Sunday, September 13, 2009

Whatever Wilson

I agreed with absolutely nobody on Thursday, September 10th. Here were the two things I thought: 1. I was not really bothered by Representative Wilson shouting "You lie!" during President Obama's speech and 2. I have no problem with "illegal" non-citizens receiving health care under a reform plan. We'll tackle these one at a time.

Representative Joe Wilson shouted what I think he believes: that Obama's plans for health care overhaul as well as proposed legislation in Congress pay lip service to denying benefits to "illegals" but will ultimately be unable to prevent "illegals" from receiving benefits. This may be true. Undocumented aliens do all sorts of things that the government does not allow them to do, such as cross the border and work without authorization. Wilson, and apparently many others, are extremely concerned with whether the health care reform is going to make it easier for them to start/continue receiving health care at government/taxpayer expense.

I personally find it interesting, amusing, and a little bit exciting that Wilson not only feels so strongly about this but also did not keep silent about his belief. Shortly before the outburst happened, I was dining in a restaurant/brewery which had several TV screens silently broadcasting different sporting contests: Melanie Oudin to my left, a baseball game behind me, and to the far right, Obama vs. the World. When we saw the assembled crowd rising and clapping, my tablemates and I wondered if this would be like the State of the Union, where we always find it tiring and hypocritical that the audience stands and claps. Not only is it a waste of time, but it's hypocritical posturing, a kind of showmanship of enthusiastic, schmoozing "support" for a "good point" the "President" makes. It became most tiresome of all (and led me to use that last set of quotation marks around President) during the George W. Bush Administration, when I was routinely sickened by any Senators or Representatives standing and applauding, let alone the supposed opposition party. How I wish that a Democrat -- any Democrat -- would have had the guts to shout "You lie!" to that liar of liars, surrounded by his lying vice-president and lying cabinet.

I couldn't believe that the next day these same dinner companions of mine were as outraged as the rest of the Obama supporters around the country at Rep. Wilson. One minute they were with me decrying the sycophantic posturing, the next they were morally outraged at the shouting of two heartfelt words which I considered a welcome relief from said posturing.

Besides, I said, what is the big deal? I was thinking about the House of Lords and House of Commons in England, or even the U.S. Continental Congress, where one finds the assembly shouting insults and pounding canes on the floor in protest. It's a healthy debate. Who cares?

And the whole idea of donating to Wilson's opponent's campaign the next day was even more laughable. While I admire the cheekiness of it, along the same lines as the campaign last fall to make donations to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin's name, I think it is sad that all these do-gooders were willing to do that when they have never even researched or contributed to the candidates running in their own congressional districts. Nor have they financially rewarded the opponents of the many political figures who have done far worse, such as allowing torture and war to continue unchecked.

As for the underlying issue itself, health care for undocumented aliens, I think there should be a way for everyone to get health care, every day, no matter what country they live in/are visiting/come from. I learned in law school how racist and flawed U.S. immigration law is. Anyone who understands it would think the same thing, to the extent the morass of complicated laws is understandable at all. I think the people who are going to be denied benefits should have been allowed to come here legally in the first place. There is a popular misconception that everyone who has entered the country illegally could have just come legally but were too lazy/criminal -- and this is absolutely not so.

This is what finally bothers me most about the Representative Wilson outrage. Everyone is irrationally mad at him for challenging Obama (Hillary can probably sympathize with him on that), but do these angry people want health care for "illegal immigrants"? I see Republicans AND Democrats falling all over themselves to ensure that the so-called "illegals" won't be covered. So where do they get off criticizing someone who stands up for that principle?

Gail Collins wrote in The New York Times that she "would have been willing to bet that we had a national consensus on the undesirability of a Congressman yelling out 'You lie!' during an address by the President of the United States. But no. It turns out there are quite a few people who think this is a good idea." She then talks about anti-Obama Taxpayer Marchers, Tea Party Patriots, and birthers. Sorry, Ms. Collins -- I am none of those things. Instead, I am a more-liberal-than-not person, I have never listened to Rush Limbaugh, I thought schoolchildren should hear Obama's speech, and I am very much for health care reform and a public option. But I am capable of thinking critically and not getting caught up in the latest viral Gobama firestorm. Also, I have no racist anti-immigrant sentiments that need to be hidden behind my pro-Obama blather.

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