GUEST EDITORIAL: The real fear of town hall meetings is facing the truth

Across the United States, democracy is taking place, as previously apathetic or disengaged residents decide to take an active role in their government, largely through attendance at congressional town hall meetings.

Now that people care enough to ask questions and compel lawmakers to do their work, it seems some members of Congress aren’t quite so interested in the sometimes ugly, unruly and uncontrollable American public.

Kansas is no exception. Both Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have missed out on scheduled town hall meetings where hundreds of constituents gathered to speak to the Washington, D.C., officials. Roberts turned down the chance to attend a meeting scheduled in Wichita, instead opting to hang out with his friends at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Elsewhere, members of Congress have exhibited even more worrisome behavior. In Texas, the often inflammatory Louie Gohmert expressed fear that he might be shot, citing the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords at a public appearance in a grocery store parking lot in Arizona.

“At this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety,” Gohmert said Tuesday in The Hill.

Ironically, many of these members of Congress, now so fearful of violence and an armed citizenry, have campaigned on the idea that good guys with guns help keep the world safe. It seems this logic would carry over to town hall meetings and other public appearances by members of Congress.

The legitimate threat of violence against a member of Congress is slim. There’s most often intense security, screening and most people aren’t bent toward violence. And contrary to statements like those from Gohmert and President Donald Trump, while attendees of such town halls might be organized — much like the Republican-friendly tea party — they likewise aren’t paid to stir up trouble. They are citizens who at long last have demanded that they be heard.

If members of Congress choose to talk to their constituents at all, it most often is through social media or the bogus “telephone town hall” that creates a great deal of space between the elected and those they serve.

What is really happening, behind the fearful rhetoric, is that we have in Congress a group of people who are fearful of being held responsible for their actions. They are afraid to face their constituents, and they are fearful of looking in the eye the very people their decisions have harmed. We have a ruling class that would rather surround itself with comforting words, like-minded individuals and the money that flows their way from the business interests that use Congress to do their bidding.

These esteemed men and women might be afraid, but it’s not of violence. It’s a fear of stepping out from the safety of their powerful enclaves to face the truth of what they have done to this country and its people.

— Hutchinson (Kans.) News