September 17, 2009

Soapbox Theatre: Episode 1

I'll try not to make a habit of this (because, truthfully, I hate politics and only know enough to be dangerous, anyway), but every once in awhile I hear about something that annoys me enough to talk about it. When I do, I've decided to call it:

My political views (such as they are; I'm not what anyone would call overly involved in anything more political than American Idol) generally tend to skew toward the conservative (albeit moderately conservative).

Growing up, this was because my parents' views skewed that way. My father was and still is a pretty staunch Republican; my entire family is devoutly religious. I emulated and mimicked what I knew.

In college, they were all over the place. I think this is pretty normal, right? You're in college, away from your family and everything you've grown up with, away from all the same ideologies you've always heard and believed to be true. It's your first taste of independence. Of course you're going to be all over the map, and most of the time the mantra is, "Eh. Whatever."

As a voting, working, tax-paying adult, my views tend to depend on how individual situations affect me directly. And most of the time, in my view, more government usually does not equal better.

We have a governing body for a reason: To keep society as a whole in some semblence of order, to establish laws that give us bodily protection, to give us guidelines. But when the governing body starts to tell us what we can and cannot say, especially to elected officials, I think they're overstepping the bounds of the authority we've given them.

A lot of people are saying a LOT of things about health care right now. I won't even pretend to be well-read enough to have an educated opinion about this -- my parents and my husband know far more about it than I do. But I do know this: I want to know that I'm allowed to say what I think about it, no matter who likes or doesn't like what I have to say.

South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar after he said he wouldn't extend healthcare to illegal immigrants. Now the House has released a primer that says its members are no longer allowed to call the President a liar, a hypocrite or cowardly (the latter for vetoing a bill).

Calling the President or any other House official a nitwit is apparently still cool, though, for some inexplicable reason (yes, the primer actually uses the word "netwit"; I believe the full term it uses is "half-baked nitwit," in fact). You can also call him a disgrace.

So it may seem like semantics. But calling someone a liar or a hypocrite is pretty direct. Calling someone a nitwit just makes YOU sound silly.

Yelling out "You lie!" in the middle of the President's speech was rude and disrespectful. It was inappropriate for the forum. (And, it's important to note, the rules in the primer only apply to House members, and only when the House is in session.)

But, as a good friend of mine is always saying, it's the principle of the thing. You'd hope that someone like Rep. Wilson would know enough to be respectful and hold his tongue until a more inappropriate moment, or to express his dissent in a more respectful manner. But do we have to go so far as to BAN the practice of calling out the President if someone really believes he's being dishonest or hypocritical?

And when are these restrictions going to seep out from behind the House walls and start applying to us?

I don't want a governing body that isn't beholden to the people it represents. We need to be able to tell our representatives that they're doing a great job, or that they're a big bunch of liars. And not allowing a member of the House (and maybe, someday, you or me) to speak out when we believe they're doing something we don't agree with or we think it's in our best interest... That scares me. That's a right I don't want to give up.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't think the President or anyone else in the government is necessarily out to get the rest of us. But it does worry me when I hear about things like this, about people being so willing to give up a right like free speech (even though this is just a tiny piece of that) in the name of being "appropriate."

Now, please, someone help me off this soapbox so I can go back to watching mindless television, before I actually break a sweat.

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