Category Archives: History

Constitutionally Speaking: Guns and Religion

Some of you may be like me, trapped in an On Demand, Hulu , Netflix cycle of must watch TV that requires a spreadsheet to track schedules, characters and plots; which allows me (and perhaps you) to avoid the news detailing what a mess this country is.

The news is typically so dispiriting that I have stopped watching, listening, reading much of it at all. Still, the news reaches into my cocoon. I’m going to stick to stories local to me but the hue and cry is heard throughout this great nation of ours.

This fall there was yet another mass shooting, this time at Umpqua Community College in the southern Oregon town of Roseburg.

Constitutionally speaking, I’m going to look to the right and all the people screeching about their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. I’m looking at you “2nd Amendment Voters/Advocates”. Please read the text of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States before you tell me and the rest of the country about your right to own an automatic weapon.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Do you see those first four words about the well regulated militia? Do you get what that means? It doesn’t mean that everyone for any reason can own a gun or an arsenal of automatic weaponry that would horrify the Founding Fathers of this country. I am not part of a well regulated militia thus I do not need to keep and bear arms. The Oregon National Guard can keep and bear arms.

I’m not for banning all guns. I think there should be a ban on assault weapons. Automatic assault weapons are made for hunting human beings, that’s not okay. I think we should enforce the myriad laws we have for background checks and that should apply to online sales, gun shows, pawn shops, retail stores, etc.

I also think that the people screaming about their 2nd Amendment rights, should SHUT. IT. Unless they are a member of a “well regulated militia” and I don’t mean regulated by your Uncle Wally and run out of his barn. If you are a member of a police force, US armed services, the National Guard — then please feel free to assert your Second Amendment Rights. If not, stand down.

bear arms

And this guy can also bear arms

Ohhh, look over there on the left…they are all snickering about the loser conservative gun rights people on the right. Hee Hee, Maggie sure told them!

Well, folks on the left, I’m now going to have a chat with you. It is holiday time, time to decorate the holiday trees and send the holiday cards and make sure that Portland Public School choirs don’t perform at The Grotto’s (The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother) Christmas Festival of Lights, the largest Christmas choral festival in the WORLD. As I said, I am keeping it local but there are examples around the country of…wait for it, the separation of Church and State! Right!? Separate those two before real trouble starts!

churchandstate

Inigo Montoya for the win!

Ahem, now that you folks have got your First Amendment knickers twisted, just a little reminder that the words “separation of Church and State” appear no where in the Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment leads with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” because our Founding Fathers came from Merry Old(e) England, where the government, then a monarchy, said to all of England, “your church is the Church of England.” Period. They added, “If you don’t like it, too bad, you cannot practice any other religion.” As I’m sure you all know as informed and interested American citizens, the Pilgrims left England so they could practice their particular religion without the King putting them in jail or gaol.

The phrase “separation of Church and State” comes from this letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury, CT Baptists in 1802. The phrase in no way means there is no room for religion in public life, it simply means the government will not dictate what religion its citizens practice and that said citizens are free to practice whatever religion they wish. Or practice no religion. Up to you, American citizen.

Again, as the 2nd Amendment folks need to get their facts straight so do you Separation of  Church and Staters, and again, SHUT. IT.

I am not saying that the discourse should end on topics so important to the well being of the United States of America. I am saying get your facts straight before righteously throwing around buzzwords like “the right to bear arms” and “separation of Church and State”.

“There is nothing so absurd but if you repeat it often enough people will believe it.” — Dr. William James, widely recognized as the Father of American Psychology

 

 

 

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Experiencing “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward

I finished Salvage the Bones this morning because I couldn’t stay up for the last 60 pages last night. I am keeping a list of every book I read in 2014 and this is #11. I seldom read out of my comfort zone and this book is most definitely NOT in my typical reading wheelhouse. It’s also the 2011 National Book Award Winner and I tend to not care for National Book Award Winners. However, Salvage the Bones showed up on enough “you really should read this” lists that I gave in and read it.

