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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kill the "Death Panel" Rhetoric

The true aim of a conservative is to unite others in a common cause that leads to the betterment of society. As a conservative, I believe that hateful rhetoric which misleads the public with talk of “death panels” does not contribute to national unity.

Let me be clear, I do not believe that the passage of universal health care legislation is a step in the positive direction for our country. While I espouse bipartisanship, the passage of a bill such as the ones currently being considered simply violates too many of my political principles.

So why am I advocating against “death panel” rhetoric? Because I believe in American unity, and I believe that the way in which we use words serves to either unite or divide us as a nation.

If used to unite, words have tremendous power to do good. Roosevelt inspired a nation drowning in an economic cesspool when he declared that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Kennedy stirred our patriotism by advocating that we ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Dr. King pled for unity when he proclaimed that he had had a dream. And now in our day, Obama has announced that the government will decide if your grandmother lives or dies. Now, each of these presidential statements have been accurately summarized, right?


If you are reading this editorial, you know the facts of the issue and the inaccuracy of the allegation. However, the purpose of this piece is not to deal with the way in which a bill is interpreted, but rather to address the danger of rhetoric that goes by many adjectives: misleading, deceitful, hateful, vitriolic, or most importantly, divisive. Even if a legislative bill actually designated a death panel, called it a death panel, and indicated that we no longer had the choice to decide whether we live or die—hateful rhetoric is not a good strategy.

Contrary to hateful rhetoric is the concept of meaningful debate. When the founding fathers gathered for their miracle in Philadelphia, no doubt insults were flung that skimmed the issues, crossed the line of propriety, and did not always make use of common sense. But these men who are so revered by us today eventually found a way to get past their deeply held—not to mention, well-founded—personal beliefs and were able to whittle down one decision after another through meaningful debate.

Why is it that we cannot do the same?

The issue of universal health care is of universal importance. Regardless of the outcome, the consequences will have a domino effect that goes from one generation to the next. However, we should use this issue not as an occasion to spread hate for a supposed larger good, but as an opportunity to showcase our devotion to the virtue of unity. If, as some claim, our nation is going to hell in a hand basket, it will not be directly attributable to the passage of a universal health care bill. Rather, if our nation ever meets with a tragic self-inflicted decline, it will be because its citizenry has lost the value of unity and chooses hateful rhetoric over meaningful debate. Such need not be the case. The government will not decide whether our grandparents live or die, but we as a people will decide the fate of the hateful use of our words. And I am in favor of killing the “death panel” rhetoric.

* Intended for publication 07-Sep-2009

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Terms like "Death Panel" are truly misleading, and most of the time are used by people who have not even read the bill!