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Satire: Town Hall Meeting Etiquette

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I don’t know about you, but those explosive town hall meetings regarding President Obama’s health care initiative are pretty scary events. It seems as if people are coming to these events ready to do battle, sort of like Yankees and Mets fans attending the same party. I don’t think there is any hope for intelligent discourse in these matters because everyone is going in with some kind of anger for the other side.

I was watching one such meeting the other night with Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) playing referee to two of his constituents. I though Specter did a decent job, but maybe it would have been better for him to put on a black and white striped jersey and stand in the middle of a ring with these two guys. He could get Nancy Pelosi to walk around holding big numbers to signify what round they were in (I’m sure old Nancy would do it for the good of the country and maybe a few complimentary visits to get some Botox treatments). I think this might make for a more enjoyable evening for all.

Many people who like Obama, and I am one of them, say that this is just an attempt to smear this president. All these people are so angry that Obama won that now they are venting like lunatics, or maybe stockbrokers ordering hotdogs out on Wall Street, in these meetings. Perhaps fringe lunatics like Barney the Dinosaur and Elmo from Sesame Street are stoking the fires of hate (I have always had my suspicions about that Barney character), or it could be a plot from Al Qaeda to disrupt America in order for us to implode with anger and hatred.

I don’t know if I buy that. I think in general people do not know how to behave in public. Have you ever seen people in McDonald’s or Wendy’s when there is a long line? The eye-rolling and the wise comments are worse than any segment of The Factor with good old Bill O’Reilly. Similar behavior can be found in the bank, the mall, and any public swimming pool. In general I think Americans are not very good in public, which indicates a problem, since we are the public whom guys like Obama, Pelosi, and company serve.

I was wondering if we could have some kind of rules for these town hall affairs, a sort of etiquette that would make it clear how to behave. It could be distributed as a list prior to entrance to the meetings, preferably by Dick Cheney wearing his hunting gear and sporting a rifle over his shoulder.

The list should include the following:

1. When someone else is talking, yell louder than that person in order to be heard.
2. When stepping up to the microphone, make sure your gloves are laced and your mouthpiece is securely between your teeth.
3. Listening to the other side is never an option.
4. Whenever the words “health care” are used, boo and hiss loudly.
5. Bring posters of Obama dressed as the Grinch who stole Medicare.
6. Let your Congressman or woman know you like them as much as the guy in the public pool who stays in there for four hours and then leaves without using the restroom.
7. Old folks should rattle their canes and walkers as loudly as possible when the politician begins speaking.
8. Finally, everyone should dress as the cast of M*A*S*H, set up a still, and drink martinis as they listen to their fearless leaders. Throwing darts at the likeness of Obama is an option after the third round.

Well, I don’t know if any rules or etiquette will help these folks. They are venting in a way that seems to signify nothing and everything. Should we put a great deal of emphasis on this or let it simmer down and die out like a fire started by Sarah Palin in the Alaskan wilderness?

One thing is for certain: these town hall meetings have given lots of people some fifteen seconds of infamy. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but I think the road to health care reform is going to be about as easy to follow as the yellow brick road. There will be some lions and tigers and bears, oh my yes, and a witch or two along the way to spoil the party, but in the end we just might reach that Emerald City of Health care Reform. Mr. Obama may turn out to be a wizard of MD, or maybe a little dog will pull down the curtain and reveal him to be just a guy like the rest of us, treading water and hoping not to get sick.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    This set of town hall meeting rules brought to you by 4chan.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Cultural reference I only get because I have a 16 year old who explained it to me the other day.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Same here. I had to look it up in the Wiki.

  • Dan

    How about:

    Politicians taking cell phone calls during Q & A.

    Politicians regretting that they’ve not read the specific legislation dealing with a question, but promising that they will introduce legislative amendments to take care of it later.

    Sarah Palin look a likes dressed in Hee Haw nurses uniforms.

    A sign up table for out of work job applicants seeking government death panel jobs.

    Union auto workers demanding the restoration of viagra treatments to their insurance policies.

    A symposium on the heroic sacrifice of John Edwards to totally abstain from extramarital affairs, except during periods of remission of his spouses cancer.

    An insurance company executive dunking booth.

    A seperately sequestered contingent featuring skin heads, nazis, and swastikas labeled “Pelosi’s Corner”.

  • Arch Conservative

    Politicians routinely lie to us, take as much of our money as they want and waste it on their pet projects, and generally do nothing that could be construed as acting on our best behalf.

    Yet we have people like Victor and others bemoaning the lack of civility they are receiving lately? As far as I’m concerned the politicians should get down on their knees and thank their lucky stars that a couple of raised voices is the worst they’ve had to deal with. If certain individuals became so inclined they could make things much, much worse.

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Very humorous, but I’m thinking the etiquette has to spread to those in Congress. You get what you give, folks.

  • http://heymonkey.blogspot.com Jim Vivanco

    I don’t like lack of civility either but, Americans generally get rowdy when they don’t like what thier government is doing. (Like 1776, for example). The one good thing about this rowdiness is the march to universal health care has slowed down.

    Do you guys remember when, during the Bush years, Sen. McCain and the others in Congress wanted to pass immigration reform through without any debate? The American people got rowdy and it didn’t happen.

    Three cheers for democrary!

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thanks for the comment, Jim, and everyone else. They are appreciated.