Sunday, September 27, 2009

Playing the race card

The debates regarding attempts to reform our healthcare system have been lively to say the least. People on both sides of the issue feel passionately about what they have to say on the matter.

We have seen this passion manifest itself in both good and bad ways. Recently, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson infamously responded 'You lie' to President Barack Obama as he was addressing Congress on the matter.

Wilson's comment created an immediate firestorm, and it was a poor way for him to handle himself in a situation like that. There is nothing wrong with Wilson opposing the president's healthcare plan. He just chose a lousy way to get his point across.

When a president addresses a joint session of Congress, he deserves respect. Even if a politician strongly opposes the president's ideology, he must remain quiet and patient. We do not live in a third-world, banana republic where anything goes in the halls of government.

Part of what makes America unique is the ability of our lawmakers to force themselves to remain relatively civil with each other even when dealing with divisive issues like healthcare.

In the future, I hope Rep. Wilson will express his displeasure with the president in more appropriate ways.

Unfortunately, there have been other aspects of this debate that have been much worse than Wilson's slip of the tongue. The race card is being played more and more in this debate, and it is hurting all of us.

This revealed itself most prominently when former President Jimmy Carter claimed that racism may have been at the heart of Wilson's outburst.

"I think (Wilson's outburst) is based on racism," Carter said at a town hall meeting, according to the Associated Press. "There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president."

At this point, it must be pointed out that President Carter has offered no proof that Wilson is racist in any way. Apparently, nothing has been found that can expose Wilson in this area.

And yet, the former president felt compelled to make an inflammatory comment like that at a time when the intensity of public debate over healthcare is blisteringly hot. Bad timing, President Carter.

The race card is also being played in the media. On several occasions, MSNBC has labeled politicians and protesters who oppose the president as being racist. This should not be a surprise because MSNBC has been in President Obama's back pocket when it comes to favorable coverage for some time now.

Conversely, we are kidding ourselves if we believe that racial bias is not playing some role in the debate. A person would have to be totally naive to believe that there are not people who oppose the president for racial reasons. As long as there are lunatic fringes in politics, we will always have stupid people who cannot let go of their racist viewpoints.

However, I do not believe this is at the heart of the opposition many have to Obama's healthcare reform plan.

After all, more than 65 million people voted to elect Obama president, so the playing of the race card has lost some of its punch.

When people play the card for no reason, the real loser is the American public. Its overuse is a primary reason why we don't hear more open discussion on the topic.

I genuinely believe many white people will not discuss this topic because they are afraid the other side will play the card if they disagree with something that is said.

And that's sad.

1 comment:

Mister Jimmy said...

I'll leave people to their own opinions about the 'outburst'. However, anyone who is 'outraged' should spend a few minutes watching question time in the British Parliament. One of the few things I miss about cable.