Update: March 4, 6:45 p.m.
Our national motto is "e pluribus unum" - from many one. But after this presidential election year chaos, anger, despair not unity has been the buzzwords.
We are a nation divided by red and blue voters, divided by race, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, region and zip code. Old lines of urban/rural divide have been hardened.
While the middle class has lost ground the economic divide has widened. The top 0.1% have seen their share of wealth go up four times, since 1975! And, since 1970, the "super elite" 0.01% has seen their incomes grow a whopping 628%! These are the results from economic policies from Presidents Richard Nixon to George W. Bush.
If one follows Trump and GOP promises of tax cuts for corporate America - the wealth gap will increase. This is akin to corporations playing a shell game with states trying to get the most tax benefits they can. It's worked for Intel, Nike et al in Oregon. Jobs will go to not to the marginalized middle class but to highly skilled workers who themselves often work on "contract" sans benefits. Where are middle class tax cuts coming from - cutting the safety net pitting the working poor against those one level above them?
So where's the common ground in America? Democrats and Republicans don't have that unity thing going anymore we're are a house divided. Liberals and conservatives are divided by ideology and 43 million Americans last election didn't vote!
The American Dream brought generations of immigrants from all over the world to the USA and now that has become a dividing line. In truth it always has been there. When the Irish arrived in New England the signs went up "no Irish". Then Italians saw the signs go up "no Wops". After Pearl Harbor it was "no Japs."
Every ethnic group in the US has met the same signs out in the open or hidden by zoning codes, neighborhood covenants, red lining, urban renewal (aka Black removal) and now gentrification. We've never made it easy for a family on the margins to find a home of their own. We instead blame the poor!
The most brutal examples of exclusion and exploitation were slavery, Jim Crow and segregation practiced on African-Americans. But Native Americans weren't even worthy of being included under separate but equal or as 3/5s a person in the Constitution - they were victims of European disease, genocide or forcibly moved to reserves.
Indigenous peoples, Native and Hispanic Americans, from California to Mexico saw their lands and ranches stolen by US colonialism sanctioned by Manifest Destiny where porous geographical boundaries of the Rio Grand and the Sonoran desert which had been a cross-cultural and economic bridge for centuries were militarized. Trump didn't invent this "pacification" process Andrew Jackson did!
This history speaks not to a kinder gentler America but to an America we want to deny even exits. But history will not be silent.
Despite this terrible legacy a new chapter of "exclusion" now confronts Latinos and Muslims from the Trump administration who lives in a fantasy world wants to wall off people - a new generation of immigrants who have ties in the USA or want to flee war torn regions of the Middle East and Africa. Aside from the immorality of this human removal - how does moving 11 million people cost out? It doesn't. It's a mind boggling stupid idea!
But there is another America. I saw it this Thursday when I hosted 80 Occupational Therapy students from Pacific University and some of their community college cohorts in a road trip to and tour of the Puzzle Palace - something I've been doing for many generations of Pacific students through internships or road trips since I arrived on campus in 1974.
For 13 years I did this road trip with our MAT students in my School & Society class in a short course in June when that program begins. For the last 6 years I've been doing this for our OT students. One year we took 80 students and members of Adelante Mujeres in a school bus to Salem! When we walked into a House committee hearing on education reform that was an eye turner for the legislators!
What unites these groups of students in our MAT or OT programs is the goal of service. Their ability to meet these ambitious goals depends a lot of what happens in the Puzzle palace and in the corridors of power in DC. So my mission is to show them how to be engaged citizen/professionals.
Oregon's legislature, unlike our distant federal government, is more person friendly. At the end of the day after students have "lobbied" legislators or their legislative assistants, seen committee hearings and a House or Senate floor session - they come away jazzed by the experience. Some have even met a governor or two over the years.
I don't pull any punches I explain how hard it is for an idea to become a law but also I explain to them that persistence is rewarded once they learn how to develop "relationships" with legislators which hopefully will involve a life long engagement because if they are to serve their students/clients their work doesn't stop at the end of a school or clinic day.
In my classes or workshops with post-BA students engaged in helping professions I often ask them who their most important focus is - they get it - it's not their school, their clinic or hospital but their clients - students or patients - who often face many socio-economic hurdles. So getting involved makes sense besides being the right thing to do.
"e pluribus unum!"
Now if I asked that question of voters after such a poisonous election - the answer would be - to defeat "the other" - even though we all are part of "the other" - especially on either side of the urban/rural divide. It didn't help much here when a once admired mayor of Portland years ago referred to rural Oregon as "the other Oregon."
While I'm a Seattle kid, Beacon Hill to be specific - I grew up in Roseburg, Oregon. I always felt the sting of being from a small town - the "other Oregon" who often voted down school budgets. In my youth it came out more as a sports fan when RHS was playing and getting drubbed by larger schools from Eugene, Medford or Portland. Now the "enemy" would be a Jesuit.
In the fall I still check the Sunday Oregonian for the football scores!
But I'm a million miles from Roseburg - but the Grove is a small town too - often regarded by Portlandia types as somewhere half way to the coast and in the Bible Belt when in fact as a college town we're one of the bluest cities in Oregon.
But at the end of the day we all believe in the American Dream, that everyone should play by the rules and if so their children and grand children should prosper from the sacrifices of the previous generation. That's been the driving force of the American Dream. But it's a dream much at risk today, hence the fear, the anger and the bunker mentality on both sides of our political divide.
In the 2016 election we faced a perfect storm - a working class shattered by the Great Recession (though in truth the road to the bottom began in the '70s). Lacking an historical memory many angry people, young and old flocked to The Bern or The Donald despite the clear facts that the candidate with the best credentials to govern and committed to the most vulnerable was Hillary.
Let's not forget she won by almost 2.9 million popular votes.
Popular Vote: Clinton 65,844,610 (48.2%), Trump 62,979,636 (46%) - source The Cook Report
But Hillary could not punch her "woman's card" in key states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania caused by voter intimidation and an under vote by millennials and suburban women in those key states. She was compromised by her political scar tissue, evasiveness on the e-mail stuff and just not willing to compete with The Bern and The Donald in summing her "anger" aka testosterone quotient knowing she'd come off as being shrill.
But unlike The Bern she has shown grace in defeat a stark contrast to Trump's twitter fetish - sorry one good speech before Congress is not enough. One is reminded of Fritz's Mondale's question to Gary Hart in the '88 Atlanta debate "Where's the beef?" And now with 'Trumpgate' in the headlines - Trump has lost the narrative and been "Nixonized".
But at the end of the day - we all share despite our demographics the common ground that we want to play on an economic field of dreams that is fair not tilted to the rich and we all want our kids to inherit a better world than we did. Right now too many Americans feel under siege across economic, demographic and regional lines. The American Dream is slipping away.
But as long as President Trump hits the "demonize" button or is infected with the "Tricky Dicky" virus he will not able to deliver on his "born again" campaign promises which appear to be more fluff than substance. In the meantime, we must all care for our own but in doing so - like my MAT and OT students let's not forget our work does not stop at the end of the work day.
Get involved in your community, in your party of choice, in your professions which have lobbyists speaking for you (but are they really?), run for office - school board or school committee, city council or a local city commission, then work up the food chain - to county or regional government or if the "bug" really gets you run for the legislature and/or congress.
OT's and MATs tend to be women drawn to service just as their mothers and grandmothers were back in the day usually as volunteers. But I do see more men in class - a good sign.
Woman have come a long way in Oregon politics: 23 of 60 House members and 8 of 30 Senators are women but minority faces are too few. Our governor is a woman and the speaker is a woman. With a burgeoning Latino population in another generation more change will come! The Latino high school students in the Grove who marched against the "Wall" and attended the FG city council "sanctuary" session will be our future leaders.
For Oregonians - engagement is easy - you can contact your legislators online (very user friendly see the link below), or in town hall meetings, in your grocery store since most of them return home every night or at least for the weekends. They are accessible as is our open government - the Legislative website gives you all the tools you need to know in how to engage in the process - check it out.
In dark times we need rays of hope. My twice a year workshops with OT students are my rays! Our spirited almost 7 year old grand daugther is our other ray - on second thought an aurora borealis.