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Portland is not Beirut

July 18, 2006

George Bush Sr. once described Portland as “Little Beirut” and the name stuck. Beirut is beautiful city. 1.2 million people live there and it’s been known as the “Paris of the Middle East.”
Beirut

Beirut’s in trouble for now though, and the streets look a lot more like this:

Wartorn Beirut

Fighting and firebombing of Beirut and other towns throughout Lebanon, mostly in the south, have killed hundreds and displaced more than 500,000 people in the last week. It’s a blood-stained gritty chaos that is sure to heighten: Israeli groundtroops, the U.S. reluctant – unwilling! – to actively intervene… It’s a scene that worsens.

I happened to be home by myself on July 4th while the fireworks were going off, and I didn’t go outside to watch – I only listened to them. Even though I knew they were fireworks, they still frightened me. They sounded so much like bombs that I couldn’t help but feel on edge. I can’t imagine being able to do the dishes, finish a project at work, or having a straighforward conversation with family in the midst of explosion. Comprehending the notion that real peopleare being killed in my neighborhood – people I may know, people I identify with as Portlanders, Oregonians, Americans, Earthlings – is beyond me. This is the case for everyone in Lebanon today.

Here in Stumptown we live in a little peaceful pocket. Today was beautiful. We have the chance to complain about traffic snarls caused by improvement projects on Hawthorne. We have the chance to complain about why our cultural and arts organizations aren’t raising enough money to serve the public. I’m not saying that we should feel guilty for having it so good, or that we shouldn’t be focused on the issues in our community.

We should simply be grateful.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. M. J. W. permalink
    July 18, 2006 10:21 pm

    When we lived in Ireland there was always a lot of talk around St. Patricks day because of the fireworks. So many people there have experienced bombing in the north that it was public debate as to if the city should do fireworks at all, since it caused so much retraumatization on the population each year.

  2. July 23, 2006 1:23 pm

    > Portland is not Beirut

    For the right-wing zeolots, Portland is Beirut — a war zone in which they’ve been relatively quietly and very successfully waging a social and political war: http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3236/7763

    > …the U.S. reluctant – unwilling!
    > – to actively intervene…

    The U.S. is intervening — by rushing shipments of bombs to Israel: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5207066.stm

    > Here in Stumptown we live
    > in a little peaceful pocket.

    It is peaceful in Portland, but it’s a dangerous peace that can lull people into complacency and inaction. We’re not under immediate threat of physical violence, but we’re under an increasing threat of the spread of social violence in the form of the loss of free speech, privacy, human rights and more. The best thing we can do is to not feel powerless and discouraged in our inability to personally fix the myriad problems in far flung places, but to instead make sure that our fragile bastion of peace and democracy remains intact so that we have a place to rally, organize and continue to fight the good fight.

  3. Larry Hinze permalink
    February 10, 2007 9:17 pm

    I like a town that doesn’t put up with right wing idiots-like my Seattle. Oregon had recycling and land preservation down before most other areas. I have never been to France, or Beirut…but really like Portland, Oregon. I find the locals (hang out there a lot!) care about the world and their people. Very accepting. Check out the White Eagle for a good time and a nice 30 dollar room!!

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