An article on MSNBC this morning argues that the lies that are being propagated about the health care package currently being debated came from standard main-stream sources.
Rather, it has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton's health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York’s lieutenant governor).
(See: MSNBC, False 'death panel' story has familiar roots)
The article goes on to trace a history of the use of this particular criticism.
As vile as it is to have a group of people who are willing to spread lies such as this – to play political games on matters of life and death and to have so little regard for the well-being of others - the fact is that these people would be impotent without a cadre of gullible people listening to and repeating their lies.
In one video clip I saw, a woman was in tears as she said that she wanted her America back – that others had destroyed her America.
These tears were like those of a young child, where a parent or other trusted adult pointed to somebody that the adult did not like and told the child, "He killed your pony. I had a pony for you, and he killed it, so now you can’t have a pony."
We can well trust that the child's tears and even her hatred of the man who 'killed her pony' are genuine. We do not have to imagine that the child is a knowing part of some conspiracy to promote unjustified hatred of the alleged pony-killer. We only need to assume that the child has too much trust and too little intellectual capability to consider the possibility that her father is lying to her.
Perhaps that is the case with respect to these Town-Hall Vandals. Perhaps they are simply a segment of the population that never grew up and so they are too eager to believe whatever their father-figure whispers in their ear. Like children, they simply lack the capacity for morally responsible, competent adult decision-making.
However, this should never be assumed. We have an obligation to assume that these people are competent adults and to treat them as such unless sufficient evidence has been provided to the contrary. Unfortunately, one of the conclusions that follow from the fact that these are competent adults is that they are morally responsible for their own choices. If they choose to act like young children who have been told, "The man over there shot your pony," then they deserve to be held morally blameworthy for making such a choice.
The accusation of being childish, in this sense, is a statement of condemnation. It is an accusation that an agent has carried into adulthood those qualities that a morally responsible person would have shed as she matured.
The response, "Oh, grow up. Quit acting like a five-year-old," is a perfectly legitimate response to behavior that is like that of a five year old, unless the person really is five years old.
In fact, the behavior of these Town Hall Vandals is childish in another sense. They do not get what (they think) they want, so they stamp their feet and swing their fists and scream as loud as they can, throwing child-like tantrums in town-hall meetings and disturbing the adults in the room with their childish displays and demands for attention.
There is a temptation to call for simply taking the disruptive children out of the room while the adults get on with grown-up matters. Though here, too, if the children are over the age of 18, this is not an option. Here, too, the legitimate response is still to say, "Grow up and quit acting like a two year old."
One thing that grownups do that can be demanded of these childish Town-Hall Vandals is they accept the responsibility of checking their facts. The gullible child will accept an email making a claim as true on that fact alone, in the same way the gullible child will accept her father’s claim, "That man over there killed your pony." A grownup would be embarrassed to bring this type of nonsense to a town meeting and to utter them in public as if they were true. Others, who might even be on the same side of the issue as the speaker, would be embarrassed for him, because they would recognize and respond to the fact that no competent adult would behave that way in public.
We simply need more grown-ups deciding policy in this country, and fewer children.