State of Emergency

Pat Ryan

Blow up the TV
Throw away the paper
Move to the country
Build a little home.

Plant a little garden
Eat a lot of peaches,
Try and find Jesus
on your own.
-John Prine (circa 1970)

And so they did. There are thousands of these folks out in rural oregon and none of them are running around thirty years later with SUV keys in hand, muttering about how they "only went to the demonstration to pick up chicks". They have been walking their talk ever since. Staying informed and active in their communities, raising children, leaving a minimal footprint on the world, and generally trying to behave like adults on the fringes of the galloping consumer culture that the rest of us inhabit.

So along in the early '90s when our pal Lon Mabon was stirring the anti-gay pot to a degree that people were actually being murdered for the crime of Lesbianism, a bunch of these usually quite people aroused themselves to action. Thus was born the Rural Organizing Project . Based in a tiny house in Scappoose, Marcy Westerling leads a small band of deadly serious gurlz, who haven't quit fighting since. They're all sweetness and smiles, Peace, Love, and soaring white Doves but when they get their teeth in your ankle, you have about as much chance of escape as a referee at a Pit Bull Melee.

As an umbrella group for over sixty rural organizations oriented toward the Superman Virtues of Truth, Justice, and The Amercan Way, they try to do at least one big event each year to highlight aspects of Oregon policy and thought that could do with some improvement. This year finding a cause for outrage is about as tough as a determined search for tansy ragwort or dog crap in my back yard. All of the usual problems are, as usual, just a little bit worse than they were last year.

Large corporations are paying a little bit less of the state and federal tax burden.
Prisons are a little more overcrowded with pot smokers, necessitating the release of a few more burglars and car thieves.
Healthcare has been taken away from a few thousand more low income Oregonians.
Allegedly progressive politicians in Salem and Washington are giving up a few more battles to the nutcases, rationalizing that they need to keep their powder dry for when something really important is at stake.
Democrats are working in a bipartisan fashion with their colleagues to make the pear the State Fruit and apparently many are thinking that letting PGE continue to collect tax assesments from ratepayers and then not pay the taxes should be enshrined permanently in Oregon law.

Somebody should do something, but most of us that contribute to Blue Oregon are to some degree or another Political Insiders and if we aren't as inside as we'd like, we're clear that confronting our representatives on issues outside the approved script is just impolite and we are aware that the response will be silence with perhaps an emabarrassed smile while they wait for our moment of bad taste to receed. Most of us don't even make these calculations consciously any more. If we want access, we need take care to be polite and to avoid certain topics. Of course that begs the question of what good the access does us if we can't demand that they do the rational rather than the conventional thing on topic a, b, or c.

For the week of June 12th through the 18th, those people in the beat up Subaru station wagons with the Speak Truth to Power bumper stickers, are going to do just that. This week long run will go from Salem to Portland with stops in Brooks, Woodburn, Canby, Oregon City, and winding up at the office of a well known Moderate politician in Portland. There will be lots of music, political speechifying, highlighting of inconvenient facts, and calls to action.

I geve you the link at the top of the column for ROP, so in the words of the soon to be immortal Jefferson Smith: Do Something.

If even one reporter had stood up during a pre-Iraq Bush press conference last year and shouted, "Bullshit!" it might have made a difference. - Matt Taibbi

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    I suggest we not wait until June to speak with legislators about PGE [and "public" utilities in general]. The effect of campaign contributions, past, present, and future, from the "power" players is profound and almost totally damaging to the interests of ratepayers and taxpayers. Votes on electric utility matters over the decades have cost Oregonians billions of dollars and a turnip-truck load of economic strength. Things will not change until we demand that things change.

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