A new day is dawning in America, and it gives me great hope. Town halls have become a living, breathing, and ultimately ENGAGING phenomenon across our landscape. This is a great, and uniquely American, thing.
We have had 8 years of government in the shadows. Eight years of secrecy and dark rooms where lies have led to an unjust war, where contract and renegade agents have squandered our moral authority as a nation that does not torture, and where fraud and back-room deals with lobbyists have sent this nation to the brink of economic disaster.
Beyond that, we have had an arc spanning 30 years of public shunning of government as an integral part of community life. Cut taxes, cut spending, keep the government out of my life - this has been the persistent clarion call since the 1980s.
President Obama has, above all else, asked that we become newly engaged in our community, and with each other. Strangely, as these town halls across America have been birthed by screaming opposition to healthcare, they have also ignited a new opportunity for engagement with your neighbors, and with your community at large. They are like the new must-have ticket. Get there early or you won't get in and, if you are lucky, you might just get to ask a question and be a star for the moment.
What if, as the passion settles down just a bit, we could begin to have a conversation with the person next to us? What if we could show them the respect of listening to who they are, what their experience has been, why they feel the way they do? Sometimes, the best way to get your point across is not by making a statement at all, but by asking questions. Sometimes, like children afraid of the dark, people have fears and they just want to be heard.
I, for one, have never had a conversation with person that had a gun strapped around his shoulder. I wish I had been there, in Phoenix. I would have liked to talk with him. Simple things... like how's it going? Pretty wild event we got going here, huh? You from around here? Does that thing weigh much? Deeper things... What are your hopes are dreams? What has your experience been over these last 10 years in America. How is your healthcare?
Don't just strike a pose, strike a conversation.
Isn't this what America could be? Isn't this what America is supposed to be? Who knows... maybe 40 years from now some kid may ask where you were in the summer of '09. Were you THERE!?