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Posts published in “Meador”

A tiny minority

meador

I am disgusted with what we’ve become. It’s all or nothing, one extreme or the other, not even a fleeting consideration that perhaps the edges are wrong and maybe a bit of truth lies near the center.

A guy named David Lidstone — River Dave to his friends — has apparently been squatting for 27 years on private property in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Squatting, if you were unaware, is the act of a person or people living on or in property that doesn’t belong to them. As you might expect, squatting is illegal.

River Dave, a U.S. Air Force veteran, has spent nearly three decades living in the woods along the Merrimack River. The 81-year-old’s tiny cabin is cluttered inside, tidy outside and adorned with bird feeders, a thriving climbing rose and even solar panels. Or I should say “was” — River Dave’s little home was burned to the ground today after he was arrested and jailed, charged with squatting. None of these facts are in dispute.

Here’s where the disgust with my fellow humans comes in. While reading about River Dave’s plight, I also read many dozens of remarks my fellow Americans penned about the man.

The remarks were about evenly split between River Dave’s supporters and detractors, unsurprisingly grouped in bursts or clusters of like-minded sentiment. Dave’s supporters voiced what seemed like genuine concern and compassion for the jailed octogenarian, vigorously condemning anyone who would remove him from his little plot. Not one of them — not one! — acknowledged that what River Dave had been doing for 27 years was illegal. On the other side, Dave’s detractors had awful things to say, ranging from heartlessly urging his permanent incarceration to much, much worse. Not a shred of compassion.

Are we collectively so polarized that we can no longer demonstrate compassion for a fellow human being? I’m not talking that false 1980s-style tough-love type of compassion — that was little more than virtue signaling then and is no different now. It’s empathy in name only, allowing its giver to appear as if he actually cares.

On the other hand, are we so hell-bent on thwarting the other side that we can’t admit that what River Dave was doing was, in fact, illegal? We only have to look about 30 miles to the northeast to see the poster city for what happens when you celebrate tolerance without accountability.

Is there no middle ground?

To be sure, River Dave was breaking the law and had been doing so for many years. But arresting an 81-year-old man and destroying everything he owns — even if what he owned wasn’t sitting on his land — is not the solution of a humane society. I assure you, the irony of New Hampshire’s state motto “Live Free or Die” does not escape me.

Those who say a law is a law and a lawbreaker deserves whatever he gets are missing the point. River Dave isn’t guilty of bank robbery or rape. He’s an old man who built a little cabin on land he didn’t own and lived in it for almost 30 years. For the bulk of that time, no one knew Dave was there except for the kayakers and canoeists who paddled the Merrimack River and befriended the kindly bearded old guy who lived on the shore.

Reports say River Dave grew his own food, cut his own firewood and tended to his cat and his chickens. His little cabin included a small garden plot and neatly stacked firewood. Dave’s place was quirky but it was nothing like the public image of a homeless encampment.

The property on which Dave was squatting is a 70-plus acre plot once used for timber harvesting. It’s been owned by the same family since the 1960s — the family has no plans to develop the land. According to River Dave, one of the owners gave him permission to live there many years ago but it was an oral agreement, nothing written. The listed owner of the property, Leonard Giles, 86, lives in Vermont and denies Dave’s claim. Giles says he was unaware River Dave was even there until alerted by the Canterbury city administrator’s office in 2015.

Again, there is no doubt River Dave was breaking the law. As such, Dave should expect an appropriate penalty and his living situation clearly needs to be changed. But is incarceration and destruction of his possessions a solution an advanced and humane society should laud? Is the hateful venom directed toward an old man who just wanted to be left alone something we should accept as normal? Are we not both clever and kind enough to envision a solution that doesn’t include incarceration and destruction for one old man or the taking of land from another?

On a much larger scale than River Dave and his little plot of land that’s not his, I believe this ugly divide illustrates what U.S. society has become. These days, it’s almost embarrassing to be an American not because of anything in our collective history but because our current behavior has devolved to that of myopes, morons and unabashed assholes.

I feel bad for River Dave and his cat and chickens. I also feel bad for Mr. Giles, the property owner who didn’t ask for or deserve all the less-than-uplifting attention he’s now getting.

I wish I didn’t feel like my position makes me part of such a tiny minority.

UPDATE: Contrary to early reports, after River Dave was jailed on July 15, many of his personal possessions had been removed before a suspected arsonist torched his cabin.

After a whirlwind of publicity, River Dave was inundated with offers of help, including $180,000 from Alexander Karp, CEO of Palantir Technologies. River Dave has been given temporary housing at least into spring 2022, until construction on a new — and legal — home can begin. According to kayaker Jodie Gedeon, one of River Dave’s friends and advocates, the location is being kept secret to protect the 81-year-old former hermit’s privacy. A trust has been established in River Dave's name.

Reports say River Dave has been reunited with his cats — two cats, not one — and chickens and many of his personal possessions.

It’s nice to see a happy ending, now and then.
 

Happy Reinstatement Day!

meador

WASHINGTON — Citizens took to the streets today, jubilantly celebrating events unfolding in the nation’s capital. As former President Joe Biden and his allegedly communist vice president were led away in handcuffs, President Donald Trump was reinstated by Supreme Court Justice Kimberly Davis, herself newly installed by the president’s private armed security detail.

“I am proud to administer the oath of office to the rightful president,” said Davis. “I mean, this is way more exciting than not issuing marriage licenses back in Rowan County.”

The true president wasted no time outlawing anything he found threatening. “We are restoring the Bureau of Land Management’s name,” said President Trump. “From now on, BLM means trees and rangers and cute little forest animals.” The president said Black people need to quit complaining and leave the white people out of it. “I did more for the Blacks than any other president, ever, even Idi Amin,” said Trump. “They should be grateful and quit bugging everyone.”

