Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Audacity of Not Giving a Shit: A Thought Experiment

Imagine the roles were reversed, and a Democrat had said something as crass and irresponsible as Republican Congressman Paul Broun recently said out loud, in public, and in the presence of cameras and microphones. Broun, you may recall (whether you want to or not), is the elected representative featured in this video, in which he tells a constituent to treat chronic depression by checking into an emergency room and/or waiting around for a kindly medical professional to treat him pro bono:



This is the sort of moment that savvy leaders of a political movement would seize upon to illustrate what we are told are stark differences between the pro- and anti- sides of health care reform.

I am confident that if roles were reversed, such a statement would be paraded about for maximum political and rhetorical effect. I will go beyond that and say that if roles were truly reversed -- had a Democrat actually said something as foul and inhuman as this -- the parading of it would be right. The political faction capable of such execrable statements deserves to be called out, castigated, and relegated to the margins of civilized discourse.

Alas, no. As things actually are, the Democratic party's leader, who also happens to be the free world's leader, who also happens to command the single most potent bully pulpit in existence, who also happens to be immersed in a fight for health care reform whose results he claims to care about, has not so much as mentioned Rep. Broun's comments (unless google can't find it, which seems unlikely).

In some sense, politics is a game -- a game involving life or death matters, to be sure, but recognizably a form of structured, mostly-civilized conflict pitting recognizable sides against sides and producing victories and defeats. It is one thing to lose the game -- such are the breaks, such is conflict.

It is dishonorable and contemptible to play the game without caring enough about the outcome to try to succeed, especially when the outcomes matter so much to the lives of human beings.

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