Do Portland progressives take care of their own?

By Marian Drake of Portland, Oregon. Marian describes herself as "a progressive elder." She has been a progressive activist and writer all her life, with her first letter to the editor published in the Dallas Morning News when she was eight years old. She also plays the mandolin and coordinates an Old Time fiddle jam at TaborSpace in SE Portland.

When I used to teach school in the Central Valley of California, my principal said in anger, “The Chinese are taking over the grocery stores!” I was young and unsubtle – always a problem in my work – and replied, “What about the whites taking over from the Native Americans?” This did not set well with him.

Now at lot of people in that area are upset because “The Hmong are taking over the farms.” This information is from the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. I’ve also heard it said in Oregon that the Indians are taking over the motels, the Koreans are taking over the convenience stores, and other complaints – motivated by racism, I believe -- about groups that take care of their own.

Which leads me to a complaint of my own. Do Portland progressives take care of their own? I would say, No, they don’t. For some reason, too many progressives resist getting organized in ways that would help the economy and the progressive movement as a whole. May I suggest that there are practical ways that we can do the following, as much as each of us possibly can. I list solutions to any excuses below!

I hear the following complaints from many liberals and progressives:

If each of us does what she or he can regarding the above, and continue to increase our participation in these activities (or non-activities), it is my hope that Portland progressives will come to know each other in personal ways. We can take pride in seeing the progressive movement come together.

Disclaimer: This article pertains to Portland, as other cities and Oregon rural areas have somewhat different issues. I know Portland; this article can serve as a basic guidelines to how other progressive Oregon communities can take care of their own together.

Comments

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    Those are all cool suggestions - but they describe an eco not necessarily a progressive or liberal? Bundling eco goals into progressive goals defocuses both arguments.

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      I don't agree with Martin D. Hash. Isms and oppression are all connected. Eco is progressive and progressive is eco. When we join together we become stronger. Focusing on only one issue it not liberal at all.

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    "Buy Organic" Surely you mean grow your own! "Ride Trimet" Support the bloated, government cash cow that has repeatedly show it's colors as homophobic, violent, racist, and aggressive to the differentially enabled? NEVER!

    ...see? I can do it too. I can be greener then thou.

    My point is that we need a social change. Take Organics, for example. They are treated and marketed as a luxury. THAT is the reason they are more expensive, not any production reasons. And if we spend money on them now, the logical reason is that people are willing to pay more for them, so they'll raise the prices on them. Until 'regular' foods are put out by regulation or lack of demand, Organics will stay a luxury item.

    Take bicycling as another example. Most American cities are not made for anything but cars. Trying to commute by bike in Los Angeles or Houston, for example, might not only be ridiculously involved, but quite dangerous.

    That said, your list is a good set of goals that everyone with a bit of conscious should strive for. Shop at the Farmer's Market, organic and local all in one fell swoop! Ride your bike or walk, better for you and everyone else (and, if enough people do that, then it encourages density) These are great steps for yourself. But far, far, far more important is to change our social structure. GET INVOLVED IN LOCAL POLITICS. Everyone agrees that transportation pollution is a huge issue, but it's small compared to industrial pollution. Who is going to hold businesses responsible? Everyone agrees that city density is the key to reducing car driving/increasing walking/bicycling. But who sets and enforces the zoning laws? Attend your city council meetings. Join the PTA. People in group are far more powerful then your one example.

    ...incidentally, yes. I am a complete hypocrite on this issue.

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      I have to disagree with your comment that that the increased price for organics isn't due to cost of production.

      I have a small farm in Mulino. This will be my third year farming full time (I founded my farm at the end of 2008 and retired from the tile and stone industry in early 2009). I've looked into becoming organic certified. One of the things I researched when I was deciding whether or not to certify as an organic farm, was what it cost to produce the crops (I farm livestock, poultry, row crops and will be opening my nursery to the public this year for retail and wholsale sales). It would cost me roughly twice as much for feed, forage and fertilizer if I was certified organic. For fertilizer I use composted manure from my own livestock and poultry. Right now it costs me $1.50/dozen to maintain the hens who lay the eggs I provide to my CSA members feeding conventional feeds and grains. Organic grains are almost exactly twice the price as conventional. Organic hay is much more expensive than conventional, I pay $160/ton for local meadow grass and $230/ton for grass/alfalfa mix, both hays are conventional and I go through around 1 1/2 ton a month between the two types.

      And then there are the costs of inspection and record keeping, the three year transition period where you are required to follow strict organic practices but will probably not be able to receive the organic premium of price for your produce, meat or eggs.