Quick synopsis:

The narrator, Esch, is a 15-year-old girl whose mother died in childbirth when Esch was 8. She has two older brothers: one who has a fighting pit bull and the other hoping to make a name for himself in basketball. The youngest brother is only 7 and has some developmental disabilities. Their father, who clearly loved their mother very much, has checked into a bottle since she died. The Batiste kids are  pretty much on their own at the Pit, which is what they call their homestead in the fictional Gulf Coast town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. The book covers 12 days in their lives in 2005. Esch realizes she is pregnant. The fighting pit bull has had a litter. Basketball scouts are coming. Their Daddy is worried about a hurricane out in the Gulf. The hurricane is named Katrina.

One doesn’t read this book as much as feel it. This book’s sense of foreboding is heart racing. The stricken reader knows what’s coming and knows it’s not good. Surprisingly, Salvage isn’t depressing. It is full to the point that it seems robust and stuffed like a pillow. The story is swollen so that the characters become pieces of each other, of the land and of the past. Salvage the Bones is crowded with fear, love, violence, poverty, profound sadness, and excitement.

I recommend it highly.

All that being said, I am also ashamed of myself.

This is what I imagined the Batiste family's house looked like.

This is what I imagined the Batiste family’s house looked like.

I remember Katrina. Of course I do, it will only be nine years this summer. I remember watching the news in disbelief, thinking “I’m never going to see what New Orleans was really like”. I donated money to the Red Cross and the Humane Society. I was annoyed with those foolish people who didn’t evacuate. Duh, get the hell out of there!

Why didn't the just leave?

Why didn’t they just leave?

And there is my shame. I have never been to the deep south. I don’t know what the communities are like there…rich or poor. Mostly though, I have no experience with extreme poverty. Why didn’t they just leave? Why were they so stupidly stubborn? It is my shame to realize they had no where to go. They had no food, no gas, no cable, no 24-hour news telling them what to do, no luggage — they had nothing to start with and less than that when the storm ended. How ignorant of me.

katrina2

This book taught me about hurricanes: what the sky looks like and the heaviness of the air, the suffocating heat, and the terrifying water. It taught me about a population segment of the U.S. that I don’t see because I don’t have to. And now this book has me thinking some very uncomfortable thoughts about myself and the socioeconomic structure of this country. I’m not going to write a political post here and if people want to discuss the politics of then and now, I can; but that is not what I’m thinking about right now.

I am 49 years old. I read a short book (just 258 pages) and I have  been deeply moved and educated. I can keep on reading. Therein lies  the magic of books. Anything a reader wants can be found.

Katrina.French cooking.Space travel.Aliens.Dragons.Libraries.Murders.Jewel heists.Fantasy.Reality.Humor.Memoirs.Fairy tales.The Revolutionary War (U.S., French, Spanish, you choose).The presidency (of 4th grade, Russia, some imaginary university, you choose)

Read! Learn! Even if I think I won’t like a book or that a topic might upset me, I will keep reading just to see. And the book is always better than the movie; except for The Bridges of Madison County….the movie was way better.

 

 

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Portland in Black and White

Saturday night Derwood and I went to dinner at Toro Bravo in NE Portland, I have heard that it is always crowded and doesn’t take reservations. It opens at 5:00, so we went at 4:45 so we could just scootch in when it opened. We arrived early and found that there were dozens of people already in line. Stunned, we drove around the block looked for a parking space, we drove by a housing project, Nike Factory Store, library, etc. We circled, parked and got in line. Food is fabulous, great night.

I tell you that to discuss this. Toro Bravo is a cool restaurant in an old building in an old Portland neighborhood, located 75 yards from a housing project. The area was a “Do Not Enter” sort of place 20 years ago but the area is gentrifying.  Do you know how many African Americans were in the restaurant?

Zero.

Portland, Oregon for all its progressive politics and hoopla over food and cycling, has a secret…although not a very well-kept one. Portland is a deeply segregated city. In my opinion (which you are all entitled to), this city is so busy patting itself on the back for its organic foods, farm to table restaurants, recycling and composting programs, trams and light rails, bike lanes and boxes, etc., it ignores the very ugly reality that the black community in this city has been systemically disenfranchised and continues to be pushed to the outer fringes of the metropolitan area.

Anecdotally, I know that Portland Public Schools has been failing African American students since before I was born. My mother taught at Boise (pronounced: Boyce) Elementary in Albina, a predominantly black neighborhood. She told me stories about dealing with parents who were beating the crap out of their children because they thought that would make the kids perform better in school, about begging the administration and school board to get certain bright kids out of the school and somewhere where they would have a chance, about watching the news and seeing one of her favorite students following in his father’s armed robbery footsteps.  Today Boise is in the bottom 15% of Portland Public schools, the population is 60% black, almost 91% of the students are on free or reduced lunch. Fifty years later and not much has changed, maybe nothing has changed.

