Alaska “Deathers” Heckle Sick People (Updated with Photos)
I am taking a break.
This was a strange and disturbing morning.
I started the day with a big cup of coffee, and an 8:30am arrival at The Egan Center in downtown Anchorage. That’s where the special session of the Alaska State Legislature is meeting today. They have two things on their plate – voting on whether to overturn ex-governor Sarah Palin’s rejection of the stimulus money for energy efficiency, and whether to confirm Craig Campbell as Lt. Governor.
The joint session convenes at 1:00, so I had time to pop over and attend a press conference Organizing for America held about health care reform in front of Mark Begich’s office downtown. I’ve been hearing a lot about these Town Hall meetings across the country where people stand and shout to try to disrupt the conversation and prevent discourse. People are angry and they are taking it out on those who want health care reform. Why this is, is a mystery to me, but it happens nonetheless.
Alaska is different, though. You hear that all the time. But here, in such a small community, we all need each other. We may vehemently disagree with each other politically. We may carry signs in opposition to one another’s opinion. We may campaign for different people and vote for different people. But when it comes down to it, we are more united as Alaskans than we are divided. If you break your ankle on the trail nobody asks your political affiliation, or if your car breaks down on the side of the road at 20 below zero, nobody will look at your bumper sticker and drive past.
I knew there would be protesters carrying signs at this event, but when the press conference began, and four brave Alaskans…regular citizens….stood up to tell their harrowing stories of health care challenges, I never believed anyone would heckle them. I really didn’t. But as I stood there and watched, that’s exactly what they did. They shouted at a mom of a young child with special needs. They asked her how much she got paid by the AFL-CIO.
~~~Heckler (far right) taunts Roland Shanks as he talks about his bout with lung cancer an his trials with health care~~~
They shouted at small business owners who can no longer afford to provide their employees with health care, telling them that they are in cahoots with “Obama’s Dirty Nuts” – ACORN.
I watched these brave Alaskans, not professional media people, not people who do public speaking for a living, get up and subject themselves to taunting from their fellow Alaskans while publicly sharing intimate and personal stories of some of the most emotional parts of their lives. I want to salute them.
Bravery is not wearing a t-shirt with a gun on it, carrying a flag with a snake, and screaming while someone is trying to to tell people how to contact their elected representatives. Bravery is not shouting accusations at sick people. Bravery is not stopping discourse. That is cowardice and ignorance and bullying. That is what you do when you know that in rational discourse you will lose.
Bravery is standing up in the face of anger and speaking your story, telling people how to become engaged with their democracy, and demanding that the government listen to the voice of the majority of Americans, not just the bullies.
Eddie Burke managed to show up, and get on camera. He repeated Sarah Palin’s lies about a “Death Panel.” He did it because it sounded good and because it will inflame his “posse” as he called them. He didn’t say it because it was true. He didn’t say it because he wants dialogue. Alaskans who use fear, and anger to intimidate those seeking discussion and reform harm us all. They shame their party, and their state.
There was a woman who shouted, loud and piercing while people were trying to speak, “I SPEAK FOR ALASKANS!” The only time I wanted to interrupt, and yell over the discourse was to tell that woman, “You do not speak for me.”
~~~The woman who does not speak for me shouts at Johnathan Teeters of Organizing for America while he tries to give out contact information so people can contact their elected officials.~~~