Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Town Meeting

(click for a larger view)
Before going to this evening's town meeting with Tim Johnson, the person who represents our area in Congress, I thought I should become familiar with his positions on various issues so that, on the off chance I might get called on to ask a question, my question could be totally informed. Imagine my surprise when I searched for "health care" on his web site, and found the above "lorem ipsum" text rather than policies and positions. Why would an elected official not post positions on vitally important issues on his or her dot-gov website? Perhaps the same reason that the people who worked in his office did not really give us satisfactory information about his positions on health care when we visited last week.

Thanks to the hard work of many dedicated people, I was able to go elsewhere to find the information I wanted to find.

The meeting was held at the community college where I teach, and the auditorium (the same auditorium where I watched Barack Obama's inauguration between classes last January) was nearly full when we arrived. I spied two empty seats in the middle of the center section, and people I thought to be a nice couple in their later 60s moved over a couple of seats so that Michael and I didn't have to go in so far in order to sit down.

The man, who was sitting next to me, asked me what "side" I was on. I was a bit shocked at the question, but I said that I was in favor of health care reform. He then told me that if he knew that he wouldn't have moved over for me. I thought he was kidding. I asked him if he was kidding because he had a smile on his face. But he wasn't kidding. That was the end of our conversation.

Rep. Johnson arrived ten minutes late, and when he finally arrived he spent a good nine minutes making self-promotional introductory comments. He also made sure that he spent a good five minutes describing the size of our national debt, so the actual amount of time he spent listening to and responding to questions came to about three quarters of an hour (the meeting was supposed to start at 5 and he conveniently had somewhere to go at 6). He did make sure that he called health care reform "socialized medicine," and later in his responses to various questions referred to President Obama sarcastically as our "esteemed leader." He talked about illegal immigrants as people who have "gamed the system," referring to them as simply "illegals."

He responded to thoughtful questions from audience members who voiced the need for health care reform with canned answers that did not answer the specific questions. He was condescending, hostile, angry, and he did his best to try to scare people about the dangers of what he called "socialized medicine." One person cited objective facts about health care from an objective non-partisan source, and Rep. Johnson simply told him that his facts were wrong. I imagine that Rep. Johnson was wrong when he stated that only one tenth of the people in the auditorium were in favor of health care reform. Perhaps he got that information from reading his web page.

I'm glad I went to this meeting. I had a far better impression of him from his campaign material and his voting record than I had from witnessing his sarcasm and his anger. The audience (except for the man to my immediate right) was extremely civil, the Representative was abrasive. When he is up for re-election, I will do everything in my power to work for the person or people running against him.

N.B. Here is an excellent animated explanation from earthly comics about how the insurance business works. It should clear up any questions that anyone might happen to have.


T. said...

I read this a few days ago and was bummed then. Now I read sneering comments about Ted Kennedy's funeral Mass, which I found so beautiful, and am equally bummed. Will there be no end to the disinformation jihad and the sneering disrespect?

Elaine Fine said...

Don't be bummed. The people we need to deal with are the legislators. The vote on health care is up to them, not the people who spread false information. I worry about the people in congress (like this man) who are motivated ego and ideology rather than by trying to be of service to their country and their district. There are so many elements of selfishness at play here.

Michael and I are really going to do our best to get the representative from our area voted out of office. That's all we can do, besides encouraging people outside of our own family and our own mindset that voting matters on a local level as well as on a national one.

I thought Ted Kennedy's funeral Mass was very moving and very meaningful, particularly the eulogies by his son Ted Jr. and by Barack Obama, and I enjoyed reading your blog post about it. Nobody can take that away. The same kinds of people who sneer at national moments and public statements of real value are also the ones who probably used to make fun of and sneer at the smart kids when they were in school.