Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grass Roots Movement

grass roots [gras-roots, -roots, grahs-]

–noun (used with a singular or plural verb)
1. the common or ordinary people, esp. as contrasted with the leadership or elite of a political party, social organization, etc.; the rank and file.
2. the agricultural and rural areas of a country.
3. the people inhabiting these areas, esp. as a political, social, or economic group.
4. the origin or basis of something; the basic or primary concept, rule, part, or the like.

1910–15 Americanism for def. 1

of, pertaining to, or involving the common people, esp. as contrasted with or separable from an elite: a grass-roots movement for nuclear disarmament.


According to the media, there is a grass roots movement developing against the healthcare reform bills being discussed in Washington. Really!? Has the meaning of this phrase changed at some point? Is this some strange, new usage I was previously unaware of? Has this phrase come to mean "manufactured and rude opposition created and supported by established media groups and funded by lobbyists?" How times change!

The opposition says that they don't want the government to impose a bureaucrat between the patient and the doctor. They say that they don't want healthcare rationing. But that is exactly what we have now. It is profitable to the healthcare industry as they impose artificial barriers between people and the healthcare they need; there is an insurance company bureaucrat sitting there and passing decisions on what you can and cannot get in the way of healthcare. They impose limits on what they will pay for thus imposing limits on the care you can receive; they price coverage and treatment so cost-prohibitively that we have de facto healthcare rationing.

They say that there is a grass-roots movement that is against the proposed plan. This may be true, but very few grass-roots movements have to be whipped into a frenzy by the opposition-controlled media and industry lobby. Very few grass-roots movements have to be bussed between the various town hall meetings to disrupt them. Very few grass-roots movements are spouting verbatim the talking points they have heard on the opposition-friendly radio commentator's shows.

I had heard on the local radio station while driving to work that a cadre of protestors were riding in a bus chartered by one of the opposition groups between the venues. "Surely not!" I thought to myself. Who would do something so obviously manufactured and call it a "grass-roots movement?"

But then last evening on the local news there was coverage in the coverage of the local town hall meetings which had been disrupted by protest, it was eerie how similar the talking points being shouted were. And if you had a DVR, as I do, and could zip back and watch the confusion again, you would have seen what I saw. Three people in the crowd were at all the covered disruptions. One of them even yelled at the speaker the same protest lines at two different meetings. Seems a bit scripted to me but… If this is a grass-roots movement the meaning of that phrase has vastly changed since I learned it. If this is a grass roots movement, I am Mr. Universe!

Two lines that really makes me cracked-up that these "grass-roots" people keep yelling really crack me up because of their delicious dissonance. Their clear opposite underlying premises are mutually exclusive but they keep getting chanted as if they were natural partnered ideas.

"Keep your hands off my Medicare!" and "I don’t want the government involved in my health care!" Uh, what is Medicare except for a government-run healthcare program? Perhaps the opposition expects us to conveniently forget that fact.

Wherever you are today, I hope you will have a pleasant and politically aware day!

Don Bergquist – August 11, 2009 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

Editor's Note:

This was originally part of a much longer screed to be published on Sunday but as I decided the issues were really two-different issues, I have split it into two postings. Please see Sunday's posting for the other issue which had been a part of this posting.

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