An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. – Robert A. Heinlein
Yesterday I gave my testimony at a Missouri Senate hearing on a hot political topic – health care exchanges, a key element of implementing Obamacare. The auditorium was packed with all manner of aging baby-boomer activists. Nearly all of the crowd were wearing printed stickers demanding their preferred policy now.
I ‘m a confident guy and by now I am familiar with these folks. As smug as a reformed smoker, as self-righteous as any teetotaling Missionary Baptist, I have learned to set my “annoy” sensor to “numb” when around these wrinkled, age-spot speckled junior high-schoolers.
I videotape a couple of the testimonies. When an opposing viewpoint is offered, they hold up little “Tell The Truth” placards. The result is that any photo or video of the testimony is then forever set in a context that the man or woman visually as a liar. It’s a repugnant tactic.
When the Chairman of the committee called my name, I took my seat and began my testimony. I wasn’t representing an organization or a party. I listed myself as “citizen” and my only desire was to represent my family, our financial situation and the future of my children and grandchildren.
As I began my testimony, I made my case for limited government. As I spoke, I was careful to not directly denigrate anyone or any group. I was also cautious to make my points based on obvious facts. I expressed my concerns about government’s general incompetence. I talked about how our family has foregone things like new cars in order to afford health insurance. I noted how each of my children and grandchildren are currently $120,000 in debt. I asked the legislators to please quit telling my insurance company what products I have to buy.
I heard the rustle of papers behind me. I paused and addressed the committee chairman wryly, “They’re holding up those signs behind me, aren’t they?” He smiles a patient smile, and nods “yes.”
Baby boomer Lefties – 60 going on 12.
At the end of my testimony, those who agreed or appreciated my thoughts offered a smattering of applause and cheers. The BBLs responded with boos and hisses. Civil society as imagined by the left, I suppose. I listened politely to the testimony of those with whom I disagreed. So did my “team,” so to speak. While I have learned that reciprocal courtesy is not offered by the semi-professional left, it still pisses me off that grownups act like this.
Since I’m not a semi-retired professional pain in the ass, I had to get back to work. So I packed my gear and headed out into the hall. I paused to check to make sure I had all my stuff when I heard a voice coming from the door to the auditorium.
I looked up and a scrawny, pasty-faced guy with heavy glasses was pulling on his “creepy guy windbreaker,” the kind that comes free with the purchase of a white, windowless van.
“Yeah?” I respond.
“Hey, when you have a heart attack…”
“You’re here to confront me, aren’t you.” I replied, cutting him off.
Thrown off his brilliant rejoinder, he rewound and started over.
“When you have a heart attack…”
“Seriously,” I interrupt, “you are doing this?”
Pause. Confusion. Rewind. Play. “Dude when you have a heart attack and die, the State will be better off.”
Now I’m an easygoing guy. I can treat Occupy (Your City Here) people with respect. I can offer my thoughts and hear the opposing thoughts of others and still have a good time and a good conversation. Moreover, I love the ideals of American civil society. I know we can live together harmoniously if we agree to disagree…agreeably.
I believe it’s unspeakably rude to make a private citizen “pay” for making a statement or taking a stand with which you don’t agree. I think getting in someone’s face and making them feel uncomfortable in an obvious effort to quell their ideas is a serious social offense. I think of a quiet, stay-at-home mom who might have testified on my side of the issue being subjected to this asshole. The blood raced to my head.
“Shame on you!” I said in a raised voice. “What you said was AWFUL – How could you say something like that to me? Where did you learn that! Did they teach you that in church?”
Scrawny, pasty, creepy guy was not expecting my outburst. But he hardened. My friend began saying, “Tim, Tim, Tim” in an effort to cool me off. I don’t think I cursed the guy. I consciously try not to. It’s hard to demand civil discourse while you’re swearing like a sailor.
I have met guys like creepy guy many times. They’re awkward, they hang back. They are not leaders in their obnoxiousness. They lack the courage of some of the other, older leftist rabble. But this one followed me out to ambush me with his little stinger. Normally I feel an affinity for guys like this and when I meet them, I go out of my way to treat them well and include them in the group. Usually this helps diffuse some of the creepiness.
Furious, I was determined to shame this asshat, though. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You say something awful like that just because we disagree.” It was hard to decide whether I wanted to shame him or mock him.
“I ought to call you mama and tell her what you said!” I switch the channel to Wayne’s World “Are you going to kiss your mother with that mouth?!”
At this, creepy guy begins to retreat and I’m sorely tempted to press the point. But then a thought creeps in.
I am armed. And I must not let this get out of hand.
One last dig, and I am finished. My friend and I walk away. I look back to make sure we are not being followed, head to my car and drive away.