Email #88, Subject: “angry crowds”

The President recently tweeted: “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”

That was on February 22, the same day as a town hall held on your behalf at the Vinton community center. The fire marshal said the building had reached capacity, so the angriest group was the one forced to stand outside and listen through the open doors. The folks inside were angry too, but they stood in orderly lines before the two microphones. There was no shouting, no taunts, no sign waving, just respectfully phrased question after respectfully phrased question.

You of course weren’t there. They were addressing your cardboard cutout. They knew that in advance, but came anyway because they wanted to speak even though you weren’t going to listen let alone answer. The town hall was organized by three activist groups. They booked the space, advertised the time, did all of the tasks required to hold an event of that size. To that degree, the President is right. It was “planned out by liberal activists.”

But the crowd? And their emotion? And their respectful control? That’s not something any activist can “plan.”

I recently found an online video of one of your 2009 town halls. It included a clip of a man standing up and asking you to support President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A number of angry people with signs shouted and jeered as the man spoke and eventually sat down as they continued to mock and yell at him on your behalf. You did nothing to stop them.

Unlike the President, I assume that you did not “plan” that angry crowd. Your staff obviously planned the event, but crowds only happen if there are enough local folks willing to give up their free time and come out and participate. The anger was all theirs to. There’s nothing “sad” about that.

But the folks in Vinton were more polite than your 2009 supporters. Some of their voices wavered when they spoke. Some choked up. Some laughed. Some clenched their teeth. But none of them insulted you. None shouted jeers at you or anyone who supports you. One of the organizers began the evening by emphasizing that all were welcome and all viewpoints would be respectfully heard. You could have begun your 2009 town hall the same way. You could have established that same positive tone. You could have stopped the heckling of a man asking you a heart-felt question. Instead, you did nothing.

You apparently like it when “angry crowds” are on your side as they were when the ACA was first being passed. Now affordable health care is a nationally recognized need. The anger is at your attempts to destroy it. And now you won’t appear for any town hall, even when participants conduct themselves more respectfully than your former supporters. Now you only hold so-called “telelphone town halls.”

As much as I object to your policies, I recognize that a reasonable person could disagree with me. There’s room for rational debate. But no reasonable person can rationally agree with your double standards. They are simply wrong. You said during your telephone town hall last week that the cardboard cutout of you used at the real town hall in Vinton “demeans the process.” I disagree, but even if you are right, you must also see that your double standards demean it far far more.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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