In an op-ed column for The New York Times a few days ago, Frank Rich criticizes the violent response to the newly passed health care bill as being over dramatized for the size of its importance. Hardly is the bill as revolutionary, Rich points out, as the New Deal or Civil Rights Act, but recent days have seen protesting (from public displays to rash actions by elected officials) on harsh moral grounds rather than political or economical ones. In fact, as Rich says: “as no less a conservative authority than The Wall Street Journal editorial page observed last week, the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas.” The interesting part of Rich’s article is not about republican or democrat ideals, but about demographic ones. Rich suggests that perhaps the seemingly uncalled for fighting between the parties is about color, not creed. The response would have been the same, Rich says, regardless of whatever first major act Obama took in office, because the response is to the changing hands of power rather than any true objection to governance.
I read this article with our discussion of the impact of politics on epistemology in mind. In class, we talked about how our understanding of epistemology is contingent upon our setting in society and all the things that make up our politics. The idea that we construct our own knowledge, one that is situated at all levels, has a bearing on politics as well. We reify the placement of power in the hands of a thoroughly white male few, and in so doing convey epistemologies of white supremacy into the fabric of politics and American identity. Using that reasoning, it doesn’t seem like a stretch that Rich suggests we are experiencing a national panic at the incorporation of women, minorities, and gays into our political system. True, the health care bill is a controversial topic in our media, but the precipitating nature of malice between elected officials and members of opposing platforms seems too much reaction from a more or less apathetic nation to be brought on only by health care reform. A changing identity would pose both a more sizable and subtle disease to diagnose, and at the root of the conflict is the problematic political nature of epistemology.