Thursday, September 3, 2009

West Hartford CT Town Hall Health Care Forum

by Val McCall

On Wednesday, September 2nd, I attended the town hall health care forum with Congressman John Larson and an excellent panel of speakers. I happen to come across a blog post by Rick Green on his Courant.com blog, CTConfidential, entitled, "Paranoia runs deep: Read memo from CT Tea Party Central!." Green's commentary focuses on a memo that was sent to "Liberty Supporters" about yesterday's event. The memo states that:
"[T]here were many of our people who showed up at the West Hartford town hall and although we were not allowed to go inside - because the room was packed with Obamacare supporters...we had plenty of people outside protesting and shouting down the other side.

Larson's folks bused people in - I hear that some came from Massachusetts. There were a bunch of kids - like 12 year olds ... also SEIU people and Planned Parenthood people and union employees ... plus some high school and college kids - who clearly did not know what they were asking for or what this issue is really about." Full article.
I am a proud resident of West Hartford, Connecticut. I say proud because residents in my town, like many others, have a longtime reputation for being actively involved in our community. We regularly come out to town hall gatherings to hear from our elected officials and others on any given issue that is important to us. In fact, this is one of the reasons why we have one of the best K-12 public school systems in the country, and enjoy one of the highest voter turnout rates in our state. Moreover, when there is a town hall gathering on a critical issue close to us all, we all know to arrive early, or at the very least on time, to ensure that we get not just a seat, but a good seat.

There were no buses at yesterday's event. There was a large representation from the community (and the first CD), i.e., elderly/retired citizens, small business owners, families, clergy, students, community activists, elected officials, as well as groups and organizations that are, in fact, a part of every community. In other words, do some of us belong to unions, to organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, AARP? Are some of us community activists, members of the Faith community, and more? Are some of us students? Do we come out as a family? Yes, to all of these and more.

As for those who oppose some of the proposals of health insurance reform, I found that the majority of these individuals stayed clear of a relatively small group of loud hecklers. Once inside, one man who stated that he opposed health care reform called out for hecklers in the rear of the room to stop heckling so that we could hear what the speaker was saying. It was clear that the majority of participants, regardless of their personal viewpoint, wanted to hear from Congressman Larson and the panel of speakers.

Rallies are all about a call to action for a cause through signs, slogans, buttons, stickers, handouts etc. And both sides rallied vigorously outside on the green in front of town hall.

Just prior to the forum, supporters of health insurance reform hosted a press conference outside on the front steps of town hall. Clergy and speakers did their best to be heard over those who shouted at them in opposition. The most heart-wrenching scene was the shouting at a person who shared their story of health insurance denial, sickness, loss and despair by those in opposition stating that they did not care about that person's problems. This is heartless and shows a complete lack of humanity in every way.

To disagree on an issue or policy proposal on how we will accomplish health insurance reform provides for a healthy debate and allows for a diverse pool of thoughts and ideas, when done constructively. To deliberately stop the flow of dialog at all costs, to disparage those who, of no consequence of their own doing, become victims of our broken health insurance system, is despicable and unconscionable behavior that creates no value for anyone.

We must all call on our sense of humanity and engage in meaningful dialog. It matters not what our personal viewpoint on health insurance reform is. We are all in this boat together and there is a hole in the floor of the boat called health insurance costs. If we do not act constructively to close that hole, we will all sink.
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