Trump’s new vice president, Mike Lindell, had nothing but praise for his boss. “He won the election by a landslide,” said Lindell. “He carried the state of Ontario, something no Republican president has ever done before.” When informed that Ontario was actually a Canadian province, Lindell shrugged it off and said it underscored his point. “See? If even those people voted for him, that just shows he’s the rightful president.”

Lindell explained how the election results became much more clear once the G.O.P. abandoned hindrances like evidence and fact-checking. “When we realized that all the people who know stuff are liberals, we had to quit fact-checking,” Lindell said. “Bill Gates owns Snopes and Google and Amazon and he wants to control our minds with microchips and vaccines and fluoride and we’re not going to let him destroy America with that liberal crap.”

Lindell said removing fact-checking simplified his task as he put together his “Absolute Proof” documentary. “I’ll tell you what, it’s a whole lot easier to make a documentary when you don’t need to waste time confirming everything,” said Lindell. “Man, that was a pain in the neck! Fortunately, MyPillow® eliminates that kind of discomfort.”

Lindell said the G.O.P.’s new policy on fact-checking was especially handy when he accused Dominion Voting Systems of massive voter fraud. “Well, I’m pretty dang sure the Chinese and the Venezuelans changed all the Trump votes to Biden votes,” said Lindell. Experts say that such an accusation requires Dominion’s voting machines be connected to the internet. But Dominion has demonstrated its machines are part of a closed system, not connected to any outside network. “We dodged a bullet on that one,” said Lindell. “Fact-checking would’ve really screwed that up for us.”

When Lindell’s hired cybersecurity expert said he was unable to find proof of election fraud, the vice president brushed off this detail. “We get our intel from an organization called Qanon,” Lindell said. “It’s much more reliable than the liberal propaganda from outfits like the NSA, the CIA or PBS.”

The first moves of the neo-Trump administration included planning activities for reinstatement week. Events include a large military parade, fireworks, two reinstatement balls, several MAGA rallies and a mask burning. “Only the weak wear masks,” said the president. He went on to say asking people to wear masks eradicates their freedom, even if wearing them helps protect them and benefits the whole community. “Many Americans don’t really care about bleeding-heart liberal crap like that,” he said. “Masks destroy lives.”

At the same time Justice Davis was completing the reinstatement ceremony for President Trump, a minor scare occurred when the ground trembled at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. But after a brief investigation by the U.S. Geological Survey, it was determined the disturbance was the result of one of the interred rolling over in his grave, posing no lasting threat to the public.

[DISCLAIMER: This is satire. It is irreverent humor. It will not hurt you.]

(image)
 

Tyranny is a weighty word

meador

“No shirt, no shoes, no service.”

In my half century of life, we never batted an eye at those signs. Sure, they took a tiny slice of our freedom but we recognized there might be reasons for the requirement and we put our shoes and shirts on before we went in. Besides, even if we were unhappy about it, we knew the business displaying the sign was within its rights to ask us to wear those items.

But now a little scrap of cloth — or finely woven synthetic plastic fibers, as the case may be — is threatening to turn us all into savages. “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.” Get used to it, folks.

But even with a contentious issue like COVID masking, both sides actually do have some significant points in common.

First, other than a handful of virtue-signaling leftist masochists, nearly everyone I know hates the masks. From liberal Democrats who religiously wear their masks to conservative Republicans who refuse to even touch them, pretty much all of us dislike the thought of wearing masks whenever we go out or meet other people. Do you hear that, anti-maskers? The people nagging you to wear masks also hate wearing them. Nobody likes the masks.

Second, as evidenced by daily CDC policy reversals, consistently mixed and confused messages from two White House administrations and multiple state-level policy hedges and reversals, all of us can agree that no one fully understands this COVID and its ultimate end-effect on the public. In other words, yes, the science evolves as we learn so we should expect changes in protocols. But it’s true we’ve also witnessed some significant confusion beyond the scope of evolving science in recent months. But the one thing nearly all the experts agree on is that we need to take precautions like wearing the hated masks.

Unfortunately, for the masks to be effective, we all need to wear them conscientiously and properly. This is crucial. When half the population refuses, this causes problems for everyone, anti-maskers included. In fact, no one should be surprised that almost all new COVID infections are — you guessed it! — being suffered by people who refuse to vaccinate and mask. If I was an anti-masker, this would worry me.

It should be noted that uncertainty and confusion about a microbiological threat to the public is not a reason to do nothing — nothing, as in refusing basic precautions. Since medical and research personnel do demonstrate abundant agreement that the COVID threat is real, ignoring their simple preventive steps is foolish. Those of us without doctoral-level credentials and scientific backgrounds must take them at their word, even if we have questions and doubts. This is basic common sense or erring on the side of caution. Plus, almost all of us have loved ones who are particularly vulnerable to COVID — surely even the most vehement anti-masker wouldn’t endanger them for political reasons?

I hear the masks referred to as tyranny all the time. Really? Isn’t that a huge overstatement? The United States has a long history of stepping up when the country faces a crisis, the public making notable sacrifices when they’re asked to by their government. Many of these sacrifices have been significantly more burdensome or restrictive than simply wearing a hanky on your face. In wartime, we submitted to our mail being read and censored by government agents — that’s a big deal. We rationed gasoline and food — we gave up a not-insignificant amount of liberty in what we ate and where we drove. We sealed up our houses so not a speck of light could be seen outside at night — indeed, in some communities, we even gave up smoking outside during dark hours. Most of these sacrifices were far more onerous than mask-wearing but the public did it with minimal grumbling, temporarily yielding their liberty, accepting such steps as necessary to help the nation in a time of crisis. Almost universally, the sacrifices were considered a patriotic duty.

