Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Listen First, Then Blow It Up

My friend Janis Jaquith says in a Facebook posting this a.m. that Congressman Tom Perriello, who faced a tough crowd at a town hall meeting in Bedford the other night, looked into the eyes of support Monday in Charlottesville. I'm not at all surprised by that. Charlottesville is a wealthy, educated, liberal place and it is, in Janis' words, undeniably "civilized."

Bedford is civilized, too, but it is poorer, older, more Republican and much, much more frightened--with good reason. Southside and Central Virginia, which comprise the bulk of Periello's district (one he won in the biggest upset of the most recent election cycle), are in the midst of a depression with the loss of thousands of jobs, two industries (tobacco and furniture manufacturing) and education levels that are far less notable than those in Charlottesville. These good people don't want to lose their health insurance (those who have it), don't want to see dramatic change even though what they have rarely works and are listening almost exclusively and intently to the negative take on the Obama plan. They're showing up at Perriello's meetings angry and with a lot of questions.

It's a scenario that will take place in Franklin County next week and all over the country in the coming days. It would be to the benefit of the good people of Franklin County and Bedford to go to these meetings with some good, specific questions about health care and not worry so much about other issues: immigration, abortion, gay rights, all the trigger issues that the hard right wants to bring up in order to fire the pitch of these meetings and change the subject.

I'd like know the details of the various proposals, but the more people scream, the less we know about the policies being considered. I am not suggesting for an instant that those with serious reservations be anything but good citizens, people who question and argue. But do it in a manner that is fair to everybody and gives the legislators a chance to answer the questions. Be thoughtful of the other people in the room because this is about all of us, not simply a mad sliver of the citizenry.

Let's understand what we're either opposing or supporting before we blow the roof off the building. And frankly, I'm not opposed to that scenario, either, once we know what's going on, but to blow it up on assumption is just stupid. And it's bad PR, which may be worse for those in opposition.

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