Brendan Skwire goes to a town hall on health reform.
"But... but aren't Rahm Emmanuel and his brother both Jewish?" I asked.
"That doesn't make any sense all!" I said, handing her back her literature.
"I know. It doesn't make any sense at all," she agreed, and then realizing what she said sputtered "But but but but..." as I walked away howling with laughter. Within a minute an old man wearing a sandwich board walked by handing out the same fliers, yelling: "It's a Nazi scam, I tellya, it's a Nazi scam!" He was so busy yelling at everyone he didn't notice he was walking in front of the entrance to a parking garage, and nearly got mowed down by car. "Watch it old man," someone yelled, "or you'll need that health care stuff!"
And on it went as we waited in line.
The event finally began, and after a brief introduction and short homily from the pastor, who reminded us we were in a church and holding the forum under the weight of others' prayers, Sestak began taking questions. The first was from the LaRouche woman.
"Hey, I know you!" Sestak said pointing to her. "It's good to see you again! What's your question?"
She turned out not to have a question so much as a sustained rant about the Emmanuel brothers and their plans to exterminate the elderly, and that Sestak was wrong to have voted for the bailout. And that's what's so frustrating about the sand the right wing and the kooks are throwing into the debate about health care reform. No one in their right mind, who has read ANY OF THE PROPOSALS OFFERED, thinks the Democrats are planning to slaughter the elderly, just like no one in their right mind who has actually read the proposals thinks that funding for voluntary parenting programs for low-income families is the same as usurping your right to parent your kids as you see fit, as one wingnut insisted to me in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary. These are fabrications so patently ridiculous my 5-year old could see through them.
And yet Joe Sestak has to stand there on stage, pretend to take the question seriously, and offer a response that the questioner will refuse to believe, because if he tells her the question is stupid, the media will dutifully report "Joe Sestak tells Constituent She's Stupid." Don't believe me? Well just look at what the Senate did this past Thursday, removing language from their bill that would have covered end-of-life counseling (like living wills and advance directives) because the Republicans and the right-wing droolers are all screaming that they're gonna kill all the old people! Stupid triumphs again!
And that is what worries me: time and time again, the needs of the stupid and disingenuous are not only treated as valid concerns, but as the greatest concerns. The stupid people think that our bill to help Grandma is going to kill her, and since they won't believe what we tell them anyway, we'll take it out so the opposition won't bash us over the head with it!
And so stupidity is rewarded to the detriment of everyone else.
So when the angry man who had been yelling about "stacking the deck" stepped up to ask a question, I was prepared for the worst, and boy did it start out that way. Launching into an outraged tirade, the guy screamed unintelligibly at Sestak, prompting audience members to tell him to sit down. But again, Sestak actually knew the guy, and this is where things got kind of strange. For a guy who supposedly has one of the worst tempers in the House, Sestak came off... well, kind of like Michael Scott from The Office, trying to keep everyone calm.
"Hey everybody, this is Chris!" Sestak began. "He works for a car dealership near me, he has my cell phone. Hey, hey, c'mon guys, leave him alone Chris, what's up, what's your question?" Honestly, it was like watching Mr. Rogers.
So Chris began talking about his military experience, and before you knew it, the two were talking about experiences in Somalia and Panama before eventually getting to Chris's concern that his large employer might force him onto the public option by cutting the plan that he paid for and was happy with.
Chris still wasn't convinced so Sestak called to one of his aides to go over the language one-on-one. And i saw the most remarkable thing. As this angry, burly man whose head looked like it was going to explode approached the stage, he held out his hand to Sestak and in a completely changed tone of voice said something along the lines of "Thanks so much for your time and taking the time to answer my question. I still think you're totally wrong... but thanks for everything."
Here he is, speaking for himself. He does himself better justice than I can:
So maybe there's some room for debate and understanding after all. Maybe.
Cut and run
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