It is easy to take Wilson's crass behavior in isolation. After all, this was a political breech of decorum. While it is true, Democrats and Republicans have booed, or expressed their disagreement with incredulous laughter or even apparent inattentiveness. Most of us have never seen such classes behavior during a joint session of Congress.
Equally dismaying is that there are conservatives who have come to the defense of Wilson. As if that behavior is not only suddenly acceptable - its even right. Even when grudgingly admitting the boorishness of such an act, the admission is qualified with, 'Doesn't anyone remember when Democrats...'.
The fact is no one legislator, in living memory ever chose to voice his or her displeasure in such a way as to single themselves out to be the identifiable source of rudeness and disrespect. And no matter how supportive others try to be, if they are fellow congressmen or women, they obviously must know that there is such a thing as appropriate and inappropriate behavior, because, whatever they thought - they didn't engage in or repeat Wilson's outburst.
Because white people individualize charges of racism, they have a hard time (or at least feign having a hard time), understanding why African-Americans see this as racist behavior. It goes beyond the issue (although no one who doubted Obama's fiscal projections or other aspects of his health care plan shouted out 'you lie! It only came up when prospects of 'illegal' immigrants accessing health care benefits was mentioned). It is not only the right - it really is the responsibility of the minority party to serve as what is called 'the loyal opposition'.
What should be happening is that Republicans ought to present an opposing point of view. Whether it sees the legislative light of day - they have every right, indeed the responsibility, to share with us whatever savings and whatever lower costs their plans would provide.
No, its not disagreement, no matter how vehemently, with the president's positions that anyone minds.
What is dangerous to public discourse is the incivility, the personal animosity, the extremes to which some of our fellow citizens are going to delegitimize even the right of Barack Obama to hold the office of president. It is the unwillingness of political opportunists and otherwise talentless entertainers to paint the president as someone dark, sinister, foreign and 'un-American', someone from whom even children must be 'protected'.
It fans the flames of hatred in the hearts of those for whom the Office of President has been and should remain, the province of white men. And it is the dehumanization of the president, in the eyes of other citizens that objectifies him to such an extent, that he need not be accorded even the basic respect of even disapproving silence on the part of at least one congressman, who disagreed with him. As a matter of fact, Wilson, unlike any colleagues who might have felt the same way, didn't think the discipline of thought necessary, he just blurted out what he felt - in defiance of the tradition of the occasion, respect for the chamber, or how it might appear to colleagues who might be offended or an onlooking world - Obama wasn't the president then, he was just a 'liar'.
The reason black people see racism in the act, is because we are used to the objectification and otherwise 'disciplined' people, unable to control their emotions when it comes to 'intrusion' into positions to which we have previously not had access. It becomes easy not to accord a man or woman of color the same respect, the same courtesy, the same deference as they would someone who is white. And it is a softer type of racism, simply because its easier to mask it behind the veneer of 'ambition', 'professional disagreement', or even 'politics' or 'patriotism'.
There is a suspicion across the country that uproar about health care really isn't about health care. Republicans have had the majority needed to pass the type of health care reforms they currently tout and didn't. As a matter of fact the health care reform they did pass under the Bush Administration, the prescription drug coverage for Medicare, is projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
Towering deficits can't be that much of a concern.
No, this gives all of the appearance of something much uglier about current American culture. Something which makes it suddenly excusable to flirt with lines which border civility and decency because one is 'angry' and feels their 'freedoms' are 'threatened'. And its becoming acceptable in those who when it comes to sexual behavior, or money, or the exercise of responsibility in their public office, are said to be held to 'a higher standard'...
In the end it as akin to what is seen below: thoughtless, crass, course, ignorant, self-indulgent, rude and, yes, racist behavior.
The difference is we don't have to buy Kanye West's records. The public policy decisions of Joe Wilson and his ilk impact us all, whether we or not we think so.
And not for the better...