Mixing With the Crowd at a Health-Care Town Hall
By Jack Kinstlinger
On Monday, I arrived at Towson University at 6:15 p.m. to attend Sen. Ben Cardin’s town hall meeting on health-care reform. It was a stiflingly hot and humid evening, so I expected a rather small crowd. Imagine my surprise to see hundreds of people lining both sides of Osler Avenue outside the Center for the Arts, where the meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m.
A lone police officer struggled to contain the crowd and allow traffic to continue to use the street. The officer informed me that the meeting room’s capacity of 500 seats was filled by 5:15 p.m. and that the doors had then been closed, so I never did get to hear Cardin’s presentation or see what else transpired inside. But there was plenty going on outside.
The great majority of the crowd was screaming and waving signs attacking the Obama health-care proposals in graphic terms. At several booths, people handed out opposition literature, T-shirts and signs and enrolled attendees in various organizations. Cars and SUVs drove by honking their horns, seemingly in support. Signs showed President Obama with a Hitler-like mustache. Signs showed swastikas and bore messages describing Obama’s health-care plan as euthanasia, socialism and a tax scam. Some messages accused members of Congress of giving themselves special consideration, others described “death panels” that would sentence parents or children. It was remarkable how uniform both the spoken and written messages appeared to be, almost as though some organization or rehearsal had occurred beforehand.
On both sides of the street, a majority of the people were opponents of health-care reform. But there were some supporters on one side, where they huddled together as if for support and protection. I, being an outspoken sort, carried a sign backing health-care reform and decided to mix with the opposition crowd. Many appeared angry and perplexed that a seemingly respectable gent would actually support this “nefarious plot,” and, while I feared for my safety, no harm befell me. Most people seemed unwilling to even discuss the issues. They simply insulted me, calling me a communist, and worse. But a few did pause to try to understand my position.
Overall, I was frightened by the anger and hostility evidenced by so many of my Maryland neighbors, as well as by the blatant misinformation that seems to have been accepted by so many.
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