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Some of the people who have been appearing at town hall meetings lately say they want to take back their country. Me too.
However, I am left wondering what country they want to take back.
Because these folks are always ranting about socialism and government-run health care, I suppose if they succeed in taking back the country they will be true to their beliefs and do away with Medicare and the Veterans Affairs system, which are nothing if not government-run socialism (don’t tell Granny or Pops).
But while I am not for fictional government death panels pulling the plug on Granny, I am not for leaving Granny to the mercies of private insurers either. They pull the plug on all sorts of people. Might as well just throw Granny into the shark pool if private enterprise runs everything.
Of course, expecting the country-reclaimers to be logical is unfair of me. They don’t want to do away with Medicare. They just want to scare the seniors. But I don’t want to go back to a country where scaring seniors is the prime political tactic.
Perhaps this country they will take back will have George W. Bush as its president again. Why not? He was such a success. Yes, those were the days of wine and roses. We were a Christian country back then, leaving millions of people without health insurance and torturing alleged terrorists because we could. Of course, the world hated us but, as they are all foreigners, it hardly mattered.
On second thought, can I stay in the present country if that other country is the one they are going to take back? One thing for sure, the country to be reclaimed will respect the Constitution.
Yes, I would like to go back to that country if it existed. Unfortunately, Bush and his surly-go-lucky sidekick Dick Cheney pretty much had a Constitution-shredder in the White House basement. They did, however, respect the Second Amendment, and no one accused the Bush administration of having unconfirmed czars running parts of the government, a practice that will be ruled unconstitutional as soon as someone documents that they wear czar uniforms.
I suppose this reclaimed country will have someone from the horse show world to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency, just in case there’s another big hurricane and people have to ride out of town. As for fiscal responsibility, the reclaimed country will go back to the time of fiscal responsibility when the budget deficit wasn’t stupendously big but merely gigantic.
(For the record, I complained about budget deficits back then and I am not happy about them now, but I still don’t want to go back to then. At least now the stimulus spending is being done in the service of a highly conventional economic theory, not just for the heck of it, as before.) Despite all the good things about yesteryear when George W. Bush ruled as emperor according to a time-honored political theory known as the Divine Right of Kings, I wonder whether the loud folks at town hall meetings want to take us way back to a country where certain people knew their place and sat in the back of the bus and not in the Oval Office.
This is a delicate subject and I accuse no one. In fact, I will give the benefit of the doubt to those older, white people whose faces I see contorted by anger and assume they are tolerant and kindly, even if they do think the president was born in Kenya.
But, just to be on the safe side, I don’t want to go back to any country they reclaim.
So what country do I want to take back for myself? I want a country where it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. Yes, certain rat-bags on the left did not behave themselves well during the Bush years, but town hall meetings were generally sedate affairs and shouting was not yet considered acceptable political dialogue. If I had a politics devoted to such seething resentment and hatred, I’d get another sort of politics.
I want a country where partisans don’t make up ridiculous stuff like death panels and debates are not occasions to deliver lies and misconceptions thrown out as spitballs of cynicism and suspicion. I want a country that prizes facts, not juvenile posturing, and where personal invective is restricted to where it belongs — people’s marriages.
I want a country with a conscience and a strong sense of fair play. That’s the country I want back.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)