Right-wing anger against President Obama’s healthcare reforms has its’ roots in America’s conflicted history, says James Gill
Obama must persevere with his healthcare reforms, not just for America’s health deficit, but for the nation’s sanity and reputation as a tolerant, open and diverse nation.
We all knew it was to be a controversial upheaval given the United States’ more conservative disposition towards government assistance, but no one expected the ridiculous ruckus that would envelope opposition to President Obama’s healthcare reforms.
The televised scenes of screaming right-wingers carrying images of Barack Obama in ‘Joker’ make-up, and comparisons to Adolf Hitler, showed the world that far from being healed by Obama’s nearly angelic ascension to the White House, portions of American society seem locked in a perennial time warp of primitive intolerance of any face of reform.
Not to mention the failure of sections of the media to reform and update their arguments for a civilised debate on the issue – Fox News being an obvious culprit here when it’s own Jeff Bradley went on the record calling Barack Obama a racist against white people – with no sufficient evidence to back it up.
Since Americans know that the state has a hand in publicly funding its education and fire safety departments why is there so much explosive anger about taking healthcare into the public domain.
It’s an almost nuclear reaction compared to “Hillarycare” proposals of the early years of the Clinton administration, where the Republicans flattened it.
However, it seems to strike me that part of this hysteria over Obama’s reforms steam from the fact that it’s not just any Democrat government proposal for publicly-funded healthcare; it is the anger that a black man is at their helm, overhauling a system which has been sacred to some in defining America’s character.
We must remember that this is not the first time that Obama has been vilified so violently. In the run up to his election campaign, the right-wing shock jock, Rush Limbaugh compared him to Robert Mugabe. And his female counterpart, Ann Coulter, comparing his memoirs Dreams from my Father to Hitler’s pamphlet of evil, Mein Kampf.
It seems this is just another chapter in angry white America’s crusade to promote their insular, undisturbed, poorly informed world from crumbling to reveal the realities around it.
The staunchly conservative Fox News spent the whole duration of the presidential campaign emphasising Obama’s middle name, Hussein, sneakily inducing suspicion that Mr Obama is a closet Muslim infiltrator of foreign descent.
For years, portions of American society, notably academics, activists and communities on the right have bought into the myth of America as a sacred land of opportunity, a Christian haven and police against evil foreign influences.
The truth is that, although mainstream America would never like to admit it, this debates strikes at the inherent racist flaw of the United States’ genesis and a side of its character. In the words of acclaimed writer, Gore Vidal, “(America) is a racist country, it always has been”.
The United States of America as we know it, from the 1776 Declaration of Independence, has been a nation plagued by an uncomfortable reconciliation between liberal, universal ideals it purports to be founded upon, alongside its brutal, racist reality.
Ironically for a country which prides itself on being a bastion of democracy and equal rights, America today was founded on the removal and genocide of millions of native Americans (the Indians we commonly see in western movies), as well as denying opportunities to minorities and women, a staunch, new imitation of the European countries, save its young age.
Rather than abide by the principles of “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, and their supposed openness and liberal principles, the whites demeaned and exploited blacks mercilessly as creatures who were both scary and sub-human.
Even 200 years later, with slavery abolished in 1865, the Civil Rights Act signed in 1964, and forms of desegregation and various inequalities outlawed throughout the 1950s through till the 1970s, America continued to have a chronic insecurity about its supposedly progressive ideals alongside the ingrained racism of many segments of the population.
After the civil war of the 1860s, plenty of Southern states still practiced segregation. Even today as we see in the Appalachian voters’ attitudes to Barack Obama as a black man during the 2008 election campaign were all the more alarming as they were traditionally Democrat voters who didn’t see Obama as ‘one of them’.
There are characteristic hostilities to people of colour, especially ones espousing causes to reform previously untouched institutions.
In the conservative decade of the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan praised the hilariously jingoistic, over-the-top movie, Rambo: First Blood Part Two as a movie demonstrating the spirit of the USA’s armed forces, a fantasy symbol of American redemption in a conflict they in reality could never win.
On the other hand, various critics and public figures demonised Spike Lee’s realistic movie about contemporary racism, Do the Right Thing as a movie that could incite black people to riot if they watched it.
Lee also faced criticism over his portrayal of two Jewish characters in his follow-up film, Mo Better Blues – he was alleged to have deliberately portraying them as greedy and exploitative.
Lee, never a favourite with mainstream opinion, riposted that the same people never criticised other directors for getting black actors to portray pimps, murderers, drug dealers and rapists – his two villainous characters just happened to be Jewish.
If Barack Obama manages to place his health reforms through Congress, it will hopefully provide medicine for a desperately ill national patient.