Man, that's the second time you've mentioned that guy. He must really piss you off for you to talk about him at dinner.
Alec, my girlfriend's son, was correct. I must have been a touch agitated. I place a very high value on honesty, loyalty, and competence. Over the last couple of years I have had to deal with a number of people deficient in one or more of those qualities. One, in particular, may have pushed me a bit too far.
Lately, honesty, loyalty and competence have been in short supply in American politics. Yes, these blogs have taken issue with some of the goals of the proposals coming from the Democrats. I have certainly expressed my disdain for the President's content-free campaign. I disagree with many of Mr. Obama's assertions and proposals, but I don't, for a moment, question his motives or sincerity.
It is also possible to respectfully disagree with some of the Republican proposals and goals. There are people of good will on both sides of the issue.
Good will is not a given and civil discourse has been hard to find. It started with the so-called "Birthers", the fringe element who refuse to believe that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama could have been born in the United States. Nothing short of a time machine whisking each of them back to the Hawaiian hospital room will convince them. Easily manipulated, the Birthers were led by the usual suspects - Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, and a half dozen Republicans in Congress unashamedly pandering to the base.
The whole Birther conspiracy theory / paranoia was just an amusing side-show until a Republican Congressman lost control of a town meeting. Tapes of the event looked more like a Saturday Night Live skit than real life. The encounter quickly devolved from amusing, to pathetic, to scary. I was worried that the woman, or one of her friends, was armed.
And the Deathers may be worse. Intentionally twisting the availability of living wills and counseling for end-of life issues into a government plot to kill grandma is neither honest nor useful. Organizing mob-like assaults of public forums is a direct attack on our values.
On July 28th Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said on the House floor that the Republican plan "is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government". Is it possible to be more counter-productive?
The tone of these town hall confrontations is discouraging. The men and women of Congress use the August recess to meet with their constituents, to learn our issues, to hear our concerns. Organized teams, schooled in the art of disrupting a meeting, prevent the honest exchange of information.
Insurance agents certainly have a stake in the outcome of this debate. Our organization, The National Association of Health Underwriters, expressed its concern in an August 7th email:
While we understand that these issues are very sensitive and it can oftentimes be frustrating to hear legislators disagree with your views, NAHU strongly discourages our members from disrupting these proceedings in anyway. It is perfectly acceptable to express your opinions politely and respectfully disagree with your legislators, if warranted. However, we don't want you to mob the town hall meetings and participate in some of the scenes we all have seen on You Tube.
I had to read that paragraph twice. At first I thought it was ridiculous that responsible adults would have to be told to behave like adults. It looked like the sign reminding restaurant employees to wash their hands. Then I realized that like those silly restroom signs, this paragraph was necessary. It was important. We, as an organization, as a profession, had to state in English, clearly, that we are participants in the discussion, not members of a mob.
Honesty. Loyalty. Competence. My frustrations as president of the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce end April 1, 2010. And the truth is that part of my problem is that I keep expecting more out of some people than they will ever want to deliver. But Honesty, Loyalty, and Competence are the least we should expect from our elected officials. Feeding conspiracy theories and playing on the darkest fears of the easily scared is not how to fix our health care system.