I attended my first town hall this morning in Lebanon, PA, for Democratic Senator Arlen Specter. I drove nearly an hour to get there, and arriving on time meant I couldn’t get in because it was a full house (250 seats were all that was available, though there were perhaps nearly 1,000 people there outside). But I was really there to investigate what these town hall meetings were about. After reading a Christian blog slam the motives and methods of what they claim are “so-called ‘protestors’,” and after reading thoughtful critiques aimed at conservative Christians with regards to their disagreement over the health care debates, I thought attending one of these would be educational (even though I had planned to attend before reading those reports). On all stations but FoxNews, anchors and commentators are linking the protestors to organized big business fronts who have an interest in keeping back the current version of reforms.
Brian McLaren’s own blog (linked above), says this:
As a result, I sometimes think that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Fox News may now influence many conservative Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Catholics even more than Billy Graham, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Pope Benedict, or even the four gospels.
First of all, I highly doubt McLaren tunes into Rush, Hannity, or Beck; maybe he’ll tune into O’Reilly, since O’Reilly is a bit more moderate than the other three. But that would require him to turn on the FoxNews station, which is likely against his oath of being a progressive Christian. Anyway, I’m absolutely certain he’s never listened to Glenn Beck, because I do listen to Beck, and Beck begs and pleads with his listeners every day to be civil, polite, and peaceful in everything we do. The last thing we need, says Beck, is for us to behave like children and riot in the streets. It’s one thing to disagree; it’s quite another to be disruptive. Beck calls for peaceful action; McLaren ignores that aspect.
But this isn’t about Beck, McLaren, or Right-Wing radicals pulling strings behind closed (or open) doors. This isn’t about Barack Obama’s health care plan. This is about the American people, who voted for change, realizing that what they’re getting is more of the same (big, intrusive government) and not much in return (hence the “keep the change!” chanting I heard). This is about real people voicing real concerns.
I’ll be honest. There were some misinformed people there. There were some rednecks who probably only listen to Rush Limbaugh. There were right-wing groups handing out signs and posters to wave around. And there was ACORN and SEIU there handing out their signs as well. Everyone was cordial toward each other (although there seemed to be a silly competition over who could get everyone else to chant their cliché slogans). There were signs saying Obama was evil. So if somebody wants to say that these radicals and extremist sort of people are attending these protests, they are right.
But the few people I talked to were genuinely concerned and worried about the government’s current proposals for health reform. What I took away was a profound sense that this is so important to people, we all care about health care. We all want reform. And most people want good things for their fellow citizens. What they don’t want is to be told exactly what to do with their earnings.
The Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi, and other groups who are in favor of the variations of current reforms have gone on the offensive by calling dissenters misinformed, and the conclusions they are making as “simply false.” But what bothers me is that the information dissenters are receiving is not from the talk shows, it is directly from Obama himself. When there are videos showing Obama on record saying he wants single payer health care, and that in order to get to such a point there are steps to take in between, there’s no doubting what Obama’s intentions are.
The problem of the anti-dissenters is they believe the lie that “That couldn’t happen here!” They believe that government medical control, euthanasia, long lines for surgeries, or other nightmarish conditions that happen elsewhere simply won’t happen in America. Unfortunately, that line of reasoning is patently naive. Make no mistake, Obama will never implement a single payer health care system during his tenure as president. He’s promised us otherwise. But that does not mean he is not willing to take the steps necessary for later administrations and congresses to enact laws toward that end. The so-called “public option” created under the guise of competition is oxymoronic. It is designed to slowly eek away at the private options, just like in the United Kingdom.
Further, the problem with the bigger government reform proponents is that they falsely assume that those dissenting believe that things are fine with the health care industry and that reform is not necessary. Everybody agrees that there are problems. Everyone agrees there should be reform. I’ve met ZERO people pleased with the health proposals being made.
The point is this: people who believe strongly in the causes they are fighting for have every right to be angry, upset, and worried that their life and liberty is at stake. They are standing up for what they believe the rights of the American people should be. They are standing firm on their beliefs. When Jim Wallis’ Sojourners blog claims that Ralph Reed “got to ‘em” only serves as poppycock and asinine name-calling on the part of the proponents of the current reform proposals. What this amounts to is identifying people with deeply held beliefs and realistic fears to robotic copycats or pawns of another, larger organization.
The reason ordinary citizens feel threatened and worried is because after all the talk about progress, it makes you wonder why it feels like 1984.