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.” It’s harsh to say about one’s fellow countrymen, but listening to their irrational utterances, basically contrived talking points from their favorite media guru, that is all I am able to conclude about them.

Regardless of how it is expressed, paranoia—in this case the belief that government would be making end-of-life decisions and other baseless misconceptions—is, nevertheless, paranoia. Why else to brazenly carry a loaded weapon to a presidential event? Imagine if a turban-wearing individual carried one as a protest to a rally for former President George W. Bush. Guantanamo and water boarding for you, buddy!

Given there’s nothing like a good belly laugh to release the endorphins, I admit to being a fan of Sarah Palin, the number one act on the Comedy Central of Politics. But the old girl went over the edge with her rant about “death panels” that would do in grandma before her time.

Dutifully, rightwing disrupters, disguised as protesters, took up the chant, and before you know it, another urban legend is born. You got to hand it to them: they do keep the folks at factcheck.org busy.

Those disrupters are painting a new face on modern conservatism, one with which thoughtful conservatives ought to be concerned: The proper, button-down, stodgy stereotype is giving way to the boisterous, rude, and, on occasion, gun-toting ruffian. One imagines seeing William F. Buckley, the erudite and snooty father of modern conservatism, witnessing from the beyond his political progeny and wondering what happened to good manners and decorum.

The question to consider: Why the absence of reasoned thought? Modern conservatism has lost its way, wistfully mired in the past, its message and agenda discredited and its spokespersons all too often talk-show ranters who pleasure themselves by whipping their addicted listeners into frothing hysteria.

This month’s edition of Utne has a number of articles that posit the era of attack politics is over. One can hope. Local evidence gives credence with recent Arbitron ratings showing rightwing KOA and conservative talker Mike Rosen not nearly as high and mighty as they thought. Their listening audience is only half of what was believed.

The 21st-century attitude towards government is not that of The Enemy, but of an occasional and necessary partner with the private world. Government, except for snooping—gosh, if only the so-called PATRIOT Act got as much scrutiny as the latest version of the health plan bill—in your private life, can serve a useful role in bringing about needed reforms or putting into place that which the private world cannot or is unwilling to do.

Cries of socialism are so retro and allusions to Nazi Germany only serve to trivialize the most heinous period of human history. It baffles the mind—mixed-race Obama and Rep. Barney Frank, a gay Jew, among Hitler’s progeny?

All this works nicely for Big Money plutocrats who whistle on their merry ways not to work, but to the country club, penthouses, yachts, and trophy homes, comforted that America remains a corporate state, a wholly-owned subsidiary in their global empire much as it was when we were bombing the hell out of and dropping Agent Orange on Vietnamese villages, peasants and, at times, working- and middle-class American boys.

For now, as it was in 1969, so it is in 2009: unable to grasp the real source of their increasingly challenging circumstances, the American middle and working classes have arranged themselves in a circular firing squad.

This will be the test for Obama in the Age of Obama. Will he lead us to a better world as he was mandated to do or cave to corporate plutocrats and rightwing zealotry? The answer will come in the form of a health plan that includes or not a public option. It’s that simple.

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