Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Stewart Fails to Counter O'Reilly on Mythical Health Care Claims
I love Jon Stewart. I love him in the way a woman loves a man - even if he is a man she's never met. I love him in the way that an historian loves a person with courage. I love him in the way that a migraine sufferer loves darkness. And I love him in the way that a slap-stick comedian loves a well-placed banana peel. That's right, Jon Stewart turns me on, inspires me, dulls the pain, and makes me anticipate a good laugh - and on all counts he never disappoints. At least he hadn't, until now.
It's hard to criticize a hero. Saying Jon Stewart - in Saturday night's mock debate with Bill O'Reilly -missed a golden opportunity, a slam dunk; a perfect "gotcha" moment, just feels so disloyal. It's like saying Harriet Tubman didn't do enough because - with all the slaves she freed - she failed to free her own husband.
I know that this nation has elected officials that pray for rain, or say that evolution is a "lie sent from hell," or that 47% of the people are victims because not enough people understand the points that Stewart and others are making. Sadly, these unworthy elected officials are poised to be elected again. And worse still, Stewart can only reach so many. No matter how many Emmys he gets, he'll never have everyone listening to his particular brand of reasonable dialogue.
See, even though Stewart uses his charisma, courage, calm, and comedy to teach folks about their intellectual and economic slavery, there are some folks that just don't want to hear or can't absorb the message. I suspect fear or greed or both are the reasons the underdogs don't learn the lessons Stewart and his peers have to teach. The same was true for Tubman's hubby. He didn't choose freedom when she offered to convey him there, because he had a new woman and surrendered to his slavery so he could keep her.
People have been working against their own self-interest ever since the "I got mine" attitude was invented.
But accepting that Stewart can't reach them all, he does reach a whole pant load, and he can teach the ones he can reach. And that's why many of us turn to The Daily Show, not just for a good laugh at things that would ordinarily make us cry, but to learn a snappy retort for the folks who hold views diametrically opposed to our own. Think of it not as "trickle-down economics," or Mitt Romney's new "trickle-down government," but as "trickle-down shut your pie hole."
And there we sat, Saturday night. Each of us who had $4.95 to invest in true boob tube political theater - especially we viewers who saw the presidential debate earlier in the week and were still scraping our chins off our chests - we were perched on the end of our unmade beds clutching popcorn and soda pop ready to leap in the air with every well place blow Stewart delivered.
And how electric the air was when our diminutive David came out on stage to face off against one of the nation's most dismissive and arrogant Goliaths. Stewart loaded his sling shot full of truth pebbles and one after another he plinked them into the eyes of the mighty millionaire who - like Tubman's husband - could accept his own slavery because his fiscal mistress was by his side. Fame and money keep O'Reilly doing the bidding of his masters. He's enslaved to the politics of hatred and disregard.
One after another the pebbles sailed through the air and with every successive impact you could watch Stewart gain stature. OK, so the hydraulic lift helped. And those of us who have to go to Sunday dinner with cruel self-destructive family members that scape-goat the poor learned new and better ways to form our arguments. We thought, "I get it now Stewart. I laugh while I'm loading the sling shot. I look away coquettishly while I prepare my next missile. I reply in unruffled tones with the plain truth, keeping my aim steady as I defeat my ogre with sweet comedic common sense."
And then it happened. The big bully pulpit puppet O'Reilly landed a blow. He shot back a mythology bolder and Stewart failed to deflect it. And the sound of the impact as it fell unchallenged was deafening to all who know the truth about healthcare.
I web searched for the transcript of the debate but couldn't find it. And, unwilling to spring another $4.95 - a quarter of which will go to O'Reilly - I'll paraphrase what was and wasn't said. O'Reilly made the standard argument for free enterprise capitalist healthcare. And Stewart recounted that universal healthcare was the only solution to adequately provide for the medical needs of everyone.
O'Reilly Goliath recanted that we would become like Canada or the UK He lent legitimacy to his doom and gloom prognostications by claiming to have lived in the latter. He said that their systems were awful.
And Stewart retorted with: basically nothing. Nothing. He fell silent and then moved on. He left that "it's awful in Canada and the UK, I know I lived there" - as though living somewhere makes you an authority on everything - just laying there as though it were true.
Well, Jon Stewart, the man who has taught so many the correct response to every ridiculous claim, I have one for you. In Canada, and the UK they live longer. They don't just live longer; they pay less for the privilege. If their system is so bad, how come they live longer and pay less? O'Reilly wants a system where folks pay more and die sooner. It's as crazy as staying a slave for a booty call, rather than gaining your freedom and then freeing your mistress.