Letters to the Editor: August 25, 2017

Room tax benefits all

County Commissioner Mary Starrett is a dedicated Libertarian who has never met a tax she liked, but in the real world, we need taxes to pay for services and infrastructure.

Commissioners Stan Primozich and Rick Olson are correct. Tourists should help pay for the wear and tear on our roads and the costs of services like garbage pickup, clean water, fire protection and police. Visitors benefit from good roads and services, and our economy benefits from tourism.

It is a win-win, and most tourists routinely include room taxes in the cost of their trip without having a political meltdown or choosing to never leave home again. I am confident her constituents would be happy to benefit from this cost-sharing even if it means less ideological purity.

Margaret Cross



Practice empathy

The recent events of Charlottesville have lead me to do some soul searching. How is it that in 2017 we have a president who is all-too-comfortable with cozying up to white supremacists and Neo-nazis, political parties that seem incapable of anything but hyperbolic rhetoric, and almost weekly acts of terror, domestic and internationally? Looking back to all of the major news events of the past year, I start to notice a pattern: a lack of empathy.

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” This is not something that comes easily or naturally, but the rewards make it well worth the effort. As a surgeon, I practice being empathetic every day with my patients. By “walking in their shoes,” I hope to build a strong human connection without having the exact same experience. It is tough, and some days I am better at it than others, but like most things, it gets easier with practice.

Some of the greatest moments in modern history happened because individuals and societies showed immense compassion and empathy. Post-apartheid South Africa and Rwanda after the genocide are two examples of entire societies overcoming their differences and past aggression through the power of empathy.

Individual examples of empathy are too numerous to mention. Empathy allows us to overcome our tribalism and see people for who they truly are: human beings, just like us.

So I urge people to consciously go out and practice empathy. It could be with one of your friends, a co-worker, or even a complete stranger. Hopefully, with a little more practice, we all can walk a little more comfortably in other people’s shoes.

Cameron Gibson

Portland, 2003 MHS graduate


Our wider heritage

The public resurgence of the white nationalist movement has focused our attention once again on identity and heritage. White supremacists would have us narrow our value to a matter of inheritance. But who we are derives from choice, not chance.

While my family history is fascinating, I will not limit my identity to my New England forebears. I embrace the full spectrum of America as my heritage. I choose the revolutionary and the royalist, the abolitionist and the secessionist, the slave and the slave owner, the immigrant and the Native American, the drunk and the prohibitionist. All of these are “my people,” for I am an American, and I claim all of American history as my own.

Still, I claim no glory from any group or person, nor do I share the shame of their sins. My virtue or guilt are my own exclusively, based on my own decisions and by whom I honor. So I acknowledge that slavery is part of my history, but I honor Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Genocide of the Indians is a fact, but I honor Chief Joseph, not George Custer. I honor Thomas Jefferson’s soaring words of liberty, not his disgrace as slave master.

Books are for history. Statues are for honor. You will find no statues of Benedict Arnold or Charles Manson. People are justified in calling for statues of Confederate leaders to be taken down. This is not a denial of history. It is a clear recognition of historical wrong.

We must recognize this moment as an opportunity to harken to the better angels of our nature and cast off the lingering shackles of racism. It’s time to be honest about the past, hopeful about the future, and make the changes we so desperately need today.

J. Scott Gibson



Brief but restful

The great eclipse of 2017 has come and gone. Briefest nap ever.

Lee N. Howard