      So, while I do agree that a part of the price difference between organic and conventional products is no doubt due to other reasons such as availability vs demand, and popularity among consumers, the bulk of the price difference is due to the fact that, yes, it really does cost a lot more to produce if you're certified organic than it does if you use conventional methods, or even as I do, use organic practices as your primary method of operation.

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        Right, but why is the organic feed you buy more expensive? Is it because of all the extra pesticides, time and payroll used to apply them? All the extra fertilizers used? ...Or is it because it is 'luxury' feed sent to 'boutique' growers for a 'deluxe' market?

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          I think it's because in some cases the yield may be slightly lower per acre than conventional. It's also because of the certification costs, I think that the feed has to be processed, bagged and stored seperate from conventional seed, etc. Organic is restricted in and ammount and types of pesticides and in some cases fertilizers used. If you apply manures as fertilizer, as many farms, my own included, do, the manures have to be organic certified, if you use compost it has to be orcanic certified, etc. All of those products cost more money because they have to go through all of the certifications that the organic farm producing the grains, produce, etc. have to go through. Every time you ad a cost to a step, that cost gets passed on and in some cases magnified by markup.

          I know that if I were to be organic certified I'd have to buy organic hay and grains for my livestock and poultry, which means that the manures cost more. I also would have a hard time finding sterile organic certified soils for my nursery business. Now, while it's true that if certain inputs aren't available then a certified organic farm is allowed to use conventional, but if organic inputs are available I'm pretty sure that you must use them.

          It all adds up. The cost of production every step of the way is higher. And then too, some small organic farms (by small I'm talking about less than $250,000/year gross receipts) also pay higher wages to their workers than a lot of conventional farms, provide medical, etc. All of that adds to the cost of production.

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    It's impossible to claim to be a progressive in the US without supporting as top priorities 1) the end of US military aggression abroad and of the domination of domestic politics by the military-industrial complex, and 2) a woman's right to choose not only in the US but globally.

    I know the discussion here focuses on state/local issues, but--these are very much state/local issues as well as global issues.

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      I expect there are any number of people who can honestly state they are "progressive" without meeting every single item on some political purity checklist.

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    Thanks for the post Marion. I think a better title would be something like "Are Portland progressives making choices that are in line with progressive values/priorities" or "Are Portland progressives helping to create a more progressive society with their consumer and lifestyle choices."

    Unfortunately I see you got some typical knee-jerk responses here whining about "interfering in personal lives" and "judging" and accusations of not "being open-minded and" tolerant." BS. We of course judge people's behavior every single day as we should. That's how we choose our friends, our employees, and our politicians...let's not act like we don't.

    It's seems like a fairly simple and logical message. Try to make consumer choices and lifestyle choices that help create a more progressive/just/fair/sustainable community/world. Be the change you want.

    I have suggested on this site in the past that someone create a Progressive Business Directory of sorts where business owners who have supported progressive causes/campaigns would be listed as well as those who have funded right-wing campaigns/causes.

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      Never work. There are too many definitions of "progressive" even (maybe especially) within the Dem Party. And it seems lately that the more "progressive" someone claims to be, the stricter the litmus test they try and impose on others is. It's enough to make me want to bail on the progressive label all together.

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        In America, money is power...and Portland progressives/liberals/democrats whatever label you don't want to "bail" on, spend a lot of it. If they can spend it strategically it can shift a great deal of power. That's a fact.

        It seems to me it that it wouldn't be to difficult to set up sort of an online political directory showing the party affiliation and donation record of business owners. This info would obviously tell us a lot. Business owners may even be anxious to spend/contribute to progressive candidates and progressive campaigns as a result. We sent people into outer space I think we can handle a political directory.

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          "money is power".

          And that is one of the main problems with politics and one that many "progressives" decry on a regular basis.

          I'm sure many in Portland will use such a directory if you create it. Don't forget to pitch the idea to the producers of Portlandia. it'd make a great bit for their show.

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            We're not talking about buying politicians, we're talking about making smart choices in a capitalistic society. Maybe your right...maybe we shouldn't try to spend our money in a way that advances progressive priorities.

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              Way to read what you want into my comment, Josh. You know very well that I'm not talking about how people spend their money, but rather the possibility of building an online directory that supports the "progressive" community without alienating a good part of that community who disagrees with your definition of "progressive".

              But you go right ahead and enjoy beating up your straw man, there.

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      I have suggested on this site in the past that someone create a Progressive Business Directory of sorts where business owners who have supported progressive causes/campaigns would be listed as well as those who have funded right-wing campaigns/causes.

      Joshua -- America is run by those who show up. I think you just volunteered for the job!

      If you create the directory, I'll help get it on the internet.

