Who knew that health care reform was so hot a potato, so radioactive a subject, so visceral an issue that it would be the impetus for congressmen being hanged in effigy, getting death threats and being shouted down by angry mobs in town hall meetings around the country during August?

Yes, sir, there’s nothing like American mobocracy in action. You just try to touch my health insurance, sonny, and I’ll blow your head off!

I have some advice for any congressman still courageous enough to face wrathful constituents (or those people who are not constituents but decided to drive in for the fun): If before entering the town hall meeting premises you see at the entrance a middle-aged woman sitting in a chair and knitting, inform your staff that a sudden attack of stomach cramps has left you unable to go on with the event live, but you’ll be happy to participate via teleconference from a neighboring town.

It strikes me that it would be refreshing to actually talk about the need for health care reform, the various mechanisms that have been proposed for getting there, or how our society is going to sustain the ever-increasing costs of the current system if reform is not forthcoming.

For certainly, if anything merits serious discussion, making changes to a business that is the equivalent of one-sixth of the GDP (at least this week) is that topic.

And maybe that’s why whatever the shouting’s about it’s not really about health care reform.

I know there are lots of people out there who hate the government, especially the federal government. And I know this because I get withering letters and emails from a lot of them regarding this column and my blog!

What astonishes me (and to be totally truthful, frightens me too) is the intensity of the anger and bitterness that a wide swath of people in this country apparently feel regarding the perceived sins of the federal government. I just don’t get it.

Would they really fold up Medicare and send droves of seniors back to living at or below the poverty level? Would they jettison Social Security? Kill off Medicaid because after all it’s the poor that benefit from it? Is it really OK that 47 million people in this country are uninsured?

However, to give this crowd the benefit of the doubt, maybe they really do feel as if this is the time and place and issue where they have to make a last stand. After all, if the government takes over health care, what’s left?

There is hardly anything more seductive for people addicted to last stands than the glory that comes from making them.

The downside to this glory is that there is no talking to people so addicted. You can’t tell them the government, meaning the Obama administration in this case, doesn’t want to take over the health care system. In their eyes, that’s just a load of you know what.

But, seriously, how have we gotten to the point where the administration is being slammed as having Hitler-like plans for the country? Where accusations of “death panels” hidden in legislation are created out of whole cloth and given life and credibility by media addicted to fanning the flames of controversy, no matter how spurious?

Maybe it’s all just politics as usual and the whole point is to ensure that health care reform will be President Obama’s “Waterloo,” as Sen. Jim DeMint put it.

If that’s the case, then there’s something far sicker than our health care system that needs attending to.