Media with Conscience news editor, Bob Boldt went to a Health Care Town Meeting in his home town of Jefferson City, Missouri last Wednesday. This is his report:
I knew we were in for a bumpy ride at Senator Claire McCaskill’s Jefferson City Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday August 26th, when the opponents rose from their chairs at the first critical reference to public health care. A really frightening roar went up, as slightly less than a tenth of the 400 plus attendees rose to their feet waving large signs and banners, clapping and emitting from their lungs a mighty, deafening howl that shook the hall. It made me feel a reminiscence for the terror the victims of the Roman Coliseum must have experienced when the hungry lions were released.
Fairly soon after that demonstration, when a positive comment was made for health care reform, the liberals rose to their feet and attempted a similar show of applause, although they could not muster nearly the frightening depth of rage and the bestial force of the opposition. I think that, when we realized just how infantile these counter demonstrations might turn out to be, the competition for who could shout and applaud the loudest diminished markedly, leaving the field to the victors on the Right.
We who supported a humane health care system for all Americans basically had come to listen and express our views in the tradition of free and open witness, whereas those who disagreed came largely to loudly argue, oppose and disrupt. Coincidentally, the supporters of health care reform moved to occupy the first three rows house left while those who opposed health care reform took the first three rows (closest to the press) house right. Though probably due to no awareness of her own, some lady with two huge anti-choice placards with sick, gory full-color photos of chopped up, aborted fetuses placed herself in our midst. Behind the three first rows, the advocates and opponents positioned themselves in fairly random groupings throughout the hall.
It would be nearly impossible for me to estimate the percentages of those who attended the Town Hall who were opposed to health care reform, those who supported it and those who had just come to politely listen and perhaps get a better idea of what the whole thing was really all about. Of course it was a lot easier to tell those who were most vehemently opposed. They were the ones jumping to their feet every five minutes disrupting the Senator’s frustrated attempts to even finish her sentences. They were the ones with faces hardened into masks of dead, black rage, shouting out from their seats at regularly punctuated intervals, like bizarre robotic dolls. They were the ones Claire had to admonish countless times to try to behave in a civil way so that everyone, including their own people, could be heard and the meeting could move forward.
A very generous estimate of the breakdown of the demographics using these metrics would probably reveal that less than a fifth of the crowd was opposed to health care reform. This group did not necessarily seem to represent a unified membership in itself, unless you want to characterize them as far Right Wing fringe elements. There were Free Taxers, anti-choice, anti-big government folks, anti-Communists and strict constitutionalists that I identified in this crowd – by their rhetoric, their T-shirts and signs. To say, as one report would have it, that Claire faced a crowd that was very much against health care reform, is truly a total misrepresentation. Only a small minority let it be known in a loud, disruptive way that they were against their idea of so-called “Obama Care”. Of course the newspaper photographers and the TV cameras gravitated to these explosive types with the kind of Pavlovian (“if it bleeds, it leads”) predictability we have come to expect from our infotainment media. Who wants to watch some wimpy-assed liberal sitting and listening quietly with her hands folded in her lap? Bor-ing!
I have not been to any of Missouri Senator, Claire McCaskill’s other Town Hall Meetings across the state, so I am in no position to validate her comments to the press that this group was “close to” one of the most impolite crowds she had ever seen. All I can say is that the small, vocal group of opponents that attended Wednesday’s Town Hall in my town were the most impolite group of ignorant, boorish louts it has ever been my displeasure to have to endure. These red-faced brutes that showed up at the Jefferson City Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday have no concept of human rights, the first amendment and the most basic elements of respectful human relationships. I was ashamed to even be sharing citizenship with them.