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.