The Mosh Pit that Was the August Phoenix Healthcare Rally

Back in the fall of 2004, when we were protesting against the war and the Republican leadership who’d caused it, we had a chant.

A call: “Tell me what Democracy looks like?”

And an answer: “This is what Democracy looks like!”

We were angry. And, history has shown, we were right to be. By that point the train of abuses had already been long and bitter. The lies about WMDs had long been thoroughly debunked—as we said they would be. And the country we’d claimed we were saving, we were clearly hellbent on destroying. The torture scandals were coming out. The Halliburton scandals were coming out. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were already dead, killed in our beloved country’s name and the mission that had supposedly been accomplished a year earlier had already devolved into full-blown quagmire—as we said it would. As Cheney also once said it would, before setting out to create just that.

Millions around the country and ten of millions around the world had already been protesting, marching, signing petitions, demanding their fair voice in the public arena of ideas and steadily been ignored. We’d been branded traitors for telling the truth. So when the Republican National Convention came around in the August of ’04, once again tens of thousands, some said hundreds of thousands, took to the streets to tell our leaders, “We object.”

Tell you what Democrcy looks like? That is what Democracy looks like. And today, as I look back on the groundswell of passion, inventiveness, mobility, and anger at that time, I never would have imagined I would see anything like it, albiet on a lilliputian scale, by the right-wing of our country and never over anything as shallow as the selfish impulse to refuse to aid our fellow man. Nor would I have ever expected to see such love of hatred, such glee in condemnation, such lust of violence or such openly treasonous behavior from the same people who used to scream death threats at me because I wore a peace sign.

Fast forward five years and as the astroturf grows long on the “healthcare rebellion” of the fall of 2009, this past Monday I took my wife and daughter to see Obama and what we saw were ugly Arizonans instead. Whipped up by the fake grassroots efforts of Dick Armey and his junta of goons, enflamed by a propagandist media machine so toxic it makes Radio Rwanda seem tame, a thousand or so anti-healthcare reform activists surrounded the three thousand person pro-healthcare reform rally, taunting us with hatespeak for over four hours.

Quite impressive. The igonrance was astounding and so was the danger level.

I personally do believe that health care should be a universally provided service, like police care, or fire care. And so when the temperature rose into the low 100s by mid-morning, I carried water to both sides of the street because when it’s that hot, water is healthcare, preventive healthcare. Unlike the Republican leadership currently disgracing Arizona’s reputation the way Bush once did to our country’s, I also believe education should be a universally provided service.

And so, though I disagree with your message very much, I’m willing to give you some schooling.

First and foremost, “because you’re stupid, that’s why!” is never going to be regarded as a cogent argument in any debate. Spending three hours designing an elaborate sign that wittily insults Democrats, but which you cannot defend when politely asked about is no way to sway people. Simply chanting “Read the Bill” also does not qualify as an in-depth explication. And since it implies that the all the chanters actually did themselves read each and every page of every version of the several bills out there. It makes them look pretty silly in the hundred degree weather to be standing there with so many of their pants so obviously on fire.

And to angry people on both sides … Shut up. For those on the left side of the street, shouting with vengeful glee, “WE are the Majority!” does not guarantee the other guys are wrong. Remember? The majority once thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, though we told ‘em and told ‘em no. They also once thought Saddam did 9/11 and that George Bush was a good man. Being in the majority doesn’t mean you are right; it just means you can be swayed.

And you guys on the right? Please. These same people advocating violence and hatred to solve problems today are the folks who hated the 60s protesters for acting up during Vietnam. The folks carrying guns to the rally this past Monday are the same people who a year ago were calling for the extremination of Bill Ayers because he’d tried to use violence to stop America’s other great shameful war. And all Monday’s group wanted was to not pay taxes, especially if it was going to help the sick.

Is that the image you want for yourself? Probably not. Christians steer clear of this healthcare debate: not wanting to take care of the sick and the poor is guaranteed to make you look like a hypocrite.

