In recent days, I have been hearing a lot about “the Oregon Way.” I still do not know the etymology of the phrase, or even what would make the Oregon Way different from the Washington Way; the New Jersey Way; or even the Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales, Way. Still, I get the gist of it, and I think the Oregon Way is just what we need right now.
A U.S. senator visited the Hermiston Herald office to hold a virtual town hall, and it was from him that I first heard the phrase. In the context Ron Wyden used it, “the Oregon Way” — which I will refer to from this point on as TOW— means civil discourse and debate which occurs locally, rather than in Washington, D.C. or some other faraway place.
Possibly, TOW can be explained in the same way the Bible describes love. TOW is patient, TOW is kind. “It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
Is that a stretch? Maybe, TOW is better understood with a more contemporary reference. We can take a look a politics in recent days, or months, or years or decades … It is hard to know when things went so badly.
Discourse these days seems more contentious than necessary. Personally, I have lost friends and family members because we stopped being able to tolerate one another. In most cases, we quietly discontinued our association with each other. In a few cases, our breakups have been acrimonious. Our final discussions were loud, and our feelings to this day remain bitter.
In some cases, rage is just. It is moral to support the right side of an issue. And I believe that a person should stand up for, and even fight for, the protection of people who are in need.
Still, most of the arguments I see are not of this sort. Sometimes, people fight tooth-and-nail for the wellbeing of individuals, corporations, and associations that are already monstrously powerful.
We need to come together to come to a full understanding of right and wrong, good and evil. And to do this, we will need to reach out to one another in a spirit of love, TOW-wise. We need to talk.
When we talk, we see we have more in common than not. The love we have for our families, the desire for all people to thrive and the hope for our children to enjoy better lives than we have — these are common to us all.
We all love our mothers, right? Well, most of us love our mothers. I love my mother.
Anyway, I wonder at what we might accomplish if we come together with better hearts and minds, showing empathy, humility and understanding wherever possible. We can change the world. We can do things TOW (TOWly?) to the max, advancing civility and love to a thus far unforeseen extreme. Wouldn’t that be nice?
And maybe it is not too late for the world to be corrected or for individuals to salvage a few friendships here and there. As I sit here, I am thinking about reaching out to one person who voted differently than I have in the last few elections, and I am going to try to understand that person. I am going to meet them as a fellow human being, a person who lives in a nearby place and who has have similar beliefs, even if we are combative about key issues.
Whether this is what TOW is, it is how I am going to express the TOW in my heart. I’m going to do things TOW way.