Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
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Who Let the Truth Out of the Bag?

October 04, 2009

The last couple of days I've been giddier about national politics than I have been since the day after the last presidential election. By way of explaining, I'm going to quote Adrienne Rich's "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying" yet again: "When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her." This time Rich herself might raise her eyebrows, because the hypothetical woman I'm referring to here is not only a man, he's a member of Congress.

Representative Alan Grayson of Florida.

Last Tuesday night, in a brief speech on the House floor, Rep. Grayson said, "If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly. That's right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick." Since then the BS has hit the fan in a big way. As you know, I don't have a TV, so it wasn't till Friday that I watched a video of Grayson's appearance on CNN's The Situation Room. When I watch talking heads on TV or listen to talking disembodied heads on the radio, I tend to turn red and start screaming. When I consider how much these heads are being paid to intone their banalities, stupidities, and worse, I want to hide under the covers with a quart of ice cream and a bottle of brandy. So I just say no to inane commentary, and shallow reporting too.

This video is nearly 11 minutes long, but I watched it beginning to end, cheering, whooping, hollering, and yelling "Yessss!" Grayson leaves the four other people present in the dust, like Secretariat winning the Belmont. (I don't know who these people are. The woman's name is Gloria. James Carville was there on video.) Actually it's more like Secretariat outrunning a pack of backyard horses -- the other panelists were that inept. The old white guy in charge seemed shocked, shocked, that Grayson would summarize the Republican health care plan, or non-plan, as "Don't get sick, and if you do, die quickly." Are you saying that Republicans want people to die? he asked.

House Republicans seem just as shocked. They're demanding that Grayson apologize. Grayson has declined, and the House Democratic leadership -- see, here's where the "creating the possibility for more truth around [him]" starts to kick in -- has declined to tell him he should apologize. The Republicans claim that what Grayson said is comparable to Rep. Joe Wilson's heckling the president during his health care speech last month. They say that Grayson has insulted "all Republicans." Eh wot? Like it's an insult to the emperor to point out that he's walking down the street naked? "Truth is an absolute defense," says Grayson. Yesssss!

The Republicans have been calling Grayson "unstable," "despicable," "pathological," and other nasty things. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, "If this be instability, make the most of it."

To me the underlying point is that the Republicans, the commentators, and all the Democrats who've been dilly-dallying on the issue month after month aren't acknowledging that their dilly-dallying has real-world consequences, or that the health care mess affects real people in serious ways. No one who's gone bankrupt trying to pay huge medical bills is going to be especially shocked by Grayson's summary of the Republicans' non/plan. Grayson, a freshman representative from Florida, said that when he came to Congress he expected to hear thoughtful debate on the issues, but all he's seen is "foot-dragging day after day."

True, the Democrats' willingness to take the public option off the table is almost as bad, but we'll leave that for another day, after the possibility for more truth has expanded a bit.

Here's a parting word from the man himself, a reminder to his colleagues that being a member of Congress is more than an egoboo: "We are not sent here to make the other members feel good. We are sent here to solve America's problems. Only in their own narrow minds would they think what matters here is how they feel."

Outro: How about "It Isn't Nice" by Malvina Reynolds? This verse goes out to all the Republicans and Democrats to whom it applies:

How about those years of lynchings
And the shot in Evers' back?
Did you say it wasn't proper,
Did you stand out on the track?
You were quiet just like nice,
Now you say that we're not nice,
But if that's Freedom's price,
We don't mind.


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