Friday, September 11, 2009

Sweet Land of Bigotry

I was still reeling from hearing Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) yell "You lie!" at President Obama during the president's address on health care to a joint session of Congress after the president denied that his health care reform plan would insure people who are in the country illegally. analyzed the exchange and the facts and pronounced Wilson's accusation "False". The site explains that the health care reform package does not give undocumented people any new government funded benefits beyond those to which they are currently legally entitled -- namely life-saving emergency treatment.

One cannot help but think, as many are thinking right now, that the congressman would not have dared to commit this outrageous "spontaneous" breach of protocol and common manners had the president been a white man.

Then my friends at the San Juan Diego Project posted an article including the following video from a health care town hall meeting in Norwalk, Connecticut. Bishop Emilio Alvarez, an evangelical pastor of Puerto Rican descent, approaches the microphone to ask a question of Representative Jim Himes (CT-04). Rev. Alvarez chooses to ask his question in Spanish after respectfully asking the congressman's permission. Rep. Himes was born in Peru and has lived extensively in Latin America and is completely bilingual. The predominantly white crowd start to boo and demand that Alvarez speak English and they continue their disruptive and disrespectful behavior throughout the pastor's question and into the congressman's answer. When I watch the video, it makes me ashamed of my fellow citizens.

I suppose these hecklers are just "mal educado". We do not say "rude"; we say "badly brought up." I don't know about you, but I was taught that it is rude to shout accusations at people during a speech, or to insult someone because they don't speak my language, or continue to heckle so loudly and continuously that a speaker is drowned out...but maybe it's because I was brought up in France...

The whole thing breaks my heart. I would like to share President Obama's vision that we are moving beyond race but when I see scenes like these I realize that we are far from Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of the day when people will be judged only by the content of their character and when all of us will live together as brothers and sisters, children of the same God.

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