Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

Playing the Culture Card

By Thomas Kochman - 06.23.2009

As President Obama’s proposal for a national health care plan begins to generate some traction  one strategy of the opposition has been to use a TV ad arguing  that \”This government-run plan could crush all your other choices, driving them out of existence.” Richard Martin takes a close look at this in his article Television Ad Targets Health Reform. See the ad itself on Conservatives for Patients\’ Rights – Bulldozer 

This debate illustrates the power of culture to shape the way people look at an issue or policy. Freedom of choice for individuals in mainstream U.S. culture is a significant part of our value system.  It is able to garner support in and of itself regardless of what is being offered, like someone pitching equality –another U.S. value– but at the cost of making everyone poor.

I remember being asked to do a diversity program at a government agency and one man said, “We don’t discriminate against anyone here. We treat everyone like shit.” So in pitching equality we need to ask what is the quality of that equality? Likewise with respect to free choice; is the important question with respect to health care who decides, or what do the various plans offer?

I am reminded as we celebrate Juneteenth, a day commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865, the words of Frederick Douglas “Yet the Negro after his emancipation was precisely in this state of destitution…He was free from the individual master, but the slave of society. He had neither money, property, nor friends. He was free from the old plantation, but he had nothing but the dusty road under his feet.” 

So as we celebrate our cherished mainstream U.S. values like freedom, equality, and individual choice we also need to keep in mind that freedom without opportunity is hollow, as is equality without substance, and individual choice which doesn’t give us what we want or need.

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