I’ve never been one for harsh, mean-spirited partisan remarks or actions.
I didn’t agree with Rep. Joe Wilson shouting “You lie!” at President Obama during his recent address on health care reform to a joint session of Congress.
I don’t agree with people who shout unkind things and make unjustified remarks about the president at town hall meetings, just like I didn’t support much of what the opposition said about President Bush during his last years in office.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as ardent a defender of free speech as anyone. After all, it would be rather hard to be an opinions editor if I wasn’t.
Like just about everything in life, I believe that there is a time and a place for everything, including expression and speech. Not every place on earth is a forum.
This is exactly how I felt when I read about Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, and the remarks he made in an after-hours speech on the hallowed floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
In his speech, he criticized the Republican Party for, in his opinion, not having any viable solutions to the heath care crisis facing our great country.
First, as a registered Republican, I don’t agree because I know our party has put forth alternatives.
Are they the best ones? No. In fact, they’re not that good. In a column last week I outlined a few alternative options that I believe that this country ought to pursue in lieu of universal health care. I’m still waiting on a call from GOP headquarters.
What particularly irked me about Grayson’s speech was that he did exactly what bad politicians always do. He became part of the partisan divide that this country so desperately needs to overcome.
In his presentation, he brought with him an easel and three large posters.
On the first poster, he had written “The Republican Health Care Plan: 1. Don’t get sick.” Already off to a fantastic start. This first poster alone would’ve given me enough ammunition to write this column.
But Grayson wasn’t done.
On the second poster he had written “2. And if you do get sick” A very rare, almost cinematic cliffhanger that those of us who watch C-SPAN rarely see. At this point I couldn’t wait to witness the third poster.
It was everything I could have hoped for. The third poster read, “3. DIE QUICKLY.” No, I did not add those capital letters for emphasis. This is a direct quote.
I was speechless. Well, after I muttered a string of words not fit to print, I was speechless.
I really couldn’t believe that on the floor of the House of Representatives, this man, insignificant when compared to so many of the great American statesmen who have graced that chamber, could honestly sink so low as to say, “If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.” Another direct quote.
I understand that sometimes we all get caught up in the drama and stress of politics. We all say things that maybe we regret or that we could have said better.
But this to me is emblematic of just how uncouth and unaccountable Washington politicians have become. What has happened to our democracy when this kind of “discourse” is commonplace?
I for one am simply so fed up and tired of it that I’m finding it hard to even turn on the news.
Don’t misunderstand me. As a History major I’m fully aware that this is by no means the first time that American politics has gotten a little nasty. The antebellum period of American history probably has the gold medal on that.
But true though that may be, it is no excuse for the current generation of political figures on both sides of the aisle. Plus, it’s not like the antebellum period ended, shall we say, calmly.
One of my own personal rules when it comes to politics and government, which I believe is particularly relevant to the heath care debate, is that it’s not the government’s job to make citizens be responsible. It is, however, the citizens’ job to make the government be responsible.
This isn’t the first time in our history that we citizens have been less than eager to do our part.
It’s far beyond time that we Americans stop letting our politicians speak for us; far beyond time that we stop letting them put words in our mouth.
What this country needs is a revolution. Not a violent one, not one where a government is toppled, or when one brother raises arms against another brother.
No, what we need is a revolution in the way that we conduct ourselves in politics and government.
We need politicians who aren’t politicians, but are statesmen (and stateswomen).
We need politicians who don’t care about the next election, but who care about the next generation.
Finally, we need citizens, regular folks like you and I, who aren’t afraid or loathe to stand up and voice our opinions in a respectful way.
After all, if regular people stand and say outrageous things in a town hall or at a protest, how can we expect our politicians not to say similar things in the halls of Congress?
In short, it’s time that we be better than our politicians.