In earlier columns, I have upset conservative readers by suggesting that their response to Democratic governing has been to throw temper tantrums and to engage in actions that border on anarchy. One reader suggested that my view reflected a fear of conservatives. In particular, this writer thought I had real problems accepting “thinking folks” that disagreed with me. I do confess to a fear of non-thinking, viscerally oriented folks but thinking people excite me. However, I must ask the conservatives where the “thinking folks” are hiding. Party leaders and quasi-leaders sound just like the protestors outside the Capitol. It has been one gigantic, ugly, very ugly temper tantrum, especially since health care reform became the law of the land.

I have been looking for “thinking folks” within the conservative community. I prefer to discuss important issues with people who disagree with me. I have written before that I think the very best ideas come from the political dialogue between opposing views. Unfortunately, such dialogue requires all parties to seek a melding of ideas in order to forge dynamic solutions to thorny issues. This is the point where conservatives left the farm. Their message has been “my way or the highway.” Alternatively, as John Boehner said, “No, we can’t!”

Whereas my previous characterization of conservative behavior may have been controversial, it should now be obvious that my description was actually tame. Conservatives are acting like hysterical children throwing a prolonged temper tantrum. First, and this addresses the writer, conservatives have failed to put forth a reasonable set of arguments against the current health care reform bill. Nor have they provided any details of how they would reform the system. Yes, I am aware they put out a 219-page document outlining their proposed changes but it was an outline. Outlines lack the specific details that allow one to examine and determine exactly how the changes would affect the consumer. Where are the “thinking folks” in the conservative movement?

Second, conservatives gave us managed care in 1994 using the same principles outlined in their current 219-page document. Using those principles, people are denied coverage, pre-existing conditions are not covered or there is a long waiting period, cesarean section can be considered a pre-existing condition, people can lose their policy if they get sick, managed care panels determine whether to approve or deny a recommended treatment, and the list of abuses go on. It was conservative principles that created the “donut hole” in the Prescription Drug Bill that costs seniors thousands of dollars a year. Republicans have had more than 15 years to tweak and reform the health system but did nothing. It took the Democrats to rein in the out-of-control health system that many of us could no longer afford. I have always been puzzled how pro-life adherents can justify abandoning 45 million people without insurance, knowing that about 45,000 a year will die because of a lack of affordable health care. They insist a fertilized egg be brought to term but after birth, the child is on its own. I suppose they are really pro-birth, not pro-life.

Third, whether the majority of conservatives are wonderful people or not, the face of the conservative moment is downright ugly. It should never be a problem to have legitimate disagreements. That is an integral part of this country. However, to disparage, personally attack your opponent, make death threats, and vandalize Congressional offices is very third world, uncivilized, emotional, and hysterical. Limbaugh makes fun of chronic illness and appeals to the worst in us. Protestors in DC called Congressmen the N-word, spit on a Congressman, called Barney Frank a fag, Bart Stupak a “baby killer,” carry signs mocking the President, and bring politics to a new low. Palin has crosshairs on the Congressional districts of Democrats and tells her followers to “reload.” The fear-mongering, obstructionism, outright lies about “death panels,” and telling seniors they will lose their Medicare are tactics of poor losers, not patriots. The Bachmann’s, King’s, and Fox’s make such outrageous claims as to be unbelievable. Hysterical, not thoughtful. Declaring the intent to secede from this country because you do not approve of the policies of a legitimately elected government is hysterical.

However, you might say, these public faces do not reflect the conservative movement. Then where are the reasonable public faces? Certainly not McConnell or Boehner who deliberately distort provisions in the health care reform bill and fail to mention that over 200 conservative amendments are contained in the reconciliation bill. I have scoured the internet, newspapers, and letters to the editor looking for conservative voices saying, “These public faces do not represent me or my views.” I did not mention Beck because he appeals to the National Inquirer crowd who believe in two-headed alien babies.

I am not fearful of dissent. I am not fearful of disagreement. I am fearful of hysteria. I am fearful of uninformed, misdirected, and misinformed anger. We have watched countries torn apart over ethnic and religious differences. This country is not immune to an ideological rendering. After all, we have had one civil war. We do not need another. However, when conservatives call themselves “freedom fighters” and make death threats over extending health coverage to an additional 32 million people that is just a little over the top don’t you think?

Conservatives do not have a lock on the principles that make this country great. They are not the only guardians and interpreters of the Constitution. They are not the only people who think they know the intentions of the founding fathers. However, they do sound a lot like a religious cult, i.e., they think they are the only ones with the “truth.” This democracy is moving on. They need to get on the right side of history.

Jim Fitzgerald

Jim Fitzgerald

A clinically trained psychologist, Jim had a private practice in Cobb County for almost 30 years. For the last ten years he has been a Professor of Psychology at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, but lives in the North Georgia Mountains.