The parable of the good Portlander
Posted on November 13th, 2016
No. I don’t want to imply I’m good.
The myth of the good Portlander.
No. You’ve probably seen that show. I need something better.
Why Portland is not the liberal oasis you think it is?*
Yes. There it is.
Note: On Wednesday morning I made up my mind to live in the micro and in the moment: to do all the good I can in all the ways I can as long as ever I can.** Also, to completely avoid the news and most social media. And to get a new scarf.
So, then. I walk daily. One of my usual routes goes through a golf course–a road that bifurcates the first nine from the second. It’s popular with runners, strapping young men, and the occasional homeless dude exposing himself. (Yesterday pH and I saw a coyote.) I go that way because I get two Pokestops for pH. Today I went alone.
On a hill on the golf-course road, there was a man with a broken-down car blocking traffic. He was about my size, probably in his 60s. Oh. And his skin was brown.
I offered to help get his car going down the hill (which involved turning it around on the hill) so he could try to jump-start it. I pushed. (I am not anyone’s first choice to push a car, but pride compels me to mention the time I pushed a car WITH kH IN IT off a snow berm when he was mad that I drove onto the snow berm in the first place, so he refused to get out.)
Gravity and my superpowers, alas, didn’t work. Or perhaps it was the engine. Meanwhile, I had stopped a carful of young guys in an Infinity from hitting us by waving at them (who zoomed around as soon as they could). Several SUVs sped past us (speed limit is 20; average speed is 40). A handful of joggers in two and threes.
No one offered to help. No one looked back.
I gave the man my phone. I had to insist about 10 times for him to call someone, because he didn’t want to be any bother. But he called and immediately his wife was en route.
Meanwhile, an African American woman, about 30 (and in a great hat), came up and asked what was going on; I explained.
More white joggers ran past.
We pushed the car to the side so it wouldn’t obstruct traffic. He refused any other help, and we left.
It was no big deal: two women helped a guy out with a car. That’s a funny twist on a stereotype.
But every other white person did nothing. And yeah, that bugs me. There were fifty (white, male) golfers in view of all of this, if not more. I don’t know how many people jogged or walked or drove by before I got there.
It’s all very nice to protest. I confess I don’t understand the point of blocking interstate traffic, but it’s your 1st Amendment.
But after you put down the posterboard and/or stop complaining what a racist SOB our President-elect (or his followers) might be (while true and cathartic, it accomplishes nothing), try offering to help someone in the moment. ESPECIALLY if they don’t look like you.
Please. You want to go high? Do better than Portland.
*Truth: I have never lived in a whiter city than Portland. I have never heard such blatant racist comments–other than from my deceased grandparents–until I lived here. If I had a dime for every time one of my elderly neighbors complained about the Southeast Asian immigrants allegedly eating their cats, I’d have my student loans paid off. A (white) friend with a (black) husband used to be routinely asked where she got her children. By people young enough to know better. In Portland. Not in California, where they returned as soon as they could.
**Anyone else remember when pH was obsessed with St. Francis? Or maybe that was another blog.