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Ralph Doty: A woeful lack of civility near and far

The signs of anger are everywhere. Last week, people opposed to suggested changes in the way folks pay for their health coverage screamed at members of Congress about rumors and lies they've heard about President Obama's proposed plan. Some looke...

The signs of anger are everywhere. Last week, people opposed to suggested changes in the way folks pay for their health coverage screamed at members of Congress about rumors and lies they've heard about President Obama's proposed plan. Some looked like madmen.

National talk show hosts, like the titular leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, gives credence to the most blatant of "big lie" rumors about what the medical plan would do. How can anyone with an ounce of brains believe that health care reform plans include euthanasia for senior citizens?

Closer to home, the tone of discussions on major issues is not much more civilized. For example, opponents of the Duluth School District's Red Plan are continuing their harassment of Superintendent Keith Dixon and supporters of the plan.

I know of what I speak. While attending my Duluth Central High School 50th class reunion last Friday, a Red Plan supporter -- he wasn't even a classmate, so one has to wonder what was he doing there in the first place -- and I exchanged "views" about my pro-Red Plan columns. He then "invited" me to go outside -- here I'm paraphrasing -- so he could beat the crap out of me.

Only the intervention of my classmate Ken, who knew the aggressor, kept the incident from escalating -- but not before the perpetrator warned me that anti-Red Plan supporters are looking into my background for dirt they might use to discredit me later on.

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Is this any way to settle differences of opinion? Unfortunately, in today's America, that seems to be the way. In Sunday's Star Tribune, columnist Nick Coleman lamented the rants of radio and TV talk show host Glenn Beck (KDAL AM 610, 5-8 p.m. weekdays).

In one of his daily tirades, Beck said our rights come from God. Therefore, we have no right to health care "unless Jesus comes down, opens a health clinic and heals us himself."

Meanwhile, Limbaugh, Beck and Shawn Hannity continue the old Hitler "big lie" technique regarding forced euthanasia on senior citizens. They raise the phoney specter of "death panels." If you say something often enough, people will ultimately accept it as truth, said der fuehrer.

Health care in America is a right that 47 million Americans don't have because they can't afford insurance. Even some folks with health insurance can't afford many medical procedures because their insurance plans have huge deductibles, some as high as $10,000.

As I watch people shouting at members of Congress that we don't need health care reform, I wonder how many of them already have insurance coverage. (If the screamers are older than 65, they have the best government health insurance in the world: Medicare.)

And, finally, the most basic question of all: In this debate, who are we trying to protect, America's people or the insurance industry?

E-mail Budgeteer columnist Ralph Doty at rdoty71963@aol.com .

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