Remember the 1970s? Americans were shocked when the country ran out of gas — well, not really “out” but when geopolitical events triggered a totally unforeseen national shortage. Fuel was rationed, in many jurisdictions by allowing drivers to purchase gas only on certain days. We griped but we did as we were asked. We gave up our freedom to buy gasoline whenever we wanted and we often sharply limited where we drove.

Next to these public sacrifices, the hyperbole of mask mandates as tyranny sounds shrilly hysterical. If the anti-masking language was applied to the restrictions on liberty we’ve faced at other times, those making such statements would be viewed as distinctly anti-American, somewhat subversive and probably a little weak.

Hospitalizations and new infections have surged across the state as the delta variant spreads among unvaccinated populations. As Oregon ramps up masking requirements, we should pay close attention to what the experts are saying, even if what they’re saying changes from day to day. Remember, the experts have postgraduate credentials and experience working in the fields of microbiology, virology and epidemiology — even if they don’t now have all the answers, they know a whole lot more about COVID than I do, than pretty much everyone I know. If we ignore them because they haven’t figured it all out, we do so at our peril. We do so at our vulnerable loved ones’ peril. For now, we need to heed their words. It’s not tyranny, it’s just basic common sense.

With the delta variant forging ahead, Oregon could hit nearly 1,200 new infections a day by mid-August, according to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Even if you believe OHA’s figures to be exaggerated, a significant surge in new cases should alarm anyone with compromised health or with loved ones at risk — this should include everyone.

I, too, was once immortal. I made choices on my feelings of the time — the euphoria of excellent health and a fit body had convinced me I would never suffer the misery of breaking down. Aging was for old people. Now, as a result of thousands of bad decisions, I am paying the price of my personal hubris. I know my days are limited and I don’t want COVID to further cut them short. As much as I hate precautions like masking, I am taking this thing deadly seriously. There might even be a little irony in my wearing a mask: I have a legitimate exemption not to wear one but I choose to do so anyway.

You realize you also have a choice, right? No, not that one — there’s another one, too. You can choose how you want to view a minor inconvenience like wearing a mask. You can choose to use words of hysteria like “tyranny” to describe medical advice that’s really basic common sense or you can choose to see the mask mandate as an annoying but necessary patriotic duty.

Tell me about tyranny when they confiscate your guns or force you to get sterilized or they take your house from you. But don’t use a weighty word like tyranny to describe a tiny strip of cloth smaller than a hanky.
 

Social (dis)Graces

meador

I made someone cry once, when she read my comments in a news forum. She was a person of some note and influence and her tears were not those of compassion or sorrow — she was outraged. I am told she took my remarks to the forum’s publisher, demanding they be removed, all the while shaking and crying tears of anger. Of course, I heard all this third-hand so I have no way of knowing whether it’s true. All I know for certain is my remarks caused a certain amount of offense among those who read them.

The news story was a simple one, describing a new business coming to one of the outlying small towns scattered throughout the Yamhill Valley. Several local residents were bothered the new business might erect a cheap back-lit sign — in not-very-polite terms, I remarked that a shabby little town like the one in the story had greater sartorial concerns than one more tacky plastic back-lit sign. In my defense, as McMinnville has become known as a wine destination, the surrounding communities have jumped aboard the tourism bandwagon, some with greater success than others. The offended woman interpreted my blunt comment as classist, a sweeping insult to people of little means. While my remarks were not intended kindly, they were also not intended as classist.

At the time, I thought her outrage was quite humorous.

I do not find it funny now.

What changed? Well, we all did, most of us anyway. As social media grew in use and influence, we were fairly quick to spot the hazards inherent to posting anonymously. It was easy to see that we and others could and would vent freely when protected by the shield of online facelessness. The venom came quick and it came in unbelievable measure as the public felt the exhilarating freedom of dropping all constraints of decorum when there was no threat anyone would find out what assholes we really were.

Oops. Did I just say assholes? Sorry. I went through dozens of words to fill that spot and there was really only one that fit. I apologize if you find it offensive. I know it’s tacky at best, but so were we when no one knew who we were. Anonymity gave us license to say whatever we wanted to whoever we wanted whenever we wanted with no consequences or accountability — well, with no consequences to us, anyway.

So the responsible among us tried to tone down our anonymous commentary or even stick with posting only under our real identities. Problem solved, right?

Not so much.

What happened next was far more insidious. When COVID hit and everyone was forced to stay at home for unprecedented lengths of time, our dependence on social media grew. Coupled with one of the most politically divisive periods in our history, people just decided being polite wasn’t worth the effort. So no one felt like being nice but at least those of us who had already made a conscious decision to eschew the protection of online anonymity believed we held the high ground — we posted under our real identities so nothing we said could really be all that bad, right?

What was missing was subtle but enormously important.

We’ve become dependent on social media — we’ve become familiar with it entangled in the events of our lives and we’ve become comfortable with it. What’s lost is the nuance of a tilted eyebrow, the barest smirk, a wink, a nod or any of a thousand tiny signals we use to convey the emotion behind the words we speak.

Online, I find myself scolding people who maybe didn’t mean their remarks as I interpreted them. Likewise, I am regularly chastised by people who read negative emotion into a comment I intended neutrally. Or I reread comments I made hours or days earlier, startled to see that they sounded harsher than I intended. Or any of ten thousand combinations of the ways we assign emotion to dispassionate text when we haunt our favorite news and politics pages on the internet.

