Open Letter to Boy Scouts of America in Response to President Trump’s Jamboree Appearance

July 25, 2017

Mr. Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive
Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, TX 75015

Dear Mr. Surbaugh:

I write as a former Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Explorer Scout. I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow as a youth. Both of my parents were active scouting leaders: My mother served as a Den Mother and my father as a Scoutmaster. The troop I belonged to was very active in our Council and sponsored a 50-mile hike every summer. I was an active and proud participant, including serving as a junior leader. I participated in an early 1960s Jamboree in Colorado Springs. My interest in a specialty Explorer Post that had a focus on Science and Engineering was the only reason I did not complete requirements to become an Eagle Scout. Later in life, as a pastor, I mentored boys as they worked for the Religion and Life award.

Scouting was important in my formation as a youth. Emphasis on helping others, honesty, and respect for the whole earth and all of its inhabitants were important ways Scouting contributed to my development. I developed leadership skills through Scouting activities. And yet, I know that religious bigotry and homophobia have deep roots in Scouting. (My father resigned as Scoutmaster in the 1930s when the troop’s sponsoring organization refused to permit participation by two boys who identified as Jewish.) I was encouraged by the relatively recent beginning steps to reduce Scouting’s systemic homophobia. I found hope that there might be an opportunity for healing the scars from some of the old misdeeds.

Now it is with heavy heart and embarrassment for Scouting that I observe President Trump’s totally inappropriate appearance this week at the Jamboree and the response of Scouts that included booing former President Obama and Senator Clinton. For Mr. Trump to use the occasion to curse, to brag, and to promote misogyny is incredibly shameful. It is hard for me to imagine a speech more disengaged from the values Scouting espouses. I wonder what you could have possibly expected that he would say and do, and why you invited him to participate. To fall back on “it’s tradition” [to invite the President to speak to the Jamboree] is nonsense — when tradition no longer serves, it ought to be readily abandoned.

I would have expected the BSA to immediately issue a statement distancing Scouting from the President’s remarks, to restate the ethics and values that form the foundation of Scouting, and to apologize publicly for the behavior of some of those present at the speech. I have searched your website (including the press section) and looked at news and social media channels in vain for such a statement. The lack of appropriate response speaks volumes by its silence.

In addition, this would be an opportune time to declare a Jamboree emergency and hold small group gatherings among the participants to discuss values, independent thinking, and appropriate reactions to disturbing rhetoric. Some public apology would be appropriate.

I have seven grandsons. The oldest are approaching the age to begin engagement with Scouting. Should their parents ask me for advice now, I would discourage them from enrolling their boys. There are other, healthier and more appropriate, ways for them to learn independence, resilience, compassion, and personal integrity while developing leadership skills. Those seem to no longer lie at the core of Scouting.


The Rev. Duane H. Fickeisen
Portland, OR

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In Memoriam: Else Fickeisen

My mother, Else Fickeisen, died on September 25, 2016. She was 101 years old and quite ready to be done with living in a body that had become fragile and with senses that had begun to shut down. She had lived fully and happily. Her mind remained sharp, despite some short-term memory loss. Although her life included tragedy and hardship, she sought “the good points” in life, worked to nurture friendships and contribute to her community, and was a well-rooted citizen of Cascadia, and particularly of the Puget Sound region. She was resilient, kind, and loving.

momBelow are the eulogy from her memorial service, which was held on October 1 in the Chapel at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend and a letter she was writing to her eldest grandchild, Viking.

She had a significant stroke a few days before she died. It was described as “debilitating” and a “life-ending event” by her physicians. She was under palliative/comfort care, but was not responsive as her children and grandchildren visited her in the hospital and later in a nursing home. At the memorial service, a poem, “The Long Boat” by Stanley Kunitz was read. It so captures the sense we had of her slipping into the fog and off across the waters — images the would appeal to this long-time boatwoman.

Biographical Eulogy
Else Jean Fickeisen
May 19, 1915 — June 25, 2016

Greetings.  My name is Judy Welles. I’m Else’s daughter-in-law, married to Duane. It is my great privilege to share with you her eulogy, which was prepared by several family members who knew and loved her.

