It's been an emotional day. We learned that my husband's mom is also experiencing sudden severe health problems, like my mother. Plans are shaping up to visit both our families soon and we're isolating to ensure we're virus-free in case we're able to be in a room with them. The charity distributed over 12,000 pounds of food last week, although quite a lot went to waste due to a flawed distribution system and poor communication. Nothing irks me more than food waste, except a failure to communicate. The kids are finally getting into an apartment next week, but unemployment still hasn't come through and their funds are tight. The other kids had to postpone their wedding a second time, now waiting until next summer. And then there are the protests ...
The protests are actually weighing on me the most tonight. The kids have been taking water and other supplies to protesters, even though they've been shot (non-lethal bullets). When my son arrived downtown last night, federal officers swarmed out of the justice center and surrounded his car, aiming rifles through the window into his face. They wouldn't say he was being detained, nor would they let him go. He explained that he was delivering food to a free meal program nearby, but they would not let him pass. They sprayed expired tear gas in his face, which didn't produce tears but did antagonize his respiration. The same evening, another federal officer shot a "less lethal" bullet at a protester, hit him in the head and caused a concussion, brain swelling, we don't know what all -- he underwent surgeries today. It is rumored that he's going to recover.
Here's the thing. Portland is an activist city. We protest. We speak up. We read and study and pay attention. We have a higher per-capita membership in public broadcasting than most other states, let alone cities. We care about democracy. We care about the marginalized members of our community whose voices and rights and needs are ignored. At this time of national unrest, with the weakest federal leadership in our country's history, we are looking to the future. We believe we can build a better world, we can attain justice, we can help one another meet our basic needs and fundamental rights. We've been challenging the city government and the police to make some major changes, and they are hearing us. They haven't finished changing, but they've started. Our state leadership is working for fairness, for accountability, to hear both sides and recognize the need for change without resorting to anarchy. They're not perfect, but they're working.
Enter Trump and his federal officers. Even though our police have been abiding by a court order to cease using crowd-control weapons against peaceful protesters, the federal teams are disregarding that order. They are fanning the flames of an already volatile situation. Federal agents causing unarmed civilians to sustain life-threatening injuries is war. It's fascism. It is so dead wrong that I can hardly contain my abhorrence. I'm writing letters to governors, senators, state and local policy makers and demanding that Oregon stand against federal interference.
People are sick of watching the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. We're sick of waiting for promised unemployment funds and worried about catching up with rent and utility bills, while corporate shareholder profits matter more than human decency or even survival. We are on the verge of becoming the country we were created to escape, where money is king and speaking the truth is forbidden. We need to be awake, informed, and have a great deal of courage in the coming weeks and months. We cannot let our flawed legal and law-enforcement systems destroy our integrity and our will to reach for freedom and respect.
America is on a precipice. Will we fall, or will we fly?
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.