That’s the problem: text, itself, is totally dispassionate. We can feel any emotion to any degree when we pen an online remark but these words we type are, themselves, unfeeling. Thus, those who read our comments — even if we took great pains to make them reflect our feelings — will assign their own emotions to what we wrote, based on their own perspectives. And vice-versa. I can encounter an innocuous remark about a subject dear to me and I may read all sorts of emotions into those words, feelings the remark’s author never intended to represent. And many of us tend to default to the worst possible interpretation when we do this. Even if we don’t become the full-on a-holes we were with anonymity, we certainly become mini-a-holes, knowing the worst backlash we’re likely to face is a flurry of hateful responses in the thread. No real world consequences. Most of these little snark-a-thons in which we engage online we would never allow to escalate in real life, with a real person in a real place like a coffee joint or a shop.

Most of us would be mortified if we behaved in person like we do online.

Lest anyone think I am lecturing, let me state unequivocally that I am guilty of all of these bad practices. In fact, I examined my own social media use to form the outline of this essay. I am as guilty as anyone.

So what’s the solution? How do we go about implementing the small-but-hugely-important constraints we use when we have a conversation with a real human, face-to-face?

I dislike the virtue-signaling redolence of vowing to ditch social media entirely. For one thing, it’s impractical: so much of our lives are tied up in the events and discourse present in social media. For another thing, few people can make such a commitment and stick with it. Further, swearing off social media entirely throws out its good connective aspects along with the bad. But using social media mindfully — meaning consciously monitoring our use of social media, being careful to balance digital relationships with actual human contact — is another thing entirely. With a little practiced discipline, we should be able to calm the instinctive negative reactions we have to things we read online, making our default interpretations neutral instead of worst-case. If we approach social media with our eyes open and our minds aware, we can begin to fix this monster we’ve created — a monster bent on turning us, ourselves, into mini-monsters who accept menace and suspicion as completely normal.

Where I once saw humor in creating outrage, I am now embarrassed by my own related actions and reactions.

Writing political commentary, I am well aware I will regularly offend people — it’s an unavoidable occurrence when anyone takes a public stance on any controversial issue. But offending people with reasonable dialogue is a different creature than penning intentionally rude remarks that serve little purpose beyond insult. I probably won’t be able to help myself once in a while but I’ve already sharply constrained the way I react to comments with which I disagree or even to the rude words of people doing their level best to offend.

I’ll never be perfect but I’ll tell you one thing: I no longer worry I’ll regret my remarks later. It’s a surprisingly refreshing feeling.
 

Meet the capital doorman

meador

Can you answer a question for me? In my ignorance, I just can’t get an apparently-simple concept through my head. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

Lately, several local elected officials have been holding forth about the sanctity of the will of the voters. For the record, I agree with them. Well, I mostly agree, anyway. The will of the voters is sacrosanct except for very rare occasions when extraordinary circumstances render the voters’ choice unfit to serve.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know we’re talking about Oregon House District 23, the one former Rep. Mike Nearman fled when his colleagues unceremoniously expelled him on June 10.

It all began when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown temporarily closed the capitol building to visitors as a COVID constraint. Most of us agree the place where the people’s business is conducted should be freely accessible. But in this case, all legislative business was livestreamed to anyone who wished to see it and the usual methods constituents use to reach out to their House and Senate members — telephone, email and social media — were readily available. No problem, right? I mean, it’s just for a few weeks. But in the current civil wasteland of menace and suspicion, hundreds of people suddenly decided the best time to visit the capitol in person was during the temporary closure. With attitudes, angry signs and plenty of firearms, they descended on the capitol to voice their discontent on the morning of Dec. 21, 2020.

Meanwhile, Nearman decided the need for the capitol to be open superseded any need for medical caution. While I understand his point, I do not understand the way he decided to prove it. As the disgruntled throng milled around outside the capitol, Nearman met a group of them at a side door and happily let them in. Once inside, Nearman’s minions broke windows and maced half a dozen Oregon State Police troopers before initiating an armed standoff, according to most reports.

While Nearman’s act was caught clearly on video, many people were willing to extend him the benefit of the doubt, believing his lie that he was just leaving the building — even though “leaving” involved him walking briskly to the rear side of the building where he let himself right back in. Not buying Nearman’s story, Speaker of the House Tina Kotek stripped Nearman of his committee assignments and commission appointments. No one was surprised.

Then another Nearman video surfaced. This one starred Nearman coaching a group of people on how they could text him in the capitol building when they were assembled outside a door and ready to invade — er, enter. “Operation Hall Pass,” Nearman dramatically called it. Immersing himself in what he undoubtedly believed to be something like plausible deniability, Nearman repeated a “random” telephone number several times on the video — a number that just happened to be that of his cell phone. Worse, this video was recorded several days before Nearman opened the infamous door.

When confronted with the Nearman-as-doorman and Nearman-as-insurrection-coach videos, Nearman admitted he’d lied and that, yes, he’d intentionally let the angry horde into the closed capitol. Because his own caucus had no trouble recognizing a monumental blunder when they saw one, a unanimous vote expelled Nearman from the House — the first time an expulsion ever happened. Well, the vote was almost unanimous. The single vote to retain him was rendered by Nearman, himself.

The rusty mechanism to replace an expelled House member involves local-level precinct committeepeople presenting nominees to the county commissioners of each county overlapping a House district. A commissioner’s vote is then weighted according to the portion of the district encompassing his or her county. As luck would have it, there’s no rule preventing a previously-expelled member from being appointed to his own vacant seat and — you guessed it! — the nominating precinct committeepeople think Mike Nearman is a fine gentleman, thank you very much.

Fortunately, level heads prevailed and the twelve commissioners (ten of them anyway) wisely selected the fifth choice of the precinct committeepeople, roundly rejecting their first choice, Mike Nearman, himself.

Which brings me to my question.

Can someone please explain to me why the will of the voters of Oregon House District 23 supersedes the will of all other voters? I don’t need you to explain the sanctity of the will of the voters in general — I already understand that. But I must know why House District 23 gets special treatment. I am having a difficult time understanding this.