Else Jean Nordahl was born in a tent on the shore of Liberty Bay near Poulsbo. It was close to midnight, the night between May 18 and 19, 1915. Her birth certificate said the 19th. She was born in a tent, because her mother, Thora Moe Nordahl, had tuberculosis, and fresh air was prescribed.

Her parents were both immigrants from Norway. They were cousins of some sort — the relationships among their extended family are unclear. They met in the Ballard area of Seattle, then settled near Poulsbo. Henry Nordahl was an independent logger, timber cruiser and lobbyist for Pope and Talbot; he was also a tinsmith at the Keyport Naval Station, a co-founder of the Poulsbo Telephone Company, and a Kitsap County Commissioner.

Else’s mother Thora died when Else was about four years old, and Henry felt incapable of raising both Else and her younger sister, Laura. Their mother’s sister and her new husband, Dora and Andrew Pedersen, took in the girls and raised them along with their two younger boys, Bob and Bud, in Bremerton. Andy (whom Else always called “Dad Pedersen”) worked in the Navy Yard, and they lived just outside the Navy Yard fence.

Else was a great story-teller and kept her memory well. As she grew older, the stories acquired details and embellishments. Story-telling was a trait she got from Henry. She was mostly a rule-follower, but she loved telling about getting the Marine guards at the shipyard gates to let her into the Navy Yard, and the time the Poulsbo constable caught her driving at the age of 14 — “You’re Henry’s daughter, aren’t you?” — and sent her back home.

She was clearly rooted and at home in the Pacific Northwest. She had a keen sense of local geography and history, and volunteered at the Kitsap Historical Society as a docent. She enjoyed short road trips around the Northwest, camping, and beach combing, and she tolerated winter ski trips. On one of those road trips, out near Lake Ozette at the end of the Olympic Peninsula, she saw a Sasquatch.

As a kid, she spent time at a family summer camp at Anderson Cove in Bremerton and Henry’s place on the water at Lemolo. Although she was otherwise not at all athletic, she took to rowing and was a strong boatwoman. Later she and her husband, Bob, became avid boaters and owned several power boats and a sailboat as they traded up. Boating was also an entry to a broad circle of new friends and connections to social events.

As a teen, Else and Laura returned to the Poulsbo area to spend summers with their father at his home in Lemolo. By then he was an alcoholic and had become bitter and lonely. It was apparent that he found it difficult to live with two teen-age daughters and they found him equally difficult. His relationship with his sister-in-law, Dora, who raised Else and Laura and was a good Lutheran, was deeply strained by her disapproval of his drinking.

Else had planned to go to college, but a commercial building her father owned at Keyport burned to the ground. It had been his plan to use the equity in the building to pay her tuition. Deeply disappointed, but showing the sort of resilience that carried her through many tragedies in life, she went to business college, and learned clerical skills. In 1934 she was named Miss Poulsbo, which she falsely claimed as her only real accomplishment.

She met Ira Robert (Bob) Fickeisen at Lemolo when he came to pick up her younger sister, Laura, for a date. However, Laura was still in the bathtub, and after waiting a while and making small talk, Bob asked Else to go out with him instead. After two years of courtship they were married.

Bob left his father’s bakery to become an apprentice carpenter in Ballard. Else worked as a maid for a family and later as the receptionist for a physician in Seattle. She spent time at the Seattle Art Museum on the free admission day if she felt she could afford to use two bus tokens.

A son, Robert, was born on April 8, 1937, but he was a “blue baby” and he died two days after his birth, on the day before their first wedding anniversary. Subsequent ill health that was misdiagnosed and badly treated kept her from successfully carrying a baby to term despite efforts to start a family. Several miscarriages ensued.

After Bob finished his apprenticeship, they moved to Bremerton just before Pearl Harbor. Bob enlisted in the Navy Seabees, while Else stayed in Bremerton and found a clerical job at a mechanical contractor. The war-time separation was hard for them. Bob got scarlet fever in boot camp near San Diego and Else got on a train to join him there for a time. Back home, she traded shoe ration stamps for sugar stamps and gave the sugar to her father to make beer.

Bob came home from the Navy in 1945, and for $500 they bought property in west Bremerton, overlooking Phinney Bay. After they had purchased the property, they found a small shack hidden in the brush and moved into it while they built a more suitable home nearby. Before the house was finished, Duane was born.

