Friday, December 10, 2010

Our Better Nature

After looking at the way things have been going in Washington and around the country for the last couple of years, it’s obvious that the Republicans have come to the conclusion that they don’t care if they hurt other people in order to accomplish their agenda. That is all that matters to them, and if there’s some collateral damage to those other people, well, that’s just too bad.

Look at some of the things they’ve stood up against: healthcare reform, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, healthcare for the people made sick by responding to 9/11, extension of jobless benefits for those people thrown out of work by the recession the Republicans helped cause, tax relief for the middle class, aid to education and infrastructure, assistance to corporations that employ a large number of the middle class, immigration reform, food safety; the list goes on and on, and in every case the Republicans mounted a battle against them.

And in just about every case, the opposition wasn’t based on practicality or the lack of need. It was couched in abstract and hypothetical terms; health insurance is a privilege, gay people are icky, capitalism shouldn’t reward bad decisions, no one should pay taxes to subsidize people who weren’t born with trust funds, and what’s wrong with finding a rat hair in your hot dog, anyway? Man up!

This GOP philosophy is often braced up by their own hypocrisy; for example, the number of Republicans who applied for money for pet projects from the stimulus package they voted against is legion, as are those who rail against undocumented workers but have them cleaning their bathroom and trimming their lawn. And if you look at the recent activity on Capitol Hill it’s even more obvious. The failure to repeal an odious and un-American bill such as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the light of the support of its repeal by the military brass, the troops on the ground, and just about everyone else, liberal or conservative, who knows what it’s like to serve with gay men and lesbians is a case in point. The opposition to repeal is based not on fact but on fear and an attempt to appeal to the ignorance and bigotry; always a safe bet in politics.

The same thing applies to the extension of jobless benefits. It touches millions of people regardless of their politics; unemployed blue-collar workers who embrace Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber as well as the single mom trying to get by as a cart wrangler at K-Mart. But if you can get on Fox News and tell the rest of the barely-employed that the people without jobs are lazy loafers who need to learn the hard lesson of an honest day’s work for less pay, then of course you can justify claiming that it’s really hard to make a decent living if the tax rate on everything you make over $250,000 is going up by three whole percent.

It’s not that they are all intentionally cruel; they’re just thoughtless and immature. The natural instinct of a person who has achieved some sense of maturity and obligation to the world outside of themselves is to want to help others without trying to first think about what’s in it for them or how they can possibly profit from it, and they just don’t seem to get that there is more to being a citizen — and a human being — than being rich and famous. And it’s easy to be a bully, especially when you’re dealing with an opposition that falls for the “Hey, your shoe’s untied!” bit nearly every time.

History and human nature has proven that over time the better angels of our nature win out. Progress against oppression and the platitudes of tradition and ossification has been made, sometimes swiftly, sometimes at a glacial pace, but always moving forward. But it is hard to look far to the future and counsel patience when you see the solution and the promise just out of reach and it is kept that way by those who are doing it only because they can.