Wednesday night at Obama’s speech, several shameful acts occurred. Rep. Louie Gohmert from Texas wore a sign around his neck reading, “What Bill?”, as the President spoke on healthcare reform just a day after his speech to America’s schoolchildren raised protests from certain school districts as well. As Obama finished stating that his health plan would not insure undocumented immigrants, Rep. Joe Wilson from South Carolina shouted, “You lie” in one of the most overtly disrespectful acts of uncivil discourse seen in political discourse. While many politicains rightfully spoke out against Wilson’s sad outburst, they all centered on the disrespect it directed at the Executive office. [CNN.com]
There was “no place for it in that setting or any other and he should apologize immediately.” – John McCain on Larry King Live
“It was crude and disrespectful. I think the person who said it will pay a price.” – Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin
“I was always taught that the first sign of a good education is good manners. I think that what we saw tonight was really bad manners. And having a spirited debate is one thing, exercising bad manners is another. That was beyond the pale — and I would hope that he would publicly apologize on that same floor to the president of the United States for that insult.” -House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina -
While it is certainly a sad day in our nation’s history when civil discourse devolves to hateful, warrantless vocal fussilades, it is even sadder when the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants Obama was talking about go completely ignored. Wilson has defended his nativist stance by stating that he has been an immigration attorney and that he is all for “legal immigration,” yet his xenophobic comments exhibit a powerful antagonism toward our nation’s immigrant community. The current plans being discussed would require “resident aliens” under tax law to buy health insurance, though it would not provide federal subsidies to undocumented immigrants. It is bewildering to try to decipher Wilson’s vehemence. Was his “You Lie!” comment directed at the fact that immigrants would be paying into a healthcare system largely targeted at providing healthcare to our nation’s aging, largely native-born population? Is Wilson frustrated that immigrants, legal or otherwise, pay their taxes and therefore have been supporting Social Security for years while never receiving an M.D. dime for it?
Surely everyone watching Wednesday night’s charged speech felt a repulsion at watching a civil debate turn into a heckler’s vaudeville act. The saddest thing, however, is that nativism once more got publicity on national television.