The reality show known as the GOP debates produced a lovely but somewhat disingenuous meme the other night. Moderator Wolf Blitzer (who has to be hoping that someday he can escape back to some semblance of his cooler “scud stud” days before he dies a tool of the main stream media) asked candidate Ron Paul one of those delightful beside the point questions that involve hypothetical scenarios from an alternate United States timeline,
Headline meme’s on Facebook and Twitter embellished the lone gunman’s “yes” response to Blitzer’s “should society let him die” to GOP Audiences Cheer as Ron Paul Proclaims that the Uninsured Should be Left to Die. Which is not what the man said at all, and to be more fair, the audience cheered him on his rather wishy-washy “personal responsibility” point and not about letting a man in a coma die because he didn’t have health insurance.
Personal responsibility is a red herring catch-all phrase in the United States that allows people to safely distance themselves from the reality that many people are responsible and are still caught by rock and hard place scenarios from which only a government safety net can save them. It’s a word we use when we don’t want to acknowledge that we are really heartless fucks who don’t care about anyone outside our personal circles.
Regardless, the meme spoke and it came down on the side of slightly twisting the event to make Ron Paul, the Tea Party and the GOP in general fit the storyline, which is that people on the right are cold, soulless bastards who want to make over the American government in their heartless, bible thumping, Ayn Rand loving images.
The reality, which is that Blitzer’s what if missed by a country mile, is that most uninsured Americans can’t afford health insurance and that Ron Paul lives in a fantasy world where churches and other charities still take care of these people. This, however, wouldn’t have made as compelling of a soundbite. It certainly wouldn’t have fit in a Tweet.
In keeping with their newfound zeal to fight half-truth and blatant lies with more of the same, the energized Left pounced all over The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson yesterday with a similar eye for clever editing and disingenuous headlines.
Robertson does this quaint Q&A during his broadcast. Viewers send in questions, and he plums the depths of his holy man status to advise them.
The Crooks and Liars (and they couldn’t have named themselves better if they tried) website quickly and crudely edited this gem*, which sped about the social media like new gossip in a high school lunchroom.
Pat Robertson Says Divorce Terminally Ill Wife went wild to the point that the mainstream was forced to pick it up and repeat the nonsense.
Nonsense because that’s not really what Robertson said. In a rare compassionate take on his own brand of Christianity, he admitted that wanting to move on from a marriage that has been effectively ended by one spouse’s dementia is an ethically difficult one, but that he would not judge someone who did. In his opinion, a man who wanted to do so should make sure his wife is well-cared for and divorce her though he admitted that perhaps an ethicist would be the better person to ask.
I have little patience with hypotheticals that aren’t really. People die from lack of health insurance all the time. Spouses are effectively widowed by dementia all the time. Let’s not play with this scenarios as though they aren’t thorny and real. Just because you may have avoided some tragedy or other doesn’t make it just another thought exercise.
Anymore I can’t distinguish between Left, Progressive, Right, Moderate, Conservative, Liberal. It’s all shrill. Or half-lie to “make a point”. Or making light of the very real lives of very real people to make a point like the Robertson meme in particular. It’s mostly bullshit that distracts from the work that needs to be done to solve the actual problems that are crushing the democracy right out of the country.
A Facebook/Twitter friend, who suffers from a life-threatening illness, took understandable exception to the overlaid implication that abandoning sick/terminally ill spouses is okay. She comes at the meme from the opposite side of the equation from myself. In some ways, the sick person has the upper hand because they are, rightly, awarded the lion’s share of the sympathy, but speaking as the former spouse of a man who had dementia, there are two sides to every story regardless of how tragic it is.
She was appalled by Robertson’s stance that dementia leaves essentially a “walking dead person” in its wake, but that’s exactly what it does. And just because it makes you uncomfortable to “go there” doesn’t make it less a fact.
First they become a complete stranger, Then they devolve into a stranger who doesn’t know you. Finally, they become a breathing corpse. A simplified version. There is more, and most of it is sad, lonely and soul-crushing, so I will spare you the finer points.But “walking dead” is a good, if stark, analogy.
Like Robertson, I don’t fault anyone who wants to cut and run. I’d have run a hundred times if I’d had the opportunity. I am not a better person because I didn’t.
Loyal spouses are patted on the head for their exemplary capacity for self-sacrifice just as the terminally ill who fight tooth and nail, even when they and their families would be better off if they didn’t, are given posthumous gold stars for “courage”. It’s textbook. It’s Hollywood. And it’s beside the fucking point.
Sometimes I understand perfectly why Obama always looks like a middle school teacher just after his worst class of the day. Are there any grown-ups left in the room down south anymore?
*You can see the clip in its entirety here.
- Until Death [or Dementia] Do Us Part? Robertson Says It Is OK To Divorce Spouses With Alzheimer’s (jonathanturley.org)
- Pat Robertson – In Sickness And In Health, Unless The Sickness Is Alzheimers (mgpcpastor.wordpress.com)
- Former Ron Paul Campaign Manager Died from Lack of Health Insurance (news.firedoglake.com)
- Tea Party Debate Audience Cheer for Ron Paul’s Death Panel (passthedoucheys.com)