Jews and the health care debate

Jews and the health care debate

If you need anymore proof that the health care debate is possibly the most contentious of the year, then look no further than the front page of many major newspapers Wednesday.
There was U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, the newly minted Pennsylvania Democrat, standing calm and composed at a town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pa., while a protester screamed in his face, waving papers and accusing him of “trampling on our Constitution!”
Oh, please.
The health care debate has deteriorated into a cacophony of name-calling, intimidation, rumor mongering, scare tactics and political rhetoric. It must stop.
We’re not going to endorse a public option, single payer or any other fix in this space. We are simply going to make two points: First, the rising cost of health care is hurting too many middle class Americans, including Jews, and second, something has to be done.
But it has to be done civilly, without the politics.
That’s not happening. One South Carolina senator, Jim DeMint, has already stated that he sees this debate as a chance to “break” the president (apparently just disagreeing with him isn’t enough); hecklers are showing up at town hall meetings accusing President Obama of not being a citizen (he is, but we wonder what this has to do with health care in the first place).
Finally, and this is the most despicable development, efforts are being made to scare the most vulnerable among us, senior citizens, with falsehoods, like one purporting that the government will make end-of-life decisions for the elderly if the health care bill weaving its way through Congress becomes law.
It won’t. Enough said.
We know people feel passionately about their positions on health care reform, but that doesn’t mean we should try to make our positions prevail at any cost. If we do that, the truth of our opinions, no matter what we believe, will be lost in the scuffle.
This debate is too important to let that happen.
Now, the organized Jewish community is diving deeper into the debate. Jewish organizations are among the sponsors of a national call-in and Web cast on health care reform featuring the president.
Entitled “40 Minutes for Health Reform,” the Aug. 19 call is part of the “40 Days of Health Reform” campaign sponsored by a multitude of religious groups and faith coalitions, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, United Jewish Communities and National Council of Jewish Women.
The Chronicle plans to listen in. You should, too.
Our hope is that these representatives of the Jewish tradition, which has a highly developed set of ethics and morality, might turn the heat down on this debate so we can return to a healthy and respectful exchange of facts. It’s not too late.