This week's letter comes from Thiel Larson who hits on a topic that's been blowing up on the Daily Show and the Blue Oregon site, all of whom have been asking what happened to a respectful exchange of ideas at town hall meetings. Case in point, Sen. Jeff Merkley's visit to Madras that was besmirched by several angry and ill-informed attendees. Thanks for the letter, Thiel. Come by the Source for a pat on the back and bag of locally roasted coffee.
I attended a town hall meeting for Senator Merkley in Madras on Aug 2, and was appalled at the behavior of the majority of those who attended. There was a vigilante mentality among the crowd. There was little listening done, and the worst display of manners I have ever encountered in a public meeting. Many who attended were frankly ashamed of the lack of respect shown for Senator Merkley or others who were speaking.
Some declared themselves Christian, wearing the term as a badge of honor, while displaying none of the qualities of Christ. I am reminded of a quote by Ghandi, "I like your Christ, I just don't like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ." Many railed against undocumented immigrants with a hatred and an anger that startled and saddened me.
Truly those who use these bullying tactics have little respect for the democratic process. We are free to disagree about issues, see things differently, weigh the facts as we see them, but not shout down, and try to suppress information which does not support our view.
Fear is really at work here. Fear of change, fear of loss, fear fueled by talk show hosts and irresponsible news organizations. But God does not give us a spirit of fear, but gentleness, love and self-control. Senator Merkley did display this self-control throughout the meeting, he was polite and used the time not only to listen but educate. I was impressed with his handling of this unruly crowd and my respect for him grew as I observed this quiet strength.
Those of us who value a serious discussion regarding the many important issues confronting us; health care, the economy, the environment, war, immigration, cannot afford to be apathetic. We stand to lose a balanced and reasoned approach to these issues. I urge you to attend town hall meetings, and other public forums. Silence is the best ally of injustice. It is important that we care what happens, and that we care enough to come out for public discussions of these issues. Senator Merkley will be visiting Bend at the end of August or early September. Please take the time to attend this town hall meeting.
Thank you Senator Merkley for modeling respectful behavior. I believe some of those who attended the meeting in Madras, owe you an apology.