Monday, November 9, 2009

Searching for some bad guys . . .

Twenty years ago the Berlin wall tumbled. And I'd like to suggest left a sizable number of us discombobulated. Not openly discombobulated, of course. Just discombobulated in our heart of hearts. Who were the bad guys now? Or more importantly, what group allowed us to define ourselves as the good guys?

Before that day, we Boomers who like our politics black-and-white had never not had a clear-cut bad guy. You want bad? Look no further than the Communists. Any and all of them!

How well I remember a report I did in the sixth grade on Russia. In this report, I pointed out that the Communists had actually improved living conditions there for the average citizen--not hard to do when you're working with  a feudal system last updated in the Middle Ages.

When I finished I realized that my teacher was tight-lipped, terse-worded mad! At me! At a sixth grader, whose source was the World Book Encyclopedia, for daring to suggest that the Communists had done any good, anywhere. McCarthy was dead, but the clarity of his viewpoint persisted in 1959 among certain of the citizens of Greensboro, North Carolina.

When the Berlin wall tumbled, the stature of the current bad guys tumbled with it. Suddenly the Commies looked like pretty puny bad guys, which--in our rare moments of introspection--we realized made us look comparatively puny as good guys.

Ever since, those of us who need bad guys to make us feel like good guys have not really been able to settle. I won't bother to list the groups we've auditioned as  bad guys; just think of any group over the past twenty years stereotyped by shrill, mindless opposition. Omigod! the number is legion.

When I woke up this morning and realized that today was the 20th anniversary of the Wall's fall, I immediately thought of the current health care "debate" in this country. It has often seemed spectacularly shrill, uninformed and mendacious--all at the same time.

I'd  followed with interest Saturday's deliberations in the House of Representatives that ended with a late-evening vote to move health care reform forward. Dana Milbank's column on the day's often undignified activities (as well the undignified comments left by some of his readers from both sides of the political spectrum) made me wonder if  health care reformers haven't become a target for the bad-guy needers.

If that's what's happened, the really sad part of this is I don't know of anyone who's informed on health care who defends the status quo. But then, why would they? This, from a 2007 editorial in the New York Times.
Seven years ago, the World Health Organization made the first major effort to rank the health systems of 191 nations. France and Italy took the top two spots; the United States was a dismal 37th.
Our health care system obviously could use a little tweaking. And so surely uninformed, gratuitous, shrill opposition to the efforts of health care reformers from either side of the political aisle is about as wise as a fish eating its own tail. It may feel good at the moment, but it really does blight the future.

Personally, when I need to indulge in a little shrill, mindless opposition, I turn to sports!

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