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Hays: Political retribution taints community’s core values

By LINDA HAYS
Second-Generation Downtown Merchant

This week, my downtown toy store, Hopscotch, has experienced a rash of one-star reviews, negative comments and unsubscribes from its newsletter.

If it were because we were suddenly failing to provide the goods and services — and sparkle party magic! — that our community wants in a toy store, I would be devastated. The reason for this negativity is actually far more troubling — troubling because I feel it poses a major threat to our democratic process.

Hopscotch is being punished because I jumped in to participate in that very process. It is being targeted because I was a signature gatherer for the effort to recall Yamhill County Commissioner Lindsey Berschauer.

The ironic thing to me is that what motivated me to become politically active in this way is the very thing that’s led to the targeting of my business and those of my partner, Gerry Hunter — 3rd Street Pizza Co. and The Diner, to save you the Googling.

It’s the degraded and divisive nature of the dialogue. It’s the wanton obstruction of the democratic process. It’s the destruction of our ability to disagree without hating one another over it.

It was watching a video of Berschauer verbally assaulting fellow commissioners and members of the county staff — invested, life-long residents who work daily in service to the citizens of this county — that turned me.

I am not concerned that her political views differ from mine. I grew up here, and one of the things I value most is our tendency to break 50/50 in our political leanings.

Historically, that’s kept us well-balanced and civilized. We’ve always known that even though we may differ with our neighbor politically, we still have to and want to work on the PTA board, serve our nonprofits, hire each other's children and hang out on the soccer field together.

It’s not her politics, or even the money her actions have cost us as taxpayers that worries me. It’s her character. What appalls me is the vicious, mean-spirited side of our politics, which she represents.

It’s one thing to watch it play out on a national stage. To watch it play out here in our sweet little “work together for the good of all” county is too much.

The other thing that concerns me about Berschauer is all the out-of-county money that went into her campaign, continues to drive her narrative and supports her in the recall. It would bother me about any politician depending on big-money outsiders.

I’m pretty conservative on that sort of thing.

I don’t like outside money buying our buildings, running our businesses or getting involved in our politics. I don’t like Portland garbage being dumped on our land. I’m not a big fan of the bypass, either.

I know that none of these views lines up with “good for business,” but I’m not about what’s good for business. I’m about what’s good for our community. I would light my business on fire if I thought it would best serve this community.

But enough about what I’m against. Really, there isn’t very much. I am for so much more than I am against.

I am for children getting the opportunity to build a strong connection with their community, and that happens in places like Hopscotch. It’s a place where they can take their allowance money, climb up on a stool to reach the cash register, and buy something they have been saving for from someone who makes them feel special — as they are today and will continue to be in the future.

What pains me most about the boycott of my business is the thought there will be kids who don’t get that experience because their parents want to make me pay for views differing from theirs.

I’m for locally owned businesses that contribute time and money to our schools, nonprofits, fire departments, libraries and police departments. I’m for the owners of those businesses being invested enough in their community to get involved in the local political process and put their hand on the rope that pulls for us all. I’m for a world where those invested citizens and business owners can actively work for the things they believe in, without worrying their business will be boycotted because of their political views, gender identity, sexual orientation, race or religion.

When my kids were little, my young family would “boycott” companies like Walmart, Pampers and Nestle for what we perceived as rape-and-pillage practices. When we did that, we would pretend everyone everywhere was doing the same thing, and that the companies didn’t exist any more because of that.

This morning, I was doing the same thing with local businesses being boycotted on both the right and the left in the last couple of years. Gone were Geraldi's, Red Fox, La Rambla, Harvest Fresh, The Oak, Union Block, Douglas on Third, NW Food and Gifts, 3rd Street Pizza, Remy Wines, Sandwich Express, Bierly Brewing, The Diner and, yes, Hopscotch. And that’s not good for anyone.

One thing I can tell you is that the businesses aren’t boycotting each other. The folks that run these businesses — on both sides of the political aisle — have been in the trenches with me on far too many projects. They love this community as much as I do, even when we have different ideas of what that looks like.

I know I can’t single-handedly change the conversation. My magic wand is limited to what happens within the four walls of Hopscotch.

I just want you to know that I love you guys. I love all members of my community, be they red ones or blue.

I love the swirl you can make when you’re dancing together. Creating together. Visioning together. Working together.

I worry when that swirl gives way to rigid blocks of color. When those blocks are driven apart and there is no compromise and embrace. When people are just flat-out unkind.

It’s not the way we do things around here.

Linda Hays first posted this essay on Facebook, and said of the response: “I have been grateful and heartened by reach-out and support from people all over the political spectrum. The majority of us seem to want a more civil, less punitive civic environment, and I believe it is attainable.”

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