Three and a half years later, Dana was born. By that time the family was living in the new house, where they stayed for 15 years. Bob quit his job as a maintenance supervisor at the Naval Hospital in 1957 and started his own home remodeling business. Times were lean and Else served as his accountant.

Ever willing to be engaged in civic ventures, Else was an active volunteer in the PTA and served as a leader in Cub Scouts and Campfire Girls. She also worked to raise funds for Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle. Later she volunteered in the American Cancer Society’s thrift shop. The Discovery Shop proved to be well named, as she often came home with treasures and clothing. She loved clothes, especially in bright colors and silky materials. The frugality that came with her Scandinavian heritage and her experience of the Great Depression didn’t get in the way of buying from the thrift shop where the money went to a good cause.

One day a stray puppy wandered into the yard, and the children persisted in convincing Else that they should keep it. They wanted to name him “Muffin,” but Else insisted that his paws were too big for a small dog name and he became “Woody” after chewing on a stick. Woody belonged more to Else than to any other member of the family. Once, on a very cold winter day at Belfair State Park, he rolled in a long-dead salmon and Else waded out into Hood Canal to try to bathe him. She often said she would have gladly abandoned him there save for Dana and Duane’s protests, but they suspect that was just a cover story.

During high school, Dana was a foreign exchange student in New Zealand. After Dana returned, Bob and Else hosted an exchange student from Ethiopia, a young woman named Fanaye [fuhn-eye]. It was a sad day when Else was advised to stop trying to contact her after she had returned home, as it was probably putting her in jeopardy to have an American contact. The New Zealand connection, however has continued across generations, with visits both ways, and Else’s first granddaughter, Michelle, spent a year in New Zealand with the next generation of the same family.

The lure of boating kept growing, and the family bought an old, rundown 28-foot cruiser in 1960. Bob rebuilt much of the cabin and they enjoyed many happy times on the waters of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and British Colombia. Both Bob and Else were accomplished predicted-log racers and won several trophies. In 1963, a year after winning the prestigious Heavy Weather Race, the family was named the Northwest Boating Family of the Year by the Seattle Boat Show sponsors.

Several other boats followed, including a sailboat built by Bob and Duane; both Bob and Else were active in the Bremerton Yacht Club, with Else serving as president of the Skipperettes in 1968.

Their love of boating, and their tough resilience, was handed down the generations. One rainy summer when Duane and his children were cruising with Bob and Else in the San Juan Islands, five-year old Sarah famously declared “It’s not raining” after spending several days shut in on the boat as the rain was still coming down steadily. A little rain was not going to stop this next-generation Puget Sounder!

Meanwhile, they built a new home and after nine years, sold it and moved into a cabin they built at Driftwood Key near Hansville, expanding it to live in year ‘round. That was followed by moves to two other homes they built, the first back in Bremerton, and then at Lakeland Village near Allyn. When the drive from there to Bremerton for health care became a burden, they moved to Rocky Point in 1983 (the first house they had not built themselves) and from there into a condo in 1989. Else worked hard at each home to make it comfortable, beautiful, and well-landscaped with native plants in ways that were welcoming to the birds she liked to observe. When she no longer had a garden spot, she resorted to containers for herbs and tomatoes, and at the end of her life she lamented that she could no longer garden.

Gardening was just one way she was a maker. She took up painting for a while, creating a still life that is on display at the back of the room. She painted a large backdrop of mountains for Duane’s electric train layout. She learned knitting as a youngster. One of her more ambitious knitting projects is a multi-colored afghan, also on display.

Else enjoyed cooking and baking and was always on the lookout for new recipes. She edited at least a couple of cookbooks for charities. And she was not shy about critiquing the institutional food at Discovery View where she lived for the last six years.

She was an avid reader, word-puzzle worker, and bird watcher.

Else was interested in her Norwegian heritage and joined the Sons of Norway in Bremerton. She and Bob both studied a bit of Norwegian before taking a trip to Norway. And that led to her interest in genealogy. She researched her own and Bob’s ancestry and wrote up notes about the family history. As a member of the Sons of Norway lodge, she baked many dozens of cookies for an annual holiday sale, helped serve at the lutefisk festival (although she refused to eat the stuff — her mother had maintained that only the poorest people ate lutefisk), and she served luncheons to the Lions Club, all as fundraisers. When she moved to Port Townsend, she joined the Daughters of Norway.

