Who were those people at Congressman Tipton's town hall meeting in Montrose -- shouting, interrupting, stomping their feet, booing, waving signs and generally acting like the cheering squad at a hometown basketball game? And why were they so ill-mannered as to badger our elected U.S. congressman in this unseemly fashion?
I was one of them, so let me explain.
Looking around the high school gym that night, I recognized quite a few among the 400 or so folks acting up to get Rep. Tipton's attention. I saw teachers, farmers, medical professionals, community volunteers, business owners -- folks from just about every walk of life.
These are not people who routinely act out of order or rudely. They generally follow the rules, vote in elections and contribute to their communities -- in short, the backbone of our democracy.
So what had brought us to this pass? We had found no other way to be heard by Representative Tipton. I'm not suggesting he had to agree with us, just an acknowledgement of our concerns and a willingness to grant that we might have something useful to impart. A real exchange of views would have been lovely.
Like many of the others at that meeting, I have been emailing and calling Rep. Tipton's office several times a week for months now. I get nothing more than a generic email in return and an assurance on the phone that my message will be relayed to the congressman.
The random choice of those allowed to ask questions at the meeting was a fair method, but the intense control of those speakers bespoke fear of allowing a true discussion. A Tipton aide held tightly to the microphone, not allowing any follow-up questions until angry shouts from the audience resulted in a reluctant and brief granting of a further comment. If the audience hadn't insisted, no follow-up would have been allowed.
And follow-ups were crucial because our congressman almost unfailingly refused to answer the questions. He simply talked about something else and then called for the next speaker. This was no town hall meeting -- it was the pretense of one. And as good citizens, we did our best to let him know this wasn't good enough.