At the Oxon Hill public library in Oxon Maryland, Donna Edwards held a town hall meeting. The woman is brilliant. The teabag people were out there, but she ran the meeting in such a perfect way that there was no trouble. The situation was not as difficult as some of the town halls some members of congress have had, because over half of the audience was supportive of Edwards. Still, there were many more people opposed to her than would ordinarily be there. There clearly there had been a major organizing effort by the teabaggers/anti health care reform people.
When I drove into the library parking lot, I soon saw that there were a few other cars driving around the large lot looking for a place to park, and there were none. That is unusual. I found a space in a lot for the building next door.
Outiside the library I saw a big Fox TV truck. When I got in the room was totally packed, and the vibration was not the dire war footing I had feared. The whole time I was there Edwards kept on insisting on a tone of mutual respect. The teabaggers got to give their side of the story and we got to give ours.
Often when a speaker said something that one side or the other didn't like,some people in the audience would start to voice complaint, and Edwards would shush them and insist on everybody listening to everybody. But she made her opinions clear. Near the end a Physician Assistant said some things like "I know all about the health care systems in Europe and believe me you do not want that . . . . There aren't many people without health insurance . . . .only 47 million, that's not so many. Our system works great!" Edwards responded, "I am not going to say a lot about other countries' systems, because the one we are going to develop will be uniquely American. But when I left my appendix behind in Spain, I never got a bill. And I am glad that the health care system is working well for you, but there are more than 47 million people for whom it is not working so well at all."
Anyone who misbehaved at that meeting would have been heaping humiliation on themselves.
There were too many people wanting to speak for me to get a chance, but had I the opportunity, this is what I would have said:
Just from a purely selfish perspective, as someone with good enough insurance, it is obvious to me that I would be better off, and in a real sense wealthier, if everybody was covered. If everybody was covered, there would be more mutual respect in the country. Now we have a situation where we know that a significant proportion of the country believes it is OK if sick people,including infants, are left untreated; if we continue to have high infant mortality (high for a wealthy country) and a poor level of preventative care. That means people are walking around professing to be Christians (I think it is mostly self-professed Christians who are opposing health care reform) who are lacking in that very basic concern for their neighbors. To live in a country where there is at least that basic level of concern for your neighbors would raise our standard of living immensely where it counts, in what it feels like to walk down the street a member of a community.