When an elected official commits an act that threatens harm to his elected colleagues, he effectively removes his ability to work within the body because some of his colleagues are now afraid of him. Don’t get me wrong — I hear Nearman is actually a nice guy but when a nice guy intentionally causes his colleagues to feel threatened — to fear for their safety — no one should be surprised when some of those colleagues can no longer work with him. When other House members cannot come to work because they’re afraid Nearman might pull another juvenile and dangerous stunt, it effectively usurps the will of the voters in their own districts.

In the private sector, such thoughtless defiance would never be tolerated — no one would question the resulting termination. But I know, I know: this is the legislature so the rules are different than those of a mere business. Still, our duly elected governor enacted some temporary restrictions in the face of a health crisis clearly outlined by countless researchers, scientists and physicians. Yes, I get it — you have doubts about the agendas of all those credentialed experts but, really, isn’t any such disagreement a matter for the courts? Or even a matter for debate within your own elected body? When medical experts say there’s a crisis, I would be stupid using my non-medical education to question or second-guess them, even if I do have reservations.

And as for due process, you can pine for legal adjudication until the cows come home but for the vast majority of Oregonians, the moral jury has already very clearly ruled. It did so in the face of laughably overwhelming evidence. Frankly, at this point, I think the moral judgment trumps the puny legal one anyway.

Now, I’ve called Nearman’s rude guests “thugs” but you can call them whatever you like. Protesters, demonstrators, rioters, tourists, Baptists — I don’t care, they were armed, they assaulted half a dozen Oregon State Police troopers and they caused thousands of dollars of damage to our capitol building. Whatever term you prefer is unimportant. Their abhorrent actions caused widespread fear throughout the capitol building.

The crux of my problem is this: when a guy like Nearman commits an act that allows angry armed thugs to enter a building and imperil all of his elected colleagues and their staffs along with capitol personnel, he damages the ability of his colleagues to effectively govern. Why is the will of the voters of House Districts 1 through 22 and 24 through 60 subordinate to the will of District 23’s voters? The actions of District 23’s member should not be permitted to diminish or damage the abilities of up to 59 other districts’ members. Several dozen other legislators shouldn’t have their ability to serve constituents hobbled because they’re afraid of the potential actions of one member with questionable self control.

From another perspective, if the member representing District 44 had disobeyed the governor’s orders and admitted an angry group of armed Antifa rioters into the capitol — rioters who assaulted the police and vandalized the building — I’m pretty sure the member representing District 23 would’ve felt a teensy-weensy bit threatened and I’m even more confident that those all-knowing District 23 voters would’ve been downright outraged that someone from another district threatened their beloved member. Further, if other members were fearful District 44’s representative might repeat her bad judgment, you can be certain there’d be all sorts of clamoring for her removal from the other caucus.

Which brings us back to my original question once again. Why, please tell me, does the will of District 23 voters remain unquestioned when that will imperils the choices of the voters of 59 other districts?
 

Three guys walk in a bar . . .

meador

On this independence Day, I come back to a message I’ve been preaching for longer than two decades. I revisit this topic from time to time, each time convinced the need to share it is needed more than it was the previous one. In 2021, more than ever before, I am convinced this message bears sharing.

I spent about 20 years writing about food and beverage, including two editor-in-chief stints: one for a regional craft brewing publication and one for a fine dining and spirits magazine. Remembering the period when I grew into adulthood, I learned early how people of disparate backgrounds, economics, cultures and beliefs could sit at a table laden with good food and drink, genuinely enjoying each other’s company. I was amazed at how taking a meal and a drink with someone who held opinions opposing my own could unite us in our shared appreciation of the table before us. But this humbly universal principle goes so much further than a mere table.

I believe it’s crucial to remember we all have dozens of things in common for every one issue we disagree on.

Most of us default to that handful of notions that separate us — for some reason, those four or five opinions we fight about are much more important than the hundreds of sentiments we share.

Why? I mean, really. Isn’t it stupid to focus on a single political cause when we could sit down over the grilled ribeyes and local brews we both love? Isn’t it totally pointless to grumble over one political candidate when we could be eating sushi and drinking Northwest saké? Isn’t it a gigantic waste of time to hate someone because they don’t feel the same way we do about one cause when they actually do believe the same way we do on a host of other issues?

Why is it we now require a potential friend to march lockstep with us on two or three deal-breaker issues while we ignore the stuff we have in common? Are we really that insecure? Or is it monumental arrogance? Or is it some primeval stubbornness that keeps us hyperfocused when we could be open to others holding opinions different from ours?

After I witnessed the power food and drink have to bring human beings together, I spent years preaching it, writing about the abundant options of nourishment found throughout our region. Of course, any characteristics or tastes we share with others can unite us. But the fundamental and universal nature of breaking bread with each other can’t be beat for its straightforward honesty.

It’s nearly impossible to hate someone sitting at your table, enjoying magnificent meal, a couple of brews or an ancient whisky. That’s why I tell the following story from time to time.

————————— • —————————

Three guys walk into a bar...

Well, it was more than three and included an equal number of women. Several outspoken Democrats, a Muslim, a couple Catholics, at least one Republican, two Jews and probably four races were represented when a group of friends would sit around the table at a popular downtown Portland, Oregon bar a number of years ago. I was one of them. The makeup varied but the conversation and the beverage service remained predictable — we were a group of chums who disagreed profoundly on a handful of issues but we liked each other and we liked hoisting pints together. We were an assortment of personalities and professions, united by our shared affinity for post-work refreshment, at first anyway. But we soon discovered many other details we had in common, much of it tied together by humor — a lot of humor and a ridiculous measure of laughter. We met regularly and were always genuinely glad to see one another. Several times, we may have solved all the problems of the world and once I think we might’ve defined the meaning of life. Whatever the case, we celebrated our similarities and were comfortable with our differences — we knew the former far outnumbered the latter.

