Disrespect in Congress, Vol. 8, Issue 22

It is with no little reluctance that Etiquetteer takes up the issue of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-udesby) and his outburst on the floor of the Senate during President Barack Obama's speech on healthcare Wednesday, September 10. Never has the decorum of the government of the United States acheived such an insulting low. Well, at least once before, when Rep. Preston Brooks violently caned Senator Charles Sumner on May 22, 1856. And Etiquetteer hopes it isn't a coincidence that Rep. Brooks and Rep. Wilson both represented the state of South Carolina. Both were sad days for the nation, and Etiquetteer prays fervently that civil war will not follow this latest breach of Perfect Propriety. It's generally acknowledged that Rep. Wilson's behavior was inexcusable, even by his own party, so Etiquetteer has no need of rehashing it. (On the other hand, didn't his mother ever teach him that it's rude to interrupt? Etiquetteer's mother certainly did!) Rep. Wilson did himself no favors by declaring on CNN (according to The New York Times [see final paragraph]) that the Republican Party told him to apologize. An apology carries more weight if one can believe it comes unprompted, so this gives Rep. Wilson another opportunity to depict himself, and all politicians, as insincere.

One Female Acquaintance expressed delight at this turn of events as it "highlighted the absence of content" in the President's speech. Let us then turn to a question posed to Etiquetteer by an Elderly Gentleman For Whom Etiquetteer Holds No Little Affection: Just how can you call the President of the United States a liar if you can't do so on the floor of the Senate? Etiquetteer can only suggest that you finesse it by concentrating on the issues instead of personalities. In this particular case, Rep. Wilson's issue with the President's healthcare legislation was that no method existed to verify an applicant's citizenship, thereby allowing the possibility that illegal immigrants might receive healthcare funded by American taxpayers. This transforms "The President is a liar!" into "The President is [Insert Adjective of Your Choice Here] mistaken!" You then hastily back it up with well-researched facts and figures.

As it turns out, to Etiquetteer's and perhaps the nation's sorrow, both these politicians have been exposed as mistaken since Wednesday's unseemly outburst. Turns out that Rep. Wilson voted to fund healthcare for illegal immigrants with federal funds in 2003, and President Obama's healthcare plan did not, in fact, have any such mechanism (but at least according to this article, it's in the works).

Fatalistically, Etiquetteer sees the United States descending into Chaos due to a lack of Perfect Propriety. Free speech is more than a freedom, it is a Sacred Trust, and Etiquetteer grieves deeply that so many thousands of Americans are using their Freedom of Speech in Anger and without Reason. There can be no debate, there can be no unity, while each side demonizes the other. (And have we not already seen this in the last 40 years with the abortion debate?) One side is not all-black, the other not all-white; each has the full spectrum of color and nuance. Etiquetteer implores you to look beyond the personalities involved, and your own emotions, and engage in this important national debate with Knowledge, Reason, and Compassion.