Politics aside for a moment, I just want to give thanks for a successful VA 7th District Town Hall. The people of the Town of Blackstone were warm and gracious and took great strides to ensure public safety. The Mayor was warm, the Police were friendly, Blackstone Herb Cottage was inviting, and the diner on the corner was delicious! I chose not to go inside the town hall since it was being broadcast outside, so I hope a local resident was able to get my seat.
I also want to thank Congressman Brat and his staff. They worked diligently to ensure a successful town hall, pleasantly fielding many calls and requests. Chief of Staff Phil Rapp went to great lengths to ensure a respectful event and, given how upset many people across the district are by the current policy direction in this country, I believe most people were obliging. Congressman Brat showed courage facing constituents from both sides of the aisle instead of canceling or hosting a phone-in event. So, we sincerely thank you, Congressman.
Different stories will be told to different audiences about the town hall, but here’s why I believe it was nothing but a success.
1) Location — Goodness gracious, Blackstone is cute! I can’t wait to go back with my mom to the furniture stores and restaurants. Clearly the Congressman wanted to put Blackstone on the map and highlight it for its hospitality and charm. Thank you, Mayor Coleburn and Blackstone for being warm and gracious.
2) Purpose — The purpose was to hear the Congressman address constituent concerns and he did. After a short story about his life, education, and beliefs, we got what we wanted—meaningful questions and the Congressman’s positions about them. He said in a news interview afterward that he shared his ideas and we appreciate his ideas. Now that he has heard real-life feedback from his constituents, we hope that he will reflect upon their concerns and allow them to shape his ideas.
3) Respect — Leading up to the town hall, the Congressman and his staff repeatedly expressed consternation about respect. With the exception of a handful of louder individuals (you’re bound to have a few, right?), most people were as polite and calm as they could be. People brought signs, but generally respected the request to leave them outside. The signs outside shared opinions and concerns but nothing obscene. There were no staged events or stunts. People inside and out shared their approval and disapproval of answers and ideas, but there were no angry mobs. Post-election we’re in a new, bizarre, real vs fake news world and I think people were as constrained and polite as possible and I hope Phil Rapp and Congressman Brat recognize and appreciate the sincere effort people made to contain themselves.
4) Free Speech — The mayor, police, and others in Blackstone worked hard to protect free speech and I am grateful to them for that. I know Brat Pack supporters were not thrilled by the abundant free speech, but it was there and that’s a good thing. I hope the town felt buoyed by peoples’ desire to be engaged in democracy because that’s a really good thing too.
5) Media Attention — Hey, any press is good press, right? NBC, CBS, the Washington Post, local papers, and more showed up to cover the town hall and witness people expressing their desire for progressive legislation. We hope the coverage will help spread the word that it’ll be hard to undo progress in this country and more people than not will stand up to protect real American values of respect for people and the land and freedom for all. I hope the people of Blackstone heard this message too because we were there for them too.
6) Policy-Driven Activism — This is my favorite. Many people present on both sides of the aisle knew about policies that they support or feel threaten their values and safety. Many people could site specific bills that directly impact the environment, healthcare, education, and more. That’s phenomenal! Two months ago I didn’t know exactly how a bill becomes a law and now I want to work with my legislators to craft them and support them. And, I’m not alone.
Congressman Brat should take note that we are heeding his call to be policy-driven and hope that he will work with all of his constituents to represent them. I will not call him a “flip-flopper” if he evolves in his ideas and positions. I will thank him for being open to knowledge. That’s what I learned in academia and I hope that’s what he taught.
Congressman Brat, I know that when you’re surrounded by friends at a party in Hanover, it hard to hear the muffled knocks on the door by people concerned about the noise. So, we knock louder. Because your party is disturbing us—our kids are affected and we won’t stand for it. So, we knock even louder. Please open the door so that we can all have our cake and eat it too. I brought a marbled cake for us to share, is that okay? I just don’t prefer all white cake. Plain and simple.