Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Knowing the Difference

Here's a tale told in three videos. We'll start with some recent town hall furor captured by TPM (via Sadly, No):

I know that years down the road, I don’t want my children coming to me and asking me, ‘Mom, why didn’t you do anything? Why do we have to wait in line for, I don’t know, toilet paper or anything?’ I don’t want to have to tell them I didn’t do anything. As a normal citizen, the most I feel like I can do is come to this town hall meeting.

“The country is slowly being ripped apart,” said Katy Abram, who identified herself as someone who didn’t care about politics until the last few years. “It scares the life out of me.”

Abram was one of 30 people selected to ask a question to Specter. When she got up, she said, in part, “It’s not about health care … It’s about the systematic dismantling of this country … I don’t want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country. I want to restore this country to what it was under the Constitution.”

First they came for the grandmothers, and I did not speak up, for I did not have a grandmother. Then they came for the toilet paper… Those French-loving Democrats start by winning elections, then impose death panels, internment camps, and bidets.

Lawrence O'Donnell had the same woman, Katy Abram, on Hardball (via Brilliant at Breakfast):

On the one hand, they way she talks about war – war, ya know, where people die and little things like that - makes me feel like pounding my head repeatedly against the wall. On the other, I will give her some credit for occasionally admitting that on some matters - well, many - she just doesn't know. She's not an informed citizen, nor has she tried to become informed, and she sure as hell should not be running the country. But Bill Kristol, John Bolton and the gang would never admit that they didn't know what the hell they were talking about, nor are they typically honest about their agendas. (Jezebel has an interesting take on Abram, too, and includes The Daily Show's clip on her.)

Lawrence O'Donnell deals with Abram fairly gently while trying to engage her on the basis for her views, and I think that's the most effective approach, especially since she's not belligerent. In a one-on-one situation with real people versus professional hacks, that seems like the way to go. It's also not a bad idea on the national level. As it turns out, O'Donnell worked with a guy named Aaron Sorkin who wrote a relevant scene:

The bully pulpit is powerful, and using it is a good idea given such a vile misinformation campaign against health care reform. The Sorkin scene expresses a yearning for an informed citizenry. It'd be nice if that could prevail over the loons who think they're in Red Dawn but acting like they're in The Lord of the Flies (or the mob in The Ox-Bow Incident, or The Manchurian Candidate, or…).

Real life is generally more complex than fiction, of course. Steve Benen has a very good post on five basic types of opponents to health care reform. The hacks and zealots aren't reachable, but others are. There are legitimate debates to be had about health care on top of that, and keeping pressure on Grassley, Baucus, Enzi and others is important. Yet currently, it seems like a big fight just to get the public discussion back to the realm of basic sanity. That's not accidental. But having more informed, interested, basically sane people at town hall events would help.

Firedoglake has a search engine for town hall events and a widget for passing the information on.

Update: Via the Hullabaloo comment thread and others, here's the Daily Howler take and a Daily Kos diary on Abram. Make your own call. For what it's worth, I'm less interested in Abram specifically and more concerned generally about the group Benen calls "The Dupes" in his breakdown, the people "who stand to benefit from reform, but are skeptical because they don't know who's telling the truth and who isn't." To my mind, that's a huge problem on a host of issues, although it sure ain't the only one.

(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo.)


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