Town Hall Meeting U.S.A. Leela Soma

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Town Hall Meeting

I attended  my first Town Hall meeting in USA. As Boris Johnson is creating chaos in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ I was curious to see how invested our cousins over the pond were in politics, especially in these politically polarised times. Well I was in for a treat.

Not a Maga hat in sight! That should have told me. This was douce Alexandria, Virginia, with the second most educated voters in the country. Well dressed, polite and well prepared with their questions, the crowd of over a hundred, arrived on time and filed into the Bethlehem Baptist Church. Their Congressman Don Breyer and his staff were present to answer any questions that the constituents of the 8th District of Virginia fired at him.

What surprised me was at the start when  the church pastor welcomed us all, then politely requested we turn off the cell phone ringers, remove hats if any one was wearing one as it was a church then to take their firearms, if they were carrying one and leave them in their car. Firearms? I felt a cold shiver down my spine, but this is Virginia which allows one to carry firearms anywhere from a church, to supermarket or a shopping mall! Gulp!.

town hall 3

Congressman Beyer began with just a two minute introduction on all the legislation that he would be involved with in the coming session starting Monday 8th September, when Congress would return back from recess. He listed some of the topics: background checks for guns, Medicare, and more. Interesting his first words were – and I paraphrase,  ‘I’m not for banning guns per se. Two thirds of gun deaths were caused by suicides, so mental health issue and care needs to be strengthened’ this was his opening gambit. There was a pressure group as you can see from the photo, ‘Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense’.’ Again I was surprised that the lady who addressed the Congressman started with no ban on guns but more controls.  You can see where my thoughts were in this Town Hall meeting!

In total there were twenty four questions in all. It was very well organised, the people formed two queues either side of the hall. The staff with iPads had a timer for the questioner set at no longer than a Minute and the answers around two minutes or as long as the Beyer wished to answer the question fully. Some did ask a supplementary question, but the people in the queue were patient and allowed this to happen. None of the finger pointing, shouting that is seen at our meetings or the ugly scenes of chanting, Maga hat waving, demonic sounds of some other rallies or meetings that we see on TV.

town hall group members

Questions ranged from social security cuts, detention of minors by ICE, funding for moon landing in 2024, voter registration, right to carry concealed arms, animal welfare, affordable housing, six hundred mile gas pipeline going through the Appalachian and George Washington National Park, ageing population care and many more.

The facts I found really interesting were that universal background checks were still not applied in all states as shown by the Odessa massacre, especially if anyone wanted to buy a gun at a privately owned gun shop. The other one was the fact that the Federal Government  need not reveal where the immigration detention centres for youth or adults are. This was disturbing. Two teachers were distressed that even the Congressman was not privy to such information and were concerned about the effect on young people in such places.

All in all a very interesting meeting that I thought I should share with you all. Politics affects us all. Our leaders need to be carefully chosen and more accountability is so important.

Leela Soma, September, 2019

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This section: Leela Soma writing and blogging, stories and poems

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