Saturday, August 08, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Our small town has a small newspaper. The front page is generally made up invitations to various events, pictures of businesses donating to charity, and ribbon cutting ceremonies. About once a year it contains pictures from the big local "Shakin' in the Shell" event. The pages within are standard too--local happenings, sheriff's reports, the local animal shelter's newest offering, obituaries, want ads, recipes, fishing reports, church reports, health advice, recipes, and letter wars over whatever has excited the interest of the local residents that week.

Believe it or not, everyone in the house loves to read this paper and there are often arguments over who gets it first (I usually win).Last week our local paper ran a "Letter from the Editor" which did more than get my attention, it irritated me. The column included the contents of an article I've seen in seen in various places around the internet. No credit for the source was given and the reader was left with the impression that this information was compiled by the editor themselves. But this wasn't as much of a concern to me as the believability of the contents. The average reader is inclined to trust newspapers as a source of facts, and they're even more inclined to believe it if it's spouted by someone they respect, like a well-liked local newspaper editor.

In case you've missed it, people not doing their own homework is a pet peeve of mine, but my bigger pet peeve is people who spread harmful internet rumors. Still this required some serious self-examination before I decided that action on my part was called for. For the first time in my life, I wrote a letter to the editor. I really had no idea what to expect, but I received an email shortly afterward from someone in the office staff asking me if I could edit it to 250 words (Me? Write something long? Imagine that!). I don't think they expected me to send it back so fast (Great verbosity requires even greater editing skills).

I am of course fretting a little about this as it's not usually my style to go in search of confrontation. We've lived in this small community for nearly thirteen years and we know a lot of people (and even more know us). But I couldn't comfortably let this slide. Not this time.

Below is the unedited version of the letter. The edits didn't change the message much, but I like this one better so I'm posting it.

When I was a kid, a Baptist minister I knew once advised the members of our congregation to never accept his or anyone else's take on the Bible as fact without testing it by reading it for themselves. This statement had a profound affect on my approach to the questions presented by life. I always want to know "the rest of the story".

Last Wednesday (name withheld) published a column concerning an upcoming public healthcare bill and, in doing so, included the contents of an article I'd seen elsewhere which contained numerous alarming statements. Being of an investigative mind, I downloaded the bill as the article suggested and did a search for the pages referred to and read them myself. I then cross referenced with various articles written by others who had read the bill as well and determined that all of the statements in this column concerning the contents of the bill were inaccurate. Below are just two examples of these inaccuracies.

The first one:
50--"HC WILL be provided to ALL non US citizens, illegal or otherwise"

Quite frankly, I'm not quite sure how anyone would extrapolate that from this section. This page is concerned with preventing discrimination in providing health care. Period. There is no reference to non-us citizens or illegal aliens. Further more when I did a search for the word "aliens". I found that this this bill goes on to clarify it's position in section 246 stating that there will be no federal payments to doctors who treat undocumented aliens.

The second example was probably among one of the most disturbing:

From page 429-- "advise care consultation" may include an order for end-of-life plans. AN ORDER FROM THE GOVT.

As the section actually begins on page 425, I backed up and read that too. This section actually is concerned with reimbursement for voluntary advanced healthcare counseling (this is already available and encouraged by health professionals and insurance companies alike) and there is nothing in it about the government mandating any kind of end of life orders. It details the subjects covered during these sessions and goes a long way toward protecting the rights of the individual, making it clear that nothing would happen without the consent of the individual themselves.

Look, I can appreciate people's concern with respect to healthcare reform. I am wrestling with hopes and worries of my own as well as I don't think there's a one size fits all answer out there. Regardless, I do think we will all be better off if we don't let disingenuous fear mongers talk us into accepting half-truths and lies. Do not be a tool in someone else's agenda. Do what I did, download the bill, use the Acrobat search feature, and test what you've been told against what you read for yourself.

Sincerely Yours,

Mary O.R. Paddock

So do you reckon I should git ready to be tarred and feathered?


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I hope not, Mary. I am very much against this healthcare proposal, and I dislike how it's being ramrodded down our throats. But we should all of us be able to say what we wish to without fear of reprisal no matter where we stand on the issue.

Scotty said...

Nah, stand your ground, Mary, free speech and all that.