“Most stupidity isn’t really stupidity.”

“Well YOU were the one who brought it up!” My conversation partner snapped at me. He  was irritated by my request that he define ‘government-run health care,’ which he adamantly opposed.

“I’m sure I did not  use that term,” I said, “because I sincerely don’t know what it means. No one has come close to proposing a British-style NHS for the United States.”

“Well, all right, the term you used was ‘public option.”

Ahhh, yes. I did say ‘public option.’

“The public option was never really on the table, either,” I explained, “but that is not what I would call ‘government-run.’ Option means choice—we’d get a choice. And public means it belongs to you and me–we get to hold the people who run it accountable, even vote them out if we want.”

“I want others to be able to patronize Aetna or Joe’s Bargain HMO, if that’s what they want,” I continued. “But I would like to buy into Medicare. I’ll pay premiums, whatever the actuaries say is necessary to cover my costs. When I need care, I could shop around among private-sector doctors and hospitals, just as Medicare participants do now.”

I could tell he had never heard of such a thing and I had the sense that he, too, would like such an option.

But our discussion had shaped up as a debate with witnesses around a lunch table. He had to either win or withdraw. So he fell silent.

I’ll never know, but it’s possible this pinhead pricked at least a small hole in my friend’s inflated confidence in Bill O’Reilly’s commentary.

After another recent failed political discussion, my husband told me, “Some people cannot be reached.” True, but how do we know which ones they are until we try?

My self-styled opponent was not born believing that ‘public option’ meant ‘government-run health care.’ Someone taught him that and fairly recently, too. I refuse to perceive him as dumb or lazy. I refuse to let my friend’s beliefs get shaped entirely by lying strangers when I, a friendly fellow citizen, am sitting right beside him. That would merely strengthen the wall between us and in doing so, weaken our democracy just a little bit more.

“I believe most stupidity isn’t really stupidity,” Michael Moore said in a recent interview. “It’s ignorance, which means it can be corrected with education and information.”

(Originally posted on my Open Salon blog on September 14, 2011.)

(Aside to readers: this award-winning article on health care costs is a must-read.)


About Karen McKim

Retired from a 30-year career in public sector quality assurance and management auditing, I now spend my time freelance writing, largely on topics related to our right to self-government. I have two main focuses: how we can protect our election results from miscounts (whether deliberate or accidental), and skills for talking politics with our fellow citizens. I am based in Wisconsin.
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