Hood River: We have a problem that deserves reflection.
What transpired at the public forum for Greg Walden, although expected, was not acceptable. The vitriol-spewing mob was not representative of Hood River. Deafening shouting, foot stomping and wall banging of infiltrators limited Representative Walden’s response to questions.
Democracy? No. Mobocracy? Yes. Behaving like petulant children having tantrums was not constructive. Where were the adults in the room? The Hood River Middle School students attending the event conducted themselves in a more respectable manner than most of the adults!
Walden was there to listen and answer questions. However, some mic hogs didn’t have questions; rather were grandstanding irrelevant polarizing diatribes. When a question was posed, the crowd didn’t allow Walden to respond, drowning him out. There were only a few who respectfully raised concerns: local Jurgen Hess calmly asked for consideration regarding Native American Housing; Becky Brunn of the Hood River City council spoke of renewable energy, expressing she’d like to work together on the issue.
While it was billed as a one-hour event, Walden patiently stayed on for nearly two and a half hours, taking arrows of unfriendly fire.
Contrast this with Senator Merkley’s recent town hall, a strictly controlled, one-hour session where he took only six questions. Merkley redirected topics to his own talking points, with few real answers, using every opportunity to mock the president. Merkley’s staff turned off my mic when I was identified as the opposition and quickly dismissed my question when I asked about finding common ground.
When the Walden town hall was finally ended, Portland and national reporters buzzed about spoils of the uncivil war. Many locals left early, discouraged because they weren’t able to participate. My own children disgustingly said they’d “never go to another town hall.” They were sitting next to their grandfather, whose hearing aids were blasted continuously. My kids were confused because they’ve been taught this isn’t how adults are supposed to act.
The next day, I contacted the HRMS social studies (civics) teachers to ask them for other student’s feedback. The consensus was mostly that the kids were “shocked” at the rowdiness of the event. One teacher said, “Overall, the students experienced true democracy in action.”
Here’s what innocent attendees didn’t know and later realized: This event was hijacked. Protestors were planted and instructed as part of the nation-wide movement, Indivisible, a playbook designed to bully. The irony: it should be named “Divisible,” with a goal to divide. The website dictates scripted instructions, methods, and talking points aligned with their agenda. Volunteers deceitfully handed out (rather pushed on) protest signs from this website to those attending the event. Sadly, it was evident that the bitter protesters were just not ready to accept the reality that their candidate lost in November.
Some locals followed lock-step with their scripted marching orders. Why do I say this? It was obvious when one woman quoted verbatim, from the website’s script: “Will you right here and right now commit to the people that you will support all environmental issues?” When Walden asked for specifics, the crowd loudly chanted “Yes or no! Yes or no!” When will people realize that they are being used? “We, the Sheeple.”
Under our Constitution’s First Amendment, we do have the right to peaceably assemble. May we learn from this missed opportunity to model to our children that there is also a responsibility to consider appropriate time, place, and manner to which we exercise these rights. In the name of freedom of speech and democracy, many were deprived of a voice.
Let’s collaborate on our common ground. Most of us agree, regardless of party affiliation, we want generally the same things: affordable health care, continuance of Social Security and Medicare for our seniors, fair and legal immigration, good education in our schools, top care for veterans, wise government spending, etc.
Challenge to Hood River: Will you be part of the solution, or continue to divide? The children are watching, listening, and learning.
Kris Wilhelm is a concerned mom, hospital clinician, farmer and founder of “Reds in the Hood.”