Last night P and I and Courtney and Eva checked out the town hall madness at Meany Hall on the UW campus. U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott hosted. He was a gracious host. Some in the audience were not gracious guests.
It didn’t get as bad as health care town halls I’ve seen on television. The naysayers, who mostly seemed of the Lyndon Larouche camp, simply tried to disrupt things. They shouted comments while Rep. McDermott was mid-sentence. Initially the rest of the folks in the audience turned toward the noise, curiously, but when it continued, when the guy in question wouldn’t shut up, they shouted him down. There was an adamance to this that was refreshing. The best shoutdown, a quiet but poignant shoutdown, came from Rep. McDermott himself. He was talking about a particular universal health-care-coverage proposal and then asked rhetorically, “Where did this idea come from?” One of the rabble-rousers yelled “Communists!” McDermott cocked his head, put his hands on the lectern, and enunciated distinctly: “Richard M. Nixon.” Laughter and applause.
There was a lot of applause last night. There were a lot of questions. A lot of people’s concerns were my concerns. This is Seattle so most in the audience wanted the public option if not a complete single-payer system like in Canada. They’re worried they won’t get the public option. They’re worried the Dems will fold. They asked: “What can we do to make sure the public option, or public choice, gets through?” McDermott mentioned showing up, as we were showing up, and letting our voices be heard. He said show up at the rally at Westlake Thursday evening. He said write your Senators. Let them know how you feel.
For Washington-ites, you can e-mail Sen. Patty Murray here.
You can e-mail Sen. Maria Cantwell here.
It’s Google time people. It’s easy to contact these folks.
Here are some other resources. T.R. Reid, a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post, and the author of The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, hosted a Frontline special last summer, that you can watch here, at the end of this Q&A. (It’s worth it.)
Reid also has a good Op-Ed in The Washington Post: “Five Myths About Health Care Around the World."
It continues to startle me how xenophobic this country remains, and how much our xenophobia is used against our better interests. “Communist!” when someone isn’t, “Terrorist!” when they’re not. “Kenyan!” when someone’s American, “Socialist Medicine!” when it’s generally not. And even if it is a socialist system, like Great Britain’s, well, it’s socialist in the sense that our education system and police force and firefighters are socialist. What do these things have in common? They’re essential to our well-being. Isnt health care?
Other countries’ health care systems are always used to stifle debate in this country—it’s gotten to the point where merely mentioning it is disparaging it—but who’s happy with our system? We’re locked into our employer’s heath care package (and thus fear getting fired or changing jobs), we waste everyone’s time with “gatekeepers” (and thus have to go through general practitioners to get to specialists), and 20-22% of our heard-earned money goes toward administrative costs rather than, you know, actual medical costs. This compares with 6-10% in other countries. And the nutjobs say we have the best health care in the world? We may spend the most, in terms of GDP, but the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. system 37th.
Time to get better.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to write my Senators.
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