By editorial board • 

Innocence something to be cherished, not scorned

Our May 31 front page was about as grim as it gets. If we’re ever forced to display stories more stomach-turning that the trio detailing criminal allegations pending against Jermaine Streeter, Michael Wolfe and Damian Belander, God help us.

Crimes of such magnitude here are exceedingly rare. We can easily pass a year without a homicide, whereas cities like Detroit, Chicago and New York are challenged to last a day without one.

Serious violent crime is a function of several factors, including population, population density, ethnic tension, chronic unemployment, other socioeconomic indicators and gang and drug activity. We lie on the right side of those, pretty much down the line.

Portland TV is quick to cover a crime of gravity when it does occur here. We suspect the appeal is the jarring juxtaposition, which has long since eroded in populous Portland.

Up north, it’s expected. Here, it’s anything but.

In case you missed it, Streeter stands accused of inflicting a brutal, near-fatal beating on a pregnant McMinnville woman in May 2018; Wolfe of kidnapping and murdering an ex-lover and his 3-year-old son by her, after being ordered to pay child support; Belander of slaying a 24-year-old acquaintance and dumping the body on a remote logging road, next to the victim’s burned-out car. The story on Belander, a police blotter perennial, also detailed his admission of guilt in a case in which he stood accused of a savage crowbar attack against his mother’s boyfriend and berating her for preventing him from “finishing the job.”

The page’s centerpiece was the delightful chronicle of a pair of orphaned otters becoming fast friends. One was rescued in McMinnville, providing a local peg.

The story was well-received, but insufficient to offset the horrors detailed in the articles flanking it on three sides.

On such occasions, loss of innocence seems to be a favorite frame of reference for Portland TV. It’s storyline typically suggests life will never be the same in this bucolic wine country hamlet, that big city evil has permanently burst its protective bubble.

Our contrary take is this: As long as such evil continues to shock and outrage the local conscience, as long as residents of our community have not become utterly numbed by it, we have not yet lost our way. And we can continue holding the hope we never will.

Portland is full of wonderful dining, shopping, culture and entertainment options. It’s nightlife buzzes with sight, sound and energy we can’t hope to duplicate. 

However, we have no interest in becoming engulfed by the big city to the north. We have a decided preference for retaining our longstanding visitor status.

We’d prefer to read headline-grabbing crime relegated to Portland as well. We’d prefer to see it remain an infrequent and decidedly unwelcome visitor here.

If it’s innocence that makes us experience continued shock and revulsion at the unspeakable harm one person can inflict on another, then let us embrace and cherish that innocence. Let us revel in it.


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