Edward Fitzpatrick Versus Scott MacKay, Dueling Critics of Art and Democracy
Projo political columnist Edward Fitzpatrick and WRNI (1290AM) political analyst Scott MacKay have come to very different conclusions about what they witnessed at Congressman James Langevin’s town hall meeting in Warwick last week.
MacKay quite clearly didn’t like what he saw…
The iconic image of a New England Town Meeting was painted by Norman Rockwell in his World-War II-era Freedom of Speech illustration. The 1943 painting, inspired by a Vermont town meeting, shows a plainly-clothed working man speaking up while his white collar neighbors look on….Now, roll the clock ahead 66 years to last week’s two raucous Rhode Island gatherings on national health care.…but Fitzpatrick came away with a very different impression (albeit with a reference to the same painting!)…
Boorishness and shouting have replaced respect and civility. The meetings with members of the state’s Washington delegation were magnets for a grab-bag of unfocused rage, much of it aimed at issues far afield from health-care. There were folks protesting abortion, illegal immigration, the banking and auto company bailouts, socialism, President Obama and even the end of the gold standard.
The sight of zealots last Wednesday at Warwick City Hall screaming at Congressman Jim Langevin, a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, wasn’t pretty. And it wasn’t civil or respectful.
Inspired by a 1941 speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, artist Norman Rockwell created a series of paintings called the Four Freedoms. Perhaps the most famous is Freedom of Speech, which pictures a sincere, determined everyman standing to speak at a New England town hall meeting….Having been inside at Congressman Langevin’s event, I have to say that I am more partial to Fitzpatrick’s description. And I can’t help but be reminded of a quote I once heard from author Charles Rappleye, regarding a description offered of Rhode Island in its early days, not in a positive sense: It’s a “downright democracy” around here!
Certainly, we did not get that idealized version of a town hall meeting on Wednesday night when 430 people packed Warwick City Hall (and hundreds more gathered outside) to tell Democratic U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin what they think of the proposed health-care overhaul.
The meeting amounted to an amazing mix of bad behavior and good points, absurdity and poignancy, interruptions and interactions. People were nutty and nuanced, cloying and annoying, frightful and insightful. It was ugly at times, but a beautiful thing to behold. It was a First Amendment festival, a carnival of democracy, complete with a few freaks and sideshows. In short, it was more Salvador Dali than Norman Rockwell.
But of course, we’ve got complete video of Congressman Langevin’s event here at Anchor Rising, to help you decide for yourself…