Hope in Georgia (U.S.)

The other day a bill was passed by the Senate of the state of Georgia that had already passed the state House of Representatives. According to what I heard on the radio, it passed both chambers unanimously.

The bill overhauls the approach to mental illness in the state. Most generally, it seeks to put mental illness on a par with physical illness. To that end, one of its provisions is to require insurance companies to cover mental illness as they cover physical illnesses. It also recognizes substance abuse as a mental issue, as opposed to seeing it merely as criminal activity. For a state as ‘conservative’ as Georgia is, the bill represents a surprising, if not to say astonishing change of direction.

For all that, there is something even more encouraging about the passage of the bill. It was passed — again, apparently unanimously — despite the emergence of a disinformation campaign against it. That campaign was straight out of the Q-anon handbook: it included ‘charges’ that the bill would “protect pedophiles” and that it would provide the grounds for the government to “take away people’s guns.”

The effort to stop the passage of the bill was not limited to tweets and other social-media postings. So many people showed up at the hearings for the bill to protest it — loudly, even threateningly — based on the disinformation campaign that the hearings had to be moved to a largest available room. Even then, not all of the potential rioters could be accommodated.

In short, the ‘Trumpian base’ had been mobilized to protest the bill. Yet, it passed both chambers of the legislature of the state of Georgia unanimously. Perhaps there is hope after all.

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