Over the weekend, the United States came together once again to recognize the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, with such touching and poignant moments that unified a nation. From the speeches at the Flight 93 memorial to the tears shed at the waterfall at the World Trade Center, it reminded us of a time when, after tragedy strikes, we can put our differences aside and unite not just as Americans, but as common and decent human beings.
In Logan, Utah this week, a motorcycle operated by 21 year old Brandon Wright crashed into a BMW just outside of Utah State University. He slid under the car, which went up in up in flames. Dramatic video now being played across the country showed how selfless people can be in the face of danger. Without any regard for their own lives, nearby construction workers and ordinary citizens rushed toward the burning vehicle and lifted it up while others pulled the injured motorcyclist out. Firefighters soon arrived to put out the flames and the motorcyclist was brought to the hospital in stable condition. A decent end to what could’ve been a tragedy.
This is the kind of thing that American – and humanity – ought to be built on. The selflessness to help others when you can. I mentioned 9/11 earlier because, from the dusts of disaster arose this selflessness.
Then last night, the Tea Party Express, in conjunction with CNN, had its first GOP Presidential Debate. What didn’t surprise me was the ridiculousness of the candidates from Rep. Michele Bachmann accused Texas Governor (and current front-runner) Rick Perry of mandating parents to inoculate girls with Gardasil (an HPV vaccine that could prevent cervical cancer) that she accused of causing mental retardation, a claim that the Center for Disease Control finds inaccurate to the debate Former Senator Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul had over why Al-Qaida attacked the United States 1o years and one day before.
No, what surprised me was the audience reaction to moderator Wolf Blitzer’s question.
Blitzer offered a hypothetical anecdote to Rep. Paul about a healthy 30 year old with a well-paying job who has decided to not pay $200+ a month for health insurance because he cannot afford it. That 30 year suddenly has a crisis which lands him in a coma. The libertarian candidate recieved cheers when he explained that in his presidency, Americans have the choice to take risks with their lives.
When Blitzer asked “Would you let the man die?”, the most bizarre thing happen: members of the audience screamed “Yeah” and cheers erupted as though someone just hit a home-run at Yankee Stadium. It was an event that Perry later said in an interview with MSNBC that he was “taken aback by”.
Let’s take a pause at this point. Today, the US Census Bureau reported that poverty in the United States has reached a 27 year high, with 46 million people under the poverty line. One in six Americans now live in poverty. Knowing this, we have a group of callous people who would cheer at the idea of letting a fellow human being die simply because they cannot afford the treatment. Although President Obama’s revolutionary health care plan isn’t as strong as the progressive plans in every other industrialized nation in the world, it is that step in the right direction towards universal health care. We shouldn’t be paying for our right to live. But I’m getting beside the main point.
The main point is that we can live in a truly cruel world. That’s an understatement, I’m sure. Not one day after the 9/11 anniversary, a group of Tea Party Americans who probably still have jobs in this miserable economy, have been swept in this discombobulated right-wing extremist rhetoric about big government, to the point where they can be selfish enough to cheer for the death of an ordinary American. Would they cheer so loud if it was a firefighter or a police officer injured rescuing someone from the World Trade Center? If they saved one of their family members?
What if it was their family member, on hard time, stricken by illness or an accident. How would they feel if people cheered and screamed for their death?
If we had more extremists in this country, I’d be running off to another, more sane nation. Tea Partiers want a nation that follows the Constitution to the letter (and they also want a Christian nation, thus breaking the separation of church and state clause ingrained in the American way, but that’s beside the point.)
I choose to believe that people can be better than cheering for the death of a fellow American. I choose to believe they’re like the heroes of 9/11 or at least the ordinary heroes who saved a 21 year old by lifting a car up and pulling him out. I hope this nation doesn’t lose that humanity and become as awful as these people.