For Sheila H., Hope All Is Well Out East

Chris Bouneff

A few weeks ago I found myself a guest at a Salem luncheon honoring a few legislators for being brave, courageous, pioneering and all the other adjectives that get thrown at lawmakers during such award ceremonies.

During one speech, a legislator said that it takes a family to make the Legislature work. And that family consisted of lawmakers, the usual suspects of advocates whose names and faces I recognized, and professional lobbyists. The comment struck me because most times, politicians are PC enough to at least throw in a token nod to us “Oregonians.”

Funny thing, though. The comment didn’t bother me. Because it’s true.

In today’s world, regular folk like me are overlooked. Oregon is a large state and there are just too many people for us all to be heard or even considered. Rather, we’re tallied, we’re polled, we’re town halled on weeknights when the kid has homework and we worked late (where we have two minutes each because “we have a lot of people signed up to speak”), we’re cajoled to join one of those groups represented by the usual suspects and to participate in lobby day.

This is just the way it is, which finally explains my growing apathy for goings on in the political world.

Don’t confuse this with being apolitical. My views haven’t changed. I’m still a liberal and proud to call myself so. And I remain active in a few small circles where I can be of some benefit.

But I just can’t get passionate about much these days because the game has lost its appeal. Good ideas that make sense even to non-policy wonks like me are shot down in the Legislature for little reason. My city government appears to view my city as starting and stopping at downtown. School superintendents who are all flash and little substance breeze through town on their way to higher offices where their rears can be kissed even more.

There was a day I’d be outraged by a $10 corporate minimum income tax or an aerial tram [rim shot]. Today, I’m not even surprised when once again, we can’t get a modest increase in a beer and wine tax to pay for needed addiction treatment without a tremendous fight.

No use to be outraged. So I’m adopting a guest’s mentality, because I’m not part of the family, as that lawmaker correctly concluded. In that setting, a guest may be all that I am.   

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