On Hartford Ave.

It’s not yet 6am and the brain isn’t awake yet, so here’s some quick impressions of last night’s Town Hall at the Johnston Senior Center.

I made a sign, ‘Health for America, Yes We Can’ in red, white and blue. I could have made one that said, ‘I would really prefer that a single-payer system like the Federal Employees insurance benefit enjoyed by Congress be made available to all but I’ll support an incremental reform like the public option now under discussion because I believe in harm-reduction and I’ll welcome any change for the better’. But the traffic whizzing by on Hartford never would have been able to read that.

The anti people had it easier. They had slogans like–‘No more taxes’. I’m sorry, I think this is dumb. We are going to pay taxes, our right and responsibility is to make sure the taxes are spent for the common good.

Anyway, since the strip of sidewalk at the entrance of the Senior Center was occupied by anti-reform people, I decided to plant myself there to make a visual statement of support–get some diversity out there.

I was next to an anti-tax guy, and I tried to start simple. ‘Do you think that every American should be able to access basic health care?’ He said the insurance companies needed reform. He started to consider that no one should be shut out of health care due to lack of money, but then backtracked. This was off the ‘no tax’ message, end of discussion. He moved to the other end of the sidewalk, and some time later another anti-tax guy showed up smoking what had to be the world’s biggest cigar. He looked real proud, I guess he had the tobacco equivalent of the Hummer. If he ever gets lung disease, are we supposed to tsk, tsk him about his ‘bad choices’? (a stupid sanctimonious phrase I hate. show me any human who never made bad choices.)

I was there about 2 hours. Passing cars honked but it was seldom sure who they were honking for. Two of us were holding signs for health care reform when a tall, blonde woman joined us with an anti sign. We eventually started talking. She complemented me on being capable of making a sign. “I didn’t know that liberals could make their own signs, I thought they just took what the Unions gave them.” We had a fascinating discussion.

She continued to use the word ‘liberal’ the way some use the word ‘queer’, that is, not in a good way. I’m still processing that having different politics would make me seem so alien to her. But I suspect she reads Ann Coulter.

I suspected other things about her. I’ve been baptized three times, never took. The most recent was in Apponaug Pentecostal Church. I have a sensitive nose for the odor of sanctity. I guessed that she was religious, and I came out as a Unitarian, just to be contrary.

She ended up telling me that the Holy Spirit told her I would accept Jesus into my heart as Lord and Savior. She was saying these words of love and holiness with eyes full of anger, with a voice high with rage. I would have been scared, but I’ve been through this before, at a much younger age. I have no use for generic love, especially when they hate everything I believe in.

The discussion stuck at the same point as all the others I’ve had at three Town Halls. Anti-tax, Christian, whatever, they say that if Americans have to die for lack of health care, that’s just how it is. They made bad choices, we can’t afford it, they should just go to the emergency room, that’s our safety net.

I left the sidewalk and checked out the Senior Center. Feelings were high, but it was an orderly question and answer session. Only one or two Larouchites remained to peddle their magazines, from a table outside the door.

Good people can disagree on how to make health care available to all Americans, but when we can’t agree whether, I don’t know what to say.

‘Yes We Can’ was the spirit that put a man on the moon. Yes, we are a great nation, and we can build a system that works well and effectively. ‘No We Can’t’ is the spirit of fear and retreat. Any action we take will be messy, will require investment today for rewards later. Inaction is worse. The least we can do is start bailing, what we really need is to patch up the holes.