I have done a bit of research for this post and these are my findings:

According to the 2012 U.S. Census, 2 (TWO, dos, deux) percent of Oregon’s population is African American. The nationwide average is 13.1%. The 2010 census shows that 6.3% of Portland’s population is black. A 2007 census report says 3.1% of Portland’s businesses are owned by African Americans.

Here is an excerpt from an article on OregonLive.com by Nicole Hannah-James:

The seeds of gentrification were planted during World War II, when African Americans from the South flowed into Portland to take jobs in the shipyards. Portland officials and community members, from real estate agents to bankers, pushed the black community into a small area called Lower Albina, near the present-day Rose Quarter, through redlining and other now-illegal practices. White Portlanders fled, and the city began a long pattern of disinvestment. Street and sidewalk repairs were neglected, and the city did little to develop businesses or enforce housing codes, said Karen Gibson, a Portland State University urban planner who has studied gentrification and is the author of  a 2007 study entitled “Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000.”

Many banks refused to make home loans in black areas. Some residents were denied loans for less money than their bank-approved car loans. Appraisers artificially devalued the area’s housing stock, so even people who did own saw little growth in wealth or equity that they could tap to maintain their homes. Predatory lenders swept in, and the area became ripe for drugs and crime.

“Portland is smug about its progressivism,” Gibson said. “But Portland is in denial, and whites don’t want to acknowledge how their policies benefit them — someone had to sacrifice for these nice 20-minute neighborhoods.”  She asked: “Do we want equality in this city? What do we want?” (Emphasis is mine).

I am a native Oregonian and I was never taught in the public schools I attended that Oregon has a long history of racism and segregation, albeit handled much like it is today. Say nice things but do the opposite. Back when Oregon was just a territory in 1844, slavery was deemed illegal BUT

“That same 1844 law ordered all black people out of the Oregon Territory under threat of lashing. This “Lash Law” mandated black people be publicly flogged every six months; however, before it could be enforced, it was modified and the whippings were replaced with forced labor.” Pete Shaw, Oregon Occupier.

The Oregon Occupier sounds like a publication that has a pretty strong agenda so I ran the Google on Lash Law and Mr. Shaw didn’t make that up, plenty of information available on that and other exclusionary laws.

Any of my native Oregonian friends ever heard about this? In 1848 an Exclusion Law was passed banning any “negro or or mulatto” from living in Oregon Territory.

You can read more here

So decades have passed, Portland mayors and city councils have come and gone, and nothing has changed. A few months ago Portland’s mayor, Charlie Hales, said “The job is starting to look like more fun now.” I suppose that is because all the tough problems have been taken care of. Oh Phew!

“He gets excited talking about the big issues: How to keep Portland’s neighborhoods livable, how to bring smart development and services to east Portland, how to maximize and accelerate development around TriMet light rail stations on the yet-to-open Orange Line through the eastside.”  Andrew Theen, The Oregonian.

Mayor Hales is also very concerned about Portland’s “basic services” like roads and parks and getting more money from the city’s taxpayers. I don’t find any discussion of the racial divide in this city when I read his state of the city address. Portland continues blithely down the Livable City path. We are so progressive! We are so beautiful! Who wouldn’t want to live in this Nirvana?! Welcome to one of America’s most livable cities and it is #1 according to this report and here’s another one.
 
 
Just don’t look behind the curtain, you might find out Portland is a fabulous place to live as long as you’re white.
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Thrive Not Just Survive

My sister works in private banking.  One of the clients in her office is an old woman who uses a walker. She is Jewish and has a heavy European accent. She is old and bent over but always looks smashing. Her hair, her clothes, her make-up….always perfect, always elegant.

A week or so ago, this woman’s son came into the bank and chatted with my sister. He told her who his mother is and that he had some banking to do. My sister asked him about his mother. His mother is 85 years old. She is from Poland. When Katie asked him when his mother had immigrated to the U.S., he told her “after the war”.

Wince. A Polish Jew, born in 1928 who arrived in the U.S. after WWII.

