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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is there a proctologist in the House?

As an ABC reporter put it, Congress tried to hold a joint session last night and a town hall broke out.

Rep. Joe Wilson's doltish "You lie!" may have stunned people who think that important business must be done in an atmosphere of decorum, but his was not the only action that invoked the boisterous rabble. Like a petulant student who is asked to listen to material above and beyond him, Rep. Eric Cantor sat through the speech furiously poking away at his Blackberry. Other members of Congress held up signs, sheaves of paper, gave out insolent shouts and guffaws, and found many ways to throw their diapers into the proceedings.

Until this year, a town hall was a forum in which citizens could address leaders and obtain information. Now, as the ABC reporter used the term, a town hall has become a verbal lynching held for the purpose of subjecting someone to insult, abuse, humiliation and to escalate verbal disorder into violence. Obama ran on the promise of change, but his opponents have interjected their own kind of change, and is a change in the language, with what town hall has come to mean as a prime example.

Congress, at least part of it, is truly representing the people. Rather than displaying qualities of leadership that evince intelligence, purposeful dialogue, and aspiring goals, they have adopted the mien of the town hall with displays of intransigence and boisterous petulance.

The U.S. has incorporated a ritual portrayed by George Orwell in 1984. Everyday, activities would stop at a certain time and people would flock in front of television screens to watch and hear someone or some group being attacked in what was called the five minutes of hate. Now people gather in front of their radios and television sets to hear and watch Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and many other "media personalities" lead them in sessions of misinformation, disinformation, and hate. They have become the putative voices and leaders of the Republican Party. Last night many in Congress fell in line and adopted their way of doing the country's business.

That segment has been celebrating the resignation of Van Jones as an adviser to the President because Jones had the temerity to reveal why so many Republicans are opposed to the health-care reform proposals. According to Jones' terminology, the only medical service they require is proctology. Some members in Congress defined themselves as qualifying for that medical attention last night.

The emissions vented in the House chambers last night occur constantly in the blogosphere, on cable television, and talk radio. It is all becoming our culture. Soon the adjourning of Congress will mean a mindless brawl.

Proctology offers no cure for what is happening to the culture. But it is the speciality best qualified to work on it.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States