Recently, President Bush visited Medford, Oregon, where he showcased his timber management plan for the national forests in light of this summer’s horrific fire season. He toured a new burn and there gave an impromptu press conference. Later in Portland, while the president attended a fundraiser for Republican U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, the downtown streets were thronged by roughly a thousand demonstrators of the sort the Beaver State is famous for, protesting the new timber policy and the president’s upcoming plans to seek the resignation of Saddam Hussein. The Darth Vader-like garbed Portland police had their hands full, resorting to tear gas, rubber bullets and finally nightsticks to control the unruly crowd, many in bizarre costumes or black terrorist-like head masks. The scene was reminiscent of a bad acid trip at an old Halloween night Grateful Dead show. Just another day in a city that President Bush-41 used to call “Beirut.”
What is it about Oregon? Is it something in the air?
Oregon, especially urban Oregon (Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford, Ashland), seems to be a demographic extension of such Loony Left outposts as San Francisco-Berkeley (Baja Oregon?); Boston; Seattle; Boulder, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Burlington, Vermont: fertile ground for the germination of much of the PC wackiness we’ve seen over the last couple of decades.
Take Eugene. The home of the University of Oregon has had for a generation a distinct countercultural bent. The late author and LSD pioneer Ken Kesey grew up in nearby Springfield, and drove the bus home (literally) in the late ’60s. In his later years his farm became a Hippie Lourdes of sorts, as the unwashed multitudes dropped in to drop out. Nowadays, Eugene is a noted capital of anarchist-chic, and home to such groups as the Ruckus Society and Earth First!, the obviously bored sons and daughters of upscale Baby Boomers who strive to take their parents’ political idealism a bit further by breaking things, notably windows at McDonald’s and Starbucks. The Ruckus Society kids were a big presence at the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) riots in Seattle. The Earth Firsters are known for vandalizing equipment at remote logging sites, and driving railroad spikes into trees that will break bandsaws at the local lumber mill. Dangerous stuff, that. Oh well, it turns out that Michael Bakunin was a spoiled rich kid too (see Edmund Wilson’s To the Finland Station; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1972 paperback edition, page 312.).
Portland is interesting. It’s very enthusiastic about public transportation and “smart growth.” Smart growth is where liberal municipal powers-that-be curb suburban development, gentrify city centers, and promote “greenbelts” around city perimeters. This sends local home prices skyward (witness another smart growth mecca, the San Francisco Bay Area, with the highest average home price in the country: $410,000). The economist Thomas Sowell has written that liberals on the one hand decry the lack of “affordable housing” for low income folks, while on the other work hard to ensure that the market will not provide what is needed. All this is rooted in the radical Green hatred of automobiles (and especially SUVs), those planet-destroying gas guzzlers that carry those millions of boorish and materialistic commuters in from the sterile suburbs everyday. Maybe Portland’s forward-thinking citizens will soon outlaw cars in favor of horsedrawn trolleys.
Portland is also home to the Oregonian, a newspaper that is America’s answer to Britain’s Guardian, and to Craig Rosebraugh, a “vegan” and otherwise exemplary Bakunist, who until recently was the media liaison for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a shadowy group of eco-terrorists responsible for the 1998 arson of the $12 million Two Elk Lodge in Vail, Colorado, not to mention the torching of the occasional medical research facility where people in lab coats torture white mice. Mr. Rosebraugh remains under FBI surveillance, and was even subpoenaed to testify before a congressional committee examining eco-terrorism (much that has even occurred since 9-11). Though the fact that the FBI and the Congress are both hot on the case ensures that Rosebraugh and the ELF will be in business for some time to come.
When it comes to “assisted suicide,” Oregon is in the forefront of enlightened thinking, an American version of Holland. Since 1994, Oregonians have had a “Death with Dignity” law, where anyone suffering from a terminal illness with — by a doctor’s official estimate — less than six months to live, can self- administer a “Kevorkian” style lethal injection.
In Oregon, folks have the right to die. They just can’t build a home in the suburbs.
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