Nothing will get me back to blogging quite like sheer frustration. And this week in local Oregon politics has been, well, infuriating.

So last week, the Oregon House of Representatives passed HB2020–a carbon cap and trade bill. It’s not a perfect bill. If you ask me, we’re too late as it is and nothing we do now will reverse the coming climate catastrophe. But I will be happy if we can slow it down or decrease it, and this bill is a step in the right direction. The ultimate goal is to slash emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

I will add that this is personal for me. I have gone to the Capitol to lobby for this bill, I have called and e-mailed my legislators about it, I have donated to the organizations fighting the good fight. When the bill passed the House, my friends and I celebrated. “Now all it needs to do is pass the Senate!” I enthused to my husband.

“Oh, is that ALL,” he chuckled. Smart man.

Piece of cake, right? Oregon has a Democratic supermajority in both the House and the Senate at the moment.

And then…the Republicans did what you do when you’re about to lose a vote and you don’t like it.

They ran away.

Yep. Conservatives love to fling the word “snowflake” around, but these Republicans acted like complete snowflakes. They couldn’t handle being in the minority, so they threw a temper tantrum, took their toys and went home. Or in this case, just vanished. Word is, they escaped across state lines to Idaho. Governor Kate Brown has sent out the Oregon State Police to look for them and bring them back to vote, so they apparently felt they would be safer out of state.

By going missing, the GOP have denied the Senate the quorum needed to actually vote on the bill. The Oregon Constitution stipulates that at least 67% of the Senate needs to be present for a vote to take place.

Mind you, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Earlier this session, the GOP Senators did the exact same thing when there was an education funding bill they objected to. They returned after four days and the education bill passed, but in return they negotiated with the Dems to kill a couple of other bills they didn’t like–a vaccine exemption bill and a gun control bill (grrrrr). Part of the deal was a promise from the Republicans that they wouldn’t walk out again. That explains why the Governor isn’t messing around this time, and has indicated she is willing to have the escapees arrested.

So where do we go from here? It’s hard to tell. The Senate was going to continue in special session over the weekend, but that was called off because local right-wing groups were planning a Saturday rally which was to include armed militia members, and legislators were scared for their safety. If you think they’re being paranoid, consider that one of the Republican Senators hinted that if the state police were to come after him, they better be “bachelors” and “heavily armed.” The mood both in our state and our country is growing more and more unpleasant….

Over the past few years, my family and I have been watching the climate in Oregon change. Temperatures in the summer are much hotter than they were when we first moved here. Rain has decreased. Winters are colder and drier. We’ve had a couple of years in a row now during which thick smoke from wildfires has plagued us and made it difficult to breathe.

So if this bill, this last-ditch effort to help, goes down in flames, I’m left with some very uncharitable thoughts. The people in rural districts who oppose this bill so vehemently…if their farms and businesses are affected by drought or other climate disasters in the future, I hope they don’t come crying to me about it. I certainly hope they don’t ask for financial help from us Portlanders. After all, we’re just stupid city folk who bought into the climate change conspiracy, right?

Sigh. I realize that is unkind and I should be looking for my better angels, but I am having a hard time finding them right now. As much as I have been MIA from this blog, I will try to update either in posts or comments about how this whole mess ultimately works out.

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“Hey, Sis?  You realize that the guy who’s selling you the laptop lives out in Frackville, right?”

I leaned over my sister’s shoulder and whispered a few non-English swearwords.  “Why the hell would he be out there?”

“I dunno.”

“So this means I have to go outside the city limits, then.”

“It’s only an hour’s drive beyond the wall.”  My sister shrugged.  “People do it all the time and they’re fine.  Katie went outside just two weeks ago to visit family.”

Mother emerged from the living room, her face drawn.  “Right into the middle of the Disturbance.  This laptop worth this to you?”

“I need a laptop to do my work.  No worries, Mom.”

***

I continued to tell myself I wasn’t worried even as I got ready for my trip in front of the bathroom mirror.  I pulled my hair back and stared at my face, belatedly regretting all the time I spent lounging in the sun over the summer.  Was my skin a bit too tan?

Maybe it wouldn’t matter.  Even though I had chosen my rattiest jacket and ripped jeans, it was painfully obvious I was a cityfolk.

I grabbed my knife and purse.  It really was going to be okay.

***

At the checkpoint, a pot-bellied bearded man with a gun slung across his back sauntered up to my car.  I rolled down my window.

He nodded.  “Hello there.  Purpose of trip?”

“Just travelling to Frackville to purchase a laptop.”

“Mmmmm, going shopping, huh?”  He eyed my purse eagerly.

“How much is the toll going to cost me?”

“I don’t know yet.”  He chuckled.  “You got your ID on you?”

I handed my metropolitan ID card to him.

He scowled darkly.  “Maria?”

“I’m Ukrainian,”  I snapped.

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess your last name does look Russian.  That’s okay, then.”

