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Free to shout

Original post made by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor, on Sep 8, 2009

OUR RECENT editorial on town hall meetings — specifically, on Rep. Anna Eshoo's "telephone town hall meetings" — had a few readers [Web Link seeing red].
This is a good thing. We don't want anybody nodding off out there.
The gist of their miff seemed to be the fact that the editorial disparaged the shouters we've been seeing at town hall meetings — the ones who show up not to talk, or ask questions, but to [Web Link chant, holler, hurl insults] and so forth.
Some of them look like they're about to give themselves a hernia. That would be ironic at a meeting on health care.
Anyway, a few ==I Voice== readers said these people are merely exercising their right to free speech, and where do we get off. As one Town Square poster put it:
"Your support of a strategy that prevents Americans from gathering in public to let their multitude of voices be heard to their Congressional representative — be they left, right, or somewhere in between — reveals an elitism on the editor's part and a total lack of appreciation for our democratic heritage. Who can assure that the entire process is not rigged to control the message? Can you Don Frances?"
The poster continued: "What the editor calls 'noise' is the voices of Americans, past, present and future, whose individual voices, no matter how weak, strong, coherent, incoherent, young, old, left or right, have combined to make this nation great. Take those voices away, and we lose a big part of who we are."
I agree, which is why I'm all in favor of protests and rallies. Just not ==I inside== the town hall meetings. People are trying ==I talk== at those things.
Happily, this seems to be mostly what happened last week in Palo Alto, when Eshoo held her first face-to-face [Web Link meeting on health care].
Sure, the crowd erupted in boos and cheers. But those eruptions weren't calculated to disrupt the whole proceeding. Score one for democracy.
Even more happily, the meetings appear to be [Web Link finally winding down].

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