‘Teach-In’: Silverton minister holds peaceful rally to demonstrate public process

July 2019 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community, People

Reverand Michael Carlson

By Melissa Wagoner

Reverend Michael Carlson is not a politician, nor is he particularly politically-minded. What he is, is a citizen concerned about the welfare of his country and the citizens who reside in it.

“Personally, I have been dismayed by the administration’s abuse of power, especially its disregard for the rights of immigrants,” he said. “They are not ‘animals’ as the president claims, but human families trying to escape violence and poverty in their own countries. The administration seems to believe that showing even more cruelty to them than they have experienced in their places of origin would deter them from trying to protect their families by coming to the US. That reflects a total disconnection with any responsibility for the needs of others.”

But this dismay for current policies, as well as what Carlson sees as a breakdown in public discourse throughout the country, both politically and regionally, has spurred him to action.

“I love my country,” he said firmly. “And it’s important to me to maintain the values that most people have. I really want, locally and nationally, this to be a place that respects people. That’s what’s missing.”

And as a minister – currently working as the Music Director for the First Christian Church in Silverton – the immigration policies enacted by the Trump Administration were the last straw.

“I don’t think that’s who we are as Americans,” he said. “And from a faith perspective, as a religious leader, I don’t think that’s the message the Bible has for us. It’s about welcoming a stranger. It’s a moral value in the scripture. I think that can inform our policy, it’s something we share in common as citizens, those values.”

And so, to counter what he sees as not only morally reprehensible but also illegal behavior, Carlson joined internet group MoveOn which helps citizens organize rallies across the country in the name of “social justice and political progress.”

“You sign up to be a host,” Carlson said.

So far Carlson has organized two rallies through MoveOn, one directly after President Trump declared the controversial state of emergency on the US-Mexico border and then again, most recently, on June 15 at Old Mill Park in Silverton.

“The purpose of the event is to urge our Representative in the US House to vote to ask the House Judiciary Committee to begin an inquiry as to whether articles of impeachment should be made for President Trump,” Carlson said prior to the rally. “This ‘teach-in’ event is an opportunity for citizens who value our Constitution as the rule of law to advocate for Congress to provide oversight of the Executive Branch.”

The Silverton Teach-In, one of over 140 such events taking place in over 100 cities throughout the country, was the only one of its kind in the Willamette Valley, with more than 40 citizens in attendance from as far away as Portland.

“They came down because they were concerned about the potential for violence,” Carlson said, sadly. “It’s just too bad that they didn’t feel safe in their own community.”

The event – which took place under the large oak tree in the grassy area beside the library – was largely focused on inciting the impeachment process and what that process actually means.

“The president’s lawless abuse of power must be checked through public proceedings so the American public can see the extent of the misconduct and crimes outlined in the Mueller report,” Carlson explained. “It wasn’t until Nixon’s impeachment inquiry proceedings began that the tide of public opinion turned towards impeachment in light of his evident abuse of power. Rather than waiting for people to decide that impeachment is a good idea, Congress needs to take the lead in revealing any reasons for impeachment in a fair and transparent process.”

Lengthy and complicated, Carlson views the actual impeachment of President Trump as a bit unlikely.

“It’s not like, impeach Trump today,” he laughed. “It wouldn’t happen today.”

The real goal actually lies in the process itself.

“It’s not about removal from office,” he said. “But right now we’re in this holding pattern and there’s a lot of distractions going on.”

And an enactment of the impeachment proceedings by the House, Carlson speculated, might be just the thing to cut through the chaos. But the initial process is heavily influenced by public opinion, which is where the Teach-In comes in.

“There are 256 from the House who have not made a statement on where they stand on impeachment,” Carlson pointed out. “So there is a lot of work to be done… Those of us who were at the Teach-In think it’s really important to start the process. But it shouldn’t be up to any one side. Hopefully we can work together.”

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