Genuine Conversation on Healthcare?

On Tuesday, thousands of concerned Californians flocked to Alhambra, most of them with their minds made up and determined to speak out on healthcare reform.

The Pasadena Star-News reports that amidst the shouting, jeering and name-calling, “there were also some genuine conversations, though people didn’t seem to come to any agreement.” The article goes on to tell the experience of Rick Rosich, an Alhambra resident in favor of the legislation, who spoke briefly with a small crowd in opposition.

‘They said Obama was a Muslim, a communist and a Nazi,” Rosich told the Star-News. ‘They kept saying that Obama was putting us on the road to socialism.’”

That’s genuine conversation? I heard little of it in the sense of discussion to try and get to the root of an issue. There was a lot of “liar!” (such as “people are suffering without adequate health care” LIAR!!). “Shut up!” was exchanged more than once. Another woman told me she was accused of being an illegal immigrant. She was born in North Carolina.

Criticism heard at the event, and later in the blogs, from those opposed to Obama’s plan for healthcare reform is that the town hall did not allow adequate space for detractors (even though they are the first to say they made themselves heard). Here is what the blogger Pasadena Sub Rosa had to say about that.

“Schiff [The Democratic congressman who held the meeting] and his entourage of elitist experts propounded the advantages of “scientific” health care and “computerized” medical records which would lower costs and shift health care delivery from quantitative care to qualitative care. Faith was to be placed in technocracy and bureaucracy. The Hippocratic Oath and the doctor-patient relationship was to be replaced with the House of Representative Health Care Reform Act. It was as if the Nicene Creed could be replaced with HR 3200.

Neither Schiff, nor any of the technocratic experts, dared to mention the propsed [sic] health care reform would inevitably entail the end of chemotherapy and tumor removal surgeries for those with cancer. Shifting shifting to outcomes based health care would mean the end of costly cancer treatments with a low probability of cure. It might also mean the end of angioplasty and stents [sic] for those with blocked arteries. Instead, patients would be assigned “preventive” care and a vegan diet.”

And his kicker: “Now the phrase ‘better dead than red’ had taken on a whole new meaning.”

Some supporters of health care reform, and members of the minority in attendance who were undecided and came to learn, expressed frustration at the divisive tone of the meeting. The blog Down With Tyranny:

“You heard all the Limbaugh talking points that have been drilled into their heads about how taxes are theft. The not maybe is how every single conversation– especially if you push them out of their comfort zone, an easy thing to do– ends with them screaming how they’re not going to pay for health care for illegal aliens. I swear, that’s what it’s all about: they hate illegal aliens.”

Sally Zhu writes in the Asian American Action Fund blog that there was one group decidedly missing in the debate: Alhambrans.

“When I was heading down to Alhambra from Westwood, I was excited. A town hall on healthcare in the San Gabriel Valley–the heart of SoCal’s Asian America…At seven o’clock, I stood in a sea of people–a sea of white people…in the heart of Asian America. The demographic shocked me. Something was up. In walking through the crowd, I estimated there was less than forty AAPIs attending. They stood quiet, in the midst of angry shouts at the Pasadena Congressional Representative.”

Which raises a good question: Why, when people came from as far away as Orange County, and way beyond Rep. Schiff’s district, did so few Alhambrans attend?

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