This woman, I will call her T, went to Birkenau, the Nazi Concentration Camp for women at the age of 13. Birkenau was part of the Auschwitz system of camps and when Birkenau became “over-crowded”, T was one of the prisoners moved to another part of Auschwitz. She met her husband there, when she was just 15 years old. They had the first of two children (the man my sister was talking to) in a camp for displaced persons after the death camps were liberated by the Allies.

Prior to WWII, there were about 3.3 million Jews in Poland. About 300,000 survived.

Eventually the couple came to the U.S. with $30. T’s husband got a job with a painting company and painted houses.  They bought real estate. They raised their kids. They lived out their lives together. A few years ago, at the husband’s funeral, his son gave the eulogy and said, “My father was not a “survivor”, he was a “thriver”. ”

It is easy to live a life of “quiet desperation“. We are all scarred, some more deeply and painfully than others. Some are still young and life hasn’t taken its pound of flesh yet but it will. If you reach, let’s say my age, 48 and you haven’t been roughed up a bit, then you are not engaging in this life.

The scars cannot define us.

The Holocaust, Birkenau, Auschwitz, the fading numbers tattooed on their arms did not define these people. Their work and their love and their children and their faith defined them. They not only survived horrors most of us will never know, they moved on and thrived. We all have this in us, even when we despair, when we think there is no good on this earth. We have the possibility, we have the chance to do more than survive. We have the opportunity to make something big or small out of this life. And it would be a sin, a shame, a waste to not leave this place without leaving our own personal, imperfect, cherished mark on it.

Life can be very short. Life can be very long. It’s never what we planned or ordered it to be. But while we are here, let us thrive.

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Riverview Cemetery: the Who’s Who of Dead Portlanders

I spent the 4th of July with Derwood at Riverview Cemetery taking photos for FindAGrave.com. It’s a website that I found when writing about Private Fader. I volunteered to take photos when requests came in for cemeteries near my house.

Jocelyn, our tour guide, showed us to the different sites for the photo taking. Riverview was founded in 1882 although the first burials took place in the 1860s. It’s 130+ acres not far from my house and I had no idea how expansive and beautiful it is.  There are 60,000 people buried at Riverview and the cemetery has 120 years left in property!! Riverview’s population is larger than all but SIX Oregon cities!! (Source Oregon.com).

Presenting some of the famous Portlanders buried at Riverview.

The Strohecker family opened a market in Portland’s West Hills over 100 years ago. Sadly, I couldn’t find any photos of the original market. Portland is chock full of gourmet grocery stores today but Strohecker’s was the first according to me and once again, I do or do not do my own research. Strohecker’s is now owned by a chain and I couldn’t find any history on it on the interwebs. I know it was a family-run, neighborhood grocery but now progress has ruined it. Stupid progress.

Next on our tour is….

That’s right! Henry Weinhard of Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve. Back in the day before there were microbrews everywhere, there was Henry’s. In my family, you either drank Brown or Green. And that was back when I was in college and lived in Boston and you couldn’t get Henry’s on the East Coast. Times were tough then kids. I had to drink beer in the snow.

I was a brown drinker.

I don’t know who in my family drank Green but somebody did because we always had it around.

I lived on Dolph Court with my sister, Katie.

I live off Terwilliger Blvd.

How’s that for a memorial?!

Although the greater tribute to the Terwilliger family probably came from Matt Groening, Portland native and creator of the Simpsons:

Robert Underdunk Terwilliger

Bob Terwilliger reminds me of a great story about my sister Molly attempting an underduck. You know what an underduck is? When you push someone on a swing and run underneath them before they swing back? Molly told me this story in the past month or so and I don’t know how I have never heard the story. I was weeping, WEEPing I tell you! I was laughing so hard. Molly is a very bright woman, very smart, incredibly witty however she was a little spacy as a kid. My dad called her the High Plains Drifter because she was in her own head a lot. So one day when Molly was a little person she was out in the yard playing by herself. We had an old metal swing set, with the double seat swing? See photo below.

Not our swing set but you get the idea, and the double swing is on the right.

