At the health care rally/protest in Grand Junction, CO Tav and I started shooting for my proposed travel show pilot. While we have recorded at other points in the trip, there were two factors that made this the first real test-run:
- It is only since Boise, Idaho that I have known that I have the capability to transfer from the DV camera to the computer. It didn’t work with the prior wire that I had.
- We went around the event with the explicit intent to interview people for said pilot.
We were CouchSurfing with Joy, a 22-year-old single mother of a 3-year-old girl and had no idea that Obama was going to be in town for one of the town halls on health care reform. After she told us about this event, we were all about it.
Tav, Joy, her daughter and I arrived outside of Central High School, where the town hall was going to take place. Tickets to the actual town hall were given out by lottery, which Joy and her family had all applied for, with none of them winning tickets. This relegated us outside, a bit of a distance away, to see the people waving signs for or against.
We walked to the pro-Obama side, where rally volunteers told people to walk around to sign in. As Joy wasn’t pro-Obama and Tav and I wanted to have some objective journalism, none of us were interested in signing up. We walked into the pro-Obama area, which had free water and granola bars, a stage with a woman having people respond to “when I say ‘President’ you say ‘Obama'” and “when I say “health care reform” you say ‘now'” and mass-printed signs. The people were in generally good spirits.
In the above picture, the girl on the right was a friend of Joy’s. The girl on the left said that she was in favor of health care reform as she is epileptic and cannot find coverage elsewhere.
We decided to go to the other side, which was both politically and the geographic split of the street. If one was facing the high school, the liberals were on the left and the conservatives were on the right.
The right side of the street was considerably different. More hand-made signs, generally louder on their own. On the left side, people would chant together. On the right side, people generally shouted on their own.
I asked if I could speak to the above guy and he seemed a little thrown off. His friend told him in a strong tone, “James, don’t tell him your name.” To which I incredulously said, “You just said his name.” “What can you do with James?” he asked. Like I was really going to do anything if I knew the guy’s name. Or like anyone was.
At first, I was convinced that the mask was a blackface/whiteface sort of racist thing, but after seeing it more from other people, as seen below, it became clear that even it was racist, it was fairly shadowed in The Dark Knight imagery, with the idea that Obama’s policies made him The Joker. First time I had seen it. We saw it a few times more, with some people handing out cards and having signs that declared Obama as being born in Kenya.
If I am forced to take a stance (as I will force myself to do), I would say that even if the Obama as Joker image isn’t racist, it’s certainly racially insensitive.
On the other side of the race thing, during one stint on the pro-Obama side, the local high school band was going to play. Within the band, there was one black kid, who seemed disturbed that he was the only black person in the area at the time. I laughed and said, “Well, even if you were now, in a few hours, you won’t be.” The band members nodded somberly in agreement.
We walked back and forth between the sides of the street/debate, interviewing to get a sense of the landscape.
The guy dressed as a minuteman (a costume that he put together from thrift store purchases and the hat being a gift from a neighbor) wanted to know what media outlet we were from. I explained that it was for an internet travel show/blog/podcast with no political spin. He told us that he would be happy to talk to us, but he told the liberals that had asked him earlier that he wouldn’t talk to them.
The one time we were totally denied was by another guy that asked us for our media credentials. I explained it the same way that I had been the whole time. This guy was still reticent, as we didn’t have a business card. When he asked who I voted for, I decided to stay with the honesty and say ‘Obama.’ At this point, he began to lecture me a bit, then walk away. The woman that we actually wanted to talk to was holding a “Hitler wanted socialized health care, too” with a crossed out swastika on the sign. She was willing to talk on microphone, but not camera. It turned out that she was one of the more reasoned people. A health care worker herself, her stance was fairly accurate (other than overblowing the historical comparison), as she said Obama was a charismatic speaker that was charming people that were worried about unemployment and that just because he was a great orator, that didn’t mean he should be trusted.
All-in-all, it was a fascinating experience, my first foray into multiple interviews in such an environment.
In the end, a few basic things became clear:
- Generally, both sides saw the other as ignorant and misinformed.
- No one on the liberal side was too wary of talking to us or talking on microphone or camera. On the conservative side, people were generally comfortable with speaking to us, with a few key exceptions.
- The conservative side couched their arguments in historical points and the general idea that government shouldn’t be involved. (There also wasn’t one person that declared himself to be ‘Republican’ only ‘conservative’.)
- The liberal side generally had personal, emotional stories about how desperately people that had no health care needed it.
I was extremely surprised at how willing most people were to just spout their opinions on camera (with only the above exceptions). Both sides seemed to be as educated on the topic as they felt they needed to be, with some having respect and appreciation for the freedom of speech that both sides were allowed to exercise.
After we left, one question became more clear than when we were amidst the passion: Were they accomplishing anything? Just because you have the right to protest, does it do anything other than make you feel like you’re doing something, having some control over an issue that, when you come down to it, really isn’t in your hands?
What do you think?