The chain of events that caused me to realize how grateful I am that Ted Kulongoski is Oregon’s Governor began with me plugging in the Christmas lights on our rear deck this past Saturday night.
An hour earlier, I bought three strands of multi-colored 24 foot rope lights on sale at Home Depot. I drove home and installed them underneath the top rail of our rear deck. I thought that not only would these low wattage lights look good for Christmas, I could keep them up year 'round for the soft accent they give to our wonderful back deck that is outlined by tall trees and a small, meandering creek. Oh yeah, and I love a sale.
After carefully installing the rope lights, I readied myself for the maiden illumination of the new indirect lighting in our back yard. I plugged in the nearly 75 feet of continuous rope light and turned to admire my creation. Instantly, I felt a knot in my stomach.
I realized the “on sale” multi colored lighting that I bought for nearly one fourth the price of the solid color light ropes was made up of one foot increments of red, white and blue lights. They looked like something Lars Larson would hang from his house thinking somehow that would prove he was a better American than anyone else on his block.
"No wonder these were only eight bucks apiece" I muttered to myself disgustedly in the cold, silent and clear night.
I stood there staring disappointed at my creation. I was aware of my instant negative reaction to the red, white and blue lights, a color scheme I should be proud of.
Me, a 25 year veteran firefighter with a son in the Coast Guard. Me, the guy who helped kill a resolution on the city council that opposed any US intervention in Iraq until gaining UN support. Me, often called the most conservative member of the Portland City Council.
I quickly realized that the republican right, led by George Bush, had hijacked these colors. I now associated red, white and blue with homophobia, Christian right wing ideologues, power elite tax breaks and, worst of all, what I think of as the “bait and switch” that others refer to as the war in Iraq.
My brain took over. My thoughts began firing.
“The war in Iraq. I am putting up red, white and blue Christmas lights while others are burying their loved ones.”
“Funerals. George Bush for all his flag waving has never attended one, not one funeral of any of our young men and women who have died in a war he said needed waging to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. Weapons that did not exist. Weapons that I now believe he knew didn’t exist. He has sent them to their deaths yet he steadfastly refuses to attend any of their funerals. How does he live with himself?”
“I have got to replace these lights" I thought. "I don’t want anyone to think I am making a statement in support of that man by displaying these lights on my house.”
Still I stood and stared at the lights. Probably 4 seconds had elapsed since I had plugged my new lights in. My mind was racing. Something was bothering me about replacing these lights with a solid, safe blue.
“Soldiers funerals. Oregon soldiers funerals. Governor Ted Kulongoski goes to these funerals. As many as he can. Ted Kulongoski served in the Marine Corps. He is a caring, thoughtful and strong man. He stands by the flag. He salutes our soldiers. He brings quiet comfort to the grieving families. He embodies what I believe these colors stand for.”
At the end of my 10 second synapse war, I concluded with a grateful, conscious appreciation that Ted Kulongoski is our governor. While others shout their patriotism, Ted Kulongoski quietly lives it.
I called Julie out to look at my creation. “Do the colors bother you?” I asked.
“Why, no” she said sounding a little surprised at my question.
“Good”, I said. “I think we should keep these up all year long.”