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Voices in the forest

rainey BARRETT


I’ve written a number of times about the politically goofball part of the northwest in which I live. Each time, somebody responds, “Oh, Rainey. Cool down! It can’t be that nutty.” Oh, yeah?

Comes now the County of Siskiyou just south of our Oregon border with California. Beautiful place if you’re talking scenery. Sliding slowly off the right edge of your square world if you mean politically.

The Supervisors of Siskiyou County – yep, the ones previously elected on the intellectually shaky platforms on which they stood – voted this week. And the official count was 4-1 to secede from California. Further more, they’re inviting several counties in Oregon to join them.

They’re proposing – yet again – the creation of a new state to be named “Jefferson.” I can’t tell you how that would “protect” them from the “extreme burden of state and federal laws” they’re all agitated about. Seems to me the Jefferson “utopia” would have to put up with EPA, OSHA, the Departments of Education, Human Services along with Obamacare and all the rest. Maybe their “thinking” hasn’t gone that far at this point.

More than 100 local folk jammed the courthouse hearing room to demand supervisors open the secession door. By 4-1, they did. Typical of the “thinking” represented was one Gabe Harrison of Happy Camp – a tiny hamlet just south of the Oregon border.

Said Gabe, “We need our own state so we can make laws that fit our way of life. Many proposed (state and federal) laws are unconstitutional and deny us our God-given rights.”

I’ve not done the apparent homework of Mr. Harrison to find out how many “proposed laws” are “unconstitutional. Normally that’s a function of the U.S. Supreme Court – after a law has been enacted. But Gabe sounded so certain in his claim that he must have figured out some new way of telling.

Talk of the “State of Jefferson” is not new in this part of Oregon. It’s been around for years. Hang around any local bar long enough and you’ll eventually find someone boozed up enough to open the discussion. Jefferson is, after all, a popular name hereabouts. Even our regional Oregon Public Broadcast operation is called “Jefferson Public Radio.”

I don’t know if this Jefferson craziness started in California or Oregon. We have a porous and heavily forested border through which people from both states travel the pathways largely unnoticed by the rest of us. Sheriffs in local counties know lots of drugs move to and fro in those woods. By the way, Ol’ Art Robinson – Oregon’s new square earth Republican Party Chairman – lives just a few miles this side of the border. Speaking geographically. He crossed other borders years ago politically.

In 2011, other upset denizens of California got their shorts in a knot. At their loud behest, Riverside County supervisors voted to split California in half – yep, right in half. They claimed the state was “too big to govern.” Governor Jerry strongly disagreed and dropped the hammer on that idea.

Now, they’re at it again. They want to pick up their real estate and quit. As he voted to do so, Siskiyou Supervisor Michael Kobseff said he “hadn’t had one contact in regard to the issue that opposed it.” Either he doesn’t get out much or everyone in the county is drinking the same Kool Aid.

Reasonable people can look at the foolishness in Siskiyou County and say “Tsk tsk. Give ‘em time. They’ll cool off.” No, they won’t. Local history has shown they’ll come back again and again. This time it’s a county in California. Next time it will likely be Josephine or Curry County in Oregon. Or Douglas. Or Jackson. There’s a base here that festers in the dozens of small communities. A base becoming more vocal as it becomes more angry with a government it can’t control. A base feeling threatened and ignored by forces outside itself.

For now, we can treat them as the governmentally-challenged folk they are. They’re mucking around in politics without sufficient understanding of what government is or how it works. And how you have to deal with it if you’re to change it. At the moment, they’re just voices in the forests.

But – let me submit some names for your consideration: Rand Paul – Marco Rubio – Ted Cruz – John Cornyn – Joe Walsh – Steve King – Mike Lee – Michelle Bachman – Louie Gohmert. These folks – these and several dozen more – are sitting in Congress. It’s no stretch to connect the political “philosophy” of those politically-challenged opportunists to the voices in that Siskiyou County Courthouse in California. Ignorance and fear. Aimed at a government that appears unresponsive and too powerful in its daily presence in their lives.

In the last dozen years I’ve lived in Southern Oregon, these voices – of the disgruntled – the fearful – the unheeded – have grown in intensity and are being heard from more often. Their numbers are slowly increasing. So is their volume. If government – at all levels – doesn’t revert to its role of the servant of the citizen it was designed to be rather than the intransigent, immovable, barrier-to-progress it has become, what seems absurd now can morph into a very real threat to our national security.

From within.

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