Yesterday OFA held a healthcare rally here in San Diego, and Maggie & I attended with the handmade signs we take to every such rally (they've gotten a lot of use lately, between our regular Saturday rallies, Congresswoman Davis' four town halls, and a MoveOn vigil the night before). Only one deeply offensive wingnut was present, and there were on the order of 150 of us. Downtown, on Broadway, in front of Horton Plaza. Mostly honks and waves of support from passers-by, with a few nasties in the crowd to keep it interesting.
As the rally was winding down, another "anti" showed up - this one not quite so wingnutty, but bearing handouts with the scary healthcare flowchart that alleges to explain HR3200. At first I wrote her off as a kook and not worth my time, but she persisted, and I engaged - and maybe a little good came of it. Follow me below the fold for more.
I can't resist taking this opportunity to show off my rally sign; I'm pretty proud of it. Nothing to do with the story, per se, but, well - enjoy:
So. The wingnut was doing her level best to bring we protesters around to her way of thinking. "You should inform yourselves!" "Read this!" And my very favorite - in immediate, quick succession: "Why are they rushing this through?!" and (honest - I'm not making this up) "Why doesn't it take effect until 2013?!"
It's too quick, it's too slow, and by the way did you know the President is black?
But then came the critical moment, the teaching moment, the opportunity to connect. She said, "I'm scared." My instinct, my general inclination, is to be just as dismissive of this as the rest of her rant, but I overcame it, because I know better, and because I had nothing, conversationally, to lose.
I said, "I'm sorry you're scared." I meant it, too - at least to some extent. The rest of her words had no meaning, no truth behind them, but her fear is real, no matter how ill-founded. And it's what makes her and millions like her subject to manipulation by the insurance industry and other evildoers.
Her fear doesn't give her the right to be irrational. Doesn't give her the right to spew bullshit. And I didn't cut her any slack on those accounts. But it's something, an opportunity to connect, and acknowledging it and expressing sympathy gave us a shot at genuine dialog and persuasion, and it made a real difference.
With that opening made, the dialog begun, Maggie asked, "Why are you here complaining about the cost of universal health care, when nobody ever complains about the cost of the war?" The wingnut said, "Oh, I'm opposed to the war! I want to bring the troops home!" Maggie: "Did you come out to the streets to oppose the war?" Wingnut: "No. But - I could! Would you come to an anti-war rally if I held one?" We would. And we will. And we've got something positive, a little trust established, a dent made in her troubled mind. She said (very much to my surprise), "I read HuffPo every day - and Drudge. I like to get both sides, get a balance." I told her, "When one side is telling you the truth and one side is telling you lies - that's not balance. You get the truth from HuffPo and lies from Drudge. You need to filter better, assess the quality of the information you're receiving." It's a start.
But the start of the start was that simple statement. "I'm sorry you're scared."