Elie Wiesel penned the phrase “…the oppose of love is not hate, it’s indifference…” way back in 1986. This is an undeniable truth, and although I’m sometimes very poor in recognizing this by demonstrating otherwise in my own behavior, I do try to remember it when I find people or things are beginning to bother me. No more have I tried to follow this philosophy than in my political relationships. Naturally, certain people aren’t going to like me. I accept that. Again, I’m not perfect but I do try.
This is why it’s also a bit bothersome to me what the Obama Administration is demonstrating in its response to the growing chorus of criticisms about its Obamacare rollout. The things that Obama should be ambivalent about seem to be the rub while those that the administration should focus significantly on are what we don’t seem to find much care about. Responding to criticisms of your person will never end well, as it does nothing but contribute to a tit-for-tat environment; taking customer complaints as opportunities for improvement are what successful organizations do across the world, regardless of how justifiable those complaints might be.
First, let’s take a look at the things he should be taking seriously. Edie Littlefield Sundby by know is a well-known cancer survivor/patient from California. One of the most oft quoted passages from her article in the Wall Street Journal reads:
My grievance is not political; all my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics. For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.
While Ms. Sundy’s story is anecdotal, there is a disturbing trend of evidence that real people are being hurt by the stream of cancellation notices taking place. The response from the left and Obama Administration is frightening. Think Progress took the approach of saying “No, Ms. Sundby, here’s why you don’t understand you’re wrong…” in an article posted earlier today. This mirrors the Obama Administration’s public relations plan of blaming those greedy ol’ insurance companies that decided to cancel the policies after the individual mandates came into force.
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) November 4, 2013
Here’s why this is bothersome. Obama’s routinely followed the tactic of “kill the messenger” in order to maintain the moral high ground in his communications. While the commentary coming out against Sundby is a telling example, simply look at the budget debacle that recently concluded and how Obama’s entire series of arguments can be summed up in #GOPShutdown. It’s always someone else’s fault, and I will do whatever I can to make sure people see it.
This is problematic in a very real way in that it necessarily draws attention away from the real conversation needed to address the problems at hand. Attack the messenger, defenders will begin to fire, and now you have a battle of words over who is the bad guy. Make no mistake, as the GOP and the right begins to engage in the tit-for-tat environment they only contribute to the problem. That said, the type of arguments we should ambivalent towards are gaining far too much ground and have commanded our attention far, far too much. Debate and rational policies suffer because of it.
Which is what Obama continues to maintain an ignorance of, and in my opinion, for very good reason – his policy is broken already and the rollout has done nothing but demonstrate that truth. The tales of healthcare.gov failing are legendary by this point, but it is now coming to light the Administration knew of the potential impact to consumers. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that the alternate enrollment methods are not working quite as well as they should, either. Even furthermore, significant portions of the bill have been demonstrated by actuary tables – the very instruments intended to make insurance plans and pools work – to be unsustainable. Even even furthermore, Obama’s going as far to say he never made the promises he was videotaped making.
This, too, unfortunately demonstrates the disturbing trend among American political groups of their completely irrational devotion to their own stuff. Another such example is Common Core. When Republican states were leading the charge for a nationally based methods to make Springfield, IL the same as Springfield, TN the same as Springfield, MA in terms of education, we heard not a peep. Now that a Democrat president has incorporated the standards into his own methods of improving education, the conservatives are willing to rise up and challenge the “federal takeover” without acknowledging the GOP’s role in creating that takeover. Don’t get me wrong, Common Core is a bad idea and major liberalization of the education market must occur, but also don’t get the facts wrong.
Wiesel’s statement goes on to say “…the opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. The opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” There are things we should be indifferent to, at least in terms of the potential negative impacts they have on us. Personalizing the attacks that may come our way, whether intended to cut us deeply or provide valuable criticism, is something we should be indifferent to. There are things we should not take so lightly, such the ways in which such criticisms can demonstrate a path towards improvement. That our politics is now driven so much by personality and cult like following around individual people should be bothersome.
After all, the opposite of a free society is not totalitarianism, it’s indifference. Let’s not be indifferent to what’s happening and why. As I’ve said before, and will continue to say again and again, it’s our personal philosophy that demands attention. Obama will eventually go, but it’s the philosophy he holds and continues to proselytize that will inevitably be our biggest threat.