Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sounding off on Sound Off

Like most Delco Times readers, I love Sound Off.  It is my favorite feature.  It makes me laugh, it makes me grind my teeth, it often makes for great lunchtime debate and, every once in a great while, it just stops me dead in my tracks.
A recent caller declared “We have our liberty and liberty is all we need.” 
What set this off?  We’ll never know, but obviously the caller felt a deep and urgent need to express this sentiment.  Of course it’s not really true.  Liberty is, I grant you, a basic need.   We also need education, jobs, a roof over our heads, food, clean water, medical care, and clothing and shoes, at a minimum.  Public transportation, military preparedness, interstate highways, airports, retirement security, police, fire, schools and the taxes to pay for them also leap to mind.
Sound Off callers tend to leap straight for the most radical conclusions.   President Obama has proposed something a caller doesn’t like so he must be a radical, Liberal, Communist, fascist, racist, unpatriotic, Muslim, African witch doctor with a secret plan to destroy America.   Really?  Maybe he just said or did something you disagree with.  All presidents do now and then.
Or they go for the most absurd solutions:  One of today’s callers asserts that we should immediately wipe out the entire Middle East with nuclear bombs, a reaction to the news that a handful of nut cases may be contemplating sewing bombs inside their bodies (or more likely other people’s bodies) to blow us up.  
Thank God this caller isn’t the president and let’s hope no one like him (Michele Bachman) ever gets near the Oval Office.  We would forever be pariahs if we killed 500 million or so people because a couple of hundred of them might be thinking of trying to harm us.  Not to mention the 10,000 years of worldwide nuclear contamination and the destruction of the world’s economies, including our own, for generations.  Not a practical solution but it probably felt good to say.
Then there was this item from a June Sound Off, which I reproduce in full, including the editor’s note at the end:
I love how the Daily Times uses the editor’s note in Sound Off to support liberal viewpoints.  Making sure readers knew [U.S. Sen. Patrick] Toomey and [U.S. Rep. Patrick] Meehan voted for the Ryan plan in the editor’s note, you were supporting the “scare the seniors” position Democrats are taking these days.  Nothing will change in Medicare for those 55 and older; changes are proposed for the future solvency of Medicare.  If you stop with the liberal nonsense, your paper would not be getting so small, and your readership would undoubtedly increase.  Remember, we are a center-right nation.
Why don’t you want people to know that Rep. Pat Meehan and Sen. Pat Toomey voted for the Ryan plan? – Ed.
 “Remember, we are a center-right nation.”  This is merely one person’s opinion, not a provable fact, but it sounds simultaneously like a threat, a warning, an admonition and a mission statement on the wall of a North Korean re-education center.
Can the Daily Times look forward to Brown Shirts marching in to break up the printing presses if it doesn’t refrain in the future  from spouting the “liberal nonsense” of actually telling readers how their elected representatives voted on an issue of considerable importance to them?
Should Sound Off readers who don’t agree with the caller look forward to being paraded through the county at the point of a gun with dunce caps on their heads and placards around therir necks while chanting the slogan? 
In fact, there is no one monolithic America that believes in one single, unifying political creed.  We would never in a million years agree on what that creed should be but I am reasonably sure the end product would not be “We are a center-right nation.”
 We are 300 million contentious, opinionated Americans — white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, male, female, gay, straight, married, single, young, old, wealthy, struggling, East Coast, Left Coast, heartland and big city dwellers — who do not come together on any single point, except that we are all Americans (and there would be numerous dissenters on that).
We are a huge country, more than 3,000 miles wide and stretching north to south from the Canadian Rockies to the subtropical Florida keys.  If you superimposed the map of the U.S. over Europe, our footprint stretches from Great Britain nearly to China.
It would be ludicrous to expect a newly engaged gay couple from New York City to agree with the average fundamental Baptist farm couple in Jackson, Mississippi, or for a sundrenched Hawaiian surfer to share the same attitudes and experiences as an  icebound, fur-clad Aleutian fisherman.
I am guessing the caller is basing his “center-right” conclusion on the outcome of the mid-term elections, but that election certainly didn’t prove America was united on any one position, since nearly half of the electorate voted the opposite way.  In any case, it looks like the victors badly misinterpreted the message voters were sending. 
When the voters said, “fix the economy and  create jobs,” I don’t think they meant, “hey, spend all your time protecting Wall Street and the wealthy, banning abortions, destroying labor unions, dismantling public education, laying off public employees, and cutting Medicare and Medicaid (which pays for a lot of poor old people to live in nursing homes).”   
And how about the caller’s opinion that the Democrats are scaring seniors on the Medicare issue?   I’m sure Toomey wasn’t using scare tactics when he was running that campaign ad about a gazillion times last fall accusing his Democratic opponent, Joe Sestak, of cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare.
Anyone who had examined Toomey’s politics even a smidgeon would know that he would vote in a heartbeat to scuttle both healthcare reform and the entire Medicare system and hand it all back to private for-profit insurance companies to screw us all over.  While you were all focused on the befuddled little old lady staring out at you from your TV in the anti-Sestak ads, you might have missed that point about Toomey. 
 I have to agree with “Ed.”  If all Meehan and Toomey were doing was voting for “changes for the future solvency of Medicare,” why in the world would the caller object to those votes being made public?
Me, I don’t think that’s what they were doing, I think they were voting to begin the process of dismantling Medicare.  And, yeah, that is one scary proposition. 

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