Over at The Wonk Blog, today, there is an article highlighting one of the ongoing successes of The Affordable Care Act: more citizens signing up for Medicaid.
These were not only new "eligibles", mind you. These new enrollments are also people who had previously been qualified for Medicaid, but didn't know it. One of the prevailing purposes of ACA is to get as many citizens insured as possible with meaningful insurance, and not requiring them to pay sacrificial dollars for "junk" insurance.
In a comment after the article the net result is that this same information is seen by one citizen as a very bad thing, with even more citizens "sucking at the government trough".
Here's the difference.
One issue, with two completely different results from two entirely disparate points of view. Yet, the (as one might well guess) inevitable pie fight was not purposed to entertain debate nearly so much as it was to bash the opposing view because of the view held.
Where is the discussion?
I hope you will follow me just below the
squiggledoodlethingey fold for a few observations.
About twenty years or so ago, I was known to say, at virtually every possible opportunity that the greatest victim of our times was the death of civil discourse. We just weren't talking to one another about the important local, state and federal issues of the day. I believed that nothing more than a general reminder would correct this national ill, because so much of the life of the American citizen centered around civil discourse.
In the market place, differing views could receive airing, debate would ensue, and (usually) an accommodated compromise would yield the collective truth of the issue for those engaged in the discourse. Citizens, the electors, would notify via personal dispatch or public Letters To The Editor the various sides of an issue, as well as the compromise reached among the citizens of anytown, USA. Citizens were doing the work of citizenship. Electors were informing electeds of expected behavior. Those who chose a different path, whether along party lines or for some other personal sense of entitlement were summarily cashiered for failure to perform their duties as expected. If they couldn't accept and further the will of their electors, perhaps their replacement would.
It is quite difficult to begin an undoubtedly heated debate only AFTER setting the ground rules, yet this is a required course of action if compromised agreement is to be achieved. Things like the acknowledgement of multiple, valid points of view, or being recognized before speaking, or agreement that the final vote amongst those present would prevail, regardless of the "side" holding said prevailing view. You know, things like that. The civil portion of discourse. Very rarely, for instance, were handguns or long guns allowed, and for very obvious reasons.
Then, of course, there was the all-important "order" of the discourse. Who would speak first? Who would respond first? You know, the discourse part. Every voice and viewpoint would be heard, if offered. Then discussion. Then the amassed citizens would, honoring the hard-fought and hard-won democracy, vote. Women had none, nor did Blacks--who were not really entire human beings. That was simply how it was in those days not so very long ago.
No, not really so very long ago. However we did have a few obstacles along the way from those days to this, including a Civil War. By God's Grace, and some incredibly strong and determined leadership, our nation survived and became. That process gave us a rare glimpse into what it was that we had, as a nation of citizens, achieved and won--and lost. Our civility flagged for a time, and our discourse became a bit ragged and tattered. It seemed as though our discourse required a new dimension: punctuation. Unfortunately, the punctuation we preferred was war.
That really is how our civil discourse has been punctuated ever since. If you disagree, killing the one you disagree with is one way of ending, if not outright winning your given position within topical discourse. Now, in these days, it would seem as though the legitimacy of your position can be dictated by nothing more than your anger level, your shouting decibels, or how often you can repeat a known lie. (That is not side-specific, by the way.)
One of the major differences between then and now is that those engaging in the discourse are far removed from the necessity of living out the result of the discourse. It's not personal, it's political. At the end of the day, one side's passionate beliefs are simply unassailable, but also unavailable because they are not considered from within the "risk pool" of those having to live out the result of these empassioned expellations.
It's called a "reality gap", and that is a very wide, long and deep chasm. Unfortunately, that chasm is most likely filled with those unable to defend themselves, or voluntarily pick up these new and profound decisions. They just have to live with, or under them.
And that's the difference.
The more powerfully clarity is required to understand the reality of a given difficulty, the more required civil discourse becomes. How does one take the amazing divergence of views as described here, and create vital, solutions-driven discourse among the citizens of this land who are the very ones who will be required to live out the result?
What will compel citizen to overwhelm political partisan?
I believe the answer to that question is nothing more than intent. We will, if we intend to. No citizen should be comfortable sitting idly by as critically important issues are discussed around us. You may have forgotten, or you may never have truly known, but you do have a voice, and a vote--unless one of your fellow citizens has forced that privilege from you. There are many centers of power and/or influence who do not want you to know, or to remember the power your citizenship holds in the matters of self-governance. I am not one of those.
And that is the difference.
Where is the civil discourse?
That is a bit trickier to answer, yet multiple answers are readily available to any citizen chooses to embrace these answers fully. I personally know of 9 hours each week where you are an invited guest to my airwaves to discourse on these issues, but I will not drag you to them to do so. There are countless organizations which are possibly all about your side of an issue. That's a great place to begin because, for the most part, you find like-minded citizens who share, support, endorse and encourage legislators or other electeds who bring power to the strength of your convictions. Change becomes possible only after engagement is begun.
If you cannot hear, or see, or find civil discourse around your passion, why not begin one?
I used to absolutely love this particular feature of my truck driving job. Every day, I was in a different place--and usually a different state. Finding a truck stop, I would saunter up to the "horseshoe" and order coffee. It would usually take about five minutes of idle chatter to begin just such a discourse. We had some barn burners, I tell you! But discourse was had, and accommodated compromise was reached. Minds were heard, and sometimes even changed. We always walked away better for having had the discourse, and usually as friends to boot.
If this were to be our purpose, instead of being so narrowly focused on some unseen (and untrue) need to be correct, I think most of the problems facing our nation today would be significantly less inflammatory. A fair hearing is the most anyone truly wants; a fair shot at defending their position among those with similar or opposing views. They should have that opportunity. We could give those differing views an airing, even publicly. We could arrive at some truly negotiated compromise that everyone could live with.
Things would get done. Governance would happen.
What a difference that would be.