Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Long, Long History of Misinformation

As I watch the procession of Teddy Kennedy's body to the Kennedy Library and listen to the media folks discuss his heritage, I can't help but hear a bit of my mother's voice. My mother was scared, very scared of the Kennedy family. I remember her uncontrollable sobs the night John F. Kennedy was elected. She was convinced that the Pope would be taking over the United States with JFK as his mouthpiece and we would all be forced to become Catholics. It was a very real fear for her and one she never overcame, even later in life when she became (gasp) a Democrat. I carefully hid my Kennedy campaign buttons from her!
Mom had lots of these fears, including the fear so common at the time of the "niggers" who were going to take over the world and commit some unmentionable atrocities against innocent, unsuspecting white folks.
So, remembering Mom's fears, I have some familiarity with the fears we have heard expressed lately at the town hall meetings. Now Mom would never have expressed her views publicly, but times have changed and people seem to be willing to share all kinds of things publicly these days. I have no idea where she got her crazy ideas about Kennedy or, for that matter, blacks. In the case of blacks, I suspect she came by those fears almost genetically from her parents. As for the Kennedy's, I do not know. I suspect it was more fear of Catholicism than of the actual Kennedy family. And that may have been from her family as well.
At any rate, it all made me realize that fears, unreasonable and uninformed fears, are not unique to those who fear health care reform. There may be more ready access to misinformation that feeds the fears, but the fears themselves are ageless. The public way in which they are revealed and the screaming nature of their presentation are new, but the fears are "same old, same old" and they are as stubbornly resistant to facts and truth as they ever were.

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