After suffering a series of strokes, Bob was moved into a nursing home in 1996. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary there in April, and Bob died a month later. Being a widow was not easy, but Else wrote that it was tolerable, and noted that Michelle stayed with her for a couple of months while commuting to a job in Seattle, which helped the early transition.

For several years the family celebrated Christmas on Martin Luther King weekend here at Fort Worden. She watched the clan grow from year to year, with marriages followed by the births of great-grandchildren. Her grandson, Robert, was especially attentive in offering a helping hand as her heart condition led to dizzy spells.

In 2011, Else moved to Port Townsend to be closer to Dana. She lived at the Discovery View Retirement Apartments until her death. There she made many friends who remember her fondly.

She had looked forward to her 100th birthday party, which was quite a blowout, and when asked about her secret to longevity that day, she said it was simple — just keep waking up each day.

By a year ago she needed assistance in order to remain at home. Her primary care giver, Lisa Messenger, became pals with her, listened to and enjoyed her stories, and gradually built Else’s trust while helping her keep her bearings and her dignity. Their affection for one another was mutual.

Her genes gave her a stubborn longevity and in May this year she celebrated her 101st birthday. Two months later, in early July, she was the star at a family picnic with all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren present. It was, she said, “My swan song,” and she talked about it often afterwards. There’s a picture album from that day on the display table.

Else remained cogent and capable of decision making even as signs of short-term memory loss began to appear. A week ago Monday, she suffered a serious stroke, and she died last Sunday morning.

When she was 87, after learning that she had a leaky heart valve, she wrote, “If I fade away, please remember I’ve had a long, good life, lots of love, a wonderful family, a great marriage to one of the nicest men in the world, and kids who never gave me any serious headaches. Now go to dinner and don’t grieve.” But of course the dead can’t keep us from grieving. The grief we feel comes from our fond affection, for loving memories, and for a life well lived that has now come to an end

Remembering that that well-lived life included a lot of gardening, and knowing that this hymn is a family favorite, I invite you now to listen to “In the Garden,” and sing along with the chorus if you wish.

Letter to Viking

As she got ready for a family gathering and picnic on July 3, Else said that she thought it would be her swan song. All of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were present and it was a grand celebration on a warm, sunny day. As we were preparing to leave, each person present came to bid her farewell. The adults fully aware that it might well be the last time they saw her alive.

Viking, the seven-year-old grandson, clearly struggled for something to say and then said, “Sorry you’re old, great grandma!” She was deeply moved and wanted to let him know that it wasn’t all bad being 101. For weeks afterward, she worked on a letter to him. I found it after her death on her desk. Clearly she had been making revisions to it. Here’s the (slightly edited) transcription:


Dear Viking,

I really appreciated your comment to me at the park about being old and the disadvantages of being over 100! I have gotten old, but it is not all bad.

Being old has its good points, too. Like being able to forget the handicaps and remembering the good points. Like understanding how each [of them] works in different ways.

The longer we’re alive, the more we learn and can understand and appreciate others. Life brings joy. Old age may close some doors, but others open. And there can be many in a lifetime. [They are] not to be scared of or regretted.

Sharing ideas and thoughts with other people can broaden your own mind. Just because I am old doesn’t mean I am not happy or useful. I have had to change my goals. They are simpler but still just as important. What you think at 101 is no less important then when you are 7.

Great Grandma

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Climate Change, Instinct, and Rational Action

There is news now that 2014 was the warmest year on record and that several months have set high average temperature records recently while it’s been many decades since a monthly average temperature was the lowest on record. Yes, I know there is some dispute about the interpretation of the data. But whether or not 2014 was the warmest on record, and even accounting for the slower-than-expected rise in global temperatures over the last few years, there is no credible evidence that climate change is not happening and is not at least substantially a result of release of greenhouse gasses as a result of human activity.

And there is recent news that changes in sea level were overestimated through much of the 20th Century, so that the incremental rise in recent decades has been significantly higher than previously thought. That means we have underestimated the current impacts of climate change on sea levels — and more seriously, underestimated future sea level rise.

