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Anger taken too far
Threats and vandalism have no place in debates over health reform law

One argument against the newly signed health care reform law was that it is an example of the Washington elites ignoring the will of the people.

But if "the people" are now engaging in acts of vandalism and threats of personal violence directed at members of Congress, then their will ought not only to be ignored, but condemned and, in some cases, prosecuted.

There's a lot to criticize in the health care act, as followers of this space no doubt are aware. The process included a rash of political log-rolling and arm-twisting at its worst, while the most urgent reason for reform -- cost control -- drew only bits of budget trickery that are unlikely to be effective.

None of that justified the expressions of anger burbling up through some of the more deranged elements of the Tea Party movement. Assuming the pose of violent revolutionaries while portraying their own elected officials as Nazis, communists or sociopathic killers is not the kind of behavior that earns anyone a seat at the table when important policy matters are being hashed out.

And now that the bill has passed, a small but unhinged number of Americans are taking out their unformed, uninformed and totally out-of-proportion anger on members of Congress by issuing threats, throwing bricks through windows and doing other things that can only be viewed as terrorism. They need to be disavowed and ostracized by the movements that claim opposition based on principle, intellect and ideology.

Western New York's own Rep. Louise Slaughter, one of the House leaders who quite openly did all she could to get a bill passed, has seen her Niagara Falls office attacked and has received cowardly anonymous threats against herself and her family. A representative from Arizona and Democratic Party officials in Rochester and Kansas have also seen their offices attacked. At least as disturbing is the news that members of Congress have been the victims of direct abuse, spat upon in the Capitol itself and become the targets of racist and homophobic slurs.

People who engage in such behavior when they lose a political argument are not patriots. They are thugs. They provide emotional impetus to be for anything they are against and against anything they are for, and anyone who seeks power by currying the favor of such brutes does representative democracy no favor.

If anyone acts on political anger and really harms someone, it will be the legal responsibility of that person alone. But it is incumbent upon our leaders, and our would-be leaders, to turn down the heat and encourage us all to be guided by the better angels of our nature.

The cure for failure in the democratic process is more democratic process. People remain free to speak, write and petition their government for a redress of grievances. If you are reading this editorial online, there's a "comment" button below. If you are reading it on paper, we still gladly accept letters to the editor -- at least from people who wish to offer constructive alternatives to any law or proposed law.

And then there's that little thing called an election coming up in less than eight months. If you are angry with the government at any level, that is where to take it out on your elected officials, where they will feel it the most, in a way that makes people look empowered, not deranged.

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