I’ve seen a few bumper stickers around the city where I live that read: “Annoy a Liberal: Work Hard and Be Happy.” But it would seem that conservatives are the folks who are most annoyed right now. Henry once wrote “Surely joy is the condition of life” and I wholeheartedly agree. I do work hard and I am happy. And I am a liberal. So I guess that means that I am annoying myself. It reminds me of that wonderful Sprint commercial where The Man is sticking it to himself. Conservatives are upset because we might actually pass a health care reform bill very shortly. It’s Communism! they shout. It will be the downfall of our republic! The fear-mongering has reached a fever pitch. But really, we’ve seen this all before, haven’t we? The political tactics that have been used by conservatives since before Reagan can be summed up in one sentence: The government is going to take your money and give it to Those People. Those People are the lazy ones. Those People are the ones that can’t get an education, a job or health insurance because they just aren’t working hard enough. Conservative pundits love to shout from the rooftops that they are only saying what they are saying because they love this country. But what they really care about is selling advertising. That is their primary motivation. Unfortunately, reasonableness doesn’t sell. But racism, bigotry and fear always rake in the benjamins. I know that most Americans are reasonable, and that our country has a wonderful way of correcting itself. If the laws that are enacted reach too far, we have a perfectly good and time-tested way to change them. It’s called our government. Vote the Bums Out! Isn’t that what we hear every two years? And guess what? It works. I survived Nixon and Reagan and both Bushes. But I also survived Carter and Clinton. Sometimes my taxes went up and sometimes they went down. Otherwise, my life was my own. I am sure I will survive the Obama years as well. Why? Because I work hard and I’m happy. If believing that some of my money should go to helping poor people, then I guess that makes me a Communist. I just wish we could get back to a world where we all viewed one another as friends and neighbors, not as enemies. As a Zen master once said, “Once you make distinctions (between good and bad) you are already in hell.” I would love to have a reasonable, quiet conversation with Rush or Glenn someday, but I also know that a “Fireside Chat with Glenn Beck” won’t pay his light bill. Though it pains my liberal soul to say it, the truth is that the Sean Hannitys or Bill O’Reillys of the world don’t really want dialogue, but neither do the Keith Olbermans or the Rachel Maddows. To perpetuate your own view only so that you get to stay in your TV host’s chair certainly makes for good ratings and lucrative advertising dollars, but it might not be the best method for civilized public discourse. Only if we can begin to view each other as human beings first, Americans second, and whatever political party we belong to a distant third can we even begin to fix what ails us. Please remember: Those People are Us.