“Can I go?”

“Not sure.”  He leaned into my window.  “What are you doing trying to go into Nowhere unaccompanied, anyway?  It can be dangerous for females around here.”

“My father died defending the city during the killing days,”  I said coldly.  “It’s your militia’s fault that I don’t have a male guardian with me.”

To his credit, he looked abashed at this.  He cleared his throat and stepped back from the car.  “I see.  We need to run one more quick check on you, ma’am.  Rob?”  He gave my ID to the other guard, who was holding a tablet.  “Check her voting record?”

Rob typed my name in.  “She didn’t vote at all last election.”

“Lucky for you,”  the first guard said.  “You won’t get hit with our wrong candidate surcharge.”

“Great.”  I felt relieved and, for once, grateful for the political cynicism which led me to be a non-voter back in 2016.

“We’ll be nice.  Let’s make your toll payment an even hundred bucks.”

I forced a polite smile, made the payment and accepted my ID.  As I slowly drove away, a truck came to a stop at the checkpoint, and the guards gestured at the truck driver to get out so they could inspect his goods.  I heard the driver yelling obscenities at them, and I sped up until the checkpoint was out of sight.

***

The laptop seller lived in a little white house in Frackville’s mostly empty downtown area.  Across the street, there were a couple of abandoned buildings, with a Trump poster peeling away from one of the brick walls.

I knocked on the door.  A skinny old man cracked it open and peered out at me.

“Hi!  I’m here to pick up the laptop?”

“Nice to meet you, Maria.  Come on in.”

His name was Gus.  He grinned at the knife on my belt (“They still don’t let you have guns in the city?”) and then vanished into the back of the house.  I sat on the sofa and waited.  There was a cross hanging in the entry hallway, but I noticed a distinct lack of Trump portraits.  This was an encouraging sign.

I smiled at him when he returned, bearing the laptop.  “I see you’re not a big fan of President Trump, eh?”

He fidgeted nervously.  “May his soul rest in peace.”

“Amen.”

President Trump had been assassinated soon after the beginning of what we all called the Disturbance–because nobody wanted to call it a civil war–but the Disturbance rolled right along without him.  It was common for the residents of the Nowhere lands to give a place of honor in their home to portraits of the Martyr President, sometimes building miniature shrines in his memory.

After his initial moment of anxiety, Gus relaxed.  “Yeah, I never did like him much.  He seemed like a big talker to me.  Seemed like a fake.”

“Doesn’t that get you in trouble around here?”

“Me?  No.  I leave the militia guys alone, and they leave me alone.  I’ve lived here forever, anyway.”

I examined the laptop.  It was small and the keyboard was wearing out, but it would have to do.

Gus shuffled his feet.  “Sorry, I would offer you some coffee, but I only have a tiny bit left, and I don’t know when the roads will be clear for me to go get groceries.”

“That’s okay.”

“So what kind of work do you do?”

“I knit handmade hats and scarves.  I sell them online.”

I glanced up at Gus.  “Would you like my website address?  Maybe I could make you something?”

“No need for that.  Doubt I could afford it.”

There was no time for me to hang around any further.  I stood up and looked out once again upon the desolate street.

“Are you ever angry at the militia, Gus?”

“Angry?”

“About what they did to your town?”

Behind me, I could hear his soft laughter.  “The town has always been like this, before the militia ever came.  There haven’t been any jobs in Frackville for years and years.  Why do you think the people here voted for Trump?”

***

I opened the car door.  I couldn’t wait to leave this dead zone and go home.

Somewhere in the distance, the small figure of an armed man crossed the road.  The sight should have made me scared, but instead it made me sad.  How had we created a world like this?  How had we allowed this to happen?

The curtains in the front window of the little white house moved.  I didn’t want to make Gus uncomfortable by staying there too long.  I got in the car and started on the drive back to the checkpoint and my exit out of Nowhere.

 

 

So now we have this dork to deal with in my local area.  A man (his name remains unknown, as he refuses to identify himself to the cops) who has decided to stand up for his Second Amendment rights by parading with his gun in front of elementary schools and middle schools.  Naturally, this causes people to call 911, parents are panicked, schools go into lockdown mode.

Fine, I get that you’re trying to make your point–you have the right to keep your guns and you don’t want anyone to take them away from you.  But this guy has to know that, especially after the horrific Newtown shooting, this kind of act is going to rile up emotion and fear, and I can’t help but think he must be getting some asshole satisfaction out of that.  Well, isn’t he oh so powerful.  A lot of the wanna-be militia types all seem the same–bunch of potbellied middle-aged warriors with an ego problem.

I wonder if there is anything that can be done to stop him, but there probably is no solution.  It’s legal for him to be on the sidewalk just outside the school.  You don’t really want to get into an argument with him, because he’s armed.  So I suppose for the time being he can continue proving to everyone that he’s got the biggest penis in the neighborhood.  Which I strongly suspect is not the case.