When outside agitators come into a community, does one sit idly by or does one take a stand? When outside agitators came into Merrick, Long Island, to rally against health care reform, Yes We Can! Long Island and the Bellmore-Merrick Democratic Club chose to stand up.
More than two dozen of our members staged a counter protest. They marched with hand-made signs to drive home the point that this organized gathering did not express the views of the Merrick community.
It took courage. The anti-reform rally had eight times as many participants, and they were loud, well organized and, sometimes rather (physically) aggressive. They drove their cars and trucks up and down Merrick Avenue honking their horns to drown out our chants. A few members of the group obstructed the counter-demonstrators from walking on the sidewalk. One loudmouth kept yelling things like “Hitler was a community organizer; Fidel Castro was a community organizer.”
It is clear their concerns had less to do with health care reform, per se, and more with a general unhappiness with the direction of the country resulting from the election of Barack Obama as a Democrat and as the first African-American President.
While there were some tense moments, the confrontation was, fortunately free from violence. However, as Yes We Can! Long Island President Marvin Kreutzberger told a “reporter” with Alternative News Network, the faux news operation that has been covering tea bagger demonstrations around Long Island, “These are people who do not want to listen. They’re being fed big lies and they’re repeating it.”
Having strongly held, divergent opinions and beliefs is an integral part of American democracy. But for our democracy to work we must demonstrate a willingness to listen to and respect those views, even when we are vehemently opposed to them.
That is sorely missing from the debate today. The attitude seems to be “I’m right, you suck.” No wonder Congressman Barney Frank told a woman who accused him of supporting “a Nazi policy” that “trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table.”
Yes We Can! Long Island will continue to advocate for President Obama’s plan to reform health care. It is one the most pressing – if not the most pressing – needs of our time. We will continue to take our message to real people, who voted for health care reform, and not become distracted and deceived by these wingnut protesters.