Monday, September 14

A [Not So] Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Healthcare Reform

I received this email and picture from my cousin. I am reprinting it with his permission, and I trust him that this is a true and accurate account of what happened to him. It's also a sad story, showing that we on the "right side" of the Healthcare debate can be prejudiced hooligans when we get riled and scared.

I've either been self-employed or a small-business owner for most of the past 25 years, and, as such, I'm used to seeing insurance premiums go up at least about 12% per year. This year, United HC just raised my rates 18%, during a recession, when they're already making billions in profit. But the problem was just as bad when I had Aetna before. My insurance broker says there are no good deals for health insurance. In my experience there is no competition in this industry any longer, and something like a "public-option" government insurance plan is needed to force the companies to give back some profit in the form of reduced premiums or increased coverage.

Feeling that this problem is under-reported in the health care "debate", I've wanted to be able to express it in some public forum but, alas, in central Florida most politicians are Republicans and they have no interest in discussing the current health care system.

However, just yesterday I saw that there was going to be a meeting in support of health care reform in downtown Orlando (sponsored by Healthcare for America Now). So I bought my "supplies" and made a sign saying "My health insurance just went up 18% (again)" and headed for downtown.

When I arrived at the event, many people complimented me on my sign and asked me to stand for a picture. But at the entrance, I was told the event required a prior ticket (which was not indicated on their website). Fortunately, a man just outside was handing out free tickets to late arrivals and gave me one. Although the ticket collector-girl was skeptical, she took my ticket and let me in.

And so I entered the gymnasium and climbed up into the seats behind others so my sign would not block their view. I felt a little out of place, as the event was in a poor black neighborhood and it seemed there were few whites there. But all seemed to agree that some reform of the health insurance system was needed, and there several signs condemning corporate profit over health.

As we waited, people began chants like "Healthcare Now!" with an aggressive vigor. That's not really my style, but I thought my sign said it all, so I sat and took in my first "political" event.

Then, suddenly, I was surrounded by several angry young black event personnel and a white "union representative" demanding to know what union I was in and saying that I would have to give up my sign. Dumbfounded, I asked why, pointing out that there were many signs which said essentially the same thing. Then, within seconds, brawny policemen sidled up to me, and the other men accused me of sneaking into the event. I tried to explain that I came in just like everybody else, but, obviously a "decision had been made" that I must be ejected from this "private" event.

As I was "escorted" down the stands, more and more people noticed and began to jeer me, as if I were some sinister double-agent. I pleaded with them, saying, "I AGREE with you", but nobody listened. I even felt a strong undercurrent of racism from some present, as if any bearded middle-aged white guy with a SIGN must be up to no good! It seemed that the collective anger over health care, and even some black racism, of hundreds of people was directed towards me as the police lead me out!

At the front entrance, the ticket girl snarled and jeered at me, thrilled that I had gotten "caught". I pleaded with everybody that I was "on their side", but the thuggish policeman just shoved me and made sure that my footsteps lead me to shortest route off the property, and that I did not "loiter" on the sidewalk.

In trying to intuit what happened, I can only guess that some pompous, angry and perhaps (yes) racist "Organizer", seeing me behind the others and not yelling enough, concluded that I must have been a hostile plant, without even THINKING about my sign, and therefore flexed his muscles by sic-ing his minions on me. I do feel that there is a good measure of racism in the protests against health care reform, but overreacting to perceived racism can also become racist.

This whole dynamic calls to mind the many famous historical tales of mad collective Anger Gone Wild (like the French Revolution, for example), where people abandon all sense of reason and even begin "feeding on their own". Such a combination of ignorant and righteous mob anger is always treacherous.

And so ended my first attempt at "grass roots" civic participation!

One of my Montana readers emailed me at the same time. His comments are germane to my cousin's experience:

I am thinking it is time for someone to go away from snarky and call neo-cons’ and Republicans’ public utterances “silly” and “unserious.” When there is so much work to do, why spend all that time and energy going toe to toe with them? I don’t want to demonize them—they are motivated by an odd mixture of fear, greed and love of country. I get that. But they live it more proudly and confidently than they deserve to. Snarky is as snarky does and it makes the public debate stand on a foundation of derision—both deserved and undeserved. Which is not to say I don’t value clever exchanges in public debate. It’s just that I am not consistently clever enough(although I do have a moment now and then) to bang on things that way. Tell them they are silly and unserious, and let us get back to work. Why aren’t more bloggers trying to be like Mark Twain?

Going all Mark Twain means we laugh at everybody, including ourselves. And I'm for that, because I think what happened to my cousin, by people who are supposed to know better, is stupid, silly, and unserious. But we've got to uncover (and if we've got the gumption, laugh at) our own failings, and this was a complete FAIL on the part of Healthcare Now.

But right now, I'm not laughing.


  1. Does this mean "the revolution has started" and it's not exactly what we had hoped for?

    Yikes! Treat people badly enough and they don't trust anyone.

