The Healthcare Reform Debate in Atlanta, With a Racial Update

by Guest Contributor (and regular commenter) Atlasien

UPDATE: There is a guy with a gun outside of Obama’s town hall. This shit is getting ridiculous. Gawker has details:

MSNBC just aired video of a man with a pistol strapped to his leg waiting for Barack Obama to arrive at a townhall in New Hampshire.

The man is carrying a sign that says, “It Is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty.” That’s a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” It was a favorite slogan of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was wearing a T-shirt when he was arrested with a picture of Lincoln on the front and a tree dripping with blood on the back.

Now, this guy is carrying a legal weapon, says NBC News’ Ron Allen. The local chief of police has no objections. Open carriage of licensed handguns is legal in New Hampshire, and the man is standing on the private property of a nearby church (!) that has no problem with an armed man hanging around.

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I live in Georgia’s 4th District, and I just attended Representative Hank Johnson’s healthcare town hall meeting. The event drew thousands of people. Our group got there an hour early, but even with that lead time, there was obviously no chance of getting inside.

So we stood outside with signs: large, simple, direct, polite signs. We got some good attention and maybe some media coverage.

Judging from the signs in the incredibly long line, supporters of healthcare reform outnumbered opponents by a lot, maybe 4 to 1. The 4th District is majority African-American and overwhelmingly Democratic. It was almost a sure bet that many healthcare opponents drove into the district from much further away. I saw a lot of exurb county license plates in the parking lot.

There were a few weird screamers. Someone yelled “YOU’RE NAZIS” at us. Another man yelled “you want to send all our money to Kenya!” However, there were so many supporters that the really rude people never achieved critical mass, and the atmosphere outside remained calm.

There was heavy security, and apparently the rules for the town hall were very strict and carefully explained at the beginning. People who yelled or were disruptive would be escorted out. I can’t wait to read a summary to see how the town hall worked out.

It was certainly nothing like the mass chaos at the town hall in St. Louis that made national news. In this event, a black conservative named Kenneth Gladney claims to have been attacked and racially insulted by (black) SEIU union activists. Depending on your point of view, Gladney could be a a brave martyr or a scam artist… or perhaps just a regular person in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a difficult situation to get a hold on.

Going back to local Atlanta news, there’s been a lot of local coverage on how Rep. David Scott, of the neighboring 13th District, supposedly “lost his temper” or “went berserk” at a non-healthcare town hall when he was asked a healthcare reform question. I saw the video clip in question, and I don’t believe he really loses his temper. And I’m not saying this because I like David Scott, because I can’t stand him. I think his political career is full of soft corruption, and he’s nowhere near the caliber of, say, John Lewis. But in this case Scott is right. The media coverage surrounding the video clip was ridiculous and racist. Whatever the man’s faults, he’s a slick politician… he wouldn’t freak out in front of a camera. If he was white, the headlines would have said “angry words” at the most, not “loses his temper”.

Here’s what he has to say in his defense:

“The first question that comes out of his mouth, ‘Why did you vote for this?’” Scott said. “Wait a minute — I didn’t vote for anything. We haven’t had it to vote on.”

What you didn’t see in our original report was the three minutes Scott spent answering the doctor’s question before he raised his voice.

Watson asked Scott, “In hindsight, seeing those clips, did you lose your temper?”

“No, I did not lose my temper. I was very firm and I talked very firm — and if you looked at that, my words were there. I didn’t bite my tongue about it. I was very, very disturbed with him,” Scott said.

But Scott is even more disturbed about mail he has received in the days since the story aired.

Scott held up a sheet of paper to Watson that had a picture of President Obama on it, his face made to look like the joker in Batman, a swastika on his forehead. Then he read what it said.

“They address it to n—– David Scott, ‘You were, you are, and you shall forever be, a n—–’,” Scott said, reading from the letter. “I got this in the mail today. Somewhere underneath this, bubbling up, is the ugly viscissitudes [sic, because 11alive.com hasn't discovered spellchecking] of racism. We should be proud we have an African American president and celebrating him willing to take on the difficult issue of healthcare, an issue that reflects 19 percent of our economy. Here we are in Congress trying to grapple with an almost impossible task — almost two improbables together, bring the cost of healthcare down while expanding the coverage of it. That is a difficult assignment and it should not be relegated to these mobs of people who will come and hijack a meeting, and you expect me not to stand up to that and not to show that we’re not intimidated?”

Scott is hosting a health fair and healthcare forum at which he will do questions and answers on the topic of healthcare reform.

It will be held on Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm at Mundy’s Mill High School in Jonesboro.

Thank goodness my Rep, Hank Johnson, will never be accused of losing his temper, despite incontrovertible blackness. Maybe it’s all the “Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō”s he undoubtedly recites… he projects an almost supernatural (though slightly gawky) aura of calmness. If he’s ever accused of “going berserk”, I’ll know the time of white exurban riots will be upon us.