What's Tony Thinking

Sorting Among Widely Varying Opinions


This weekend I did a one night backpacking trip to Aneroid Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Aneroid is one of the closer of the 53 lakes in the Eagle Cap wilderness, so it gets a lot of traffic this time of year. Still, the trail takes you through some of most lovely meadows on God’s green earth. They are laced with quietly winding streams that call the 23rd Psalm to mind. And the Lake itself is lovely. Here’s a photo.

The short Aneroid trip was a warm up, or shake-down cruise, for a longer trip that begins Friday to Frances Lake, also in the Eagle Cap. It is a less well travelled route, in no small part because the first seven miles ascend some 3,500 feet to one of the highest passes in the area at 8,600 feet. From there you descend 1,000 feet to Frances Lake. Since the weather promises to be hot, I’ve been trying to assess just how tough this hike will be.

And I have found widely varying opinions. I watched a Youtube video yesterday in which the narrator described this as one of the most difficult and demanding hikes in all of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. “If you are carrying a pack (I will be) you will be absolutely exhausted by the time you get to this point (the pass).” Then he added, “but it will be worth it.” And he went on to discuss the stunning geological features of the area.

This morning I opened a hiking book which had this to say about the very same trail. “The entire 9.2 mile one-way to Frances Lake is at an even grade. Although it is quite long, it is not difficult.” Like I said, “widely varying opinions.”

I’m feeling a little that way about the situation in a number of American cities, including Portland and Seattle. In Portland, as is well known, the longest, continuous post-George Floyd’s death protest has gotten a surge of new life from the provocative presence of federal agents, a.k.a. “troops,” send by President Trump to “quell violence” and “protect federal property.”

Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan agree that the federal troops are provoking violence, not quelling it. Some others see it quite differently. They see mob violence that they claim has turned cities or parts of cities like Minneapolis into war zones. I do try to read and listen to people and commentators who are not just agreeing with me. For some of this other view check out Rod Dreher’s blogs and the reports he quotes on these topics. Here, thanks to a Oregon reader, is another, in which local BLM leaders complain the Portland protests have been “co-opted.” But, then, you wonder, which is it? What is really going on?

Because this seems such a transparent effort on the part of Donald Trump to distract from the much larger and more threatening issue, i.e. the pandemic, and his failures of leadership there, my strong instinct is to side with the local leaders who are saying troops are a problem not a solution. Moreover, the business of troops without clear identification apprehending people and whisking them off in unmarked vans — what does that sound like? El Salvador in the 80’s. Assad’s Syria? Russia? China? It doesn’t sound like what America is supposed to be.

That said, I don’t doubt for a minute that there are some among the protestors who are taking advantage of the situation to provoke whatever authorities they can in whatever ways are available. And I imagine the nightly street standoffs, while genuinely dangerous, can also be intoxicating for some who may be filling a void in their life. Some think that a cynical view on my part. Maybe they’re right. At any rate, I’m sure it is not true of the majority of protestors. But it doesn’t take many in such situations to set things off.

From the beginning of this series of protests I have wondered why the majority of them are being held at night anyhow? Why not be out in the day? It would seem safer, but also more open, and even honorable. Maybe there’s a good reason that these happen at night and one of you will enlighten me . . .

In the meantime, I note the following: Trump is not only targeting cities where the administration is Democratic, but in the vast majority of cases where the governing official is a woman. This is a guy who really has problems with a woman, any woman, who dares challenge him. But in this he sees a political opportunity that appeals to his base.

Second, Trump has declined to give cities and states the aid they really need both to fight the pandemic and to stay afloat amid the recession, while giving them deployments of troops they didn’t ask for and don’t want. We need Jim Mattis, and many like him, to say again what the onetime Secretary of Defense said six weeks ago, this is a President — the first said Mattis in his lifetime — who doesn’t want to unify country but to divide it.

Well, back to the trail to Frances Lake. Sometime next week, God willing and the sun don’t get too hot, I’ll report my assessment and where it falls among the “widely varying opinions.”



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