Maybe because we’re used to depending on one another here on the wild outer edge of America, we bring a more humane and pragmatic sensibility to our politics.
We rely on each other to saw through fallen trees and get the lights on after winter storms. We are certain to meet each other in our relatively small number of essential grocery stores and favorite restaurants. We have a mutual affection for that most competent and self-effacing of federal agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard. We attend the weddings and funerals, church bazaars and chili feeds of local people without caring who they voted for. We speak to one another at summer markets, at football games, in the letters section of the newspaper. Our hearts swell with pride at the thought of all who preceded us here — from a mighty Indian civilization, to Lewis and Clark, to the loggers and fishermen and undaunted women of many nations who came together here to create the neighborhoods we cherish today.
In short, we build and nurture communities — diverse in our opinions but united by a shared belief in one another.
The importance to us of what happens beyond the confines of this spectacular coastline fades more and more with each mountain and valley of the Coast Range, Cascades and Rockies. Sure, things like federal taxes and rules have an influence on our lives. But feeling oppressed — or at least peeved — by the high-handed dictates of the mighty is part and parcel of being human. It was so in Mary and Joseph’s time more than 2,000 years ago and it is no less true today. Even in our modern democracy, it is foolish for ordinary people to fight with each other over such matters that are truthfully beyond our control.
We have far more in common with even the weirdest resident of this coastline than with any politician from east of the Mississippi — or maybe even east of the Snake. The people we see on TV from 3,000 miles away will never scan our horizon searching for a child missing in the surf. They will never say thank you to a tired sheriff’s deputy for rescuing a hunter lost in our deep woods. They will never set aside petty disagreements to cheer as a local boy or girl makes a great layup or makes the right choices during the perilous path to adulthood.
All that is fundamentally good about our lives comes from here, not from the outside.
We imagine a better future for our children and grandchildren, one in which they can create their lives as we have, working at something they enjoy, hopefully making enough money to be free from want and worry. Many are still too far away from this dream, left cobbling together a living from week to week, hoping for a decent crab season or an honorable part-time or seasonal job after the current one runs its course. Too many struggle to find affordable housing, and are left wondering how they might ever buy a place of their own. Healthcare still is too uncertain, with amazing medical advances out of reach for many because they can’t obtain or keep adequate insurance.
How plausible is it that any of this will be fixed by a politician in Washington, D.C.? No matter what, the glory days of old industries will not return. One machine can do the work of 20 loggers and a team of oxen, or of 50 union steelworkers or coal miners. An industrialized river and ailing ocean won’t support anything like the legendary salmon runs of old. In these and other ways, the facts inform us that if we want more good-paying jobs, we ourselves need to establish the conditions for them by investing in education, by making our towns more enticing, by crafting local regulations and support structures that aid high-quality businesses.
We can and must continue making our communities inviting to all good people of every faith, race and sexual preference. This coast was one of the first outposts for Pacific Rim commerce and conversation. Our openness and inclusivity have germinated a culture rich in the arts, culinary masterworks, splendid and welcoming accommodations. Modern immigrants demonized by ignorant fools elsewhere in the nation are part of the bedrock of this coast. We must continue to stand with them as vital friends in this wonderful experiment called the United States of America.
A quick look at Facebook or any national news media will find countless assertions that our country is broken, or wrecked, or doomed by the choices made in last week’s election, and by the social divisions that led to a surprising choice for president. Disappointment is understandable after any election, especially one so hard fought. But despair is ridiculous — an insult to the brains, bones, muscles and sinews of our ancestors. We simply don’t yet know how the next president will work out. And even a casual study of history suggests that few are either so bad or good as to be remembered very long after they exit the national stage.
The blood of all those who created this nation courses through us still. It’s up to us to make certain it survives. This certainly means standing in opposition to tyranny, bigotry and stupidity. But it also means giving each other the benefit of the doubt.
Let us continue depending on one another, speaking to one another and trusting one another in this spectacular part of a wonderful country.