    Was anyone else there to tell your cousin how it went after he was ejected? Maybe it wasn't really people who supported health care reform at all.

    There are tons of black (not meaning skin color, folks) groups out there I have heard, and they are not all named Harry and Louise.

    Just asking,


  2. Anonymous12:42 PM

    It's me, the Cousin. Since I arrived near the start time, with hundreds of people present, it does seem like the group was upfront about their cause, and they clearly resembled the online presence of Health Care for America Now.

    What I would suggest for this group is that they either open up their meetings or else be more honest on their website. The site has a "come one, come all" tone, but when you arrive, you find yourself at a "private" event where you may be kicked out for no express "reason".

    While I agreed with them, for some reason I was visibly not agreeable to them.

  3. Anonymous2:37 PM

    You know I love ya BG; however you've stepped into it with this post.

    Awhile back you had an angry post about a comment made by a former CNBC reporter Dylan Ratigan. You came down on him fairly hard.

    Here is his most recent post.

    Wasn't there something about not throwing the first stone, us heathens have trouble with scripture.

    Anywho, unless you've ever been on the receiving side of a public wrong, like your brother, it's hard to understand the pain inflicted on the wronged.

    Tell your brother that it was not personal; it was mob reaction, just like a scared dog snapping at you.

    The real outrage is that this type of reaction is exactly what the Rt Wing have been working to achieve. Take the level of pubic discourse so such a low level that civility breaks down.

    In simple language 'they' are winning.


  4. Dylan Ratigan used his podium to call affirmative action "reverse racism" in front of two reporters, one black and one hispanic. He may be on the right side of God on some issues, however. (you know Tweety is too and I "come down on him" pretty hard most of the time.) Thanks for that link.

    It's one thing to cast a stone at a woman accused of adultery and another to cast one at Caesar. Caesar can take it. Dylan Caesar Ratigan gets paid to take it.

    I do understand and appreciate the pain inflicted on my cousin; that's why I posted his story. No where in my experience with him have I seen incivility in his behavior. Not here, either.

    My absolute fear in publishing this story is that the stupid actions of Healthcare Now or whoever it was in regards to my cousin will be screamed by the Right as part of their "both sides do it" meme. But both sides don't do it...NO ONE kicked Katy Abrams out of her healthcare town hall when she spouted that she didn't want this country turned into Russia. In fact, she was invited on Dylan Ratigan's network to make a fool out of herself again.

    Love you too OG xo

  5. Anonymous3:47 PM

    Well what have we learned today.

    1. BG keeps up on DR more than OG

    2. Your COUSIN, my apologies to your brother, did not deserve, nobody does, what happened to him. But it's not personal. I know that sounds stupid but I've been chased by a mad crowd who wanted to do me harm because, "I was not bathed in the blood of the Lamb."

    Tent revivalist will pull that "Devils in our mist shit" when ever the crowd is not quite full of the spirit enough, to fork over the big bucks.

    Those people did not hate me, they hated what, they though, I represented. I'm trying to save your cousin some therapy money if will think about it.

    3. We do love each other.


  6. I hope my cousin won't mind me saying he's the most spiritual person I know. And he's not a "Christian" capital c but small c? You betcha.

    Cousin if you wish to share your spiritual philosophy here in comments you are welcome to. I won't speak for you.

  7. That's awful, and yet so typical. I agree with your cousin's assessment about anger gone wild, and I've been thinking that for a while.

    It is amazing to see the fringe element start to turn on the *more* moderate members of conservative movement. I've been on quite a few conservative blogs with really hateful things to say about Brooks, Will, and Frum. Anyone who wants to ramp the rhetoric back down to a reasonable level as seen as "the enemy."

  8. Why do some of you feel the need to cover up a true story because the otherside of your issue will make hay with it. It happened it was wrong. You'll get more credibility just admitting it then worrying how to spin it.

    My problem with the current healthcare package is I will be taxed as income for the portion my employer pays in!

  9. [outing myself, at last...] While it's true that the "Right" may try to use this example of apparent black racism "against" our case for health care reform, in fact, they DO stoop to anything anyway, so it's really not worth trying to fend off any particular attack. I would prefer to rely on open discourse and the discrimination of our audience. In this respect, in spite of the Noise of August, I think most Americans do realize that the Republicans are deceitfully courting stupidity.

    This event gave rise to other considerations about the depth of black resentment over historical racism and how the black community allows itself to be hurt out of what I would tactfully call "petulance". Common examples:

    "Don't take your books home from school because studying is what the white kids do".

    "Don't tell the police about the murder you just saw, because that would just be helping 'the man'."

    I don't want to start a firestorm here, but impulses like these still seem to exist in many black communities. Obviously they are lingering resentments from the era of racism, but like all lingering resentments, they suck up a lot of psychic energy, and tend to be subtly self-destructive, and therefore should be let go.


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