Seaside, Oregon, is about as far away from Washington, DC, as you can get in the continental U.S. Not quite 3000 miles, but almost (2860 to be exact). And it seemed very far away from the sound and fury of the health care debate in the nation’s capital when I attended a Town Hall meeting last Friday. Sen. Ron Wyden was the speaker at the event, which was attended by over 400 people crowded into the Seaside High School cafeteria.
As we waited, the crowd was calm and polite, but there was a murmur of anticipation and an undercurrent of tension. We had all seen the stories about disruptions and threatened violence at similar Town Hall meetings across the country. Would it happen here? We could see people standing at the back with signs opposing health reform. Would they interrupt the proceedings and cause problems? We all respect freedom of speech, but somehow it wouldn’t seem like “freedom” if someone else was shouting us down and disrupting our attempts to learn about the health reform proposals.
We’ve all been reading a lot about the congressional town hall meetings around the country, where protesters rail about President Obama’s health reform plan. News reports and video clips indicate that half or more of the protesters yelling about socialism and a government takeover are of Medicare age.
I’ve wondered about these senior citizens and other protesters. They look like ordinary working- and middle-class people who probably have the same problems with the U.S. health care system as millions of other Americans. How can they just say no to legislation that would help them personally, or that would give others the kind of guaranteed coverage they already enjoy?
The one on the left one protesting against the extension of health care to the uninsured at Sen Arlen Specter’s townhall meeting? Or the one on the right–some of the 1500 un and underinsured queuing for 2 days for care in inner-city Los Angeles (both photos from NY Times)
I can’t say that I’ve been fantastically impressed by the Democrats’ choice of this year to go after health reform, or their explanation of what it is. And I understand that the only interest of the Republicans is to destroy any political win in the hope that they get a repeat of 1994…although it is just possible that despite their confidence the voters also remember the 2000–2008 period which will also precede the 2010 election.
However, the amount of crap emanating from the right about what’s in the health bills and the evidence of that by what’s showing up in the “tea parties” now invading Democrat congressional members’ town halls is quite extraordinary and does require at least some notice.