Monday, July 22, 2013

Facing Down The Monsters

Americans have a history of cowardice when it comes to facing complex subjects.

On everything from race to health insurance, too often our leaders at all levels seem to avoid these complex subjects like the plague. So it was surprising but gratifying to see President Obama address race personally and directly in unscripted remarks from the White House press room last Friday afternoon.

Of all the complicated issues in America, race is one of the most complex. As Jamelle Bouie noted, "The idea of race was shaped on American soil, and racism — as a system, as an ideology — is part of our national DNA." To know that the President himself, in just the last dozen years, has personally experienced the injustice of being profiled while simply being black in America was both cathartic and - in light of the ongoing discussion of the ruling in the Zimmerman/Martin case - humbling, especially for many white Americans.

As Ed Kilgore wrote, no matter what you think about the President's remarks, you can't pretend the experiences and the history of African-Americans aren't relevant to the discussion of race. Yet many on the right freaked out after the President's comments on race, desperately trying - and failing - to discount the life experiences of black Americans. At the same time, their despicable comments tried to defend the racism and ignorance of some whites as acceptable.

In a similar way, Republicans across America tried and failed to defend their ignorance and classism on the issue of Obamacare over the weekend. Like a monster that keeps trying and failing to scare children, the Obamacare opposition is loud, ugly, and leaves piles of crap in its wake. However, as we noted last Friday, the continuing bluster from that opposition is not stopping the ACA from moving forward.

Even so, over the weekend, House Speaker John Boehner promised even more pointless votes in the House to try and kill Obamacare. Yet three years after passing the Affordable Care Act - also known as 'Obamacare' - Republicans still have no alternative ideas, let alone any viable replacement legislation. What they have is fear and misinformation.

This was obvious on Friday, when - in the wake of the massive amount of factual information about the health insurance system (that we featured in our extended Friday edition) - the state of Indiana published a misleading and flawed announcement about Obamacare rates in their state. Thankfully, by Saturday afternoon, Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post's Wonkblog had already published a debunk and a clarification of Indiana's lies.

Both race and health insurance are complicated issues that are hard to understand. More than any other single group in America today, those on the American political right seem to fear that which they do not understand - and they nearly always react these days with knee-jerk stupidity. Fear-mongering, sadly, has become the GOP's sole method of motivation over the last fifteen years, and it is the primary driver behind most right-wing media today.

Today's young people, however, don't seem to be buying into all the fear. This is reflected not just in the dismal numbers of new voters joining the Republican Party, but also in polls and through the actions of young Americans on complex issues like race. That was a point President Obama made in his remarks on Friday, as Greg Sargent sagely noticed.

The President observed that his kids and their generation are better at handling the complex issue of race than his contemporaries, or any of us are currently doing. Chances are likely the next generation will also be much better about handling issues of public conscience like health care for all Americans.

Kids these days are not afraid of facing complex issues head on. Too bad more of our current leaders aren't willing to learn from their generation.