With physical intimidation, racial epithets and other threats being aimed at lawmakers who voted for health care reform, a newly appalling era of American politics seems to have dawned.
As members of The Tea Party call Representative Barney Frank a "faggot" and scream the "N-word" at Representative John Lewis, a true Civil Rights-era hero, the level of debate in the country has certainly taken a decidedly downward turn.
The controversial vote on health care reform has indeed made many enemies, and it is widely agreed that there is no way that this legislation will please everyone. While some on the left feel that the "reform" is nothing but a capitalist grab at health care dollars, many on the right opine equally strongly that "socialism" is now simply lapping at the shores of the country against the will of the majority of voters.
Never having purported to be terribly politically astute, I have admittedly had a difficult time sorting through the fact and fiction about the legislation in question, and my personal jury is currently out. While I am glad that Congress took bold action, I have concerns about provisions that may line the pockets of some insurance companies, other provisions that could hurt small businesses, and the glaring lack of a single-payer option similar to that of other industrialized nations.
Misgivings about the legislation aside, there is no room in such a debate for hateful speech, legislators being spit on, bricks being thrown through windows, physical intimidation, and other tactics which underscore the divisiveness of the issue with a complete lack of intellectual prowess or forethought. As we learned during the Civil Rights era, change is painful, and those who resist change can sometimes resort to actions and words that are hurtful, divisive and sorely regrettable.
Racial slurs and homophobic language have no place in this debate, nor do threats of death and injury. Heckling is one thing, but the foul language and violent actions of those protesting health care reform have no place in our society.
No one knows how the health care debate will unfold, and neither can we predict how the political fortunes of its authors and supporters will be changed. What is crystal clear to me at this time in history is that there are still elements within the United States who are willing to use intimidation and hateful speech to make their discontent known. Such angry action and speech is a waste of breath and energy, and will most likely only backfire on those who use it. Shame on those who stoop so low, and shame on those who sit back quietly without protest as such ugliness spills into our streets.