August 25, 2009
A Nation of YellersBy Carol Peracchio
The intelligentsia on the left are baffled. It's written on the faces of the congresspeople facing their previously docile, obedient and blessedly ignorant constituents.
What the heck happened? Who and what ARE these "constituents" showing up at my townhall?
Bob Beckel, appearing on Fox News, dismissed the idea that the crowds at the town hall meetings were "spontaneous": "[F]or anybody who believes that these things are not organized, I used to do this for a living. I used to get these town meetings organized with my grassroots company."
Note to David Axelrod: Time to hire Bob Beckel and his grassroots company to get the pro-healthcare reform protestors to the townhall meetings. Whoever's organizing them now is doing a dismal job.
Since President Obama's inauguration I have been to two tea parties and a health care protest at our Congressman's office. I can assure Mr. Beckel that a mere phone call, even from Saul Alinsky himself, would not have been enough incentive to get me there. Why? Because it has to be life or death for me to overcome my phobia of finding a parking spot downtown. And yet, there I was, during rush hour on a hot July afternoon, holding my sign and waving at traffic. Next to me was another Mob Activist -- a sweet elderly lady, dressed to the nines in a mint green pantsuit, carrying a neatly hand-lettered sign, an American flag, and over her arm: her handbag.
I can see why Rahm Emmanuel is so petrified.
So what kind of situation compels elderly women and middle-aged nurses, normally very polite people, to brave the horrors of driving into the city to stand in the heat and protest? As a nurse, I've observed this 180 degree change in behavior frequently, starting in nursing school. For example, I remember a delightful courtly gentleman admitted for surgery who started snarling obscenities and refusing to take his medications post-op. I asked my nursing instructor about this, thinking perhaps the patient was suffering some kind of neurological problem or medication side effect. The wise instructor explained that the patient was reacting to being completely powerless. Two days earlier my patient was in control of his life. He made his own decisions. Now he was reduced to asking an 18 year old student nurse for help to the bathroom.
One year ago we Americans felt, perhaps naively, that we had some control over our lives. Then last September, we were told the world was ending and the cost of stopping Armageddon was 700 billion dollars. We called, faxed, and emailed Congress. We begged them to slow down. We did everything that had worked so well during the comprehensive immigration reform fight. But it didn't work last September, and on October 3, 2008, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was passed by Congress. Our representatives tried to explain their votes by telling us they had information we weren't privy to.
Just trust us.
For the first time, I felt American citizens were powerless.
Next up: Stimulus, or as the Democrats refer to it, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Once again, we phoned, faxed and emailed. There was some consolation when no Republicans in the House supported it. But three Republican Senators ignored millions of us. My sense of helplessness and frustration grew as I contemplated that. 787 billion dollars in pork, vehemently opposed by so many, could have been stopped but for three Senators who arrogantly believed they were in possession of wisdom far beyond their constituents and their party.
On to the Omnibus Budget. Same opposition, same results. But by now the "patient" was starting to get a little acrimonious. On April 15th, hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered for Tea Parties. The party I attended had over 1000 people in a very liberal small city. Professionally organized, Mr. Beckel? I don't think so! The sound system consisted of a bullhorn.
My nursing instructor taught me something very important about my angry patient: Never forget that under the tubes, wires, and dressings is a person. He's not the "fractured hip in 301 B". He's a grandfather, or a retired salesman, or so many other things.
So how did the President and his fellow liberals in Congress and the media react to the tea partiers? It would have been bad enough if they'd just ignored us, steamrolling over our protests. No, they decided to mock us, referring to us as "teabaggers". A freshman studying Psychology 101 could have told these brilliant strategists that belittling fellow citizens and their concerns is no way to win support. One of the first things nurses learn in caring for the angry patient is to acknowledge their feelings. "I hear how frustrating this must be for you." It's much too late now, but sometimes I wonder if President Obama's agenda might be sailing through if he'd handled his opponents with a little grace and class last spring.
When Cap and Trade passed the House, the game was over. Americans now knew that emails, faxes and phone calls meant nothing to Washington, DC. Like the patient who has pressed the call bell for 20 minutes with no answer, we Americans started doing the only thing we had left.
That's what the town halls are. We're Moms, Dads, grandparents, neighbors. When the nurse doesn't respond, when your kid doesn't answer, when customer service puts you on hold for the third time, what does the average American do? He yells. We're a nation of yellers. I like to think that's how we started, by a bunch of colonials at Lexington and Concord who decided to yell. Like England, the Democrats should be concerned. Once Americans have started yelling, revolutionary things start happening.
Carol Peracchio is a registered nurse.