At Warwick City Hall

If I had known I would have brought a sign. I got there at 3:30 and the anti-reform people were out in force, at least a hundred were there already. The pro-reform people arrived later, but enough were able to get inside to form a loud cheering section for Congressman Langevin to balance out the loud boos.

A couple of young men had set up a lunch table as a slam at ACORN, who they believed was going to lure hundreds to the site at noon by offering box lunches. I didn’t see ACORN anywhere, and the lunch table was wilting in the sun.

I got into conversation with one of them, a guy named Ryan. He had studied government and business, I work in nursing. I told him what I see happen to Americans who don’t get coverage until their health is wrecked and they qualify for disability. He acknowledged that people die for lack of care but said we can’t afford to cover everyone, and we don’t have enough doctors. If people choose not to get insurance they take the consequences. ‘This is not a Democracy’, he said, ‘it’s a Constitutional Republic.’ Not being a political scientist, I had no answer for this. I heard the same words exactly from a questioner inside later, so this is a talking point, clearly.

Ryan and I talked back and forth, but finally could agree only on the point that disease is bad and cures are welcome. At least the conversation was civil. I told Ryan that this ‘Nazi’ talk was offensive and he denied that anyone from their side would use such language. I was almost embarrassed to have brought it up. But before the line of citizens was allowed into the hall, someone had set up a huge picture of Barack Obama with a Hitler mustache, and later I saw a woman holding a glossy magazine with the same picture on the back cover. There was a bald guy with a bullhorn wearing ‘Joker’ makeup, I tried to make eye contact but maybe my nurse’s scrubs put him off, he avoided me.

A couple of Brown medical students were there in doctor garb advocating for the public option. Some friends over age 65 came with signs for health care reform.

Chris Young’s associate, a pretty young woman I have seen with him at hearings before, was holding an anti-abortion sign. This led to me getting into another conversation, with an intense man who decried ‘ripping babies from the womb’, but supported the Governor cutting insurance for pregnant women because women shouldn’t have babies they can’t afford. I guess I’m fortunate that my father was in the Army when I was born, and my mother got government health insurance.

To both of these men I argued that Medicare lifts a burden off my generation by giving us peace of mind about our parent’s medical care. Neither of them really had an answer to that, other than that Medicare’s okay, but we don’t want any expansion.

Having arrived so early I was toward the front of the line, I think about 400 were able to get in, filling all the seats and the gallery in back, with about 10 people in wheelchairs down front.

A screen displayed myths and facts about the health care legislation.

The Congressman was calm, had answers to all the questions, and firm on the benefits of reform and expanding coverage. There were many questions, mostly from the opposition. Many had come prepared with speeches, they were generally able to be heard.

It would have been even better if a loud contingent, mostly in the center of the room, had not taken the call to shut down discussion so literally. They hollered, they booed, they even drowned out questions from their own side, prompting others to yell, ‘shut up’. They set a nasty tone and slowed everything down. Chris Young hollered, he was escorted out, he came back and began hollering at intervals again. His associate shrieked, but only once. Thank you for your restraint, miss.

One of the most interesting moments was when a man with an accent asked if the plan would fill America’s hospitals with illegal aliens working as doctors and nurses so that we wouldn’t have to pay citizens. He heard it on Glenn Beck.

Many of my fellow-workers in health care were born outside of the US. They are here legally. We all undergo background checks every time we change jobs. Is it going to be open season on them now? A woman sitting in front of me, when Congressman Langevin asked ‘who are the uninsured?’ shouted–‘illegal aliens!’

The town hall wrapped up sometime around 7:30. The shouters managed to obstruct enough to prevent a large number of people from having a chance to speak by slowing things down.

Outside, the crowd was exuberant, the cameras were there. The anti-reform group had won the PR contest.

We don’t have a health care system. We have a fragmented mess. I think some of the fuel for this anger is a justified sense of insecurity. I think the blame is misplaced and that delay and half-measures will cost more and accomplish less.

I had a sense of religious zeal when I heard people speak about the ‘free market’– a faith I don’t share. But I’m a Unitarian, and I believe in the worth and dignity of every person, so religion motivates me as well.

I was not expecting to be face to face with nice, well-informed people who conceded that Americans will die for lack of care, but that’s how it is. It’s a philosophical gap I can’t get over.