We did all this accidentally. We never set out to prove people who disagreed with each other could still be close friends. We didn’t intend to act all adult-ish and set our several differences aside because we had hundreds of things in common. We had no idea we were creating lifelong friendships around that table. No, we were a motley group who just enjoyed the fellowship of a shared table, littered with empty glasses and a lot of laughter. It was totally organic and completely accidental.

But now we need to do it on purpose.

When we think it’s okay to exercise violence against someone because we believe they’re wrong, we’re losing our grip on sanity, even our humanity. When we think we can send poison or bombs to someone with whom we disagree, something is seriously messed up. Obviously most of us totally get how screwed up a bomb is. But maybe not so much some of the lesser ways we express displeasure. This week alone, I saw three separate videos of peaceful protesters being assaulted by counter-protesters who got so angry they thought it was cool to hit someone. Seriously? That’s what we’ve become? We’re sure we hold the moral high ground so firmly that it’s permissible to hit someone just because we believe they’re wrong? And for a moment, we got so angry we couldn’t help ourselves?

I have a better idea: have a beer with them. Or a glass of whisky. Or a meal. I don’t mean go out and find a protest and invite the opposition to have a pint — although I’d admire your chutzpah if you did that. But consciously make the decision to sit down with someone you consider “one of them.” I’ve seen it happen many times — people who considered each other not worth an effort or even potential enemies discover they have some similarities after all. Some of the best friends of my life turned out to be the people with whom I disagreed the most.

I’ve been preaching the power food and drink have to bring people together for two decades. Outside of religion or political passion, nothing unites like a shared fondness for that which sustains and nourishes us. And while food and beverage do a lot to inspire shared enthusiasms, they don’t also usually include the risk of great division like religion or politics so often do.

This message I believe is more important now than ever. In this fractured world, consider sitting down with someone who belongs to the other political party or who comes from a different religion or culture. Do it more than once. Maybe even do it regularly. I promise your life will be greatly enriched as a result.

I’m not asking you to change your mind or alter your principles — just sit down and share a table with someone who’s different from you but might be a lot more like you than you thought. I’m not suggesting you embrace racists or rioters or dangerous fringe nutcases. But there are a whole lot of people in the broad middle — people who are remarkably like you and me, even if they hold opinions opposed to ours. These folks are as disgusted as you and I with the current mess. These are the people we need to invite to our table.

It’s amazing how tensions dissolve as a good meal is enjoyed. We can forget our disagreements and celebrate our similarities. Even if you believe you need to change minds or sway opinions, you should remember it’s much easier to do so over a comfortable table than over a stream of shouted obscenities. At the least, you’ll get a good story and enjoy a meal and a drink for your effort.

After an unprecedented year of quarantine, wildland fires, insane local and national politics and a visceral fight over vaccination, we need to step back and take a look at ourselves and our neighbors. Is this how we want to live? Is this “new normal” acceptable? Is nurturing widespread suspicion and distrust an example for our children?

Not for me. Not for my kids. Not, I hope, for you and yours either. Independence Day is a time to celebrate our nation’s freedom, a day most of us spend celebrating, relaxing and breaking bread with friends and family. This year, consider extending a hand and an invitation to someone outside your circle.

Do it on purpose. The power of food and drink coupled with a willingness to share a table with “them” is greater than you think.
 

The theft that never happened

meador

I swore I wasn’t going to do it but enough is enough. I can gripe about them, I can point out their error, I can even mock them but I’m not going to out them, that’s what I told myself. I don’t know what changed — I suspect it’s the disillusion anyone would feel when losing a significant amount of respect for a parent. I mean, the man has luxury homes in three states, he’s been successful in his professional life. He was a good father who provided for his kids and set a solid moral example. But he’s embraced perhaps the worst of all false lost causes.

Over six months after Joe Biden’s inauguration, my dad is still firmly and angrily tied to his golden calf, Donald Trump. I thought my father would renounce this and the corresponding Qanon(sense) stuff once it all became so obviously false as to be cartoonish but that cartooning happened long ago and all he’s done is double-down. Sorry, dad, your emperor isn’t riding back into town to claim the mantle of president, speaker of the house, princess royal, bishop of Bayonne, M.D., B.S., V.C., D.S.O., O.B.E., L.M.T., G.E.D. — or whatever absurd tin-pot string of self-awarded titles and credentials your oracle says Trump will claim.

And what’s with that, anyway? Didn’t your mysterious fortune teller pack up tent and sneak away in the darkness of winter?

A while back, I asked a number of my conservative friends to send me the evidence they had for the massive corruption they claim has taken over the land and stolen an election. There is so much evidence, they told me, incontrovertible proof, they said. These are people I care about, people I respect — surely they can prove the veracity of their claims. At first, all they sent was links to sermons and hundreds of hours of taped interviews, broadcasts and podcasts.

Since I can process written material much faster than video, I prefer materials claiming “absolute proof” of anything to be arranged succinctly, much like any academician would arrange a paper. Maybe start off with your claim as title, then a brief synopsis, then clear bullet points linked to supporting documents and evidence. (Please note: I am using the term “evidence” much like a court or a scientific research facility would use it — just so we’re clear, I am NOT equating “evidence” with “opinion,” “suspicion” or “strong feelings.”) When I am shackled to video without transcripts, I am at the mercy of slow-talkers, slow-thinkers and producers who are more interested in filling time slots than making sure their material is well-collated and succinct.

After wading through a lot of long files, several of these people began sending me the daily emails they’re getting from what passes as conservative news sources these days. And I do use the term “news sources” very loosely.

