This post has been updated. Please see the note at the end.
I cross a bridge coming into Brookings, Oregon. On one side are the flags of all the United States armed services. On the other, U.S. flags line the span.
At every county line, the sign says, “We support our vets.” I have seen more black POW-MIA flags, the symbol of people who will never reconcile with the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, in one day than I have seen in my lifetime.
Okay, I get it. Since “support[ing] our troops” and “support[ing] our vets” invariably means sending more kids to kill and be killed, I have found myself in a land of warmongers.
As I drive north from Brookings, the roadway is often lined with trees. I remember a description of Washington state in which if you look 100 feet beyond the facade, the trees will all be clear-cut. Here, the margin is more like 50 feet, and while it isn’t this way everywhere, it is in enough places that by the time I arrive in Coos Bay, my blood is boiling.
Do these loggers really think they are fooling me with their shallow facades? Do they really think I won’t notice? Do they really think I won’t peer through an occasional break in the facade at hillsides where only stumps remain?
Coos Bay itself is pathetic. They have made no effort whatsoever to make the commercial district attractive. It’s just crass businesses piled on top of each other with no thought for common space. I can see on the hills some houses that look nice: Yet once again, the rich look down upon devastation, thinking themselves above it.
I drive on to Reedsport and can tolerate no more.
I am well aware of the Cascadia movement, a secession movement that, at least in one map, would claim a territory stretching as far south as the Russian River watershed in California, and as far north as parts of Alaska (figure 1). I have wondered about the wisdom of incorporating such a politically polarized region—perhaps even more polarized than the United States as a whole—into a small country. I wonder no more: While I am sympathetic to secession movements, this would be foolish.
I turn inland, along the Umpqua River. This is a partial balm for my soul. The river area is truly spectacular.
But frustrated as I am with my job prospects, I have thought of coming to the southern Oregon coast to at least be someplace different. If my life must be devastated by neoliberalism, I want at least to be in a place of beauty. I will think of the Southern Oregon coast no more.
Update, October 5, 2014: I have realized that I overlooked some symbolism associated with the armed services flags and the U.S. flags on that bridge in Brookings. The armed services flags were on the west side of the bridge, toward the Pacific, and the U.S. flags were on the east side of the bridge, toward the continent. This suggests that the armed forces—not diplomacy, not any expression of friendship—are the appropriate response to anyone who approaches via the Pacific. The display thus suggests xenophobia, in addition to a predilection for war.