Someone is going to get shot

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The “debate” over health care reform in this country has gotten out of hand. If you’ve followed this story at all over the last week, you’ve been treated to reports of disruptions and protests at Congressional town halls, comparisons of health care reform to Stalin’s regime and Hitler’s Final Solution (link opens a video), and claims that the government is going to start euthanizing old people.

This might be funny–okay, old people telling their Representatives to “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare” is funny–but for the threat of violence that’s coming out of these protests. It’s made more frightening by the cognitive dissonance on display.

For instance, on Friday, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) received a threatening phone call on the subject.

“Hello! Uh, my name is Diana and I’m calling from Oregon. Uh, I just wanted to let the SEIU know that, um, America is watching the thug tactics that you folks are using at healthcare meetings and various other public places, and the absolutely thuggish, violent tactics that your group is using. I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people’s First Amendment rights. That, or you all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment. Stop the violence!”

If you follow the right-wing online for any length of time, you’ll come across the trope that liberals are a bunch of effeminate cowards who are scared of guns and violence, and that they (we?) would be easy pickings if there were ever a pitched battle between the two groups. But in this call, the liberals are thugs who need to “stop the violence” lest they feel the wrath of the brave people who will protect their freedom of speech by presumably shooting people they disagree with.

And yet that wasn’t even the oddest quote to come out of Friday. Former Governor Sarah Palin logged into her Facebook account yesterday and the result was considerably less funny than her resignation speech.

The America I know and love 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.

Governor Palin is correct that such a panel would be downright evil. Fortunately, no such panel exists (though if one did, free-marketers would no doubt complain that it was undercutting private death panels), nor is one being contemplated. But if you’re a person who, for whatever reason, hears only the Palin/Limbaugh/Beck/Fox News side of the argument, and who thinks that this stuff is going to happen, then armed resistance doesn’t seem like too extreme a response. Someone–or more likely, multiple someones–will wind up getting shot as a result. I wonder if the victims’ insurance companies will consider that a pre-existing condition?


Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →