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So it has been an outrageously angry summer. More heat than light in the town halls. Concepts of America’s governance not well thought out. On the right, Glenn Beck calling President Obama a racist, others insinuating that the president is not an American citizen despite evidence to the contrary. Rush Limbaugh and Beck connecting Obama to many negative and sometimes outrageous behaviors of community groups. The shouting has been from conservatives on the far right of the Republican Party. The mainstream of the party has not, however, consistently distanced itself from its ugliness. As a result, the roiling pool of this very climate may well have contributed to what made even an incensed Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina feel so comfortable calling the president a liar during a joint session of Congress (http://ow.ly/ruQx). Normally Southern gentlemen know how to keep their anger under wraps. The far left has its wingnuts, too. People wedged into corners from which they won’t budge on health care, more concerned about the position than getting some coverage for the majority. People yelling about the right in ways not attached to the data. From both directions, yelling. Invoking the 1978 murders of San Francisco mayor, George Moscone, (http://ow.ly/rtbZ) and gay activist, Harvey Milk (http:// ow.ly/rt9q ) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated her concerns that this form of heated rhetoric could have devastating national consequences (http://ow.ly/rv3m ). In Joe Wilson’s significantly black state, South Carolina has 15.4% premature births, 10.1% low birth weight babies, and a 9.4% infant mortality rates, exceeding those of much of the country. While these rates result from a complex of state race and demographic factors, for its Republican majority to not want public insurance options for its impoverished people is a questionable choice. If we imagine that the state wants nothing else but to be economically viable, then finding a way to enhance community health is vital. Calling the president a liar because he wants to create health care for all means not helping the people who helped vote you into office. It is also fascinating to note that Representative Joe Wilson has some credibility problems in any attempts to portray himself as raceneutral. He did not shout, “You lie!” until the president was talking about immigration. A black man talking about brown people was some terrifying. Of course, this health care bill will not allow illegal immigrants to get health care services. But it should. We need to be honest that we actually welcome illegal immigrants into the U.S. to do jobs in farming and service industries at disgracefully low wages. If they become ill, the truth is that they are not terribly likely to go to health care clinics or hospitals because of fear of deportation. Which means that any infectious agents make them more ill and weaken their families and our communities. Ultimately, it makes more sense to find a way to provide amnesty and a road to citizenship for those who have been in the country for a proscribed period and, at a minimum, catastrophic insurance. This, then, is also, a decision that mixes economics and race to bad effect. Former President Jimmy Carter stated his belief that an “overwhelming portion” of responses to President Obama stemmed from racism, a disbelief of the dying political right that a black man had been elected president (http://ow.ly/rv4H ). Former President Clinton does not believe the attacks on President Obama to be primarily racist. He thinks that during economically challenging times, people feel unsettled and get angry. Of course, this is a profoundly economically stressful moment in our history. Clinton does note, however, his view that a vast right wing conspiracy is out for President Obama, not as strong, but still as virulent, as that which challenged his presidency (http://ow.ly/rt6h). I tend to side more with President Clinton that most of the response to the president is not racist. Most people are angry because they have no idea when they will work, how they will provide good futures for their children, when they can dream again. People are scared. But those few on the very far right who are worried about the country’s changing demographics – the browning of America are perfectly described by President Carter’s concerns and whipped into absolute frenzies by the Beck’s and Limbaugh’s of the world. In this sense it is absolutely true that “once you go black you can’t go back.” The tans of intermarriage are permanent. People who enter the country stay. Maybe in your neighborhood. Equal opportunities mean that someone may qualify for your job or get to be your president. For those who fears take on this tint, it explains why there has been an increase in the amount of ammunition sold in recent months (http://ow.ly/rv9K ) and an increase in hate groups (http://ow.ly/rvat ). Or why some parents seem to have no qualms about having their children shouting terrible things about another human being of any standing or authority. The Golden Rule says that we should treat others as we want to be treated. We should not threaten the President. We should not tell lies. We should not dehumanize others. We should ensure healthcare for everyone because it is the right thing to do. We should provide excellent models for our children. And because the summer’s mess over healthcare meant that no one learned a thing about it this summer, here is a great Time Magazine article (Kate Pickert, http://ow.ly/rviF ) that lays out exactly what you need to know. Sorry I did not get to do it. I was deafened by the noise. *Lora-Ellen McKinney, Ph.D. is an expert in community health, social services, social justice and education. She heads her own consulting firm and is a published author.

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Our Anniversary Issue - October 2009  

Celebrating our first year in circulation.