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home : opinions : opinions July 26, 2017

2/28/2017 1:50:00 PM
A despicable incident
By Eric Wattenburg

I attended Senator Ron Wyden's town hall meeting February 20, in Sisters, Oregon, at the Sisters High School auditorium, and there was an episode there that needs to be broadcast.

The auditorium was standing-room-only, probably 800 people attending. As one would expect, nearly all of the attendees were supporters of the Democrat senator, and the evening was dominated by the crowd clapping and cheering like it was a campaign rally (which these always are, as elected officials are ALWAYS campaigning). Each attendee had been provided with a green sign emblazoned with the word "Agree," and a separate red card with "Disagree." These cards went up and down all evening like cheerleader pompoms at a home ball game (no offense to cheerleaders).

Speakers were chosen by lottery. Most of the night was dominated by activist supporters bringing up the typical anti-Trump talking points and fear-mongering.

However, and probably to the chagrin of the liberal crowd, a conservative had his number chosen near the end of the evening, and he challenged some of the statements and positions taken by Senator Wyden.

I must admit that the Senator is very well-spoken, intelligent, wise, slick, and a consummate political professional; I came away from the evening with a new impression of the Senator in contrast to that which I have had up to this point based on the usual conservative vs. liberal positioning. He is a feel-good politician and adeptly handled the challenges.

But then came the despicable incident on the part of the entire audience, save for the two of us conservatives (not sure about the speaker's wife who was there with him, but she often held up her card in opposition to the rest of the crowd).

The speaker simply asked Senator Wyden if he accepted the outcome of the presidential election and the presidency of Donald Trump, and to his credit, Senator Wyden responded "yes," but with very little comment otherwise.

The house was absolutely quiet and calm, not a clap or gasp or whimper to be heard, and surprisingly, no cards (that I could ascertain) went up in the air.

Now, mind you, I arrived just before the performance started, and since the house was already standing-room-only, the only place remaining for me to stand without obstructing the view of others was to position myself along the left side of the auditorium up near the stage, against the metal railing of the ramp leading to the stage, so I was above the crowd level near the stage, standing, and noticeably visible. I was wearing a black jacket; I am Caucasian, tall with a broad athletic build, mostly bald with a closely trimmed gray goatee beard - I easily stand out in a crowd and I might have been mistaken for a security guard.

I was stunned that not one person in the audience cared to display their pleasure or disappointment with Senator Wyden's appropriate and affirmative response to the validity of the electoral results - the bedrock of the Constitution of these United States of America.

So, I clapped deliberately and exuberantly to honor and thank the Senator for his patriotism.

Not one other attendee joined me. My clap echoed throughout the darkened auditorium like the howl of a coyote in the dead of our high desert Central Oregon nights.

What have we become as a society if we cannot acknowledge and be grateful for that most precious feature of our system of government - fair and open elections?

Here, I will criticize Senator Wyden for not making this point before or after this incident; he should have lectured his audience as to their complacency, particularly in the context of this gathering, taking place at a public high school, an educational institution that ought to symbolize more of those other precious bedrocks of our great country.

It's not about whether it's Right or Left - it IS about what is Right or Wrong.

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