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9 responses

  1. Nancy, Great reporting and reflecting on these important local events! I was waiting for your post — wanting to know how things shook out in the final analysis. We need a stronger contingency for the reform people and it helps greatly that you provided this first-hand account.

    We are definitely in the throes of insecurity and fear over the possibility of health care reform. I hope it doesn’t have to get any worse before it starts getting better.

  2. Young…it figures. He was getting in people’s faces at the SSM bill hearing demanding to know the orientation of anyone who supported it.
    As for his companion…refer to reasons why women stay with abusive men.

    1. What exactly do you know about their relationship?How do you know Mr.Young is abusive in any way?You’re making a backdoor accusation of something pretty serious.
      I don’t know Mr.Young,except from having run into him at the statehouse during a hearing on something other than SSM.How does being loud and rude about sexual orientation make him abusive to his girlfriend?She seems to share his opinions.
      You’re a real two bit amateur expert on relationships these days,is that it?

      1. It’s painfully obvious from his public behavior that the man is abusive.
        He wouldn’t be the first abusive guy to have quite a way with the ladies, though. Psychopaths are quite often that way – I would venture to guess he can turn on the charm when he feels like it. O.J. was a charming guy, after all.

  3. If you are so much in favor of democracy,pure and simple then don’t complain about the results of Proposition 8 in California.Common Cause,a leftist group here,vehemently opposes voter initiative because they think it will harm civil rights.
    I actually think the visa qualifying tests for foreign medical personnel are artificially difficult.These people are doctors,nurses,etc in their own countries and yet are roadblocked when they try to emigrate here.take the Philippines.they have many excellent nurses there-it is a popular occupation in that country.I will rsik wtereotyping and say that my experiences with Filipinos have made me consider them largely nice and caring people.I’m sure there are lots who aren’t,but I haven’t run across many.When I was in INS,I always hated having to pick up filipino nurses who had overstayed their visa because the government was amking them jump thorugh too many hoops to get residence.
    I’ve been treated at the VA by doctors from India,Chile,Uruguay,Syria,Pakistan,Argentina,Philippines,and other places.No complaints at all.I met nurses from all over the place.same opinion.It should be a lot easier for foreign providers to come here as immigrants.that is the kind of immigration we need.My mom just had amazing results from a Nigerian neurosurgeon-he took a very conservative approach to a life threatening injury that worked.I didn’t think it could possibly turn out that well no amtter who the doctor was.I was wrong.
    Chris Young and his friend are loud,yes,but apparently it didn’t bother you when a weirdo(no other way to describe him)dressed in a priest-like getup physically assaulted her in the gallery at a House committee hearing.He pushed her repeatedly.If the had done that to my wife,he’d have made a trip to the ER -I’ve been put there myself enough times and done the same so it’s not empty bravado when I say that.I am getting too old for that crap though.
    An expansion of Medicaid for low wage earners,people with pre0-existing conditions,and laid off workers might be a really good idea.They could also adopt the VA style automated,”vertical”record system.It’s not an intrusion,but actually a potential life-saving tool for a provider.
    You have to be nuts to go to these meetings.Theater and in your face debate on the sidewalk accomplishes little and educates not at all.
    Langevin seems to have tried to do a credible job and sounded respectful of his employers.Barney Frank is a walking turdpile.Just my very subjective opinion.Anyone who claims he doesn’t know a callboy ring is operating out of his apartment is either learning disabled or a liar.He was living with a hustler after all,what did he expect?

  4. Just so as not to be misunderstood, Chris Young’s associate seemed to be shrieking with enthusiasm for her cause. I was sitting to the side and behind them and I didn’t see him elbow her in the ribs or anything.
    Joe, I totally agree about expanding Medicaide. That is pretty much the public option.

  5. No-she got elbowed repeatedly by a guy dressed as a priest during the SSM hearings in the Statehouse- I saw it on TV.

  6. ‘This is not a Democracy’, he said, ‘it’s a Constitutional Republic.’ Not being a political scientist, I had no answer for this.

    This is a standard wingnut talking point, meant to delegitimize the Democratic Party. “You call yourselves Democrats, but America isn’t even a democracy, so you should all just go away.”

    The answer is that the US is a representative democracy as well as a constitutional republic. Not that that’ll ever make any of them give up their idiotic talking point.

  7. [...] a link to live reporting from the Town Hall Meeting last August. [...]

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