To the Editor:
Last time I visited Portland, Oregon, a young couple leaped out of their car to dash over and pet my stepson’s puppy. As we started chatting, they shut the car off but left it, doors open, in the middle of the street. There was no traffic, so why not?
Portland values street life. People hang artwork on light poles, decorate medians, play music on the corner. If you walk, expect to get panhandled, invited to sign a petition, or otherwise engaged in conversation with a stranger. If you don’t care for that sort of thing, maybe you shouldn’t walk. Ride your bike next time.
Portlanders tend to value nonconformity. Folks wear some colorful outfits and don’t mind being on display. There’s a glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course, and a popular wedding chapel in a donut shop. The entire Northwest is outdoorsy, and people enjoy public spaces. Everyone has a right to be there, and rights are taken seriously.
A countercultural mecca for decades, those who’ve chosen to settle in Portland love their city, even while complaining about wacky neighbors or doggie mania. Yes, the prevailing politics is left-liberal, but the mood on the streets is live and let live — definitely not “hold still while I force my beliefs down your throat.”
Sending armed federal agents in military camo into this mix is no way to enforce “law and order.” But it’s President Donald Trump’s current plan to feed his base red meat and distract us all from pandemic deaths. He can’t find enough rude names to call protesters and their local elected officials, hoping we’ll buy the claim that only he can defend us against “violent anarchists.”
Turns out, the badge-less enforcers are a specialized border patrol group normally tasked with fighting drug-smugglers. They are accustomed to using violence but have no training in dealing with unarmed American citizens on the streets of their own city. Portlanders exercising their Constitutional rights are unwilling to be cowed by outsiders who act like brownshirts. As BP agents hustle civilians into unmarked vans, fire projectiles, beat a 53-year-old Navy veteran, and gas the mayor, the crowds of protesters only grow larger. Young mothers sing lullabies and dads disperse tear gas with leafblowers.
Meanwhile, Trump vows to send his special forces to Chicago and Albuquerque. What can possibly go wrong?