Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Beware the Common Enemy

What do Stalin, Saddam Hossein, and the Taliban all have in common? Each one, at one point in our history, was an ally of the US. It was not that these people were at one time fundamentally different in character than what we now know them to be, but it was that we shared a common enemy; with Stalin, it was Hitler; with Hossein it was Iran, and with the Taliban in Afghanistan, it was Russia. In the latter two cases, there was much more to it than just the common enemy. There were also issues of corporate greed, and the desire to control oil that was the underpinnings of the US economy that was dependent on the auto and housing industry. As Franklin Roosevelt said about a mid-20th century Nicaraguan ruthless dictator, "Somoza may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he's our son-of-a-bitch". (Note: there is some question about whether Roosevelt said this, but there is no doubt that he was a strong supporter of this corrupt, greed-driven dictator because he was against communism)

What does all this have to do with current events? Beyond international policy practices that still continue, this phenomenon of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" has reared its head in the healthcare debate as well. The "enemy", in this case, is Obama. For some, it is his policies, including a proposal for a single-payer option in healthcare. There is certainly room for debate here, as there are legitimate concerns about funding a program like this. (I personally have two concerns about the healthcare issue: the first is that we expect too much from healthcare, and the second is that government is an institution that is way too slow and bureaucratic to really get anything done, but I welcome the discussion).

For the fiscal conservatives who have legitimate concerns about either the financing of a program or merely have concerns about the role that government might play in healthcare (keeping in mind that Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA are already in place), having your issues heard is currently being drowned out by other "anti-Obama" allies who have more insidious motivations. Among the allies include a colllusion of: corporate greed folks, the Republican leadership that is looking for any opening to regain some power, a right-leaning media looking for viewership, and blatant racists who simply cannot believe that a black man is President. Here's how, to me, it seems to be playing out: The more corporate folks (Dick Armey, healthcare corporations, Fox News) whip people into an emotional frenzy that then comes out in the form of fear of communism, fascism, government killing old people, loss of gun rights. The racism gets thinly veiled by comments about the country being taken over by Muslims. The success of this movement is dependent on keeping people's fears heightened, and calling these fear "patriotism".

For the benefit of all of us, it would be great if we could all take a deep breath, relax, listen, and re-engage the frontal lobes. If we could open up dialog with real exploratory questions, and seek common solutions, we would all benefit. But for those who really have concerns about any government expansion in the role of healthcare, it is important to pull apart from those who are dependent on polarizing effect of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" approach. The blatant racists, partisans looking merely for power, and corporate greed folks are exploiting you for their personal agenda and care little for your real concerns. In fact, they don't want you to think. They just want you to be angry.

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