We’re Not All Trumpsters Here
May 23, 2020
A longtime friend, Wallowa County resident and leader, sent a great response to my post yesterday, “From the Wallowas.” I quote it, with permission, in its entirety. Then I will add a few clarifying comments about my original post in response.
A few comments re your last post.
Yes, there are a lot to trumpsters here, but we are not all trump supporters, and even among Trump supporters there are people who take the current crisis seriously.
We also have very big hearts, and we are not resigned about economic stagnation. John Hillock, our newest County Commisioner, emailed a few of us and set in motion a local very small business relief fund with his $1200 government check. The fund now has over $30,000 (some from other pass throughs of the relief checks) and is being administered by Lisa Dawson of the NE Oregon Development group, Wallowa Resources is handing the finances, and a groiup of volunteers–a member from Rotary, one from Soroptimist, another from Wallowa Resources and one or two more are making the decisions on immediate $1000 grants. The first will go out next week.
An individual Rotarian made an anonymous donation of $3000 to start making our own small gifts as needed. We have purchased $2000 of potatoes from a local grower and given them to the food bank. Have also bought local beef and are about to buy more for Food Bank. And we are sending 80 newspapers to meals on wheels recipients. We
‘ve now spent $4,000 and have $2,000 to spend with more money coming in.
The McClarans and other local members of a natural beef collective “bought back” over 1000 pounds of their beef that was not moving quickly to restaurants in the cities and gave it to the Food Bank. Etc.
Maybe more importantly, many young people are doing some amazing things here. Young farmers kicked their parents and grandparent aside, took over the Wallowa Lake Dam business, formed a new irrigation district and are working with the Nez. Perce Tribe to rebuild the dam with fish passage and bring back Sockeye Salmon. Many of these same young farmers are experimenting with new irrigation and tillage techniques. They are planting turnips and I don’t know what all as cover crops, letting the livestock graze them, and then planting grains on top of the revitalized soil.
Cory Carmin–a local woman with a Stanford degree–is selling her own and others’ natural beef in the cities. The big McClaran ranch is now run by the fourth generation–three great granddaughters of the founder, all with college degrees from different schools.
And a local group stepped up after the county court cut back on recycling to find ways to improve and extend recyling.
Finally, yes, school classes are smaller than when your parents graduated, primarily, as a past school superintendent pointed out to me, because of smaller families. Era of the 4 and 5 kid family is over. It’s now 2, 1 or none. But some of these young people are returning–John Hillock’s son came back to run Enterprise Electric, build the big new shop, and they are now leading solar builders in Eastern Oregon.
We still have plenty of problems but this is not a stagnant place, For me, racism–mostly unconscious—is still huge, And bringing the Nez Perce back is the most important thing we can do to teach people about racism. That is why our Nez Perce Return sculpture at the Josephy Center is so important. Here’s a four-minute video re the sculpture and the June 2019 installation. It is making the rounds. https://josephy.org/library/plateau-indian-art-on-main-street/
A few comments by way of response (to this response). I am grateful for the balancing tone and information, all of which is accurate and some of the many reasons we love it here.
I would add a few further thoughts. First, I was not giving blue, urban progressive think any kind of pass or seal of approval. Not at all. I find the way that identity politics, group-think and generational labeling — and the way all of this has become uncritically accepted as the way to think — highly questionable. One of the things I appreciate about a place like Wallowa County is that, generally speaking, people are taken more as individuals. I almost included a line, in the original, indicating that in progressive world where elders are being typecast and written off (“Okay, Boomer”) part of the culture here is respect for elders. The supportive cheerleading for local youth, which I mentioned, is kind of the mirror image of that. I like both.
Another contrast I note is in journalistic content and style between the two worlds. In blue progressive world journalism has been all but taken over but what I think of as “victim journalism.” Reporters find a real or alleged victim and that’s the story. There’s been a lot of that approach to the pandemic reporting. It’s not that there aren’t justice issues. But it is the case that most are more complex than “victim journalism” would suggest. And it has become just such a predictable story line. By way of contrast, the local weekly, The Wallowa County Chieftain, has regular stories about civic projects, local heroes, and people doing commendable things. Yes, that too can be overdone, but by comparison it bolsters a sense of hope and community.
My basic point, that in the midst of COVID the stunning distance between these two worlds of our polarization, appears greater than ever, stands.