Public condemnation of bully tactics works.


Yes We Can LI [Long Island] sponsored a "honk if you want health care reform" rally at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 on the Suffolk side of the Nassau/Suffolk border. The Teabaggers showed up, in force.


I saw people from Suffolk County 9-12 (a right of center group that wants to maintain the spirit of patriotism that existed in the day after 9-11) standing next to people from Planned Parenthood, who were standing next to people from the Conservative Society for Action standing next to people from the Long Island Coalition for a National Health Plan. People were all mingled together, instead of huddled in their own groups. Similar comingling and civility happened elsewhere today.

More to the point, I saw them actually talking TO each other, not AT each other. They were not just talking about health care. I overheard a conversation about Walt Whitman's poetry collection "Leaves of Grass" (we were near the Walt Whitman Mall).

Think about that, two people each carrying signs at opposite ends of the health care debate spectrum, stopped in the middle of all the noise to discuss poems written by a transcendentalist "free lover" and fellow Long Islander. THAT's the America I want to live in.

There were also teabaggers comparing notes about car models that qualified for the "cash for clunkers" trade-in that they intended to participate in. I know which side the people in that conversation were on, because they were wearing the red shirts that the LI teabaggers have chosen for identification.

As I was filming, standing in the busy street, people from both sides kept watch for coming cars, worried that some harm might come to me.

This is not the story I thought I would be writing when I got up this morning. I thought I was going to be writing a story about how things were getting increasingly uglier. But I think the reverse is true. The Tim Bishop on June 27th Town Hall event totally followed the game plan memo sent out by Dick Armey's flying monkeys. It was disgraceful.

The Bellmore train station Gazebo was less confrontational. In fact, the only really really crazy vicious stuff came from Pam Geller. The other two teabag speakers, said things I disagree with and spewed a ton of disinformation, but they also acknowledged the need for health care reform and expressed a sincere love of country.

At today's event, people are shouting their slogans "hands off health care" and "health care for all," but other than that -- and a guy from some veteran's group who called me a commie when he found out I was from FDL -- people have been more respectful that I expected; and the longer they are out here in the sun, the more they seem to be engaging with one another and connecting on the things they have in common -- rather than the things that divide them.

Demonizing each other will be a lot harder, and corporate astroturfers will have a harder time whipping folks into a frenzy, if both sides are out there yakking with each other about life, the universe, and everything. Such camaraderie won't be possible everywhere - some people are too far gone for neighborliness to overcome their fear and loathing - but it's worth trying. And it's never a bad thing to remind politicians that the screamers aren't the only ones with opinions on reform. Either way, we win.

If you wonder why so many Teabaggers are filled with so many irrational fears, look no further than the media they consume: