I received a forwarded email the other night that was in itself a forwarded message many times over. The message included a link to the video below, and a rather innocent sounding but decidedly loaded statement that appeared to be written by Ann, who is a somewhat distant relation. She said:
Once again I mean no offence (sic) to anyone. Please, watch this video and tell me where you disagree and why. I really am trying to see both points off view and to get at the truth. I love America as I am sure you do. If we are losing our precious freedom bit by bit, I want to know about it and maybe we can work together as AMERICANS to stop it!
The statement is dipping with Tea Party code words. Truth, I love America, precious freedom, work together as Americans…phrases that make you want to stand up and salute. The subtext is that Ann is really trying to get at the real truth, and this video is so compelling and is motivating her to action in a way that only my specific and detailed (and likely un-American) rebuttal of its content might stop her. She needs my help.
In honesty, and with no intended disrespect to Ann, it is so cleverly worded, I strongly suspect it was written by some political spin doctor rather than by her. But perhaps her motivation in copy/pasting was sincere, and with that belief, I’ll actually bother to address her request about the video. Instead, if she did write it herself, then it’s highly likely this will fall on deaf ears, if any ears at all. She has already made up her mind and this is just propaganda.
To begin, I find the whole premise of the video faulty. It is positioned as a plea/warning from people who voted for Obama and the Democrats in Congress that they are failing to deliver on what they promised, and if this continues, they will be voted out. It then goes on to make very generalized accusations about taxes, health care, the economy, bail-outs, and other topics. Should you go back and look at what the Obama (and by extension, the Democrats’) 2008 campaign platform was, you’ll find that in many ways the video is correct. We were promised health care with a public option, a cap & trade policy, the closing of Guantanamo, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the abolition of No Child Left Behind, and other things that have not been delivered on. However, the reality of Obama and the Dems is not that they’ve been way more liberal than they advertised, but that they’ve been way more centrist.
Yet, the video clearly inserts the Socialism label and ends with a call to take back the country from the liberals. This is not the work of a disenfranchised far left constituency. So am I being asked to believe that the video was created by people duped into voting for Democrats because they thought they would be pushing a Conservative political agenda? If they were so naive as to think that, then they deserve what they got. But I think it way more likely that this video is a creation of people who never voted for any of the people it is complaining about. Rather, it is sour grapes for being forced to endure a government their minority didn’t elect. Welcome to the realities of representative democracies. Like it or not, this is working just as the Founding Fathers intended.
As to the specific content of the video… well, there really isn’t any. It touches on some major tea party themes, most of which I’ve written about before. There is the myth of the tax increases we’re all suffered under; the unyielding creep of the scope of government; the horrendous and destructive government bail-out packages; the scourge of Socialism; the pain of healthcare; and even the obscene behavior of the corporately owned Democrats in government. These themes don’t whether well in the face of facts, but they play well to those seeking emotional resonance and a healthy spleen venting.
I get that there is anger with the government. I feel that too. Both parties have ample dysfunction to go around. No one should be happy with the way the government is functioning. But positioning the current government as a threat to our safety, our health care, our economy, and our individual liberties is unfounded. Disagree, debate, and vote with your convictions. But do so out of a considered and analytical assessment of the facts and the implications of different proposals and platforms. Minimally, try back tracking your positions into history and assessing the implications on your life today.
For example, if you oppose all forms of social welfare programs, would you be happier today knowing that there was no Social Security and Medicare waiting for you when you retire? Are you prepared to refuse medical treatment, food, shelter, and education to children whose parents can’t afford it? If you oppose government regulation on business, are you prepared to assess the safety of your own food and drug supply? Are you willing to trust that your employer has provided all the safety measures necessary to keep you from being injured at work?
Most people who bother to genuinely think through the implications of their all-or-nothing points of view quickly realize their world is a lot grayer than they imagined. That clearly doesn’t mean Democrats are right and Republicans are wrong. It also doesn’t mean whatever government is in power should rule unchecked. But it does mean that if we can cut through the emotional rhetoric, we will often find there is quite a bit of common ground to work with. Videos like this one add nothing to the conversation, and shed no light on the common ground we need to find to make progress on anything.
Ann, if by chance your mind is truly open, I urge you to study both sides as you claim to want to do. But do so through a multi-sourced study of the facts and the most dispassionate analysis you can find. Ignore Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann and other voices at the edge. And don’t try to decide what side you’re on. Rather, try to identify the common ground. It’s easy to divide a group and get them to stand on either side of a fence and hurl rocks and insults at each other. It makes for a great news story, but it accomplishes little. Getting the group to work together to achieve small collective gains is damnably difficult. And it rarely makes the front page, but it is the path of real progress.