I Didn’t Feel Small at the Town Hall

I got an email from late in the week from my District Seven Representative Rob Woodall. He was having an hour-long town hall meeting at Buford City Hall at noon yesterday.  Seeing it was 10 minutes from my house, and lawn would be dry enough to mow after one o’clock, I decided to go.  I’d never attended a town hall meeting before, and I was curious about how these things went.

It was eye-opening, and I’ve added something to my list of parental regrets.  There were some children there, their parents obviously wanting them to experience how our political system works at the local level.  If I had a “do over”, I would seek to bring my kids to these occasionally.  One thing that mildly surprised me was the meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer led by Josh Clark, the state rep for District 98.  Somehow we did that and the ACLU hasn’t sued (yet) and there weren’t atheists waving signs when we came out.  Maybe we flew in under their radar, and you won’t see the meeting as a headline story on CNN this week.

Rob Woodall is a very impressive guy, someone that seems totally committed to facts.  Impressive most of all was his refusal to bring the rancor that is so much a part of politics today.  He said everyone in Congress wants to arrive at the same place, they just don’t agree on the best way to get there.  Rep. Woodall is a fiscal conservative along the lines of a Paul Ryan who believes spending restraint is the way to get there, that we can’t spend our way to prosperity.  His handling of questions was also extremely impressive: there were a couple of moments where I went “Uh oh”, and he remained unruffled and deft.  One was an elderly conspiracy theorist who wanted Rep. Woodall to comment on “the secret agreement between the Chinese government and our Treasury department to devalue the dollar”, and he replied that there doesn’t need to be a secret agreement, that it is going to happen if the current trend in the national debt continues.  Another was a married couple who were very emotional about the rules the state of Georgia has around receiving Social Security and the railroad retirement fund, and he defused the emotions and answered their questions beautifully.

I’m sharing the email to the congressman this morning.  Hopefully he’ll smile, and dark-suited men in sunglasses and sporting ear pieces won’t be visiting me.

Hi Rep. Woodall,

Just a note to say how much I enjoyed the town hall yesterday and how impressed I was.  It was a true pleasure in this age of strident political discourse to hear a calm, reasonable presentation of facts without ad hominem attacks and other forms of spin.  I’m a Roman Catholic, and in our social justice system one of the bedrock principles is subsidiarity, which is the belief that decisions that affect people’s lives are best made at the lowest appropriate level, which a major theme of your presentation.  Your contrast of spending decisions made in regards to national defense and roads was an excellent, easily understood illustration.

The HHS mandate is a big issue with me, but it was pretty obvious the economy was primary on everyone’s mind, and I can’t argue with that.  Today’s business section of the AJC headline is about the plight of the long-term jobless in Georgia.  I myself endured 3-1/2 years of joblessness, after 25 years of continuous IT work.  I’ve been blessed with a contract that has me driving to Birmingham every week, but there is still significant uncertainty looming after the summer.  What my “street level” experience is – my perception – that once you turn 50 years old, it gets dicey.  I know a large number of talented, healthy, intelligent people in my age bracket who are struggling.  This is ironic, because no other time in human history are people living longer with a high degree of health and functionality.  I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m not big on “There ought to be a law!”  As Lao Tzu said a long time ago “Men make laws when they lose sight of the way to live.”  Jesus tried to get the Pharisees to see that principle, and they were slightly less than grateful.  I think there is a lot of “losing the sight of the way to live” going on in America at present.

Thanks for all you do, and best wishes for the future.  As long as you’re not caught wandering around in a cocaine haze at 3AM with a hooker in downtown Atlanta, you have my vote.

Warm regards,

Tom

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