As I've watched the small, unrepresentative group of mouthbreathers who have decided to be most vocal in their opposition to health care reform, I can't shake the feeling that I've seen videos like this or pictures like the following before.
Why does it all seem so familiar? Could it be the recent exposure to so many teabaggers? No, the recognition comes from something much older and more important. Then I remembered and followed up with a little photo browsing:
Now, the attempt to pass health care legislation and the Civil Rights movement have next to nothing in common as issues, which only serves to underscore the following point. What we are seeing today is nothing new. It is the latest flare-up of a virus we have carried for more than two centuries as a society. There is a subset of our population, a group of people whose ability to attract attention is disproportionately large, who are psychologically and emotionally incapable of processing change of any kind. They are terrified of it like they are terrified of everything they do not understand, and they understand almost nothing (often by choice). They react in the only way they know how: anger and violence motivated by their own childish fear.
That's what these reactions are about. They're not about policy (health care, segregation, taxes, etc.) because these people have virtually no relevant information upon which to base policy-specific objections. They are about fear of a very misguided conception of the consequences. They hear a phrase like integration or universal health care and react violently to the outcomes they imagine (i.e. black men wantonly raping women, legalized subjugation of "the white race", "death panels", medical rationing, and so on) irrespective of its relationship to reality. Like children, they imagine a monster in the closet and, rather than cowering in fear under the blankets, they set out to destroy as many closets as possible.
When social issues like gay rights, access to health care, and environmental awareness suffer defeats at the hands of childish lashing out and hysteria, there are few comforts to be found. What little exists is the reassuring feeling that the Brave Stand taken by today's Patriots will be remembered no more fondly than George Wallace's stand in the schoolhouse door. Today's videos and images, like the images of uneducated white hillbillies violently opposing the Civil Rights movement, will serve as pictures in a history textbook twenty years from now, pictures which serve no purpose but to show the next generations of school kids how ignorant, bigoted, and flat-out stupid people were back in the day.