Monday, January 30, 2006

Giving Hillary a Warm, Portland Welcome...


Senator Clinton came to Portland Oregon last Friday night for some fund-raising festivities at the downtown Hilton hotel. A very nice FReeper friend wanted to know if I would share my thoughts about my “beat on the street” experience with you.

Many of the Bourgeoisies in Portland refer to our city as “North Berkeley, Oregon” or “Moscow on the Willamette River”. Unlike Portland’s economy, the protest industry is very robust and Pacific Northwest comrades proudly refer to Portland as “Little Beirut”, which according to local folklore, was a moniker coined by President Bush ’41. Depending on the politician, various levels of hospitality and welcoming rituals are extended to our visitors. When Karl Rove came to debate Howard Dean, shoes were thrown at Mr. Rove, who threw them back by the way. When it was rumored that sly Vice-President Cheney was covertly in town for the weekend, a protest occurred at each of the secret bunker hideouts that might be housing the Vice-president. The local protesting proletariats love Howard Dean and Al Gore. They used to love Kerry – Teresa more so than John. They continue to drool over Bill Clinton but they loathe Hillary.

At the behest of a brilliant, witty, and charming local talk-radio hostess, I went to the Hillary at the Hilton protest to give periodic, on-the-air, updates during the radio broadcast, via the cell phone. I don’t know how to use cell phones. Any presentation I have done has been marginal at best. My dad used to say that courage doesn’t come without fear. Any guy who received a Purple Heart for Normandy, another Purple Heart for the Battle of the Bulge, and a Bronze Star gets my vote for credibility. Although deceased, he continues to be my hero. I agreed to a leap of faith, hang out with the protesters, and give periodic radio updates. A risk assessment could wait, it was time to party.

All protests in Portland start at Pioneer Square, which is lovingly called: “Portland’s living room”. Panhandlers, punk rockers, homeless suburban teenagers, drug dealers, pit bulls, and scammers all hang at the square and we consider them family members. Last year, right after the first Iraq election, I participated in a Protest Warrior protest with about seven other people at the square. We held our American flags right side up and we inked our index fingers purple. An enthusiastic, first-amendment supporting, anarchist was yelling and screaming at us. I was in the mood for a little game of cat-and-mouse so I squared off with him for about 20 minutes. This same kid was the President of the Anarchist student group at Portland Community College. I saw him many times when I was taking Econ. classes at PCC. No, I am not kidding.

Ever since the 2000 Florida election, there has been a protest every Friday afternoon at Pioneer Square, which is usually attended by the same 15 – 20 people. The protests are routine - no new signs, no new slogans or chants, and Hillary Friday was proving to be just as dreary and monotonous as every previous Friday. My concern was that, contrary to the outrage posted on the local indymedia website, the protest was going to be nothing but the usual yawn. No cops, no International Workers of the World union organizers, no outraged, menopausal Code Pink ladies, just flat nothing but a market-share ratings disaster.

So I went to the Hilton because if there was going to be any action, that’s where it would be and I was not disappointed. I entered the lobby where lots of young, perky, keep-your-laws-off-my-body volunteers were very accommodating and more than happy to answer my questions. A nice lady gave me a “Friends of Hillary” campaign donation form and asked me if I wanted a $50 seat or a $1,000 seat. I said I wasn’t sure but I did have a simple multiple-choice question: Will my contribution go towards Oregon Senate campaigns, Hillary’s Senate campaign, or her Presidential campaign. The nice lady put on her business face toot-sweet, and firmly told me: “The funds were most definitely for any Hillary campaign because Hillary was such a brilliant woman and great leader. The emphasis of this event was not on her campaign efforts, but to support Hillary.” In the distance, I could hear drummers and marchers pounding and chanting up the street. The peace demonstration racket level was fast approaching the same level of racket in the Hilton lobby.

The protest signs are now components of a modern, efficient, supply-chain management, system. From 2000 – 2004, the signs were phrased with: “Hey Bush, give us back our election.” Now the protest signs have been changed out to reflect more current events: “No campaign funds in 2008 for war-mongering candidates” and “Stop the foreign occupation, support our schools and education”. These messages worked especially well when chanted in time to the drummers. The “Bring all the troops home now” chant ended too abruptly, and “Hillary, we have a constitutional crisis on our hands and it’s not flag burning” incantation didn’t work out well at all – no form, no cadence. The biggest sign said: “We don’t have health care, we’re losing civil rights, we’re losing jobs, (and now we’ve lost our minds) because 'Bush lied and they died'”. I was disappointed to not see a sign that said: “Filibuster Alito or we will filibuster you, Hillary”.