Two items that might appear unrelated caught my attention this morning. The first is a blog entry by David Ropeik, “The Danger the Planet Faces Because Human Instinct Overpowers Human Reason.”

He addresses not only climate change, but other tipping point concerns about the health of our planet (including the interdependent life forms that inhabit it).

He suggests that our instincts are at odds with what we know from reasoning that we ought to be doing:

You woke up each day last year and went about your business as any human does, compelled by deep and ancient instincts to do the things necessary to get yourself safely to bed at night. You acquired the resources necessary or helpful for safety and survival — food, water, shelter, warmth/cooling, transportation, friendship and social/tribal cohesion — and on a good day maybe you also acquired some fun stuff or did some fun activity or filled in the upper levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

But chances are pretty good you cared more about fulfilling your needs than anybody else’s. And you cared about now and today more than tomorrow. You didn’t Think Globally. You thought, and acted, and lived your life and fulfilled your needs, locally. PERSONALLY. As did most of the seven BILLION human animals on the planet, taking from the system the resources necessary for safety and survival, and putting back into the system both their products and their wastes. Each us us satisfying our own needs but cumulatively taking from a system more resources than it has to offer…, and putting back more waste than it can handle….

The second item is a blog entry by David Cain, “Where Self-Esteem Comes From,” suggests a path toward a more helpful (if incremental) participation in what we know we ought to be doing.

He suggests that it is a useful motivator to ask yourself, “Do I like who I am when I do this?” It’s a better question, he asserts, than “Do I like doing this?” The question might apply to almost any life choice we face — and it draws on our sense of ethics and the ‘right’ thing to do. It invites us to take a longer-range view and to consider the impacts of our actions on others and, indeed, on the planet.

I like ice cream — I like it too much. I know that I ought to eat less of it (or less of something else) and exercise more if I really want to lose 15 pounds and consequently feel better and be more healthy. But if I ask myself “Do I like eating ice cream?” — either explicitly or implicitly — of course the answer is “Yes!” But if I ask myself “Do I like who I am when I eat ice cream?,” the answer is more likely to be “No so much,” and I am faced with the cognitive dissonance of choosing something that feels good but makes me feel bad about myself or choosing to feel better about myself by foregoing the pleasure of eating ice cream.

Could we not extend that to the ways we act out of instinct for self-preservation and pleasure at the expense of the planet? Might we make different choices — more closely aligned with reason — if we asked that deeper question, “How do I feel about myself when I chose care for the planet over my instinctual selfishness?”

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Dawn Wall?

Kevin Jorgeson, on reaching the summit of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park this past week by free climbing the Dawn Wall with Tommy Caldwell, said of their feat: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.” (Citation)

I’ve been pondering that assertion for a couple of days now, and I don’t agree that everyone has a secret Dawn Wall to complete. I mean, sure, I have an informal bucket list (and even a published one — see p. 14), and it includes returning to the ridge in the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area of Washington State that separates the McCall and Packwood Glaciers where Raven offered to me what turned out to be good counsel almost 25 years ago, but it isn’t really equivalent to a Dawn Wall — not even close in terms of risk, effort required, logistics support, or a unique experience. And that’s about as close as I can come to my own Dawn Wall. As an acrophobe, I’m in awe and somewhat stunned by Kevin’s and Tommy’s feat. And at the same time I feel a sense that they are nuts, and that there is no way I’d want to do that.

I’m happy for them. Their athletic skill, strength, and stamina is amazing. Their accomplishment is worthy of celebration. 3,000 feet on that sheer face in 19 days is remarkable. (I get vertigo just looking at the images of them clinging to the cliff. And at the same time, I can hardly look away from them.)

But it does not inspire me to take on such an improbable and difficult goal. I would not be pressed so hard for a record that I would endure the hardship, even if I was not fearful of heights. It strikes me as half (or more) crazy!

At one time in my life the idea of a solo ocean voyage had some pull. I have loved reading Life of Pi and The Plover and any number of Barry Lopez’ short stories, especially those in River Notes and Desert Notes. But I read them as allegorical natural mysteries, not as inspiration to literal emulation. And at one point I considered hiking all of the Pacific Crest Trail, but never very seriously. I’m so much more a plodding stroller than a through hiker, though I also stick to it once I am into something. (If I was a runner, which I am not, I’d probably be a marathoner.) And long ago I fantasized about a solo sail across the Pacific Ocean. But I think those former goals came more out of my introversion and active imagination than out of a real desire for their accomplishment as an objective.

And I’ve just finished reading Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, in which among other things, he lifts up the danger of getting so caught up in the quest to accomplish a goal that despite awareness of danger and prior commitment to safety, you might well decide to persist, even putting your life at risk.

So, no, Kevin, I don’t have a secret Dawn Wall inside me waiting to be accomplished. I don’t think I’m alone. But maybe I’m wrong and most people do have a secret Dawn Wall and I’m just an oddball who doesn’t.

On the other hand, I’m 67-½, retired, an old(er) guy. Even if I’m still relatively healthy, I’m no longer in a 20- or 30-something body (as it keeps reminding me). So no, there are no Dawn Walls in my likely future. I’m very happy with my life as it is. Little drama, no major feats, no huge goals on which to focus. I’d like to have a productive kitchen garden this year and to enjoy some exploration of the hidden corners of the Pacific Northwest. I want to enjoy many more years of happiness with my wife. And I want my adult children and their kids to be happy. I want there to be more love in our world. An end to violence. The capacity to embrace all that is unfolding and to bend the arc of justice in the right direction. It would be more than enough.

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Affordable Housing — Another Shameful Setback for Portland (A Rant)

About a decade ago the city of Portland made a commitment that development of the South Waterfront neighborhood would include enough affordable housing to ensure that a diversity of economic status in the new neighborhood that reflected that of the whole city.

For the projected 3000 units of housing in the planned initial developments, that would mean over 1500 units of affordable housing. The city backed off from that to fewer than 600.

Now a decade later, there are just over 200 affordable units, and while a city official claims not to know the total number of units that have been developed, they are likely around 3000. An estimate two years ago put the number over 2800 and move have opened since then.

The most recent news is that because we have missed the (already modest) goal, the city will reset it at an even lower level — about twice the current number for the final buildout. So we’ve gone from one in two to about one in every seven units.

This is just plain wrong. Once again our city has failed to do the right thing when it comes to affordable housing. Portland has an ugly history of xenophobia and of serially pushing low-income and racial minority populations out of what are deemed desirable areas for gentrification and development.

I find it impossible to believe that the city does not have statistics on housing units in the South Waterfront. Have they not issued building permits? Granted occupancy permits? Maintained real estate assessment and tax records? Developed emergency plans? Can they not use their own readily available geographic information systems to extract that information? It is inconceivable that they don’t have the data.

The area in question has had major investments in infrastructure. A streetcar line provides easy access to downtown, the tram delivers folks to the OHSU and VA hospitals and clinics, bikeways offer convenient transportation, and the riverside walkway affords access to the river and recreation. The transit bridge currently under construction and set to open in a year or so will add easy access by streetcar and bus to the east side of the river and a new light rail line. It’s an area designed to permit access to goods and services and to recreation even without need of a car. Ideal, in many ways for affordable housing occupants.

And of course that also makes it highly desirable for high priced condominium development. There are big bucks and political power behind that. So we’ve paid for infrastructure development and now discover that once again it will line the pockets of the already wealthy.

One might even think that perhaps there has been some political pressure to keep “them” out of the nice new neighborhood. “Them” being folks with fewer financial resources and less income. (And conveniently a code for exercising privilege and racism.)

I know someone who lives in one of those few affordable units. From her reports, the folks in her building have quickly begun to form a community. Shared meals, communal events, and cooperative sharing of resources are all a part of that. Even though that may arise in part from necessity, in a crisis, we’re all going to need that sort of community for basic survival. The residents of those affordable housing units just might have something to teach their neighbors about caring for one another and creating community.

I would have at least expected the announcement of the reduced goal to include a quid pro quo — along the lines of “We’re going to reduce the goal for affordable housing in the South Waterfront, but we’ll commit to developing another 500 units of affordable housing in _______ with similar access to public transportation and services. We’re doing that because we can create twice as many units for the same cost.” Nope. Not a word on that, of course.

I love my city. It’s a great place to live, work, and play. But we’ve got some problems, and affordable housing is one of them.

