Wednesday, September 14, 2011

So this is what it has come to

At this week's Rebuplican debate, Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul (R.Tx) whether a previously-healthy 30-year-old man who chose not to buy health insurance, but who goes into a coma, should be left to die in a hospital emergency room.  After Paul opined that government should not be involved, that "that's what freedom is about, taking your own risks," the audience erupted in cheers and laughter. 

So this is what the GOP has come to.  The crowd at last week's debate cheered mention of the 234 people that Rick Perry has put to death in Texas--never mind that in at least a few of those cases there was serious doubt about guilt, in some about the mental capacity of the condemned and in others still grave doubt of the competence of defense counsel.

I can't help but contrast this new, mean party with the Republicans of the past.  I've written before about Capt. Tom Philip, of the USS Oregon, who cautioned his men at the Battle of Santiago, "Don't cheer, boys, the poor devils are dying."  

I don't  know whether Capt. Philip was  a Republican, although I have read that he was a serious Christian and the nation was overwhelmingly aligned with the GOP in 1898.  Even if the Captain was apolitical, it seems to me that the call to his men, who had just helped decimate the Spanish fleet, embodies part of a conservative but essentially decent spirit that is associated with traditional Republicanism.  And, of course, there was Lincoln, one of the first members of the party, "Let us go forward, now, to bind up the wounds..."

Since the GOP became the party of big business and, later, of nativism, there has always been a strain of inhumanity.  Think of the use of troops to break the railway strike of 1894, the Homestead Massacre and other incidents.  And, let's be honest, those on the left have also been willing, on occasion, to celebrate violence and even death.  There was the Haymarket Bombing, the bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and even Woody Guthrie's banjo, which was inscribed, "This machine kills   fascists."  

Still, it's unsettling to think that the kingmakers of one of our major parties may wear such callousness about their fellow humans as a badge of pride.