Time. Place. Manners.

August 10, 2009

Regardless of our individual backgrounds and political beliefs, I think the one thing that everyone who posts on or reads the articles here can agree on is this: our freedom is something to be celebrated, and is worth fighting for. That life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are good things, and the freedoms we are granted as Americans are some of the most important "gifts" we'll ever receive. What we may not agree on is just how far those rights go, and whether they are absolute.

In the last week, the debate about the Healthcare Reform Debates and the protests surrounding them has become the latest in a series of flash topics that inspire "heated" debate. Once again, both sides of the issue rush out to demonize the other, and again the chance for honest upfront debate falls to the side.

Let me get my biases out here: the crowds that show up to these debates are not "mobs" or "thugs", and the congressional leaders who are there to speak are not "tyrants". I have no real feelings on the healthcare debate, other than to admit that I haven't done enough research personal to separate out the truth from what the talking heads and blogs are saying. What I do feel strongly about is the first amendment, and the rights that it grants.

While I strongly believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble, I do not believe these freedoms are absolute. My problem with some of the protests, and what I would ultimately hope is the minority of them being over promoted by the media for ratings points, is the disruptive element they seem to display.

To reiterate a point I've discussed before, I believe passion can be a great thing. I also believe that it can be a very destructive thing. On one hand, I think it's admirable that people feel so strongly about their ideological point of view that they'd travel in an attempt to have their voices heard. However, if your intent is to scream and yell and refuse to listen to what the opposition has to say, I can't help but feel that your protest is better kept to the streets outside the venue. I'm not saying they shouldn't show up, and I'm not saying they should keep their mouths shut, I'm simply making the argument that if you want to protest there's no reason to disrupt the proceedings inside when you can stand outside and let the whole world know your feelings.

That's not to say that the democrats are without fault in this situation. No one who protests should ever be considered "Unpatriotic" just because they disagree with someone. Protesting, by the very nature of how this country was founded, is arguably one of the most patriotic things one can do if they have a sincere, honest belief in what they're fighting. The democrats will have to learn that if they're going to talk to the people, they have to be able to provide upfront, concrete answers to the questions they're asked, even the hard ones; especially the hard ones. Trying to shoo people away by saying "Read the bill" isn't productive; if people want answers, either send out the people that can give them, make the information more available, or stop the full court press until you can.

Situations are rarely black and white, and they shouldn't be blue or red either. The healthcare debate is something that ultimately effects every American, no matter what the color of the skin or the ideological belief in their heart. Because of that, everyone deserves an equal seat at the table, and everyone deserves the equal chance to be heard, thugs and tyrants included.