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.
We have a choice—a choice about what we want our state to be, about who we want to be, as Oregonians and as fellow human beings. It is a choice to put understanding before reaction; to put collaboration before conflict; to put reconciliation before recrimination. Reconciliation begins with each of us; it begins in the heart of each individual, fueled by a desire and choice to make our community better; to repair the fabric of our society and of this place we call Oregon.
Last night I attended a viewing of the new documentary film “In the Executioner’s Shadow” at the Grand Theater in Salem, sponsored by Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Following the film, I joined a discussion panel with former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz; Jeffrey Ellis, the director of the Oregon […]
Have you noticed how often, when there is a political dispute – say over forest management or tax policy – both sides produce “expert witnesses” or “research” to support their political position. You can see this playing out today in Congress over the Affordable Care Act, global climate change and how best to address the […]