A number of my blogging friends, all writing or linking up with various stories about the tea-bagging, astroturfing, birther rightwing who are disrupting town hall meetings across the country, all have come to pretty much the same conclusion. Most of this stuff is just racism, health care reform is just a convenient excuse.
Within certain parameters, I agree. I do think there are some who genuinely have questions, and there are some who have been misled and misinformed and who are genuinely scared. There are some who want serious health care reform. The rest? They have other issues that involve having a black man in a white house in charge. Simple as that.
In Los Angeles, tens of thousands show up for free health care, and the mobile free clinic is deeply extending its visit by several days. These folks used to tour various countries abroad wherein the need for basic health care was great. They have found to their dismay that there is an equally large number (millions in fact) whose need is just as great in America. They do their best.
You go to town meetings and you find a singularly (almost exclusively) white audience. Checks in places like Michigan have shown that as many as 50% of those attending don’t live in the district of the house member who is hosting the event. They aren’t their representative. Many of the questions don’t relate to health care at all. We hear things like:
“Little by little our freedoms are being taken away by this Obama group.” (Never pressed to explain what freedoms have been taken of course, and never asked how many protests they attended to fight the Patriot Act, which we KNOW took American freedoms away quite explicitly.)
“Are you in favor of bringing those terrorists to our country and putting them in our prisons?” ( of course terrorists are somehow given super powers of escape that seem to elude most of our own criminals and heck should a Muslim escape, I guess he might be easier to “spot” than the average white dude.)
“My country has been taken away, I want my country back.” (where has it been taken? Be specific please).
As to the last, of course the real point is nothing other than, “I want things back to normal and right, and that means blacks know their place, Mexicans either work in farm fields or take care of rich people, gays stay in the closet where they belong, and women do their best to imitate June Cleaver.
That’s the reality of what’s going on here, and all the protesting of no no, aside, ain’t gonna change that. As Larry on Jon Stewart said last night “When white guys say, ‘I want my country back,’ the
response is simply, go tell it to the Native Americans and see what you get.”
I recall another rather obvious hidden racism when I was practicing criminal law in Detroit. Here’s the scenarios:
1. Police turn down a darkened alley behind store fronts at 3 am. They notice Defendant walking down the alley with a black garbage bag with items clearly in it. Said D is stopped, and gives no clear answer as to what’s in the bag. One officer walks down the alley and finds a door ajar, and marks indicating it’s been pried open. A search of the bag turns up items that are clearly from the business.D is arrested and charged with B-E.
2. Police turn down the same alley. They notice walking down the alley, sans bag. They stop him, discover the pried open door, find a black bag at the doorway inside filled with items from the business. They arrest D and charge him with B-E.
Both police teams write up a report in which they state that they turned into the alley and saw the D walking out of the building with the bag in tow.
Do you see the difference? Both police lie on the report as to what happened. The first however, clearly has the perpetrator. The second, may, but it is not at all sure that they do. The second set of officers don’t care, because the D is black, and “they are all criminals anyway.”
I know this happened. Too may defendants told me both stories too often. In case one, most of my clients plead guilty. In most of those cases involving the second scenario they did not, maintaining that they were innocent and had various rational reasons for walking through the alley innocently.
My point is, that one learns to smell out the racism. And I smell the racism of much of what is going on today in these so called town meetings. Sure the drug companies and health care insurers are helping organize these folks through front organizations. But the actual protesters aren’t being used. They are more than willing to be shills for businesses that cut their throats daily in terms of denying them health care benefits and drugs at reasonable prices.
They have overriding concerns, namely the hatred they feel that their “white America” is being turned topsy turvy by, as Larry of the Daily Show again reminds us, “a melting pot that makes the stew darker the longer you cook it.” And so we hear the ranting of socialist, commie, and believe me it is getting even uglier as news reports that white supremacist groups are growing emerge. They are operating out of fear, but their fear is that being white might not count for much any more.
Surprise, many of us could have told them that twenty years ago. Our might makes right mentality has engendered a lot of bad feelings across the world. Most of that world, we have failed to see, is not white. I heard a report of an American who teaches English in a Chinese school. She was asked whether the Chinese kids were eager to learn about America. “Frankly they aren’t much interested at all,” she replied.
Once they would have been. We’re on the way out, and they know it. The brown skins and black skins and yellow skins are coming into their own. If we don’t deal with that in ways other than threatening annihilation of those who disagree with us, we are in for a very bad future. Our tea-baggers have a long way to go I fear.