A friend posted the following as her Facebook status this morning:
“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” – Jonathan Swift
And, while I’m less of a Jonathan Swift fan since studying “A Ladies Dressing Room” in my 18th Century Women Writers class, Swift’s line just got me thinking of something I’ve been mulling over as I watch the people protesting against health care, and, seemingly, Obama’s presidency and entire agenda. These are the dunces. And I don’t just mean the people waving signs. I’m talking all the way up to Joe Wilson, who screamed “you lie!” after a statement which was in fact A FACT, which I pointed out in a previous post. These people seem, in large part to be afraid of a monster in the closet which isn’t there. And yet they keep insisting it is, even after “dad”, whether he take the form of Politifact or the president, has opened the door, pushed back the clothes, and shined a flashlight in the corner to assure us that there is really nothing to fear.
And I’m sure some of my readers are already irked that I used the title dunces in reference to protesters. I’m not saying that ALL people who oppose health care reform are stupid or ignorant or dunces. I’m not even sure most of them are. But a large, large number of people seem to be moving into the willful ignorance category. What else can you call it when people insist on believing scary myths, even when confronted over and over again with the truth? When the truth is just one Google search away? When organizations like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact have read the entire health care bill and are handily debunking myths and distortions from BOTH sides (seriously, at the time of writing this, PolitiFact’s front page features statements from Obama and Howard Dean which fall on the wrong end of the truth-o-meter)? I mention the evenhandedness of PolitiFact for a reason: many love to talk about how the media, all of it, everywhere, with the exception of Fox News, is biased. Clearly there are sites out there, like PolitiFact, which are taking care to monitor the statements of people on both sides of the political spectrum. There’s really no excuse for believing or perpetuating easily-disproved lies.
One such example is the “death panels” trope, the idea that “Obama wants to pull the plug on grandma,” when in fact, the section of the bill Sarah Palin and others were attacking were about empowering patients like grandma to make their end-of-life desires known, so that the patient’s wishes would be followed in those times, rather than doctors or family members or anyone else deciding how a patient should die (not to mention when!). But through the fun-house-mirror of the opposition, empowered patients becomes government bureaucrats telling people what to do. And despite vigorous debunkings of this myth, it persists! Here’s some photographic evidence of the persistence of this lie, from last Saturday’s Tea Party Protest in Washington DC: