My Experience at a Town Hall Meeting...

Last night I had the opportunity to go to one of the infamous town hall meetings that have been happening all over the country. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to speak or ask any questions, as the room was packed and my raised hand was overlooked the entire night. So my apologies to Antics, Agit, Liberty, and Missy for not being able to ask your awesome questions. I did however submit them in writing directly to my Congressional Representative. We'll see if I get a response. I also taped most of the meeting, but my battery ran out and I was unable to tape the best part of the night - the last half hour. As soon as I can figure out how to get the video from my camera to the computer, I will post it up.

Now, on to the meeting. Suffice it to say that I had a raging migraine by the end of the night. When all was said and done, I wanted a stiff drink, what a lousy time to quit drinking! I'd first like to address the level of intelligence in the room. And I am not exaggerating when I relay what I witnessed, not even an iota....

First and foremost - upon being allowed entrance into the auditorium, everyone was asked to put their signs away. Either outside or in their car, the volunteers didn't care, so long as no signs were brought in. Fair enough, right? Well, the entire row of people behind me in the auditorium spent probably a good 15 minutes struggling to understand why they were not allowed to bring their signs in, when all these people had "signs on their shirts". Meaning...stickers. I had finally had enough, and didn't mean to be rude or to interrupt them, but I finally turned around to explain to them the difference between a sign and a sticker, and further explained why signs were not allowed in the auditorium.

I actually had to explain, to a row of full grown adults, that stickers are not signs, and all the signs in the room would obstruct people's ability to see, while stickers on a shirt did not. And they still struggled with the concept.....

Oh Boy.

Throughout the meeting there were people who could not understand the concept of a time limit. Now I don't mean that they were speaking, and ran over - I mean that when we started one of the organizers announced that the meeting could run no longer than 8PM, per school requirements that all people be out of the school building at that time. The boos and outrage and questions of WHY?!?!?! WHY??!?!?!?! cost us about 20 minutes of meeting time. Is the concept that difficult? Really? We also had the "Get your hands off my medicare!" crowd, the "Get out of the country!" in response to immigrants comparing the US health care to their health care crowd, and my favorite of the night....

The "I can't read the bill because it's too long and complicated why can't you just make it simple for us?" crowd.

Really? It's about the length of a Harry Potter book. And yes, the bill uses some big words, and of course legislation isn't exactly geared towards the "See spot run" reading level, but do we honestly need to dumb down bills and legislation because some moron can't be bothered to read it?

I felt like I was in the movie "Idiocracy".

And the later it got, the worse the crowd became. I don't know why most of the people even bothered to go save to make noise and yell obscenities. Every time a question was answered they all yelled "LIAR!!! WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU!!!!"

Well, we already figured that, didn't we. Why bother asking questions if you already know you won't believe the answer?

Of course we had the "We didn't read the bill but we know that's in it because Fox News said so!" crowd. And our Representative, who is usually quite relaxed and laid back was even getting frustrated. He had to keep saying "But that's not in the bill. It's just not there - it doesn't exist. Honestly, read the bill for yourself!" To which replies were screamed "It's too long to read! We can't read it! It's too haaaaarrrrrddddddd."

Oh Christ.

Our Representative did actually answer the questions asked, to the best of his ability. He had to explain how it would be funded at least three times, and people still didn't get it. "I know you explained it already, but I don't understand how we're going to pay for this...". When he tried to answer questions that required complex answers, because they're complex issues he was accused of dodging. One lady nearly assaulted one of the organizers because she felt that he hadn't answered her question. He did answer her question, she just didn't understand the words coming out of his mouth.

He might as well have been speaking Greek.

Some people had really good questions, others simply made statements, while the majority repeated Fox news rhetoric about death panels and the like.

And by the way, my interpretation of the bill regarding end of life counseling was 100% correct. All it means is that counseling, along with mental health care and addiction rehabilitation are now legitimately covered under health care. Of course the crowd booed, and accused him of trying to kill them off in their old age.


I did however catch a great deal of shit from the row behind me because I refused to stand and pledge allegiance to the flag. First, we only had to do it, because some flag pin obsessed person whined that we didn't say it at the beginning of the meeting - second, I don't pledge my allegiance to inanimate objects. Now if we were talking about pledging allegiance to the people of the country - I'd have something to stand for. Alas, I was told I didn't deserve to be here, was an asshole, and "Look there's the future of our country" snide remarks.

Then again, consider the source. They couldn't even figure out the difference between a sign and a sticker, nor why they wouldn't be allowed into the meeting - and complained constantly that the bill was just too hard for them to read...but were 100% certain that everything Fox news said about it was the truth, facts be damned! (And yes, they constantly yelled out 'Fox news said it! Watch Fox News!!").

Upon reaching my car afterward, I found a pamphlet about how Obama was a Socialist dictator. I rolled a cigarette, sucked it down like a whore on a $1,000 cock, and drove home to my blissfully quiet, logical, educated husband.


Jenn said...

I can't say I'm surprised. What was the proportion of them shouting "Wake up! Open your eyes!" because I've found this particular crowd loves that phrase. As if they were somehow privy to better insight (having not actually read the proposal) and the rest of the world is snoozing.

Anok said...

Yeah there was a fair amount of that, too. And the "Oh please! You're planning on...." enter in some conspiracy theory.

I'm the Anarchist, I'm the one whose supposed to like conspiracies, dammit!

Man no wonder this country is in the fix it' sin....

Missy said...

Can we bomb fox news corp building now please?

Anonymous said...

Trying to stay polite under those circumstances would have tested my patience.

Anok said...

LOL Missy - I think a better solution would be to unplug and confiscate all TV's :D

Mark, I eventually did lose my patience, and by the end was yelling too. I never got a chance to speak and there was so much misinformation being spewed that I simply HAD to start yelling out statistics since they weren't even given the congressman a chance to answer.

Luckily, I have a big voice, that carries well. I could at the very least out-yell all of the conservatives that I was surrounded by.

Ian Thal said...

We need plenty more of these first hand accounts of how these people are actually disrupting the democratic process when they refuse to allow elected representatives to answer questions from their constituency.

LiteralDan said...

Oh man, I can only hope this is all worth it someday when this change happens. Worst case scenario, things are just as poorly run as they are now with private corporations.

Dave Dubya said...

I'll defer to these gentleman to comment for me.

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
- H. L. Mencken

“Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.” – John Stuart Mill

timethief said...

Good GAWD! Here the Chairperson would have given ONE and only ONE warning and if the disruptive people had continued to carry on like you describe then they would have been escorted to the door by the police. We don't allow hecklers to control meetings. Along with the right to freedom of speech comes responsibilities and speaking only when it's your turn to speak is the order of the day.

Anok said...

Ian and TT - I think it would have been even better if they had escorted out the people who had no intention of listening to what the man said, and let in the hundreds of people waiting outside who actually did want to listen to him. They clearly had their minds made before they came in, and were only there to yell "LIAR!" everytime he answered a question.


Dan - yes I think it will be worth it, so long as it's done right.

Dave - Oh! ouch! LOL. Good to see you man, I feel like I've been away too long!

Shirley said...

The video I'm going to talk you through. Once you load it on to your computer you need to save it to your computer. You can use youtube or even on your blog and then upload. Oh, you need a video capture device too.

Ian Thal said...

The problem is that if you start having them escorted out for being disruptive then they will attempt to spin this into something about their freedom of speech is being curtailed and use that sound bite to further inflame their numbers to engage in even more intimidating behavior. They are deliberately attempting to create a confrontation where they can imagine that they are the ones being oppressed and then they come back in greater numbers.

That's how brown-shirts operate. I know it's not nice to liken people to brown-shirts, but if they were principled political conservatives they would be attempting to have a reasoned conversation with your Representative and try to prove him wrong in an open forum, instead, well, I don't have to tell you what they did instead...

Kristen said...

Thanks for your first hand account. Sometimes I wonder if the media is accentuating the negative... but sadly, mass ignorance and illiteracy is all too real.

Windroot said...

This post was wonderful to read and wonderfully informative. There is no doubt in my mind that a big part of the problem in this country is that people (a) see only their rights and not their responsibilities and (b) they have no clue how things work, be it health care, the political process, whatever.

I work with the public every day and for the most part people are clueless but pleasant except for the ones who are clueless and indignant that their cluelessness has put them in a bind that I won't immediately drop everything and fix for them despite the fact that I wold have to break the law to do so.

I guess we have finally reached the nadir of the town meeting process with the footage of the lady in a wheelchair being booed and harassed while she asked her question. Class all the way for these people, eh?

Benjamin Fennell said...

Much sympathy. I've watched enough town hall footage online - and through the Daily Show and Colbert Report's comedy making fun of them - to have a real headache from the idiocy and ignorance surrounding the town hall meetings myself.

My local representative pissed off people here by refusing to hold one of these town hall meetings. And why? Because he started getting death threats from local Republicans. (And here in lovely North Carolina, recent polls have shown that most Republicans here don't believe Obama was born in America. I really need to get out of this state, obviously.) It's sad, I've heard from the guy fairly regularly for a couple of years now through my online form letter activism, and he's a smart, thoughtful, progressive guy, really concerned with the future of this country and the wellbeing of its people. It's a wonder someone like him could be elected in a state like this these days with the psychotic forces the right's been mobilizing. (And just as much of a wonder that the FCC hasn't shut down Fox News yet.) Sad times.

Anok said...

SHirely - Yes! The problem that I'm having is actually with my equipment, though. I either upload all sound and no picture or all picture and no sound :( I suck at this media stuff LOL.

Ian - you are absolutely 100% spot on correct. They showed up not to discuss but to intentionally make a hostile environment more hostile, and to put the politicians between a rock and a hard place.

Kristen - it's sad, isn't it? And yet many still proclaim to understand the process when they clearly don't. *sigh*

Windroot - YES! Exactly! YOU hit the nail on the head!

Ben - good to see you man! You need to MOVE NORTH. I'm telling you. Our Congressman has been holding bazillions of these rallies and i honestly don't know how he does it without losing it completely!

kdawg68 said...

That might be the most fantastic closing sentence in the history of the blogosphere. I mean that quite sincerely.

Oh, my dear friend. I do feel for you. Now you know how I, your opposite minded friend, felt talking to the doped out "hope....change..." idiots during the last election cycle.

Sadly, there are events which seem to galvanize the lower ends of the gene pool from our respective camps. These tend to stem from the most simplistic ideas that elicit base emotional reactions. Namely: fear.

I've been a bit spooked by some of the folks I see at those meetings as well, and the mouth foaming on display.

It's as if we've (as an entire people, as I see it from both sides of the isle depending on the situation)forgotten how to have basic civil discussions.

Tis very sad.

But I'm sure at sooooooooome level you kinda enjoyed the confrontational aspect, no? The Anok I know relishes such "challenges."

A bit like the "Terrance Man masturbates" scene from "Field of Dreams"??? :-)

(hopefully you know that reference, otherwise it will sound extremely weird...I'm talking about the part where Annie challenges "Eva Braun" to "step outside" in the PTA meeting)

Anok said...

Hahahah LMAO Kev - I can always count on you to brighten my day!

I will say - it did re-vamp my political passion a bit to be there, but the after-effects have been long lasting and draining, unfortunately. And I think you are right - the people showing up to these things are 100% the bottom of the barrel so to speak. They are frightening - not because of anything other than feeling like you've entered into a real life version of 'Idiocracy' and are witnessing it first hand.

How did we get so stupid? And....crazy?

And i think that the polarization of the parties is alienating everyone else. Particularly those on the right who aren't extreme right. I've noticed a definite shift of the moderate Republicans towards the left-side of the spectrum, while the extreme right seems to be getting more and more extreme.

I mean - we have guys carrying assault weapons to presidential speeches after declaring force would be used if necessary, and pastors praying that Obama dies and goes to hell. WTF?!?!

Hell, even the far left and Anarchists dint' go that far - and we had a lot of reasons to hate Bush. Of course, there was always that fear of being thrown in one of Cheney's gulags.... ;)

Sometimes, I sit back, and I just think. No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans are stupid and batshitcrazy. It's very frustrating to see such a lack of intelligence, willingness, and openmindedness among full grown adults.


Connecticut Man1 said...

I am glad you went to the event... Even if the only satisfying result was the last paragraph in your post, which made your going there well worth my while. lol

cindy said...

Anok, Your blog is wonderful. The commments from your readers are equally interesting.

I've just listened to President Obama make his case for health care reform on the (dreaded) CNN. I am a Canadian and our health care system, while not without certain problems, provides care for everyone.

This town hall meeting you describe so brilliantly was ridiculous. It will be hard to get anything done in a country that insists on aligning all decisions along divided party lines. Canada is not exempt from this problem in politics either, by the way. Perhaps this is the best that can be expected in a democratic process if participants are ill-informed or poorly educated. cgn

Anok said...

CTman! Nice to see you! I'm glad my last paragraph was worth your while ;) LOL! Have you gone to one of these things yet? It's worth the experience, I think - but I won't be doing it again that's for sure.

Cindy - thanks for stopping in! I love, love, love hearing opinions from our friends in other countries. I think it gives us the ability to step outside of our argument for a minute to consider the truths of other plans, other customs, other lifestyles, laws, and countries.

And of course - no system is perfect. People aren't perfect therefore systems will never be! But I'd argue that the US system isn't even adequate. I think I will be back to blogging more as time goes on - summertime is always a busy time for us here - lots of food to pick, can, and prep ;) SO thanks for stopping in, I hope you do more often and give us the Canadian perspective, eh? ;)

Monkey Suit said...

You were there because of health care correct? And yet you finish off by telling how you rolled then sucked down your cigarette. That is one of the major problems with people surrounding the health care debate on both sides. No personal responsibility. You want universal health care or some sort of half assed version of that and you dont take care of yourself. You want to be able to have your cake and eat it too. Smoking causes cancer and I know your song and dance you live in a family of smokers who haven't had any illnesses related to it. But that doesn't mean you wont. And you expect to have health coverage even though you purposely harm yourself with cancer causing toxins. Where is the logic there?

Anok said...

Monkey, I suppose your a picture of health, too right? DO you do a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio every day like you're supposed too? Do you eat fat laden foods and foods with transfats? Drink soda? Coffee? Alcohol?

You probably do all of that and don't exercise.

We all do things to "harm our health" and we do so on purpose. So unless you would like to be refused healthcare for every single thing you do that causes health problems, then I suggest you stop pointing fingers at what other people do.

Oh, and by the way, I'm not refused insurance because I smoke. I'm refused insurance coverage because of a health issue that was NOT in my control, and has not been a problem in 9 years. Yet I'm still uninsurable

Figure that one out.

But again, your debate isn't about what the healthcare proposal actually is - which if you read the bill, and watched the congressional address you'd know that you, the tax payer are NOT paying for it - instead you make it personal with a straw man argument.

It's the same with everyone who was there as well. Let's make it about what the other guy does (while hiding what they themselves do or don't do) with little regard for the FACTS.