What the Trump Republicans did was brilliant in an odd way — brilliant because it worked spectacularly but odd because, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they fail to see the damage it has caused the Republican party and is causing the nation. What they did was declare all information produced or released by academia, media or government suspect and, therefore, unreliable. In one fell swoop, they swept aside the traditional sources humans use to establish baseline consensus for any issue humanity faces.

Why is this important?

Establishing a baseline consensus built on demonstrable evidence and accumulated knowledge is the first step in any public discourse. Essentially, a baseline consensus is a set of facts or data that all sides of an issue can stipulate is correct prior to beginning debate or discussion. Basically, it’s the crucial first step to getting public business done.

Dismissing the baseline consensus got the Trump Republicans two things. First, it enabled them to accept or reject any facts, data or opinion they wanted with no input from any other side. Second and worse, when you no longer have a baseline consensus and maintain your own set of information, you don’t need to discuss the issue with anyone but those who agree with the facts you, yourself, stipulate. Ultimately, what this accomplishes is giving the Trump Republicans the best possible reason to not engage: the moral high ground. In effect, if you’ve rejected all data but your own as false, unreliable, biased or skewed, you believe you’re now the only side using good information and, hence, you refuse to engage with any other side because they do not subscribe to your stipulated facts, the only good data. By your new (non-)standard, their data is corrupt. No sense arguing with people who use false facts, right?

Apart from the unbelievable irony, there’s one enormous problem.

The Trump Republicans rejected all of the traditional sources for establishing factual information but they didn’t replace those sources with new ones. Or more accurately, they didn’t replace them with new sources that met any accepted standard of academic rigor or professional discipline — but that’s the joy of the New Right Way! All those old standards are meaningless now. Standards? Trump Republicans don’t need no stinking standards! The New Right Way is embarrassingly Wrong.

So back to my conservative friends sending me stuff. Every day, I had this weird anticipation as I waited to see what they’d send. I never had any idea what to expect but I knew it’d be laugh-out-loud good. Most of their “absolute proof” was desperately short on proof but long talk — more time-share-style-sales-seminars, drawn-out snow jobs brimming with invective and speculation but nothing approaching proof.

My favorite of the bunch was a doozy! Harkening back to the Pearlas Sanborn Microsoft hoaxes of the 1990s (Google it), this one was so outrageously riddled with cartoonishly false information, I couldn’t believe the person who sent it actually believed it. (My dad’s wife, to her dubious credit, started adding a disclaimer that “some of it might not be totally accurate” since I started point-by-point refuting her best material.) But as much as the gallows humorist in me wanted to guffaw, I knew I should be truly alarmed that she and millions like her believe every absurd statement in this email.

Statements like this one, complete with spelling and grammatic errors and so much more:

“Trump just declassified all the Washington scandals. He is hiding at a military base. The attack at the capitol was antifa and BLM, mostly. This is not in any of the news or social media. This is why they are censoring everyone. They just DECLASSIFIED everything! Share it far & wide. Here we go! Wikileaks just dumped all of their files online. Everything from Hillary Clinton’s emails, McCain’s being guilty, Vegas shooting, Steve Jobs HIV letter, PedoPodesta, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Bilderberg, CIA agents arrested for rape, WHO pandemic. Happy Digging! Here you go, please read and pass it on...”

Then the overwrought message provides links to Wikileaks files that have been released probably 10 times in as many years. It breathlessly instructs the Trump supporters to spread the message because:

“IT’S HAPPENING! Military takedowns and arrests begin this wknd and will continue forward for the next 13 days/nights. Some international raids have already started. Italy has also been found complicit in our election fraud. Everyone will be getting emergency alerts on their phones, tv’s, radios & internet. It will override all other broadcasts and could last for several hours at a time. Do not to be scared of what’s coming as it is for the safety of our nation for this to unfold. DO NOT travel to any large cities (especially Philadelphia) for the rest of the month. Military operations will be taking place in many of the major corrupt cities. People will start rioting once this intel breaks thinking Trump is a military dictator. He only has 13 days to put this dog down.”

The message goes on to describe riots and National Guard and U.S. Marine Corps troops being mobilized as the Insurrection Act of 1807 is implemented. It scoffs mightily at the notion that Donald Trump is a dictator just before it tells its acolytes that the “smooth transition” Trump promised was that of he and his new military vice president seizing office along with his new cabinet. I assume Biden will be imprisoned.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. And they believe it, hook, line and sinker.

While it causes people like me great dismay, this newfound freedom from constraint must feel invigorating to Trump Republicans. Trumpists have declared that nothing is trustworthy but they, themselves; everything is corrupt but they, themselves. Hence, they, themselves become both the source of truth and the arbiter of truth. No traditional fact-checking, no consensus, none of the former checks and balances, no need to rely on traditional professional disciplines or academic rigor. Free from the repression of traditional constraints, it’s ridiculously easy for opinion to assume the role of fact. Opinion becomes truth when all constraints of traditional human discipline are removed — when you’re the arbiter of your own truth, no one can tell you what’s false.

And then they send out emails like the one above.

An entire movement can say whatever it wants — anything, the sky is the limit! Opinion becomes truth, rule, policy. Then that truth, rule and policy is disseminated in an echo chamber where no one objects, no one corrects, no one restrains. There are no boundaries. They say whatever they feel in the moment, they parrot each other, stating opinion and conjecture as incontrovertible fact — they need no evidence because everything is corrupt and nothing is trustworthy. Traditional evidence is worthless. All that’s left is opinion — all that matters now is opinion. Indeed, the only thing to be trusted is opinion.

When facts are firmly rejected and replaced by opinion, the untethering from traditional restraint must feel indescribably exhilarating — maybe even enough to make that amateur invasion of the U.S. Capitol look like a good idea at the time.

