‘Be Bold in the Pursuit of Knowlege’

The other day, I wrote a post, asking if Obama’s supporters were really content to cede the debate over health care to the shouting, Fox News loving, anti-government Americans.

Maureen Dowd, in her column today, puts a finer point on it.

The young grass-roots army that swept Obama into office has yet to mobilize now that the fight is about something complicated rather than a charismatic hope-monger. No, they can’t?

Instead of a multicultural tableau of beaming young idealists on screen, we see ugly scenes of mostly older and white malcontents, disrupting forums where others have come to actually learn something. Instead of hope, we get swastikas, death threats and T-shirts proclaiming “Proud Member of the Mob.”

She’s on to something. Pardon the pun, but health care is not black and white. The topic of health care is vast, dense, and absurdly complicated. I myself have doubts about the wisdom of a public option, just as I have doubts about the wisdom of a private health care coop — or just about any other alternative.

The administration says that under all circumstances, individuals will be able to keep their current health care arrangement if they want to. Here’s Obama, to the American Medical Association in June:

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

But that’s aspirational, according to the NY Times. Obama’s assurances “may not be literally true or enforceable.”

Which leaves me in the uncomfortable position of supporting health care reform — I’m certain that the status quote is unsustainable; that it’s morally wrong to have nearly 50 million people with no health insurance, and to have insurance companies drop coverage when people need it most — without knowing for sure the best way to go about it.

It’s hard to get people to storm the barricades for something like the House bill, which, as the Times reports, sets detailed standards for ‘acceptable health care coverage,’ that would define ‘essential benefits’ and permissible co-payments.

Oy.

In my post the other day, I suggested — partly out of pique — that proponents of reform need to shout louder than the proud members of the mob.

On reflection, I think that would be unwise. But we do need to try and educate ourselves. At Obama’s New Hampshire town hall yesterday, one anti-Obama protestor quite literally showed up armed — legally — with a 9 mm pistol strapped to his leg. I suggest that the best thing proponents of reform can do, at this point, is to arm ourselves with knowledge — so we can contribute to this critical debate in constructive ways. 

The gun-toting protestor in New Hampshire also had a placard, “It is time to water the tree of liberty” — a reference to a Thomas Jefferson aphorism, that the tree of liberty needs to be watered with the blood of patriots.

Okay.

But Jefferson also famously said that he was “bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led.”

We might start here.

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