Brendan Skwire goes to a town hall on health reform.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer and other sources have reported, Rep. Joe Sestak's town hall -- which took place last week at Broad Street Ministries -- was relatively peaceful. In fact, most of the night was downright constructive. Even the wingnuts were respectful and constructive, in their own wingnutty way. Although it wasn't the most bizarre political event I've been to, it was certainly... different.
Philadelphia behaved itself much better than the lunatics in Lebanon. I get so tired of hearing from rural and suburban residents how Philadelphians are a bunch of animals. Maybe it's because we spent much of the year discussing the fate of our city with Mayor Nutter, but we didn't act like these freaks:
That's not to say the nutball brigade didn't come out for the occasion. I arrived a little after 4 pm, and mingled with the people standing in line. Most were supporters of health care reform -- but there were also some opponents, almost all of who seemed to be deranged in some for or another.
Like the fiftysomething guy with the bad dye job, who was screaming at the top of his lungs that "Government sucks!" at anyone who tried to engage him. I stood nearby trying not to laugh as he screamed at a younger man "Of course i like my Medicare! It's the government that sucks! I'll bet YOU never spent a DAY in the Army!"
Another fellow surveyed the crowd with a scowl on his face. He was wearing a black T-shirt advertising some branch of the service, and as his frown grew deeper and deeper until finally he bellowed: "You liberals are stacking the deck like you always do! You're trying to pack the room! Let Americans in, we want our say too!" When someone tried to explain to him that the line had just gotten started, he yelled some more.
Another wingnut was yelling at some woman (they never seem to speak in a normal tone of voice) that health care is fine the way it is, that taxes are too high in other countries, and that he wanted to abolish Medicare. He was particularly insistent that Canada's health care system is terrible, and since I have some experience with it, I attempted to correct him.
"Have you experienced the Canada system?" I asked. "Because I have. And it's not like you say it is. First of all, when my son was born we paid no out of pocket expenses. NONE. And after we went home from the hospital, we got regular visits from a nurse as well, who gave us literature and support with the baby. His checkups are free, his dental care is free -- including fillings and stuff like that -- everything's covered."
The man shook his head at me. "That's not true," he said. "That's not true."
And there you have the difference between "ignorant" and "just plain stupid": the former is curable, the latter a permanent condition.
My brother Ray walked up a moment later and asked me if I'd seen the Lyndon LaRouche supporters who had set up a table at the entrance to the church. I have a special weakness for their particular brand of madness, and I was not to be disappointed.
They had set up a table adorned with an image of Rep. Barney Frank, Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson behind bars for the Wall Street bailout (a sentiment I happen to share). But they also had a picture of President Obama decorated with Hitler's mustache.
"What's this all about?" I asked the middle-aged woman running the table. "I get the stuff about the bailout, but how is Obama like Hitler?"
She leaned in conspiratorially. "Have you heard about the Medicare Advisory Councils?" she asked.
"No," I replied. "Why don't you tell me about them?"
"The councils will be run by Ezekiel Emmanuel," she said. "That's Rahm's brother. The councils will be based on Hitler's T4 program, do you know what that is?" And she explained that this was a euthanasia program that would target the elderly and sick. "That's what they're going to do, just like the Nazis!"
"So, you're telling me health care reform allows Rahm Emmanuel's brother to run an elderly extermination program based on something Hitler implemented?"
"YES," she replied firmly.
Cut and run
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