A friend started getting a lot of phone calls on his answering machine the other day. Evidently, his number is remarkably similar to that of Congressman Jim Oberstar, one of the pro-life Dems who was holding out on the health care bill for a different approach to the issue of abortion funding. Rule #1 of lobbying: Make sure you have the right phone number.
The messages were telling. One person who identified themselves as a pro-life voter said the problem with the health care system could be fixed with tort reform. “Kill all the lawyers,” he said, not seeing the irony in being pro-life and advocating killing anybody. The calls came from all across the country, not only from the congressman’s district.
This morning, after Mass, we went down to the Mall near the Capitol. A small group, maybe a couple hundred at most, bedecked with “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and wearing “Tea Party” tee-shirts were singing “Amazing Grace” as we approached. One woman held a sign that read “Make History? Mao did. Hitler did. Judas and Benedict Arnold, too!” There was a palpable resentment in the crowd and the mood was ugly. It was not hard to imagine that the day before someone called Congressman John Lewis a racial epithet that begins with ‘n’ or that someone called Barney Frank a derogatory name that rhymes with “maggot.”
All around the Capitol, large numbers of people were making their way to the Mall to march for comprehensive immigration reform. Their mood was different. There were smiles. There were “We love the USA” signs and lots of American flags. A group gathered in front of St. Aloysius church, where Cardinal Mahony way saying Mass, were happily chanting “USA! USA!” The parking lot near RFK stadium was filled with buses that were dropping off the pro-immigration reform marchers.
Same country, different emotional and political rallies. I know which group I would rather be standing with.