It's clear that health-care reform is an emotionally raw issue. Angry protesters across America have flooded town hall meetings held by members of Congress.
Such an outpouring of energy and passion is generally good. The more people who particiapte in a democracy the better the system works.
Unfortunately, too many of these town hall meetings have turned ugly with demonstrators disrupting the proceedings with shouting. Extra security has been brought in as there have been threats of violence.
For example, The Associated Press reported that Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., was forced to shout his way through a meeting where angry constituents booed and jeered as he tried to explain the various health-care proposals
And, AP reported, at least one congressman canceled a meeting after being targeted with a death threat. Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., said he will not host any town halls this month because he received a phone call threatening his life.
Some, such as Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., are rejecting face-to-face public meetings in favor of teleconferences. Baird said the "lynch mob mentality" surrounding many of the meetings led him to hold a conference call that attracted 6,000 constituents.
"When you see friends targeted by death threats and you see well-meaning and well-intentioned people being shouted down, threatened, menaced, and our constituents suffering the same fate, it's frustrating," Baird said. "This is not American -- it's dangerous."
Agreed. Civility cannot be -- and should not be -- abandoned.
The anger many are feeling should not be minimized. Health care is very personal. Many worry about losing their access to health care and they fear what they now pay -- either in premiums or taxes -- will go sky high.
But disrupting meetings and threatening violence does nothing to quell those fears.
What's needed is thoughtful discussion where the valid questions being asked can be answered.
Members of Congress have been taking the time and making the effort to do just that. They must be treated with respect.
The angry, disrespectful protesters are simply out of line.
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