Instead of moving the goalposts, why not double down on affordable housing? Why are our officials not saying, “Gosh, we’ve missed the goal, and here’s how we are going to make sure we meet it fully going forward?” We could do this if we had the will. And if we were willing to go against the existing power structures that perpetrate and exacerbate economic inequality.

Posted in city planning, design, Portland OR, what were they not thinking? | 1 Comment

Marriage Enrichment Comes to Oregon

Break out the bubbly. Today was a big day for marriage here in Oregon. At noon, Federal judge Michael McShane announced his ruling that the constitutional amendment that reads, “It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage,” which was passed by 57% of Oregon voters in 2004 violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and he enjoined the state from enforcing it, effective immediately. (Current poling suggests that the voters would now overturn the amendment with about the same margin that it passed just a decade ago.)

You can read the Honorable Judge McShane’s opinion here and his order here.

Same-sex couples, lined up in anticipation at court houses, immediately began obtaining marriage licenses, some paying an added $5.00 fee to waive the standard three-day waiting period. (I find the fact that the waiting period can be waived for a fee troubling — what’s the purpose of the waiting period, and why should a waiver be available for a cheap buy-out? But that’s going beyond the topic of this post.) In Multnomah County, where Portland is, 422 marriage licenses were issued today, compared with 68 on an average day. Some, including many couples who have been engaged for decades, exchanged vows and were legally married this afternoon.

Having announced on Friday that he would issue his ruling at noon today, much of the state was hitting the refresh buttons on their web browsers or, like me, tuned to their favorite radio news source and paying close attention at noon today.

I, like many others, was not surprised by the ruling. The elected state Attorney General had announced that she agreed with the petitioners and would not defend the amendment, and no one had standing to argue the case on behalf of the defendant (the state). An outside group (the so-called National Organization for Marriage) that sought late standing was denied it last week and this morning the 9th Circuit refused to hear their appeal. There being no one with standing interested in appeal, the ruling has, at least so far, not been stayed. However the Supreme Court of the U.S. could issue a stay if an appeal reached them. So we are a bit wary of the possibility that the ruling may yet prove to not to be final. There have been so many fits and starts with marriage equity that wariness is almost a given.

I wasn’t surprised by the ruling, but I was surprised at my emotional reaction to it. It is a significant victory for marriage equity and for loving same-sex couples who wish to gain the advantages of marriage. And that alone is worth being choked up, finding tears of joy, and celebration.

But even more, this ruling is personal. It enhances my own marriage and gives it ever more validity. I know there are many who would argue the opposite — that permitting same-sex couples to marry somehow devalues the institution and the tradition of marriage. That’s always felt like a non-sensical argument to me, and I have yet to figure just how it contributes to the ruination of the tradition. If every couple who wishes to declare their commitment to each other through vows and a covenant of marriage, not just those who are of opposite genders (and I note that the binary definition of gender is turning out to be quite slippery), then marriage has even more value. The meaning of marriage is expanded and deepened, not contracted, made shallow, or diminished. Those of us who are legally married can enjoy the knowledge that it is truly the expression of a covenant that is finally open to all couples in Oregon, not just a special recognition of the unions of part of the population. Same-sex couples no longer need elope to another state to obtain a license and be legally wed. Bravo!

If marriage is open to all loving couples, then it surely has a stronger basis and is more meaningful. A big part of my joy is in recognizing that my own marriage has been further sanctified by today’s ruling. I celebrate that along with the possibility that same-sex couples can now be legally wed in my home state.

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Process Theology — More Resources

Here are some additional resources related to Process Theology

The Center for Process Studies website, affiliated with Claremont School of Theology:

As is often the case, a detractor, in this case Roger E. Olson, an evangelical Baptist, captures quite well the essential tenets of Process Theology in a blog entry explaining why he is not a process theologian. I think he’s gotten most of it right, although not with his assertion that Process Theology fails to offer a realistic eschatology.

The book recommended by Darin is “Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed” by Bruce Epperly. You can read excepts of it here:

The Rev. Kate Lore preached an introduction to Process Theology at First Unitarian Church (Portland, OR) in 2010. Her manuscript can be downloaded here:

And here is a link to some definitions of terms often used in Process Theology and additional links:




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