FIRST PERSON | GOFFSTOWN, N.H., Aug. 20 — My mother had been pestering me to take her to the Romney-Ryan Town Hall at Saint Anselm College. She has Alzheimer’s, but I had taken her to a campaign event so she could see Bill Clinton and there had been no problems. She had enjoyed herself.
Paul Ryan had taken his mother to a rally, so why not bring mine?
I had anticipated there would be Americans for Disabilities Act accommodations for the disabled and elderly. We parked far away in a satellite lot, but were whisked to the campus via golf cart. Arriving at the bullring constructed from bleachers and fences where the Town Hall being staged, I was shocked when an usher responded to my inquiry about A.D.A. arrangements with the response she had no idea.
Six hundred seats had been cordoned off for VIPs (typically the section where the disabled and elderly are allowed to sit), but my mother was not allowed to sit there. As we looked for a seat, we noticed a woman in a wheelchair stuck in a nook between two bleachers. Incredibly, she was a couple yards away from a woman wearing an Ann Romney button. Ann Romney suffers from multiple sclerosis.
I had been counting on Christian charity to make my mother’s experience a comfortable one. I was wrong. As the speakers at the Town Hall, including Paul Ryan, made perfectly career, Christian charity is NOT part of the Republican platform.
I don’t know what was more appalling: the lack of concern for the disabled; the fact that a religious institution had allowed itself to be used as a marketing vehicle for a political campaign; or the vulgar music blasting out of the speakers to mollify the crowd as we waited for Mitt and Paul.
Totally inappropriate for a Catholic school, a redneck rocker sang about the virtues of a white trash queen shuckin’ off her cutoffs and servicing the highballers down at the truck stop. To prove that he is indeed a living presence in my life and has a sense of humor, God arranged it so that an actual specimen of redneck lust appeared before me: A young woman wearing cutoff jeans with an American flag sewed over one buttock. It was surreal.
For the first time in my life, I was glad my mother was nearly deaf, so she didn’t have to hear the caterwauling.
What did other attendees think about this? Watching them, they seemed not to care, including the priests. I asked one woman what she thought of the lyrics, and she said she didn’t hear them. It was just noise.
By the time Romney introduced Ryan, my mother had had enough
“This is terrible. Terrible,” she said. She couldn’t stand it and wanted to leave.
I’d had enough, too, appalled by the call to a crusade made by former U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten of Wisconsin, appalled by the lies about Medicare mouthed by Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan.
Noise. That’s all this Town Hall was. Noise.
It was staged for the media, not for the people.
Many attendees had been bused in from Massachusetts. The out-of-staters had been accommodated to bulk up the crowd for the cameras, but when it came time for my mother and I to make the long trek back to the parking lot, the golf carts were nowhere to be seen. We had to walk back by ourselves, an ordeal for my mother.
The Romney campaign didn’t provide A.D.A. accommodations as, judging from the casual calls to cruelty mouthed by the campaign speakers, they did not care.