A Pax on Both Their Houses: Congress and US


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“Meeting with US Senator Ron Wyden was instructive to a poor member of a public that wants peace. After years of trying to meet with him—including numerous lobbying visits and even an arrest in his office for simply quietly sitting to wait for him after the office closed for the day—I was finally able to meet the man in person. There were 10 of us, each representing a peace organization in Oregon….”

Author: Tom H Hastings, a founder of Whitefeather Peace Community in Portland, Oregon, and co-chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Association
Published in: Oregon Statesman-Journal in Salem, Oregon
Date: August, 2007

Read the full article:
A Pax on Both Their Houses: Congress and US
(549 words)
by Tom H Hastings
Meeting with US Senator Ron Wyden was instructive to a poor member of a public that wants peace. After years of trying to meet with him—including numerous lobbying visits and even an arrest in his office for simply quietly sitting to wait for him after the office closed for the day—I was finally able to meet the man in person. There were 10 of us, each representing a peace organization in Oregon. The meeting followed the senator’s town hall on Iraq held on the campus of Portland State University.
It was that meeting that made me fully realize why Americans have a benthic appreciation for Congress—some 18 percent of us think they are doing a decent job, according to a new Gallup Poll. This is the lowest rate of approval since Gallup began this measurement in 1974.
Ron Wyden opened his town hall by saying he was there to listen. He then took much more time making speeches than his questioners. Most of us who signed up to speak never got a chance, due to the senator’s long-winded replies to very challenging questions. It turned into a debate between our senator and Oregonians, not the listening sessions he proclaimed. I lived for years in Wisconsin, which has twice as many counties as does Oregon, and Senator Russ Feingold holds listening sessions in each county each year, and he actually listens. He takes notes, he makes a very occasional comment, and his more dire opponents leave with a grudging respect for the man. Wyden lost points with us throughout the town hall.
The meeting with the peace movement reps was worse.
The senator drummed his fingers on the table when the mother of a deployed soldier was briefly asking him to promise to not vote any more funds for the occupation. He slid the Oregon Declaration of Peace up and down in a crack on the table as a returned vet told him that the best way to reduce troop death and injury, and boost troop morale, would be to get them all out of Iraq. And when the staff person for Physicians for Social Responsibility reiterated that we need to cut off funding for military operations in Iraq he impatiently said that he would support indefinite troop deployments there for the special mission of fighting terrorism.
Senator Wyden, that is precisely the stated mission of each soldier in Iraq now. If you believe your own words, you are going to need to vote to increase troop levels.
He left the room without even bothering to take the copy of the Oregon Declaration of Peace—he left it on the table. We left discouraged.
And the very worst part is, Senator Ron Wyden is far better on virtually every question than our other senator, Gordon Smith, who hypocritically claims to be questioning the war while casting each and every meaningful vote in favor of it. At least Wyden has cast two substantive votes against the war (as well as several in favor of it, sadly).
We just want peace, and it’s not as though a foreign power is either occupying us or attacking us on our soil. It should be relatively simple to listen to the citizenry and do the job. That would win our approval, senators.

Tom H Hastings is a founder of Whitefeather Peace Community in Portland, Oregon. He is the co-chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Association.