One of the things that makes democracy possible is the free and respectful exchange of ideas. This is why I’m appalled by disruptions of town hall meetings.
My disgust has nothing to do with my opinion about health care reform, although I don’t see why having a public option for health insurance is “tyranny.” Tyranny is one group of people try to impose their views on others through force and intimidation. I also don’t see why President Obama is a “fascist” for proposing changes in health care. Fascists in 1930s Germany stormed opposition party meetings and shouted down political opponents. They usually followed this with physical violence. Fortunately, these town hall disruptions haven’t denegrated to this level, but we’re getting dangerously close to that.
And don’t blow off my concerns by calling me a “liberal”. Liberal and conservative have nothing to do with this. What’s at stake is our Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
As an American, I have the right to hear both sides of an issue. I want to be able to listen to people present their views without fear. What I don’t want to hear are people screaming mindless slogans that have nothing to do with the issue, shouting down people who have the floor to speak, and threatening to shut down meetings. That is not First Amendment freedom of speech. It’s intimidation, it’s disrespectful, and it’s downright immature.
Besides, health care isn’t an issue that requires such a heated debate. Really. I know it’s a life-and-death matter. I had to deal with my mother’s stroke, and I know I’ll face some medical crisis in the future. This is why I need an intelligent discussion about this issue. If the federal government can offer my family a more affordable option that provides good coverage, I want to hear about it. And if there are good reasons why the federal government shouldn’t get involved in the health insurance business, I want to hear about them too. Just tell me the facts and let me decide for myself.
To me, America is about the free and open exchange of ideas. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a conservative idea or a liberal idea as long as it works. Shouting, intimidating, and disrupting others is wrong, whether this is done from the left or right. And such attacks are unnecessary in debate. Let’s get the health care debate back to a civil level of discourse. We owe it to ourselves and the future of our democracy.