Rep. Duncan D. Hunter at Ramona Mainstage. Photo by Chris Stone

By Leticia Maldonado/Stamos

“Town hall meetings, also referred to as town halls or town hall forums, are a way for local and national politicians to meet with their constituents, either to hear from them on topics of interest or to discuss specific upcoming legislation or regulation.” 

Hmmm, that wasn’t how ours went down.

When this process of calling for a town hall meeting started weeks ago, it was made clear that our elected official in the person of Duncan Hunter was not interested in meeting with us.  One of his staff people came right out and said that Hunter was not going to listen to any of our “crap” — his word, not mine.

Then when word was out that the meeting would take place, and it would be held in Ramona of all places, it became crystal clear that this representative of mine was going to make it very difficult for me, his constituent, to attend.

There isn’t a venue more centrally located for his constituents to meet with him? But attend I would. The hall would hold maybe 200 people, so now not only would I have to drive for an hour to get there, I would have to arrive no less than three hours early and stand in line. And I would do that as well.

Leticia Maldonado/Stamos

This neutral hall where the public would be meeting had a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag draped in its front window instead of an American flag, but I would not be intimidated.

We finally are allowed inside, but not before half a dozen Trumpers were allowed to cut in line in front of us. If I were the 200th person in line from which no one else was allowed in, I would have been very upset. But we were trying our very best to be mature, responsible and respectful citizens so we didn’t raise hell.

We got seats in the second row as the first one was reserved for veterans that were coming from San Diego. As the San Diego group hadn’t arrived by the start of the town hall, another group of “so-called veterans” were brought in and given these front row seats. Fine, no problem. After all, they are veterans, right?

Before the program even started, we knew their mission — to shout down anyone who they disagreed with. One took a business card of Patrick Malloy’s, tore it to shreds and threw them on the floor. Ooookaaay.

The gentleman who gave the invocation uttered the first and last words of unity that were to be heard from the stage and most of the floor. Bless his cotton-picking heart!

Hunter started by praising Trump and it continued on in that vein from there. I never felt that he was there to listen to concerns and answer questions but to let us know that he is the congressman and he will represent his interests, “end of story.”

So how do I think it went?  I do not believe he was prepared to deal with his constituents nor to listen to concerns.  Half the time he was talking nonsense (such as: Anyone can just walk up to an ICE agent and ask to be let into the U.S. at the border and in they come).

Other times he was just saying what he believes in and will work toward (“Everyone will have access to health care, not necessarily be able to afford it”) and tough if we don’t like it. However, I think it was a great experience as a civics lesson for so many people who have never attended a town hall meeting, a living example of the responsibility we all have to PARTICIPATE and be a part of the change we want to see.

The chaos and shout-downs were disheartening, no doubt about it. At one point, the front line “veterans” who had been yelling for us to shut up since the start of the meeting, stood up and faced us, the audience, with threatening scowls on their faces.

That was more than I was going to put up with. So I stood up too. Now one is yelling at me to sit down.  So he could stand up but I couldn’t?  He was not going to push me nor mine around. I almost said, “You are not the boss of me.” That’s how silly the whole thing was.

A cameraman from KUSI was escorted out by deputies, for who knows for what, but it couldn’t have been more serious than what these “so-called veterans” did. They were a terrible example, if that was why Hunter’s staff put them in front.

I think Hunter knows there are many, many people who are not happy with what is happening in Washington and the part he is playing and that we will work to get him out.  As disheartened as I was, it was also overwhelmingly encouraging to see how people of all walks of life are being motivated to work for change.

I’m a senior citizen now and have led a life of activism, so to see that this country is still filled with people who love America and will work to keep its values of inclusion and prosperity intact is spiritually uplifting. We are doing Jesus’ work because when I ask myself, “What would Jesus do?” this is it.

Leticia Maldonado/Stamos is a longtime Fallbrook resident.

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