Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin laughs with others attending the Governor's Picnic in Alaska in July. (Photo: Reuters)
Finally as promised a Special Comment on this terrible moment in American history, and those unfortunate and irresponsible Americans who have brought us to it.
"The America I know and love," the quitter governor of Alaska Sarah Palin began, "is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
Of course it is, Ms. Palin, and that is why it does not exist, has not existed, and would never, under this president, nor any other president, ever exist, in this country.
There is no 'death panel.' There is no judgment based on societal productivity. There is no worthiness test. But there is downright evil, and Ms. Palin, you just served its cause. You shouted "fire" in a crowded theater - a hot one - and then today tried to roll it back with "no, no, sorry, not fire, I meant flashlights."
Too little, too late, too obvious. Madam, you are a clear and present danger to the safety and security of this nation. Whether the 'death panel' is something you dreamed, or something you dreamed-up, whether it is the product of a low intellect and a fevered imagination, or the product of a high intelligence and a sober ability to exploit people, you should be ashamed of yourself for having introduced it into the public discourse, and it should debar you, for all time, from any position of responsibility or trust in the governance of this nation or any of its states or municipalities.
But it will not. Because a percentage of America does not want explanations nor serious conversation. It wants panic and the guilty thrill of chaos and an excuse to bash skulls and hang people in effigy. Or not in effigy. Ms. Palin, what, in spirit, is the difference between this monstrous image of a congressman hanged in effigy and the indefensible smile of pride on the idiot's face.
And this image with not one murderer in the mob even feeling the need to hide his face for fear of justice that would never come? They are both, to use your phrase, "Death Panels." Ms. Palin, you might as well have declared that the government is being run by a coven of witches with fake Kenyan birth certificates.
And you might as well have told the vast unthinking throng that mistakes your ability to wink for leadership, that they should start shooting at Democrats. There would be no need to tell them to bring guns. Others have done that. Somebody left his at an Arizona Town Hall.
And incidentally, Madam, you have forfeited your right to be taken seriously the next time you claim offense at somebody mentioning your children. You have just exploited your youngest child, dangled him in front of a mindless mob as surely as if you were Michael Jackson. You have used this innocent infant as an excuse to pander to the worst and least of us in this nation. You have used him to create the false image of 'death panels.'
The only 'death panels,' Ms. Palin, are the figurative ones you have inspired with such irresponsible, dangerous, facile, vile, hate speech. The death of common sense. The death of logic.The death, perhaps, of Democracy, at the hands of mob rule. If someone is hurt at one of these Town Halls, pro-Reform, anti-Reform, or, most likely, as these things tend to play out in the real life you know so little about, Ms. Palin - if the hurt befalls an innocent bystander -you will have contributed to the harm.
You might very well become, Ms. Palin, the very thing you have sought to create in the lurid imaginations of those spoiling for a fight, waiting for an excuse, looking for a rationalization of their own hatred, their own racism, their own unwillingness to accept Democracy. You, Ms. Palin, may yet become the de facto chairman of a Death Panel. Your higher calling, Ms. Palin. God forgive you, Ms. Palin.
It is hardly all Sarah Palin. She is in fact a relative newcomer to the orgy of fantasized violence and imagined revolution, whose fires have been stoked, for weeks, for months, for years, by Conservatives - but more often by mere mercenaries, men and women who believe nothing, who are in it for the game, or the profit, or the sheer kick of bending masses to their will. Glenn Beck, who recoils when somebody actually readies for an attack on one of the "FEMA internment camps" he so cavalierly invented, who so cowers at the thought that he might get blamed, or might lose his precious and well-earned gold, that he actually has to plead with his viewers not to become new Timothy McVeighs.
Glenn Beck, says that and then comes back three days later and jokes about - poisoning the Speaker of the House. It is irresistible to you, isn't it? It's the same thrill of irresponsibility, of caveman thought, of the drug addict who suddenly and joyously cares nothing about self-restraint. Sobered momentarily into realizing the prospective outline of the horrible shape on the horizon - soldiers wounded, shooter says she was liberating FEMA camp, says she saw Glenn Beck tell her to rise up and fight back' - awakened to the idea that words you say on television have consequences which you cannot control, you plead, almost cry, for non-violence.
And yet within 72 hours the thrill again rises up in your blood and you cannot resist it, you must fantasize about murder, and by the very action of speaking it aloud, you enable others to join you in this neanderthalian ritual of violence to overcome the enemy - whether the enemy is real, or imagined, or whether the enemy really isn't an enemy at all, just your neighbor, with a different point of view, who wants to talk about it, who wants to involve you in the decision even though it is his turn to steer and not yours, and even though you both know that some day our system will give you another turn to steer.
But ranting and crying and playing with toys on television, does not work, if you are advocating compromise and dialogue and thought. It works only for a mountebank making the promise of magic and power, with the underlying inherent threat of carnage and chaos. And now you add you believe 'death panels' are real. An idea so insane, which mainlines so directly back to the mercenary fantasies of the pathetic Betsy McCoy, that even Sarah Palin backed quickly away from them.
But what a scare tactic! The big lie in the flesh. Your dream come true. Which is probably why, Mr. Beck, we have not lately heard much of your "9/12" groups. Because there you had the germ of an idea, exploitative perhaps, but at its core, beneficial, calming, unifying, thoughtful: restore the sense of September 12th, 2001 - not of dread or threat, but of collaboration, of meeting in the middle, of standing together under one flag and trying to improve the conditions of all Americans.
And then somebody from your 9/12 group told its members they should all go to the Health Care Reform Town Hall in Tampa, and break it up, and shout down anybody who disagreed with them, and scuffle with the police, and demand not discourse but disaster. Your work, Mr. Beck.