I stretched my newly acquired cell-phone / protester-interviewing skills and convinced a woman that she just scored a victory for the cause: Right here, right now, she had a chance to state her views to a conservative talk-show radio host who wanted the listening audience to hear what she had to say about Hillary and world peace. The woman started to pace, and talked louder and faster as she crammed in the usual regime change, dictator, war criminal talking points. Oddly enough, the louder she yelled into the phone, the casualty numbers kept increasing.

I asked one guy about the “Bring all the troops home now” sign. My question was: Do you mean all the troops, like the ones over in Kosovo, and the ones continuing to help in the Tsunami areas, or just the troops in the Middle-east? This question confused the hell out him. He looked up. He looked down. He formed his response: “There are many groups representing many points of view here tonight. All of the folks out here want all the troops home from the Middle East - definitely. Some of the folks want all the troops home from all foreign countries, except the countries where the United Nations wants our help and only if they ask us for help. And our troops have no business in South America, or Venezuela, or Bolivia either”. Ah-hah! He played the vintage hippie bait-and-catch protester trick that demanded a response: “What a drag, man! I didn’t know we had troops in South America too … But since we are there, can’t we do something about that southern border?” I aged another five years maintaining my composure but I kept my mouth shut.

When I got back to the radio station, I was complemented on my observations and professionalism. The producer and host were both smiling and relaxed so I think I did an acceptable job. It was great fun for me and I hope that it was fun for the listeners. I have no idea how people responded, but if you were listening, I thank you for your indulgence.

At peak time, I counted 60 protesters, including the drummers. Most of the folks were all about 55 – 60 years of age, sporting lots of long gray hair, backpacks, and outdoor gear. The women in this demographic could also stand to get some better support – I recommended an underwire for the ladies. I also need someone to explain to me how it is that so many people in Portland dress as though any minute, there is going to be a spontaneous camping/hiking adventure. For crying out loud, the nearest camping site is over an hour away, public transportation system doesn’t extend that far, and how useful are those carabineers and rope when you’re riding the damn bus anyway?

I managed to stay safe and not offend anyone, until I called my Democrat sister the next day. I really didn’t want to cause her any grief; I just wanted to tell her about the stealthy experience reporting for both sides and my new skills. Somehow, our conversation led towards Jimmy Carter, Israel, and sand melted into glass. We did reach an agreement that neither of us is voting for Ms. Clinton, but I don’t trust my sister too much. We seem to have these loud contentious conversations that leave me dumbstruck because her information is often inaccurate and she is stubborn and just won’t consider anything beyond what she knows she knows. My ears and my feelings are always a bit tender and sore after these conversations. I’m going to call her back tomorrow and ask her if she would like me to make a donation to Cindy Sheehan’s senatorial campaign - just my way of saying: “Please accept my sincerest apology.”

I am very offended by people who are stuck in a 38 year-old time warp and can’t seem to understand that the world has changed. I’m offended that these same folks think it’s perfectly fine that elderly folk singers and 25 year-old, punk-rocker, heroin addicts establish our country’s foreign policy. I am offended that these protesters, politicians, family members, and celebrities cannot answer a simple question: “Do you think we should write another check, apologize, and just put Saddam back in power?” They never answer this question and always pipe down when I remind them that: “Yes, it’s messy because dictators never leave because they are sorry or because you said please – get it?”

I am also offended that these same peaceful, sanctimonious folks are always supporting pro-choice when pro-choice has morphed down the slippery slope to an invasive, violent, and brutal procedure that always terminates an innocent life and often screws up a lot of young girls’ bodies and souls. Don’t talk to me about peace because I just can’t indulge these viewpoints that no longer make sense to me.

To all of the families who have had their loved ones serve in our country’s military, I am deeply humbled by your courage. I pray for your safety and well being. I am very, very grateful to be one of the blessed who has food, shelter, love and freedom because of your protection. You are the true peacemakers and I thank you.

* Maggie is a local fellow FReeper and a new Special Correspondent to MySandmen. Welcome her aboard, and let her know what you think. Comments are always welcome and encouraged.

No comments: