It’s easy to forget how black ink on a piece of dried wood pulp can force you and me to change our daily lives.
On Thursday, June 28, a group of people reached a decision. They put their pens to paper – or more likely, made their clerks type up their opinions – to let the country know the individual mandate of Obamacare is constitutional. Well, sort of.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been abroad at an international summer school in Norway in the land of snow, ridiculously good- looking blond people (I’ve lost count of how many times I thought I saw Thor from The Avengers) and black metal. I spend my days surrounded by students from Poland, Russia, Italy, Azerbaijan and Venezuela, to name a few.
I’ve been asked several times what’s going on in the U.S. right now. And my response is usually “Well the Supreme Court just OK’d a health care law, which is pretty significant.” When asked to explain, I find myself talking to students who seem perplexed about why the U.S. hasn’t established full social health care, given its more cost-effective nature.
My explanation of how Obamacare functions, and what the Supreme Court of the United States decided, usually ends with a sort of disclaimer; It’s a nuanced decision, turning on how the mandate’s primary mechanism is defined. It was also a 5-4 vote. It will also most likely be challenged in court by Republicans as not being a tax. Really, nothing’s certain.
Yet some Republicans became so enraged that they tweeted desires to move to Canada, as reported by The Huffington Post – ignorant tweeters, Imma let you finish and all, but Canada has social healthcare. Democrats took to Twitter and Facebook to praise the decision like giddy pubescent boys who just successfully asked out a girl for the first time, not realizing the complexity of the ruling and the (potentially reversing) implications it has for the law’s future tenability.
The next question I get from international students is usually some variation of “Are people really as ignorant as they seem to be over there”? When I first got that question, I wanted to reply that Americans aren’t as oblivious as we’re often portrayed.
Then I thought about the students I saw at the protests last year with megaphones, filling the air with lofty ideals of rights and justice. I saw students there that had been in my political science classes and could barely grip the fundamentals of the political process. I thought of the others I saw who did it because it was “cool.” I thought about the public school teachers I know that voted for Gov. Scott Walker the first time, not understanding what they were voting for but just wanting something different. I thought of Mitt Romney supporters who snarl and bare their teeth at the very mention of Obamacare despite the fact that Romneycare functions in nearly identical ways.
It’s hard to say we’re not ignorant when every example you can think of demonstrates otherwise.
The Obamacare battle is far from over. A 5-4 SCOTUS decision is not an overwhelming victory, just as Walker’s 53% recall victory is not an overwhelming landslide. Yes, it’s now almost certain that citizens who previously couldn’t afford health care will now be covered. But this is just one issue facing our state and country right now. It’s important, but it’s only one piece in the political system. There’s social security. There’s student debt. There’s financial deregulation.
Looking at the Obamacare ruling and Wisconsin from outside the country, it becomes clear that an abundance of ignorance exists, as it does everywhere in the world. What’s going on in our state and country on a daily basis cannot be understood by reading a friend’s tweet or status update. One must be wary that it’s just as easy to believe a lie that supports your position as it is a truth.
Don’t blindly accept the words of those with similar politics as you.
Whatever your political leanings are, there’s a hundred justified counter arguments. And when you begin to appreciate that, you realize that those you disagree with aren’t ignoble idiots. Obamacare is not going to destroy the country, and Walker is not the embodiment of fascism.
Getting over ignorance, one of the most crucial lessons one can learn in college, begins first by understanding that political issues are not cut-and-dried. SCOTUS decisions are more than just ink on paper and are far from simple and definite. I urge all of you incoming freshman interested in politics to realize this and to take your college experience one step further and hang out with those you disagree with. Madison’s biggest weakness is its one-mindedness. Don’t fall into that trap.
Reginald Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in legal studies and Scandinavian studies.