Take a look at the comments following most mainstream reports about the Affordable Care Act rollout. There is some serious profiling going on.
Lazy, tattoo covered, cigarette smoking, beer guzzling, uneducated, unemployed video game playing losers with loose morals. This has become the iconic stereotype of the uninsured that “decent, hardworking people” are being asked to buy health insurance for.
“Its not fair that we have to pay for health insurance for them.” That’s the soft version of much of the anti-Affordable Care Act commentary online this past month, thanks to the budget standoff and the roll-out of the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The thing is, there are a lot of people in our own community that are currently uninsured, some that would surprise us. In almost every business, there is probably someone that you share coffee with who either isn’t eligible for or isn’t able to afford even a basic plan.
How do we deal with that elephant in the break room? Are they our friends, neighbors, or are they just them?
Many are struggling, trying to find solutions to their problems. Instead of extending kindness, we cruelly lump them into the category of “undesirable,” sometimes even within earshot, with our rants and complaints.
In Kansas, the people the ACA was designed to assist are still on the outside looking in. They can go through the Marketplace to find insurance options, but if they can’t afford them, they aren’t able to find coverage through Medicaid at an affordable rate because Kansas didn’t accept the federal funding to expand it to cover these people.
Leaving someone in the group out is something mom would never allow. It’s time for the great collective mom to check in on the country and remind some to mind their manners. “How would you feel?” she would ask. For that lesson in empathy to soak in, people need to be able to identify with people other than themselves. It’s hard to do in an “us and them” culture. ChangingMinds.org defines this stereotyping as a three step propaganda method. First, “Cast those who you want to denigrate into an unpopular stereotype.” Second, “Talk about the stereotypes as ‘them’, downplaying their rights as humans. Describe them as threatening, unworthy, disgusting and other negative frames.” Finally, “Give exaggerated and distorted examples that ‘prove’ the stereotype and so condemn them. Talking about people in the third person, as ‘them’, turns them into objects, which can then be stripped of human rights.”
As voters and citizens, it’s important to keep an eye out for propaganda.
It’s a challenge--because the same techniques can be used to make a group look perfect and desirable too.