Four Score and Seven Years Ago Today…

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Four score and seven years ago today a baby was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Like his father before him, he was named Micheal. According to his autobiography, he had a plain and yet idyllic early childhood and was surrounded by a large and loving family. He learned his first lesson about human phenotype when at age 6 his mother told him that he could no longer play with his best friend. When his mom explained the reasons for this, he writes, he decided to hate all white people.

In celebration of that life that started 87 year ago, I took today off of ‘work’. At 10am I biked downtown and found Don’t Shoot Portland organizers holding forth in front of the Justice Center across from the old occupy camps. There was speechifying, leafleting and an open mic session. I was talking with an organizer when I saw one of my ping-pong buddies walking past down third. I greeted him in my usual ping-pong fashion, ‘Hey, Hey Bob how are you doing? Feeling good?’ and offered him my outstretched hand.

Now, at our table tennis club Bob treats me with good esteem because of my mad pong skill, general friendliness, and position as assistant coach. On the street today he gave a terse shake of his looking-down head, stuffed his hands in his pocket, and hurried on past. He neither saw nor heard me and I had even called out his name. Welcome to my world indicated the women at my side.

In the afternoon I was walking to the Peoples Solidarity March kicking off at 200 NE MLK when I ran into David Delk and friends holding up their ‘STOP TPP’ signs at the Burnside bridge. I was a little early so I picked up a sign and joined in. David is out there twice a week and I’ve biked past many times. This was my first time joining them and I liked it. We were a wall of signs and would all pivot West to get the cars coming off the bridge and then, when the light changed, pivot back North to get MLK traffic. I only messed up a couple of times.

I hardly recognized Anthony as he walk up Burnside heading for the march. He didn’t recognize me at all until I took off my glasses. Then we hugged pretty good. He lost his baby fat: was occupy that long ago? He believed that the new day was then and now he looks like getting by. His bright optimism dampened by reality. I liked it when people honked or gave the thumbs up and Mr David Delk reports that such encouraging signs are on the upswing.

Now I was a little late and joined the People’s Solidarity March just in time to take southbound MLK. I hadn’t been in the street much lately and I felt freer right away. Folks in cars were amazingly polite and just waited like another day in Portland. We turned right at Burnside, which is illegal in a car, at took the bridge a few hundred strong.

We stopped at R2D2 for more speechifying. Hazelnut Grove was well represented and represented very well. One resident recounted the first time, many years ago, he saw a human prone in the street. He naturally went over right away to see what was wrong. His older brother quickly corrected him – that man was just homeless. The only person dressed fancy in suit and tie told us of his unhoused youth, his time in Iraq, and he is running for office in Hillsborough.

There was a little march confusion as we headed next to City Hall. I experienced the split-flock decision making process as we eventually decided to march against oncoming traffic down 4th. Again drivers were more than tolerant, some even encouraging. We zigged up to 5th past the car wash fountain to at least go in the same direction as regular traffic. Some folks waiting for the MAX at Pioneer Square looked a bit crabby when they saw us scraggling by rather than their ride home. We took 5th to Main where we dropping back down to 4th. The middle of the street is somehow the best view of the Portland building.

There was already a crowd at City Hall with Portland Tenants United doing the organizing. We heard from Alyssa Pagan, Marih AlynClaire among others decrying sky rocketing rents, no-cause evictions, and general lack of affordable housing. And they were serving hot coffee and healthful carrot cake with no icing.

As I was getting set to walk back home I bumped into 99 just were he always used to be. He wanted to get out to Bend and see how those Bundy cats did it. Walking around with big weapons? Getting mail service? What? I sure do not understand that either and with that headed down Main for the Hawthorne Bridge.

Micheal’s parents in Atlanta were practicing Christians and explained the rule about loving thy enemy. As his parents poured in love, Micheal experienced some of the opposite in the larger Atlanta community. He writes how was not allowed in any public park or swimming pool, had to give up his seat on the bus, and was called a n**** and slapped in his little boy face for being too close to a white women in a department store.

Like his father before him Micheal took on the name of Martin and, in the face of hate, Martin Luther King Jr choose love. He write that his parents are his most important influence and then Gandhi, Tolstoy, and Thoreau. And that he choose love because hate was too great a burden to bear.

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