The fatal shooting last weekend of a protestor in downtown Portland should give all of us pause, regardless of which side of the “political divide” we find ourselves. What we are witnessing here in Oregon is the ultimate test of the great American experiment, launched almost two and a half centuries ago. The central question is whether it is possible to establish a government “ruled not by accident and force, but by reason and choice.” How we choose to proceed in Oregon will, at least in part, answer that question. And the nation is watching.
This week’s decision by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to allow Trillium Community Health Plan to begin enrolling Medicaid members in the Portland area starting on September 1 threatens to disrupt important care relationships in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic. Of even greater concern is the fact that this decision seems to have been made in a vacuum that ignores both the need for patient protections in a very vulnerable population and the intensified call for equity in our health care system
The Black Lives Matter movement has provided courageous leadership forcing all of us to confront the ugly specter of social injustice. We have an obligation to express our gratitude, to support that leadership, and to act. In that spirit, I offer these heartfelt thoughts, motivated by a concern that the crucial narrative at the heart of the movement is at risk of being hijacked for political gain.
As the protests in Portland continue, as crowds grow larger and violent confrontations more pronounced, some community members are asking whether the current process is advancing or hindering the goals of justice and equality that sparked the protests in the first place.
Consider three converging factors colliding on the streets of Portland: peaceful protests, a divisive president, and the deployment of federal agents in our city.
In the early hours of June 6, 1968— 52 years ago today— Robert Kennedy died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, felled by an assassin’s bullet, which ended an 84-day campaign that took place against the backdrop of a nation torn asunder by race and riots. I was 21 years old in 1968 and the protests sweeping our nation today remind me of how far we have come… and how little progress we have made in terms of social justice and equal opportunity. The social conditions of race and income inequality that Kennedy sought to address are as acute today as they were a half-century ago—indeed, today’s disparity between rich and poor is far greater.
Not since WW II has this nation been so united against a common threat—the coronavirus—that has exposed the deep inequities, disparities and divisions within our society. These problems have been with us for decades, churning just below the surface, out of sight but always present; masked by a debt-financed economy that has allowed us to avoid mustering the political will and community solidarity necessary to address them. Today we are presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to capture this sense of unity; to ensure that it does not simply fade away once the crisis diminishes; but can be harnessed and carried forward as the foundation for building more equity and resiliency into our future.
As we all struggle to adapt to social distancing, I came across this opinion piece by E.J Montini, published in the Arizona Republic. It offers a thoughtful perspective on our new normal through the words of Edward Abbey. Old Ed is one of my favorite Western writers and he provided ample fodder for many of my speeches over the years: “Growth for growth sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.” “One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.” “Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while, then a layer of scum floats to the top.” I hope you enjoy it.
Without bringing some degree of financial support and certainty to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the necessary efforts to contain the spread of COVID 19, we risk unleashing the darker consequences of panic, blame and desperation that haunt those who cannot meet their most basic needs and see no hope for tomorrow—the loss of social cohesiveness and the disintegration of our communities.
I am adding my voice to those of my colleagues in the medical community, as well as many other Oregonians, in support of the immediate issuance of a strong and unambiguous statewide order to shelter at home. Given our current lack of both an effective vaccine or the capacity to conduct widespread testing for the virus, such an order offers the most aggressive intervention action available to prevent, or at least delay, hospital overload.
The spread of the coronavirus in Oregon is a true emergency and yet it offers us an opportunity—an opportunity to remember that we are truly all in this together, that the virus does not respect income, partisanship or political ideology; and that by facing this challenge together, as a caring and compassionate Oregon community, we will surely weather this storm and emerge stronger and more united than when we began.
I wanted to share this link to a podcast on Transforming Health Care for Kindergarten Readiness that I did recently for the Oregon Children’s Institute. We know that among the factors that contribute most to lifetime health status, our medical system is a relatively minor contributor. Far more important are things like healthy pregnancies, housing, nutrition, stable families, safe […]