I thought long and hard about going to the town-hall meeting hosted by Sen. Cardin at Towson University the other night, just to catch a glimpse of the rabble first-hand. In the end, I stayed home and slammed my head against a doorknob over and over again, and after reading the Sun's coverage of the event - and the one that Cardin hosted in Hagerstown this morning - I'm not convinced I didn't end up better off. I'm continually amazed at this nation's almost boundless love of ignorance - we love not knowing shit. We are dangerously incurious. We fear knowledge and facts because we like to believe that we are Masters of Reality and facts are immutable things that challenge that assertion, so we avoid them. Collectively, we need to feel like we know everything at every given moment. That feeling is our true American birthright.
Right now, a good number of Americans sound like battered wives defending their husband to the cops: "He didn't mean to hit me! He's a good man! Leave him alone!" while they're try to stop their nose from bleeding. When did our current system become so unimpeachably perfect that the very idea of meddling with it provokes Chernobyl-levels of blind rage and hysteria? How great are things really going when 46 million Americans don't have access to health care, and the ones that do can be dropped or have their rates raised at any time, or have preventative care denied for an number of unchallengeable reasons? Alot of folks seem unnecessarily comfortable having the Free Market being the only thing standing between them and the uninsured masses they are really having a good time looking down upon right now. I don't know the ins and outs of the entire thing, but it seems to me that we ought to be able to hold an adult conversation about joining the rest of the industrialized world and guaranteeing every citizen a minimum level of preventative care. Why is that such a scary concept?
For starters, about .05% of the people attending these mob gatherings have any idea of what the fuck is really going on. They heard Glenn Beck say something the other day, and Hannity seems pretty worked up about it, and someone told them that Obama is planning to kill grandmom, shortly after he gets done making sure each illegal immigrant has one white slave a piece. So there they are in all their buffoonish glory, shouting down reason, shouting down each other, and shadow boxing horrific specters that aren't really there, and not allowing rational adults the chance to figure this shit out. One man stood up at a town hall meeting in Columbia, South Carolina last week and said "The government isn't getting it's hands on my Medicaid!" And thats about all you need to know about who you're dealing with - ignorant white people, many of them old, who live in mortal fear of change, and have become incapable of independent thought. I'm about to sound like an asshole, but I think if Thomas Jefferson knew how stupid the populace was to become, he might have had cold feet on this whole democracy thing.
But even beyond that, I think alot of this is the manifestation of stunted emotional maturity. Some people never seem to grow socially beyond the age of 7, by which point directing your life according the maxim "I need to be the happiest person on the Earth, and fuck everyone else" should probably be revealed as juvenile horseshit. Everyone wants all the toys to themselves, as though the reason that they were never on the outside looking in is directly due to their own efforts which began immediately at childbirth. We're all functions of where and when we were born, and to whom, and those of us that were raised middle-class and white have been endowed with advantages that some people will never make up in their lives, no matter how hard they work. That's fact, and you can point to fantasy scenarios of some kid born in West Baltimore and rising from the ashes to become a great neurosurgeon, but there's a reason why those stories make the papers - because they're really fucking rare. Most poor people in this country - black and white - were born poor, they will live poor, and they will die poor. And somehow, a lot of people have become entirely comfortable telling this huge swath of the country to just do without, for no reason besides sheer perversity.
We are a selfish nation and the only thing we love more than having something is being able to prevent someone else from having the same thing; we are like children, greedily grabbing as much of the pie for ourselves on the principal that "Might is Right." These are obsolete impulses that may have proven evolutionarily advantageous thousands of years ago when we were fighting dodos for flax seeds, but it's time to grow up, and in the case of America in 2009, it's time to enter middle school and realize that there are benefits to making the world around you better, even if it comes at a slight cost to your having-shittedness. Bill Hicks said "Evolution didn't end when we grew thumbs. Now, its about an evolution of ideas." And as always, the Man is right.
I had a conversation with someone in advance of the last election, that began with her saying "All us Obama supporters just need to band together and take over this nation." This sounds very easy living in the East, where the concentration of educated people capable of rational, adult thinking is higher between Boston and D.C. than anywhere else in the country. You are surrounded by people who, more likely than not, share some version of your vision. But once you go beyond this Cradle of Civilization you are struck with the fact that there are an awful lot more of Them then there are of Us, and by "Them" I mean people who distrust the news because they can't process it, who are overworked and overworried and can only respond to base human stimuli, like hate and aggression. People who will believe anything if Rush Limbaugh says it, because it makes them feel good to hear another well-off white person welcoming them to the fold.
In the run-up to the election, I also came across an article somewhere in which an evolutionary biologist was suggesting that the differences between liberals and conservatives might be biological, and the human race may be splitting into two sub-species. He said that on a brain scan, we process information differently and respond to different stimuli, and we might be witnessing the beginning of a divide that will appear much more defined when we look back from hundreds of years down the line, when Brains and Brawn have completely divorced themselves from each other. At the time, I dismissed it out of hand and tried to forget about it. But since then, I've found myself unable to shake the idea that maybe we ARE different kinds of people now; that maybe we're not the same species anymore. And whenever I see the footage of some flag-waving moron shouting that she refuses to go before Obama's "death panels," the idea haunts me anew. There was a time when I thought that I understood their side but just didn't agree with it. But now, I just don't understand it. It's not in me like it is them. I feel like Cutty in the Wire: "Whatever it is that let you do like you do, and flow like you flow? It ain't in me no more."
And the real shame is that fighting these battles against organized insanity is sapping our energy and creativity, and holding back our evolution as a species. The best and brightest among us have to spend an inordinate amount of time refighting The Dark Ages, so that the rabble don't elect another one of their inbreds to run this country even further into the ground. Rather than trying to convince a wide swath of the populace that the government has no plans to summarily try and execute their loved ones, we ought to be going after the Big Questions - What is reality? What is beyond the universe? How did this whole thing start? Then we might be able to place our humanity in a proper context, and then maybe so many of the illusions that have captured an embarrassing amount of us will be exposed for their fallacies, and fall away like wheat before the scythe.
I realize this has gotten a little bit out-of-bounds, but I just can't help myself anymore. This country is willingly throwing itself against the shoals and I can't understand why. I also fully expect any national health care system to be a fucking mess at first. It's probably going to be a calamity for the first few years, and people are going to be righteously pissed off. But this is a Big Goal and it's not going to be fully achievable in the next four years, or even the next eight, and maybe not in the next twenty. But the choice that we're confronted with is whether this is a goal we need to be aiming for, and if it is, then we've got to start somewhere. And the only way to know where we stand is to stop arguing fucking nonsense and debate the issue. If we're not going to start going down the path of a more compassionate society now, then when?