I often speak to community members about the power of taking over EPA sponsored or public official meetings as a way to hold decision makers accountable for their stupid (in)actions. I encourage people to hold press conferences right before the meeting starts, prep kids to ask questions, wear protest shirts, stand up the entire meeting to make sure the decision maker understands that you are watching their every move. However this whole strategic freak out happening all over the country may steal a page from the EJ community organizing in theory, comparing elected officials whose policies you disagree with to Hitler isn't quite the same as standing up for democracy.
I don't have a tv, so I don't know what the mainstream coverage of these nutballs really looks like and I'm glad. I've seen some scenes online and it's terrifying. There were about 100 people at the library down the street from my mom's house the other day where they screamed to staffers that their rep was a coward for not showing up to the public meeting (where he was never scheduled to attend). I grocery shop with these assholes. It makes me scared for my personal safety at all times. I live in Petworth where four people have been shot and killed outside my apartment building over the past year. I'd rather take my chances in my neighborhood than the Publix that is a half a block from where that meeting happened. What if Publix is out of white zin the day of their Saturday pool party? Will they rearrange the wine bottles into the shape of Hitler in protest?
Bill Maher wrote an article for Huffington Post today that's really good. You should read it.
"Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they're not stupid. They're interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words "Bush" and "knowledge."
"Until we admit there are things we don't know, we can't even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can't stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: "My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying... It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" To which most Americans would respond: "Are you calling my mother a drunk?"
Krugman also wrote a pretty good column the other day.
"But while the organizers are as crass as they come, I haven’t seen any evidence that the people disrupting those town halls are Florida-style rent-a-mobs. For the most part, the protesters appear to be genuinely angry. The question is, what are they angry about?
There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.
Now, people who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is."
There are all these studies being released about how toxic chemicals that are in our products and air and drinking water are increasing our weight, ADHD, and our inability to reason. I think these town hall meetings should be used as case studies for the need for chemical reform and the adoption of the precautionary principle. CDC, FDA, & EPA, are you paying attention this madness?
But on the other hand in chaos is opportunity. I understand that these outbursts are orchestrated by conservative organizations. They are the same people that interned at the Hertiage Foundations and Cato Institutes in the 90's. But I also understand that the fact that people are so emotional and angry about this issue and the other issues that we are facing right now, means that people are paying attention.
There is a lesson and there is opportunity in this moment. We need massive discussions and deep thought on how we live our lives and what we do to each other, whether its refusing to renegoiate outrageously high credit card APRs or deny that BPA is dangerous or make someone try a year of over the counter medication before paying for the medication that their last company was paying for and was working. And with health care and home loans and racial inequality and environmental injustice we need to get emotional and angry and pay attention. And maybe these crazytown people are helping us do that a little bit. Because we are all fucking pissed at the insurance companies and Pharma and to watch these violent idiots say that we aren't worth a system that works for us not against us, just makes us more fucking angry. Maybe even angry enough to do something about it.
I'm still in my twenties I'm allowed to be an optimist. And I really do feel that we can all learn how to be a better person by watching these mobs lose control.
Take care of yourself out there.