When Shakespeare had Macbeth describe life as "a tale told by an idiot: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," he could have also been describing the recent town hall health care "debates." As John Stewart of the Daily Show recently said, "one side is screaming so loud and so angrily that they've drowned out the other side's incoherence."
Yesterday an exchange between a woman and Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts was making the rounds of the Internet, radio, and television. The woman asked why the Congressman was supporting this "nazi plan," to which the Congressman replied by asking "on what planet" the woman spent most of her time and, then, saying that discussing this with her would be like trying to talk with his "dining room table."
I'll admit it -- I reposted that video when it showed up on my FaceBook wall and did so with glee. At last, I thought, someone talking some sense. But now I regret my response.
I regret it because that woman -- and the people who think as she does -- is not as stupid as a dining room table. No person is. In fact, although what she said in this particular instance strikes me as particularly stupid, I have no idea how intellegent she is. Many very otherwise intellegent people have been known to have held incredibly ill-informed ideas in one or another area.
The truth is that I know nothing about her save for this one small thing -- her comments at this town hall meeting. She may well be a good mother, a loyal partner, a loving friend, a patriotic American, and a caring individual who really wants what's best for this country. We might like the same movies and music, enjoy the same foods, practice the same religion, and care about the same social issues. It's obvious that we have some serious disagreements between us, but we may also have a great many similarities as well. The moment I dismiss her as a "dining room table," however, I remove any opportunity of our ever finding them.
I'll confess that I listen to Rush Limbaugh fairly regularly. I listen to him because he's incredibly good at what he does, because I want to understand "what the other side thinks," and because I know that if I only listen to people I agree with I'm severely limiting myself. (As the bumper sticker says, "If you can't change your mind, how do you know you still have one?") While I was feeling all self-righteous because of the Frank exhange Limbaugh was playing that same sound bite to his listeners as one more example of how Democrats are really the hate mongers Republicans are so often painted to be.
Once again I was reminded that my experience tells me that if the Left says that the Right spews only lies and hate, and the Right says that the Left spews only lies and hate, and they both insist this with equal vehemence -- which they do -- then there is probably some truth to it. And if you listen carefully -- that is, if you stop cheering when "our" side "scores" on "their" side and getting angry when "their" side takes a "cheap shot" at "ours" -- it quickly becomes painfully obvious that each side is doing precisely what it is deploring the other for doing.
And worse than the hypocracy of this -- which in and of itself is a bad thing -- is that both sides have things worth hearing that are getting lost in all of this "sound and fury." Let me say that again: both sides actually have valid points worth paying attention to, worth considering, worth actually discussing, yet the tenor of the "debate" seems that we are virtually guaranteed that that won't happen.
Recently the satrical parody newspaper The Onion ran a headline "Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care." Perhaps that's where we are. It's been said that our political process has become more about "scoring partisan points" than actually making a real difference. That's too bad, because there are real problems that need real solutions.
I, for one, want to stop cheering this game on and save my praise for the folks really doing the work.
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