I was discussing with my son, Ken, the free-for-alls taking place in town hall meetings around the country as angry people confront members of Congress over the Obama Administration's health care reform proposals. It isn't all that surprising, he said, and it's not just about health care.
To put the situation in a context I could understand, he invents a couple named Murray and Gladys. He said Murray and Gladys are middle-class people who pay their taxes, vote, obey the law and ascribe to no particular political philosophy. It doesn't matter if the current administration in Washington is Republican or Democratic. Their dealings are with a federal bureaucracy riddled with red tape that never changes despite campaign rhetoric that it will.
Their member of Congress wouldn't know them from a deerfly because they don't contribute major bucks to said member's re-election campaign. They have no high-powered lobbyist to represent their interests in the halls of Congress. If they have the temerity to contact their representative or senator, they get a form letter thanking them and telling them how much their opinion is valued, which they know is a bunch of bull.
Murray and Gladys read about the soaring federal deficit and then they read about members of Congress and spouses traveling to places like Paris, the Caribbean and the Great Barrier Reef this year on junkets estimated at $10,000 or more per flying hour and staying in rooms costing up to $1,100 a night - all paid for by taxpayers.
If that "let 'em eat cake" attitude doesn't raise their blood pressure, they learn that after chastising business executives for flying on private jets, members of the House of Representatives slipped $550 million in the debt-ridden budget to add to the fleet of luxury Air Force jets used for trips like these, even though the Defense Department said it doesn't need them.
Now, the Obama Administration decides it is time to reform the nation's broken health care system. It is a decision that is long overdue, but a decision about as poorly executed as UGA's tackling in last year's Tech game.
Murray and Gladys don't know what's in the plan. They don't know how much it will cost. They don't know how it will work. They fear it will make the federal government bigger and even more difficult to deal with. Yet, they are being asked by the politicians to "trust us." Yeah, right. What the geniuses in Washington don't understand is that Murray and Gladys didn't fall off a turnip truck.
Members of Congress who would prefer to handle health care reform quietly among themselves and the health care lobby - i.e. major contributors - are back in their districts and getting their imperial hides peeled by the Murrays and Gladyses of the world. Some members, like Georgia Rep. David Scott, a Democrat from the 13th District whose hide is already thinner than a slice of prosciutto, publicly berate a questioner for - well - questioning him. Just what does he think this is - a democracy?
Democrats claim the raucous behavior in the town meetings is the work of nefarious Republicans and right wing nuts. Some of that may be true, but it is also true that ordinary citizens are angry and frustrated and relish the opportunity to get their hands on their elected officials out of their Washington sanctuaries. The debate may be about health care, but their ire goes far beyond that.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opines that what is happening in these town hall meetings is "simply un-American." That is as insulting as it is elitist. If she spent less time with her nose in the air and put her schnozz in a history book, she would learn about the Boston Tea Party, the Whiskey Rebellion and Fries' Rebellion - just three examples of ordinary citizens rebelling against what they considered the high-handed actions of their government. That sounds pretty American to me.
I should have asked Ken if any ancestors of his fictitious couple, Murray and Gladys, might have been involved in some of the historical dustups with an out-of-touch government that had turned a deaf ear to their grievances. If so, I think I know how this story is going to turn out.
E-mail columnist Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.