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We can’t allow scare tactics to control political debate

It was only a matter of time before another individual brought a loaded weapon to a health-care event, and this time, it was in the heart of Minneapolis. A man, legally, had two loaded guns on him as he waited out on the street while President Barack Obama was speaking to a packed Target Center last Saturday. For the record, I’m for the 2nd Amendment, and although I don’t agree with carry and conceal laws, I’m for legal gun ownership. But this public display of firearms at health-care rallies has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment, and everything to do with old fashioned, strong-armed thuggery.

I’ve watched with amazement and horror as political discussion in this country has fallen into the gutter. Right-wing frustration at the GOP’s fall, and with Obama’s victory, was looking for an outlet. What started a few months ago as protesting government spending through “tea bag” events quickly regressed to secession talk and Nazi comparisons.

When the issue became health care, the right went to their old well of Canadian doomsday scenarios, but they grossly underestimated how fed up many were with our current health-care system. Since they couldn’t derail reform with past methods, they turned to outright disruption, screaming at the top of their lungs so no one was heard. The more disruptive they became, the more attention they got, eventually abandoning talking health care at all, and instead basking in the spotlight generated by comparing Obama to a “Hitler-czar-Socialist-evil-illegal alien-Communist-demagogue needing to be overthrown.”

It was only a matter of time
As the far right’s enablers kept throwing rocks at the extremist beehive, and with the right’s close association with pro-gun groups, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing modern day gunslingers start to appear.

Now that we have pistols and rifles showing up at health-care rallies, where do we go from here?  Are we destined to have a shootout between law enforcement and people who feel the country needs a new revolution? If so, watch the Michele Bachmanns and Glenn Becks of this world insist that even though they did everything to encourage this militia attitude amongst their supporters by implying Obama was going to kill them all, they never meant for it to lead to violence.

Let’s tear down the facade of the “lock and loaded” showing up at these health care debates. They are not protesting health care, but rather their anger at Obama, whatever those motivations may be.

Calling their bluff
By themselves they’re a threat against the safety of the president, so they latch on to the health-care debate to cover their real motives, and to try to scare away opposition. Let me call their bluff by returning the conversation back to point. When a family member has a serious medical problem, 70-80 percent of this country has two choices: death or a lifetime of debt. I’d like to know THEIR plan to fix that, and THEIR plan to get coverage for the nearly 50 million Americans currently without health insurance (right now, the country is paying unregulated top dollar for the uninsured). And what would they do to stop the horrific practice of inflating health-insurance profits by denying treatment or washing the company’s hands of a costly patient by simply labeling a condition as preexisting?  

If we allow scare tactics to control real political debate, the end result is not something helping a vast majority of Americans, but something that helps a few people at the expense of us all. The future of this nation depends on us not allowing thugs to overthrow real discussion, not allowing screamers to drown out the opposing point of view, and not allowing politics to devolve to who can grunt the loudest.

Matthew McNeil is the host of a radio show on KSTP AM 1500.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/18/2009 - 10:06 am.

    Thanks, Matt for a thoughtful piece. I believe your analysis is right on the money.

    I can only hope the DHS is as being as effective at neutralizing those who represent an true threat to federal buildings, the president, and liberal politicians everywhere, i.e. the domestic terrorists among us, as they are at discovering alleged al-Qaida terrorist plots.

    But then as tightly as some of these people packing heat are wound, I worry that one of them might reach their breaking point suddenly, unexpectedly and with tragic results for a lot of people, perhaps for our entire nation.

    Psychologically healthy people do not need to carry guns with them wherever they go. There is excellent counseling available for those who feel emasculated (don’t feel safe) whenever they don’t have a gun in their possession. If this describes you, please get help before you hurt someone and destroy your own life in the process.

  2. Submitted by myles spicer on 09/18/2009 - 11:50 am.

    The real responsibility for bringing calm, sanity and reasonablness back into American politics (in addition to the health care debate itself) is the Republican leadership. The Democrats cannot do that. But…there is NO Republican leader(s) who have the stature or the courage to do that. They did not even have the guts to very mildly rebuke one of their own for outragous behavior on the floor of the House. In fact, when it comes to Republican leadership, and a rational voice to speak for the party, there is nobody home. And that in itself is bad for America.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/18/2009 - 03:14 pm.

    Many of those in the Republican leadership (plus talk radio hosts and other right wing media) have adopted or created the angry words tossed around by Obama-haters. When these words are used by “leaders,” they inflame whatever resentments are lurking in the hearts of people who could, unfortunately, one day use violence against those they hate.

    Thanks for your article. We live in scary times.

  4. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/18/2009 - 10:03 pm.

    The costs of being misleading are too low in America.

  5. Submitted by Kimbers Cadieux on 09/20/2009 - 06:47 pm.

    Excellent article Matthew.

    You are spot on when you comment that if or perhaps more realistically, something were to happen the worst offenders on the Republican side ‘will claim they never meant for it to lead to violence.’ They truly seem to believe words have no value.

    The best and only way to fight this is for all of us to speak up and speak up often and drown out the nonsense like you have done here.

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