Molly is out playing all by herself and decides to try out an underduck on her own. She had probably had me or John give her an underduck push when she was swinging but because she was so little had never done it herself. She positioned herself behind one of the little bench seats, gripped the back and pushed! She pushed all the way through and ran under! A successful underduck!! Sadly no one told Molly she should move out of the way because that swing is going to come back at you and hit you in the back of the head and knock you down. Hahahaha. Ohhh, poor Molly.

Queen of the Underduck and also a very snazzy dresser.

Wow, I got very off track there but I love that story.

Now that I’ve ruined my narrative, here are a few more famous Portlanders,

I once lived in the Rasmussen Village Apartments also with sister, Katie.

It looks like an insane asylum, doesn’t it? Well, not too far off base.

Where the Rasmussens live now.

Mitch has his car serviced at Rasmussen BMW.

The Jubitz Family is a Portland benefactor:

The Jubitz stop here.

Jubitz Truck Stop here.

The Hoyt’s are a pioneer family with deep roots in Oregon.

23Hoyt is a really good restaurant but not very pioneerish.

This was going to be my 100th post but then I did the Yeah Write weekly contest entry and that was my 100th post so this is, as I’m sure you have calculated, my 101st post.

That’s it. 101st post. No Fireworks. You may get on with your day.

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Another Mt. Calvary Story

I was at Mt. Calvary on Sunday to take flowers to my dad. We had a nice chat and he is well. Typically when I’m at the cemetery, I walk back from where my parents are buried and explore that area. On Sunday, I looked down the hill

View from my parents’ neighborhood at Mt. Calvary. Their stone is the big rectangle on the right.

I noticed that big rock down the hill to the left of my parents’ marker and decided to go see who had such a big rock. It’s the Gormans. Quite a few Gormans down there. The rock just says Gorman and then there are flat markers for the individuals many of whom were born in the mid-1800s. So that’s nice. When the Gormans run out, there is this marker:

Joseph F. Fader

Joseph F. Fader

Oregon

Pvt 23 Inf 2  Inf Div

World War II

Feb. 26 1914 – Aug. 2 1944

First I noticed that I was born on the same day as Private Fader. I noted the date of his death. He had to have died in Europe. I wonder if his remains are really there or if it is just a marker? Probably just a marker. There are no related markers near his. No wife or parents or siblings no other marker with the name Fader. Joseph was 30 when he died. I’m guessing with that generation that he was married, maybe had kids. But his wife would have remarried, so perhaps she is buried near her second husband. Maybe he never had kids or they moved or their step-father adopted them.

That’s all there is of Joseph Fader? It has been niggling at my brain. What was his story? Does anyone think of him other than me? Is there family out there at all that speaks of their great-uncle or great grandfather who died in WWII?

What does one do in the 21st century when one has questions? I went to the Google. Private Fader is on Oregon’s WWII Memorial. Joseph F. Fader. That’s all.

I looked up the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Joseph was most likely in France when he died. The 23rd infantry landed at Omaha Beach June 8, 1944.

I found this on the WWII website www.lonesentry.com

“In slow, painful hedgerow fighting, the Regiment inched its way forward day after day against hard fighting enemy paratroop elements. St. Georges d’Elle, Hill 192 (which commanded St. Lo), St. Jean des Baisants, Etouvy, Vire, Truttemer le Grand and Tinchebray were scenes of bitter fighting up to August when the organized German resistance in Normandy collapsed.”

I had to get a 14-day-trial subscription to ancestry.com to find any further details.

Joseph Fader was born in Montana and moved to Portland in time for the Census of 1930. He and his parents, Mike and Helen Fredorkovich, and his brother, John lived in Portland. If ancestry.com is correct, they lived a mile or so away from where I live now.

Joseph enlisted on August 2, 1943 exactly one year, to the day, before he died. According to his enlistment papers he was married. He was a woodworker, like his father and his brother. He never went to high school. He enlisted and trained in Wisconsin. Traveled to New York and then sailed to Northern Ireland arriving on Oct. 20, 1943. In April, 1944 the 23rd moved to South Wales and then on June 8 to Omaha Beach.

I don’t believe Private Fader ever made it out of France. I know the 23rd infantry went from Omaha Beach through France through Belgium and Germany to Czechoslovakia, where they were when the War ended in Europe on May 8, 1945.

I’m sorry he didn’t make it to Czechoslovakia. His parents had left that country in the late 19th century, I’m sure he would have been proud to be part of its liberation.

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