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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Newsflash: Government happens. Every. Single. Day.

Mere hours after the health care legislation passed in the House of Representatives late Sunday, Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ office was vandalized. Though no local conservative groups are claiming that the act, which left several windows broken, is anything more than coincidental, the shattering of the window on that particular night seems less than arbitrary.

The splintering cracks in Giffords’ office windows only mirror the splintering of political allegiances and abandonment of decency in the wake of the controversial legislation’s passage. The antics of right-of-center political pundits have gone from ridiculous to downright puerile. They have called names, threatened to leave the country, and called for physical harm. People are watching actually watching C-SPAN. The trending topics on Twitter have switched from being about autotuned-chipmunk-sounding popstars with suspiciously shiny hair to being about important issues of policy.

Despite what the conservative talking heads may be spouting at the top of their lungs, these are not signs of the apocalypse. This is what it looks like when people pay attention to their government. Given that this is not an election event, the level of interest in the passage of the health care bill was at a level unlike any other in recent memory.

Yes, this is historic legislation, with a hefty price tag and a long history of negotiations leading to the bill’s passage Tuesday morning. The event did deserve the attention it received from people whose usual idea of health care reform is watching “”The Biggest Loser.”” But why is this the only event in Washington that garners any attention from Americans who are not already interested in Congressional politics?

Violence is never the best method to hold one’s officials accountable. If the parties responsible for the vandalism on Representative Giffords’ office were unhappy with the way she was doing her job, they should have started paying attention to what was going on in healthcare legislation long before the bill reached the House. Some may claim Giffords was not representing all of her constituents when she voted for the bill. However, given that she represents a district of Tucson, an area that is generally socially liberal, Giffords was probably representing the majority. She was doing her job — representing the general desire of the people who voted for her on national issues.

If the rock-throwers do not like how Giffords is representing them, the better course of action will be to vote against her when she runs for reelection in November. Critics of the bill should also put down the rocks and pick up the newspapers. Large-scale healthcare reform should come as no surprise to anyone with a television or Internet connection, as it was a major part of President Obama’s campaign.

It is easy, in modern media, to only watch channels or frequent news outlets that pander to the stance one already holds. The conservatives watch Fox News, and the liberals watch CNN.  The danger here is that the conservatives seem to have been surprised by the passage of the healthcare bill. Had they taken a chance between buying flag pins and yelling about guns to pay attention to what Democrats in Congress were doing, they might have had the chance to see this coming and, one might hope, react to this passage a bit more gracefully.

These same awestruck conservatives are constantly throwing about the phrase “”what America wants,”” usually in conjunction with the assertion that healthcare is not what America wants. But ours is not a system governed by name-calling and rock-throwing. The American people elected Obama, by a much more generous margin than they afforded Mr. Bush when he first claimed to be “”what America wanted.””  Obama has been talking about dramatic health care reform for several years, and yet voters chose him. Voters also chose representatives who have supported health care reform, including local Representative Gabriel Giffords.

Those surprised by the passage of this legislation and those who are just now figuring out that Obama does more than look classy on a poster should remember that governance is happening every day. Those old guys in Washington who wear ridiculously yellow ties and look suspiciously like Admiral Akbar are busy representing voters every day, not just when the price tags are big, the press is enthusiastic, or the legislation is “”a trap!”” Even when Congress is not in session, local governments are operating, campaigns are being organized, and individual citizens are making more effective contributions to government than rocks through windows.

— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English who firmly believes that the pen is mightier than the rock. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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