All of my Omaha sisters are lovers of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. Whenever I present them with factual information about our good President Obama, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or virtually anything else, I am met with a misinformed statement prefaced by the phrase, “I don't care what you say....”.
They live in a state of fear, fed by Fox pundits, conservative radio and a strategically continuous tide of emails generated from well-funded right wing blog sites and political action groups. This echo chamber of lies is a comfort zone for them, where even Snopes, FactCheck, Politifact, and any news outlet besides Fox isn't to be trusted.
I was reminded of their reluctance to step outside the echo chamber last night, at the downtown Drury where U.S. Senate candidate Ed Martin hosted an “Obamacare Hearing for Missouri Citizens”. A posting on Facebook announced that this hearing was open to the public, and in addition, asked for attendees to come with their “stories”. At least 70 health care advocates who support the ACA came with stories and comments, vastly outnumbering the TeaParty supporters of Mr. Martin who appeared to be shocked that there were so many real people who respectfully took issue with what the speakers (Ed Martin, Phyllis Schlafly of the old Eagle Forum , Bill Hennessy, founder of the St. Louis Tea Party, and the disembodied voice only of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder) had to say. By the way, I give credit to Ed Martin's people, who gave everyone who wanted to speak from both sides ample time to do so.
Supporters of the ACA listened quietly to all of the speakers. A few questions from the audience were taken. Dr. Rea Kleeman, who practiced medicine for over 50 years challenged Schlafly, who had claimed that the entire solution to health care issues in this country would be solved by “detaching health care from government” and having only health savings accounts so we can “pay for the minor stuff” out of pocket. Dr. Kleeman stated that her experience in her medical practice proved that health care savings accounts don't work. Schlafly just didn't believe the doctor of medicine, and I could hear the implied “I don't care what you say” in her voice. Seeing the writing on the wall, Schlafly quickly left the building.
No questions were asked of the Voice of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
During the break I asked Bill Hennessy about his statement that the ACA is “clearly unconstitutional”. He admitted that he is not a constitutional law expert nor is he an attorney. I pointed out that 12 federal judges have refused to hear the case against the ACA, two have ruled for it and two against. And in an “I don't care” sort of way, his response after the break was, “Whether or not it's a good idea is not the point; it's against the law.” Bill, the only thing that's CLEAR is that the issue will be decided by the Supreme Court, not you. Apparently not wanting to hear the real health care stories of real people, Bill also exited the “hearing”, along with some Tea Party folks, leaving poor Ed Martin and his remaining befuddled supporters to face the music.
It was virtually thrilling last night to see a wave of very energized, courageous and polite health care advocates willing to go outside of their comfort zone and carry truth to the Tea Party. I thought of our mentor, Melanie Shouse, who lost her battle with cancer in January of 2010. She carried her powerful verbal banner of truth to every event, no matter how sick she was, speaking for all of us. Now, together, we are picking up the banner from our fallen hero, and we are carrying the defense of quality, affordable health care for all Americans to all who are willing to hear the truth.
(Ed Martin with a case of the sads)