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        I wonder what effect this might have on donations. Will businesses continue to donate or will they curtail those efforts for fear on landing on someone's "enemies list?" Who gets to decide which causes are progressive? What about people who are not ideologically rigid and might donate to both progressive and conservative causes?

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        My full time job right now is taking care of a three and one year old...and it's taking just about everything I got. My family as well as my wife's are all back east so we don't have a great deal of support. I'm lucky to squeeze in a few minutes here and there discussing politics on BlueO. For the record, I'm always involved in local issues (Here in Eugene we have a big school-tax campaign happening right now to help fill our budget gap) and always hit the streets and the phones come election season. I promise you that I do show up. And once my kids are in school I will be dedicating my life to creating citizens teaching middle and secondary social studies...hopefully Oregon will be hiring teachers by that time instead of firing them.

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    So now you're going to make consumer choices based on whether someone is a democrat or Republican? I guess being a progressive is only about being tolerant to those you can tolerate.

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      OK Jason...let's try and make this very simple for you.

      People's values/principles/priorities determine whether they choose to be a democrat/progressive or Republican/conservative. Principles/values actually matter. They determine the way we live our lives. If I spend my money at Clothing Store A who is owned by a right-wing jerk who funds anti-public education campaigns or anti-choice candidates instead of spending my money with Clothing Store B, which is owned by a progressive who is more likely to spend his money on pro-public education campaigns or pro-choice causes, I am NOT acting in my best interests....I'm actually helping to create a less empathetic, more greedy right wing society. Making consumer choices that are in my best interests....that help advance progressive goals is plain old common sense, not intolerant.

      You obviously don't understand the concept of tolerance. Tolerance doesn't mean spending your money stupidly. I know conscience consumerism is a strange concept to conservatives who have very narrow understandings of personal responsibility, but I'm confident you can figure it out.

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        Do you realize what a jerk you are! Seriously?

        You are so unwilling to have an intelligent and respectful conversation without insidious comments and/or acting so incredibly condescending.

        You have reminded me why I should never respond to one of your posts. At least others on this site are respectful enough to respond in a dignified manner. Your maturity level is that of a spoiled brat.

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          That's a lot of name-calling for someone so respectable. Tisk tisk Jason.

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          "So now you're going to make consumer choices based on whether someone is a democrat or Republican? I guess being a progressive is only about being tolerant to those you can tolerate."

          Is this kind of insult your idea of starting a respectful conversation Jason?

          I'm perfectly willing to have intelligent political conversations and often do, however I have a very low tolerance for conservative nonsense which I tend to find in your commentary. Your problem like many Conservatives is that you think you should get much more respect than you deserve. You should appreciate my honesty.

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    You tell your friends what kind of gifts you'll accept? Seriously? And if they happen to screw up and give you something (gasp!) material? Do you then refuse the gift, as your post implies? Perhaps while reminding them of your rules? Or do you graciously accept it and then pass it on to someone else if you absolutely cannot bear to have a symbol of materialism in your home regardless of the thought and care someone put into picking it out for you. I hope for your friends' sake it is the latter. To tell people what type of gifts you'll accept is to indicate you expect gifts at all, which is appallingly rude.

    And yes, I know I'm also violating etiquette by point out your lack of same, but so be it. Self-righteous austerity is not an attractive trait (even in the "Portland progressive" community I'll wager) and you don't have to be rude to be progressive.

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      Fair point Paul. I totally agree w/ your criticism of this post. That said I think the main message of Marion's post is a good one. We should be trying to make choices that advance progressive priorities and many of us don't put enough thought/effort into doing so.

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        What I don't like is the 'laundry list' aspect of it. It starts to read like a scorecard so people can brag about their 'liberal rating'.

        Switching your lightbulbs for CFLs or LEDs is great, but I can see the issue of paying $10+ per lightbulb might be an issue. Saying 'switch your water heater' is a great idea. But not everyone has that kind of money sitting around. Same thing with switching to solar. Change your car? Same problem.

        The way to really make change is to make it so painless that it is easy. The Bottle Bill is a perfect example of this. As is curbside recycling. And the seatbelt law(s). We can make things better but individual choice only goes so far compared to large-scale reform. Until we start mandating higher CAFE standards or more environmental standards, our cars will suck down gas, and our houses will continue to be built with 'an open window' in them. Until pesticide/GMO/fertilizer useage is more regulated, Organics will continue to be treated as a luxury.

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    I have to say, I agree with Paul. There are a lot of people that say, "Don't judge (unless it's in my favor)". If I only shop at stores owned by conservative people, then I am a jerk, but if YOU shop at only stores owned by liberals then you are amazing and progressive. This doesn't make sense and it isn't tolerance. You have to learn to accept everyone, even the people that learned to read online.

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