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Opening the door


An opinion piece by Tom Henderson, a veteran Northwest journalist (at the McMinnville, Oregon, News-Register, the Lewiston Tribune, Corvallis Gazette-Times among others.

Say whatever mean things you want about state Rep. Mike Nearman, and oh I intend to, but the man respects the rule of law.

And the law is the law.

How dare people cherry-pick the laws they will obey and the ones they will simply ignore? Of all the nerve! This is especially true when it comes to borders and boundaries.

Never mind the sob stories, never mind “extenuating circumstances.” If people go where they’re not supposed to go, they have violated the law. They must be prosecuted. Period. No exceptions. No sanctuary. If that means separating families and putting children in cages, well, the scofflaws should have thought about that before they scoffed at the law.

And the law is the law. Did Nearman mention that?

Actually, there might be just one teeny-tiny exception where people can go where they’re not supposed to go. Say they happen to be armed and angry thugs who want to storm the Oregon State Capitol Building and do God-knows-what to anyone who disagrees with them. Then Nearman is all for open borders.

Immigrants, after all, are only suspected violent criminals. For actual violent criminals, Nearman opens the door of the Capitol and lets them charge right in.

Hold on. To be fair, the charge that Nearman slunk to a side door of the Capitol during a Dec. 21 special session of the Legislature and opened the door for violent right-wing extremists who immediately charged in has not been properly adjudicated. It would be wrong to judge the man by trusting the evidence clearly caught on camera.

Nearman says he’s being subjected to “mob justice.” Oh, heaven forfend. Mob justice is wrong. We wouldn’t want to open the door to something like that. Mobs are dangerous. Already, Nearman says, he and his wife have received threats.

How horrible. It must be terrifying to feel threatened. It must feel something like, I don’t know, the way the people in the Capitol felt after Nearman let in the angry mob.

I imagine having club-wielding lunatics in the corridor might even be more unsettling than a threatening email. The latter is not uncommon. Show of hands. How many people in the Legislature have received threats? For the matter, how many people who have expressed a public opinion have received threats? I myself have been shot at, spat upon, pelted with beer cans, threatened at knifepoint and burned in effigy.

And I’m just a journalist — a lovable one at that.

To be fair, Nearman says the invective hurled at him has been filled with hate and profanity. Strange, the hate mail I receive is always so nice. (“With deepest regrets, I wish to notify you of my intention to fill one of your body cavities with black powder, which I will then ignite. No offense. Have a nice day. Yours in Christ, Billy Bob.”)

All the same, threats come standard issue when you, to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Justice John Marshall Harlan II, thrust yourself into the vortex of controversy. Nearman really should think about that before he risks looking like one of those whiny, sniveling, professional victim snowflakes that conservatives detest so much.

I think it was Harry Truman who once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, don’t open the door of the Capitol to a bunch of unhinged wack-a-doodles, Rep. Numb Nuts.”

Although the Capitol was officially closed to the public Dec. 21 due to the threat of COVID-19 and unhinged whack-a-doodles, Nearman took it upon himself to interpret the law. “The Oregon Constitution says that the legislative proceedings shall be ‘open,'” he said in a statement. “It means open.”

He has a point. Clinically, it’s known as his head. But he does have one. With the doors locked, there was no way the public could know what was going on in the Legislature’s star chamber proceedings — unless they watched it on live streaming.

Wait a minute. Did Nearman admit he took it upon himself to decide a rule establishing a boundary should be disobeyed? I thought he hated that sort of thing. I guess there were extenuating circumstances. These weren’t brown people fleeing violence, These were white people inflicting violence.

Under those circumstances, Nearman no doubt felt entitled to interpret the Constitution as a one-man Supreme Court and open the door to mob justice. Aren’t there laws against that sort of thing? I think so.

And the law is the law.

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