I'm a big fan of eccentric America. You meet a bewildering variety of folks with outlandish views on everything from aliens and black helicopters to the brainwashing power of chlorinated water. It makes for good pub conversation. Having said that, I'm not sure it's a good sign that these are the people currently leading the health reform debate. In a week when you would've assumed that the administration would be receiving some plaudits for the death of the Pakistani Taliban leader or the release of two American journalists from North Korea, pundits and bloggers have been engaged in the very serious discussion of whether Obama plans to round up and execute old people.
It's difficult to try to explain the nature of this national conversation to a non-American. "Wait, Americans don't actually believe that Obama is going to execute old people, do they?" I'm at a bit of a loss trying to answer that question. I know America well enough that I'm sure there is a percentage of people who sincerely do believe that. This seems to have started with Palin's comment that her family would be forced to stand in front of Obama's death panel. You might've expected that this sensational lie would've been denounced by more of her colleagues, but instead the head of the party, Michael Steele, endorsed Palin's claim, as did the lead Republican on the health reform negotations, Chuck Grassley. I'm not convinced they really believe the claim, but top Republicans seem happy to propogate this lie to their political advantage. But assuming Grassley has actually read the legislation he is helping to negotiate, he knows it's BS.
In short, there is a ton of misinformation out there right now, from the outrageous (Obama is planning to round up citizens in internment camps) to more subtle fear-based defenses of the health care status quo. I'd just like to suggest that those of you who support health care reform talk to your friends and family about the issue, because if we don't then the people in tin-foil hats will be the ones deciding whether you get guaranteed coverage. It's critical, especially within the next four weeks of the August recess, to counter the lies and information in a blunt but civil manner. In the next days I'll post some of my own pro-reform thoughts here.