Your contribution to this. God forgive you.
There are other instigators free in the land, nearly all of them, in effect, un-true believers. Men intelligent enough to work their way up the political ladder in this country into the Senate of this nation, and yet suddenly foolish enough, or suddenly opportunistic enough like Mr. Cornyn of Texas, to float conspiracy theories about the White House using Health Care Reform to try to compile an enemies list, one e-mail address at a time, when four years ago the same Senator was saying that the previous White House's pernicious, warrantless, illegal consumption of everybody's e-mail address, and everybody's e-mail, and everybody's websites, was defensible and justifiable because, quote, "none of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."
And now pushing - is Mr. Cornyn - the supposedly independent analysis of the proposed Health Care reform by "The Lewin Group" that 119 million people would have to change their insurance - Mr. Cornyn not knowing, or being paid not to know, that "The Lewin Group" is wholly owned by an Insurance Company, the way the Lewin Group gave Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor 60-thousand dollars apiece. Wholly owned!
Then there are the birthers, laughable from the moment they opened their mouths, proffering a conspiracy that somehow began with the placement of birth notices in two Hawaiian newspapers 48 years ago this month. But people who do not want this president to be president will believe anything, and that is meat for fading commentators like Lou Dobbs, whatever he actually believes.
Because the birther movement touches another essential part of the defective soul - the need for an excuse. For they need to convince themselves of an immense conspiracy, and place that conviction as a barrier between their actions, and the sad reality that they are not the victims of intricate machinations against freedom, but are just garden-variety, ordinary, racists - that they can handle the most limited of integration only in theory.
They will take anything that will let them pretend that - when they burst into tears and cry that they want their America back - they are not asking for White Power, not asking that somebody make the black man in the White House go away. There are other instigators, of course, so obvious, so careless - knowing so well that anybody who desperately wants to believe lies, will not even notice the truth standing next to them wearing a big red sign.
Like the "just a Mom from a few blocks away" at the Wisconsin town hall, who didn't think anybody might google her name and find out she was really the ex-vice-chairman of the county GOP and part of the campaign of the Republican who lost to the Democrat whose town hall she was at that moment, helping to disrupt. Like the smooth-talking hospital corporate titan, spreading millions around to enable the hate, knowing that none of the haters will ever realize that they have become prostitutes for the health care industries.
Like the people who propagated this widely-cut-and-pasted quote "line by line analysis" of the Health Care Reform Act -one that saves Right Wingers the trouble of actually reading the bill.
This is where the fictions come from: that it's funding ACORN, that it guarantees free health care for illegal immigrants, mandates abortions, demands euthanasia. If you read it without knowing the truth, you might shove the right-wingers out of the way at the Town Halls and start screaming yourself!
It seems to have been created by "The Liberty Counsel" - an off-shoot of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University - whose other big policy concern is the attack on Christmas. And maybe the most brazen of them all. That man at the Town Hall in Connecticut, carrying the "We don't want government run health care" sign, while still wearing his Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield shirt.
You might think it was because he was too stupid to wear something a little less corporately-slavish. But given what those around him have read, they not only wouldn't care, they might even take comfort from the logo; that he could boast, and that they could hate under the auspices of, an actual, caring, friendly, ruthless insurance company. My words of course, are nothing to Mr. Anthem, or Mr. Cornyn or Mr. Dobbs or Ms. Blish or Mr. Scott or the others.
This is a job to them, and since we have placed a price tag on everything in this country, there is no soul-searching involved. You have a job. If it involves stirring up frightened people to defend the corporation against the citizen, well, you have a salary to earn and a family to feed. The same rationalization that enables mob hit men to sleep at night.
But somewhere in those crowds of genuinely angry people, people who listen to Cornyn or Dobbs, or fantasize with Beck about poisoning their way to a Democrat-free world, or salivate like Pavlovian dogs at the sound of the shrill whistle from Sarah "Death Panel" Palin, somewhere in those crowds are some actual people with some actual brains still working and thinking and evaluating. For God's sake, trust your instinct to think.
There are no death panels, there could never be. Were there steps taken towards them, I, and 99.9 percent of the people in this country, from the fiercest liberal to the most apolitical blob, would be standing next to you preventing their creation. There are no plans to take your insurance away from you. There will be no rationing of care. There will be no Health Choices Commissioner and he will not be able to transfer money electronically out of your bank account.
There will be nobody coming into your house and telling you what to eat. There will be no euthanasia. And the people to whom you are listening with half an ear, are telling you half the truth - on a good day! The euthanasia scare comes from something as benign as a proposal to let you put in for insurance if you have to consult a doctor about what to do if you or a loved one are fatally ill.
If you are where I was last March - when I sat down with the doctors to talk about my mother, fatally ill, not awake, not aware - the health care reform will now pay you back for the doctor's fee for that conversation. And it will pay, whether you decide to let your loved one go, or you insist to the doctor that they keep that dear one alive at all costs, to treat them for months or years or decades more.
And this part of this bill was originally co-sponsored by a Republican congressman. And from that caring bi-partisan starting point, through her own paranoia or for her own political gain, Sarah Palin has invented the boogeyman of "death panels." Think, please. Think, before something horrible happens. As you move to bellow that which you know not to be true. As you try to shout down a Congressman who is there to answer your concerns. As, God forbid, you think there has been enough talking and not enough of something else.
Think of how Lincoln closed his first Inaugural address, and remember that wise words stand the test of time.
If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there is still no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way, all our present difficulty. In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being you yourselves the aggressors. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."