Sunday, September 13, 2009

Town Hall of My Rep.

Mike Honda is the Democratic House of Representative from 15th District of California where my house comes in. His organizing committee contacted via email two days back about today's Town Hall meeting and I got an opportunity to attend it. Around 500 people were able to get in and my sense is around 100 could not get in. The meeting was organized at a Jewish Center, quite an impressive facility in a rich neighborhood of Valley. Organization was solid and everybody was required to provide Photo Id to get in. Adequate presence of Police Force was there from start.

Honda came on time and it was not long wait before questions and answers started to flow. Probably more than half people had submitted questions. Honda's office team was selecting questions at random. In an hour or so around 20 to 25 questions were answered.

As with most other Town Hall meetings dedicated for Health Care Reform, representation of Reform Opposing party was vocal and substantial. Mike's answers were okay, actually not that much to the point. Our politicians needs to understand that every time they avoid a direct answer to a frustrated questioner, they actually increase frustration of the person asking a question as well as help deepen the low image about politicians.

Nevertheless, when some one asked 'what right does he have to sign a big price tag bill (1 Trillion) on behalf of people' Mile replied without hesitation 'by constitution'. That was straight, right and gutsy answer. He also made it very clear, explicitly, that in the end he will vote what he believes is right and will not simply give in to some noisy opinions expressed in Town Hall meetings. Exactly - for better or worse people must accept decisions made by their representatives especially since, as Mike reminded, Americans get an opportunity to reject these House Representative every 2 years.

Mike Honda is in the fifth term of House, very non-controversial and genial representative. He is hard working, diligent and very level headed representative. He will, no doubt vote as per the Dem. caucus from California; generally very liberal as defined by Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman. But when there were persistent questions about Public Option and Single Payer system, he did not give the impression that he will adopt any such extreme Liberal position blindly.

So all in all, except the removal of one vocal protester by Police, the meeting was by and large peaceful; especially by the standards set by Town Halls Meetings across the country in this summer.

The real drama was outside. There were Beck Brigade protesters as usual. The shouting match continued for while until Police forced everyone to go. As like protest yesterday in Washington DC, all these vocal reform opponents seemed quite irrational, simply unable to accept the fact of Obama being President. They refuse to understand any reason in this debate and are simply interested to reiterate their prejudices and wrong views.

I had my share of prejudice and bit of a racial comment - a young white teenager, taking notes because his father asked, commented to me that I should go back to India. I had to reply that I am a USA citizen and before he asks me to go back; he should check with his forefathers about where did they come from. The episode is a surprise because the Valley is generally quite progressive and one is unlikely to face such comments. Another lady, outside the hall, faced derogatory (I do not know exact words) comments regarding her allegedly Hispanic origin. The lady was quite upset for all the racial comments despite the fact that she was not Hispanic nor speak Spanish. This is what happens - prejudices start to blind people and accusations start flying with total disregard to reality.

The 'poison' in air was quite palpable. It is sad that in this old and mature democracy, such heinous hatred is still there. Health Care Reform Town Hall Meetings have been one place where these wounds and Americas 'public gutters' have their seams opened. Sad spectacle.

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