I created quite a ruckus on my Facebook page this morning with the following posting:
"Two observations from last nights speech. First, President Obama's oratory skills will be what sells American's on the need for national health care. Second, there is still a strong undercurrent of racism at the highest level of media and politics."
While not mentioning Joe Wilson by name, I received over 15 comments(more than my biting commentary on who should have won last year's American Idol), some arguing that Joe Wilson's outburst showed the existence of overt racism, and some arguing vehemently that objection to Barack Obama's admittedly liberal agenda does not make them a racist. I agree completely with both of these statements, and they are anything but mutually exclusive.
First, with regard to Joe Wilson, I don't see how his outburst can be seen as anything but overt racism. The only question is who he is prejudiced against; African-Americans or Latinos. If the outburst was merely an uncontrollable reaction by a Southern white congressman who seemed to wake up after a 8 month slumber to find the country he loved taken over by an African American President, his hatred is focused against African Americans. In contrast, if his outburst is directed at the the phantom benefit of health coverage (god forbid) to the hard working undocumented members of out society, this uncontrollable anger against a group of people who can't vote and have no Constitutional rights, it is squarely directed at Latinos.
I don't know what is worse, anger at an African American in a position of power, or anger at 12 million nameless, faceless individuals who are currently handling the least desirable jobs in our immigrant nation (at the encouragement of corporate America) without full benefits of citizenship. Personally, I think that later, as Obama has proven to have shoulders broader than the city that birthed his political career. Regardless, this is a man unsuitable to public life, who should resign, or hopefully will be voted out by his constituents.
Now, getting to the fact that opponents to Obama's health care plan are patriots. I was amazed at how many of my conservative friends were concerned, I believe sincerely, that their opposition to the President creates the inference they are racism. Obama is a politician, a Democratic politician, who is the leader of a liberal progressive movement. Obama's race provides him no special status. In fact, Obama has argued for a post-racial look at our world; one in which he would be subject to the same standards of any of the previous 43 Presidents. As such, he should be subject to all the criticism, disdain, jeers, anger, etc. that any President would be. For conservatives and Republicans to exercise their right to dissent is patriotism, pure and simple. More than that, it is the responsible conduct of a minority party. Now I could argue that conservatives labeled any dissent from our march to war in Iraq as treason (Ann Coulter even wrote a book on that), but that really isn't the point.
I believe that guaranteeing health care for all American's is a moral imperative. That being said, I don't have an answer to how that goal should be accomplished. Applying the best that free market has to offer, while removing inappropriate and market-destroying profiteering, should be a part of the final plan. Conservatives have much to offer in formulating this solution. I believe that Obama's speech was an attempt to engage them in the process. A rogue Republicans inappropriate outburst with regard to a point which really isn't central to the debate distracted us from the real arguments. That is generally what racists do.