Next, distance yourself from the angry nutjobs. It discredits your whole movement. I want to immediately acknowledge as I walked both sides of the street, still wearing my peace signs, I talked to several clearly passionate but also clearly spoken people who made the effort to communicate fairly and I learned once again that there is a lot of common ground between the left and the right when it comes to the problems we see in this country. Imagine what all we could accomplish together if you weren’t so intently busy calling us all those names they keeps telling you to call us.

If you really want people to think of you as good Americans, then when those nutjobs come around whipping up your anger to the point you want to hit somebody, tell them to go away. They are making you all look nuts. And, who knows but that they could be agents of the current COINTELPRO operation. You guys remember Operation COINTELPRO?

Started in the 60s, COINTELPRO was/is an effort to discredit and demonize anti-war/political opposition groups by infiltrating them with folks who would incite violence, embarrass, disrupt, divide or disorganize the group. Operation COINTELPRO and its subsequent generations have been implicated in protester misbehavior and violence in every anti-war movement since then and in the WTO mayhem in Seattle, as well the protests at both the 2004 & 2008 RNCs. Besides, do you really want to be associated with the ugliest of those images? Is that actually your impression of the American way?

If you really think the guy with the diapered donkey hung in effigy yelling demeaning epithets face to face with an opposing crowd of two thousand actually make your cause look noble, better check the old think machine because it’s obviously malfunctioning.

Also, and I’m sure you already know this, carrying weapons to a healthcare rally is clearly not about healthcare or freedom, it’s about threatening. We know it, you know it. Pretending it’s about your right to have a gun in Arizona only makes you look like a liar. It’s about being so scary your opponents are silenced: it’s a message—if you annoy me too much I’ll shoot you. No, it’s not about self-defense when you’re the one doing the bullying. It’s called assault with a deadly weapon. After all, it is an assault rifle. And no, no stampeding herd of deer were likely to attack us that morning in downtown Phoenix thus require the twenty shot clip and backup pistol on your hip, so you can’t call it hunting either. We know what you wish you were hunting and in America that’s not called patriotism, it’s called murder.

If your message is good, you won’t need to act badly to convince others of it. Speaking of which, the whole Hitler thing would really be comic if it weren’t so pathetic. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we did it too; but we were comparing Bush to Hitler for taking millions of lives, not saving millions of lives. Get a new slogan, that horse won’t run.

And lastly, you people who claim you hate socialism, better face it, a government at all, any type, is a socialist enterprise. Everyone of us protesters there that morning, both the pros and conned, all rode on roads built on the public dime, were protected by military and police forces paid for with taxes, and enjoy parks, schools, standard weights and measures, sewage systems and a host of other luxuries of the supposed developed nations. If you choose to live in society, you are part of the socialism.

The Preamble to the Constitution establishes the goals for the new government it was designed to create. The media and the GOP leadership as well have been quite willing to forget that insuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare are both among our highest goals and both clearly socialist. For that matter, “For the People, Of the People, By the People” is the epitomy of socialism. And if you aren’t willing to work for those goals, then who is the real anti-patriot?

Mikel Weisser teaches social studies and poetry on the left coast of Arizona. He can be reached at Read other articles by Mikel.

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  1. balkas b b said on August 20th, 2009 at 7:25am #

    true, there is some interdependence in US. Up to now, the ruling class cld not totally eradicate it.
    and even if city police wld be owned and ran by individual owners of that force, its existence wld hinge on people paying for it.
    Thus, the owners of police wld still be s’mwhat interdependent or depended on payers of their services- whatever they may turn out to be.

    but have u noticed that plutocrats are by far more dependent on one another than the low[er] class appear to be?
    And being strongly interdependent and thus strongly monolithic, appear that much stronger in the aspects of reality; which i now hyphenate to show also each aspect’s interdependence and its connectedness in: econo-military-monetary-educational-informational aspect of reality.

    And one can connect the constitution, spy agencies, private and regular armies, cia, fbi, clergy, city police, advertising, entertainment, media, ‘law makers’, etc., to above hyphenation and one obtains a look at one tree with main, small branches, twigs, sprigs, leafs, and roots.

    we are the leaves, twigs, and sprigs; dangling, whispering, swaying, fearing the next day; they are the roots and the bole thundering their commands, lies, etc. tnx