In case you were wondering, I attended the town hall held by my congressperson a little more than a week ago, and noticed no one in attendance packing heat. I joke here, but I take any vigilantism or talk of intimidating people with arguments made in the presence of a gun seriously. That's not reasoned debate, that's bullying.
The town hall was originally scheduled to be held inside a library, but so many people rsvp'd that it ended up being held outside on the blocked-off street outside the library. It garnered a lot of attention as it was one of the few scheduled in Los Angeles for the week of August 10, 2009.
If anything, my town hall was an exercise in both exasperation and theatrics, with actual information struggling to break through elevated decibel levels. My congressman had chosen a panel of experts to inform constituents about HR 3200, the America's Affordable Choices Act of 2009. At this stage, the bill is pending with more modification expected in both the House and the Senate. He had invited a high-level administrator with Kaiser Permanente and two doctors to provide information on a public option. Very little of this information got out; the speakers a little drone-y in their delivery, the shouters persistent with their demands ("Read the bill!").
I thought I'd turn down the volume and show you pictures of my congressman's town hall.
AARP had members there who support health insurance reform. Incidentally, that is the American Association of Retired People's official position. They're the best-known interest group advocating on behalf of Americans over 55 years of age.
Let's put it this way: I know who lives in my district. It's a lot of union people: teachers, nurses, film crew folks, screenwriters (yes, who also belong to a union), retirees of all multi-ethnic backgrounds, and Latino, Asian, and white families with young children.
There was no shouting between these two men who disagree. I talked to the African American man afterwards, and he said his conversational partner had some "strange ideas." Neither man convinced the other.
It sure isn't people who look like they came from retirement homes in Orange County, or who recently visited or perhaps worked at the Reagan Library and conveniently had a stack of talking points printed out on papers to hand out.
More anti-health insurance reform people. Apparently union members who support an issue are "stormtroopers" and not merely 'goons' or 'thugs.' I call rhetoric inflation and egregious metaphorical hijacking with intent to harm.
She's vehemently against health care reform. What, is FreedomWorks subcontracting out astroturf to LaRouche supporters now?
...later found his spot in front of the tv cameras blocked by these nice men. They very quickly and politely quieted down our part of the crowd, where a bit of shouting and jostling broke out, and stood shoulder to shoulder together.
Here's my summary of what I saw at the town hall: there were as many supporters of health insurance reform as there were opposed, maybe even outnumbering the "no on HR 3200" people. The people who came to learn more were often prevented from doing so by loud shouts and heckling. This earned the shouters no love from the hometown crowd. I turned around many times to the LaRouchies near me, and said, "I live in this district and I'm trying to listen. PLEASE be quiet. I can't hear the speakers." Not one ever challenged me by saying, "I live here too and I have the right to boo and hiss." NOT. ONE.
And finally, we absolutely could tell who the people were who came from inside the congressional district and those who came from elsewhere. By race and age, the anti-health insurance reform people were generally whiter and older, angrier and louder. Paper tigers.
My only regret from that evening? When anti-health insurance reform people burst into "God Bless America," that the pro-health insurance reform people didn't counter with "This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land." (No regrets from plastering the LaRouche people with "Health Care Reform Now" stickers. It took them a while to notice but then again it's hard to look at your own back. ;))
I defy any conservative to sing a Woody Guthrie song and mean it.
Cynematic also blogs at P i l l o w b o o k.