For much of America, the all-American values depicted in Norman Rockwell's classic illustrations are idealistic. For those of us from Vermont, they're realistic. That's what we do. When Norman Rockwell lived and worked in Vermont, the people he painted were from here. That town meeting depicted in the painting called "Freedom of Speech," it took place in Arlington, Vt., where, as it happens, I will be hosting a town meeting on Saturday in a public park.
I don't recognize the raucous and rowdy town meetings in other parts of the country that have grabbed big headlines this month. Those shouters and screamers talk about "freedom," but what they are doing is trying to disrupt meetings. That's the absolute opposite of what freedom of discussion is about. They are trying to shout down speakers and shut down town meetings because they are afraid to debate the real issues and the unprecedented set of problems our country now faces.
In terms of health care, they are afraid to debate the fact that we have a disintegrating health care system with soaring costs, that we have tens of millions uninsured and underinsured, the fact that over 18,000 Americans die every year because they don't get to a doctor on time, or the reality that some 1 million Americans will go bankrupt this year because of medically-related bills. These people are screaming and yelling so we can't have a real discussion of the real health care crisis.