Day after Labor Day. Our representative has returned to D.C. as congress reconvenes. Thank God he is gone! I only say that because of the tremendous outpouring of deranged people secreted away around our state who came to see him.
This past Saturday, Mrs. Dada attended her third (and thankfully last) health care reform town hall meeting. I just couldn't join her. Having gone to two, I'd seen and heard enough wacky people's contankerousness. As the meeting with our congressman Silvestre Reyes commenced inside the high school gymnasium of my wife's alma mater, I scoured the parking lots for the buses outside.
Just as congress had been in recess during August, I suspected many patients of state mental hospitals from all over Texas were on furlough from their heavy doses of major tranquilizers like Thorazine and others. In order to attend and witness in person grass roots democracy firsthand, they were bussed from places around the state. Places like Austin, Terrell, Big Spring, etc., state hospitals. To El Paso.
And so, while I was outside, Mrs. Dada was attending her most contentious town hall meeting to date, telling me afterward all she had witnessed inside.
Like the man seated next to her spouting obscenities and angry retorts: to a veteran who had lost a leg, "I hope you lose your other leg," he chided; to our congressman to whom he said something like, "you don't have that long to live," while pointing his index-finger-as-pistol at him and making *shooting sounds.* He would glance at Mrs. Dada seated next to him to see her reaction, but she retained her calm, not giving him that pleasure. She would later gather pictures of the wrathful patients with much subtlety, including this man as he was being escorted out of the meeting by a police officer. (This was obviously the most disturbing one of all, for who was to know if maybe he hadn't left his gun outside on the bus?)
Meanwhile, out in the parking lots, I realized from recently reading the experiences of one who had worked in the mental health system many years ago at the then called State Lunatic Asylum (in Austin), that many of the ill are dangerous and seriously disturbed individuals. Others, not so. They are simply helpless in their hallucinations and paranoia and need to stay confined somewhere inside away from society on the outside. From what I had witnessed in my attendance at two town halls, I wasn't sure which there were more of at these gatherings.
Before the meeting, another reformer with counseling experience expressed her professional opinion to Mrs. Dada that much of the behavior exhibited in these meetings was the result of grave fears of change manifesting as extremely irrational and overt rage, often very threatening in nature. I suspected, for many, it was exactly what had gotten them committed. Or maybe they were extra angry this day, knowing, this being the last meeting, they were all about to be bussed back "home" afterward. Or perhaps even more callous, these sick folks just don't give a damn about people without health care insurance because they're all being nicely taken care of courtesy of the state of Texas?
Back inside, "You are an idiot if you believe people are going bankrupt in this country because they don't have health insurance!" shouted a woman to a lady testifying she was being impoverished because of a health condition she's enduring without insurance.
"Why don't you go home!" the angry woman continued to this lady with an accent whom Mrs. Dada later learned was born in this country and is working on her PhD in engineering. "You can be bought for a nickel!" the untranquilized woman ranted.
"You lie! You are a liar!" an exiting man shouted directly at congressman Reyes. "You liar!"
Back in the parking lot meanwhile, I had had no success in locating the bus these crazies came in. I decided maybe they would lead me to it as they exited the meeting. But that didn't happen. As a result, a very unsettling feeling came over me as the crowd dispersed to their own cars and left.
Watching the parking lot empty, my worst fears washed over me. These insane people, shouting down discourse, some with ominous threats, weren't from Big Spring or any other State Hospital. Nor were they from anywhere out of town. These crazy bastards are El Pasoans. And some of them are my neighbors!