Barney Frank was my first taste of Massachusetts politics. I heard him speak at BC during September of my freshman year. He made a snarky comment about Jerry Falwell and I laughed loudly, to the shock and disapproval of my fellow students who seemed to think that being impressive had to involve being prim.
In other words, it was love at first snark. Because of this, I follow him with great attention, although he manages to get attention all on his own and I don’t usually have to look very far to find one of his soundbytes or quips. The clip I have posted is pretty soundbytey, but I suggest taking a look at the footage over at NECN, which paints a much more thorough picture and which, most importantly, includes the entirety of the question that Frank’s interlocutor asks.
I haven’t really been following the health care debate. Yesterday I heard the man behind me at the grocery story shouting into his phone “Don’t you think it’s a shame that all the other G8 countries provide health care?” and I knew he had to be getting his information from somewhere. It’s a shame that most of our sources are so absurd: email forwards claiming that taxpayer money will pay for abortion or that the government will decide to pull the plug on old people. As someone who has made peace with the idea of our representative democracy, I am always aghast at people who propose that our elected officials (who are overwhelmingly women and men of good will) have monstrously sinister motives and plans. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think politics is perfect, or even always nice. But I do believe that what we have here are groups of people who disagree on the best way to do right by the most people.
The media won’t show us that, it’s not nearly sexy enough. Talk radio gets us all in a huff, self-righteously defending our ‘side’. Then people go to town-hall meetings (the purpose of which continues to elude me – is it really just to have a screaming match?) and they all shout and make good television. What a coup for the TV news. What Larry King doesn’t mention in his little clip is that the questioner is quoting Lyndon LaRouche of all people, and I think we all know that there is a special place in the looneybin for LaRouche supporters. So she gets set up as the poster child for the anti-healthcare camp, which isn’t fair to the plan’s opponents, while Frank looks like a hero for taking an easy shot at someone who really does need to be shot down.
This is interesting and important stuff we are dealing with. Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, but I think the country is capable of a more sophisticated debate than the one we are being handed. My optimism runs out when I think realistically about whether or not we will ever be presented with enough dispassionate truth and honesty to really understand what these conflicts are about.