The optimistic side of me wants to believe this insanity is temporary, that things will go back to right once COVID subsides and the world returns to a semblance of normal. I have hope many of these conservative Trump supporters I care about will look back a few years from now and realize how their beliefs transitioned from plausible to preposterous when they discarded the only tools we fallible humans have to keep our worst imaginative selves in check — how we all have a legitimate need to keep our wildest conjecture in the realm of fiction and prevent it from overwriting fact.

Either that or they’re right and I’m the one who will live to eat my words and admit how blind I was. Yeah, right. While the sun is shining and most of us are looking ahead optimistically, they’re still holed up in their walled echo chambers, bitterly decrying a theft that never happened.
 

Listening

meador

A small drama unfolded the other day in a series of comments on a post in a popular local Facebook group. Actually, it only started as a drama — it played out as a timely and necessary conversation. And it only started as a drama because I misread an important remark.

A group member made a post asking if there were any Black-owned businesses in the area that he could support. Predictably, the conversation almost immediately got defensive, prompting me to write an essay on legitimate reasons why a white person might wish to support a merchant of color. I said when we live in a town where 86 percent of the population is white, it stands to reason that the overwhelming majority of local merchants are also white. There are many long-term reasons why white people might wish to support businesses owned by Black people. Most of these reasons involve closing the wealth gap or strengthening the economies of Black communities. But a white person might also intentionally seek out a merchant of color just to show support and solidarity with a group that might not enjoy the same enthusiasm among broad groups of (mostly white) consumers, an advantage that an average white-owned business might have. Sometimes, seeking out a merchant of color is just a nice gesture, considering the disturbing number of white people who actively avoid using minority-owned businesses as a protest against affirmative action or worse. Occasionally, a white person might even wish to expand his or her horizons by visiting a merchant of an unfamiliar culture.

A local professional who identifies as Mexican politely and succinctly pointed out several problematic points in my essay. Jes Dimas is a clinical social worker and therapist in McMinnville, Oregon. He holds multiple credentials in his field — he treats everything from anxiety and depression to identity issues. When Jes pointed put my errors, I immediately overreacted.

In my defense, I had absorbed Jes’ remarks in their sum total, not quite what he intended. After several hours of reflection following my initial horror that I’d gotten it so wrong, I took another look at Jes’ words. This time, I deconstructed his comments. I read his remarks literally, assigning any value judgment he mentioned only to whatever specific point he’d tied that judgment — not viewing his critique as an overall condemnation. Once I calmed down, I realized Jes was right. As in totally right. Now, as a white man, it’s not my place to tell Jes whether he’s right or wrong on matters of race — matters he’s lived and felt but I can only imagine. But the coolest part about it was, once I’d calmed and revisited Jes’ remarks, I agreed with him unreservedly. The logician in my head and my basic instinct agreed: I needed this lesson. But the whole affair brought a larger question to the forefront.

Can white people talk about race?

More specifically, can a white guy like me address race in a forum like this? Does my voice add value to the discussion? Am I causing more harm than good by speaking up?

I am intensely uncomfortable writing about race. I never set out to be a white guy writing about race but several circumstances came together to point me in this direction. I came to realize very quickly that I need to be uncomfortable — in fact, the moment I get comfortable writing about race is the moment I need to stop writing about race.

I knew immediately I could never speak for a person of color. But maybe just as crucially, I cannot speak TO a person of color. Huh? Think about it. I cannot talk or lecture a person of color on matters of race. Dictionary.com defines the term “whitesplaining” as “the act of a white person explaining topics to people of color, often in an obliviously condescending manner, and especially regarding race- or injustice-related issues.” The Urban Dictionary defines it similarly, as a white person lecturing on matters of race to a person of color. There is a reason both of those resources list this word: too many people are guilty of the act of whitesplaining.

Anyone who reads my words can get anything they want from doing so but it’s important I make it clear I am speaking neither for nor to any person of color. In my essay on supporting Black-owned businesses, I did not make that clear. I’ve said it so often, I assume people know it. But I need to make it clear every time.

So who is it I’m trying to reach as a white guy talking about race? There are people who will listen to me because I am white — people who might dismiss a voice of color. Often, these people do not consciously or intentionally ignore voices of color, but they may give my words more weight just because of my skin color. If I can convince a handful of these people to look at things from a different perspective, then my voice has value in this conversation.

The answer to whether white people can talk about race is complicated. The big take-away from this entire event was one of crucial importance and one I am emphasizing today. White people need to sit back and listen for a change. We’ve been telling the world how to be ever since we departed Europe and “discovered” distant shores. It’s time we calm down and earnestly listen to the voices of people of color. I mean really listen — hear with an open heart and quiet humility. This is neither a round condemnation nor a damning of white people as evil, guilty, horrible, awful, mean-spirited devils. But it is a suggestion that we have collectively not been very good at listening to the voices of people who do not look like us. I promise you you’re in for a mind-blowing experience if you humbly hear the stories people of color have to tell.

I have two people very close to me who are Black. These very close decades-long relationships do not give me any special right to address matters of race but they have maybe given me a long-term sensitivity to how people of different hues are treated. I try to minimize my mention of them because I do not wish to wear my friends of color like some sort of white merit badges. I see smug white people do this all the time. “Well, I have some nephews and nieces who are Hispanic,” they say, using a term easy to misuse. “And I have a good friend who is Black.” They seem to believe these merit-badge minorities somehow give them permission to speak for people of color.

To keep me accountable in speaking on matters of race, I consult regularly with people of color. The same people also vet what I write. I realize not everyone’s experience is the same — there are broad spectra of opinion throughout communities of color. But I believe it’s my duty to make sure what I say is as close as possible to the collective experienced truth of those I am trying to support.

I am grateful Jes Dimas had the courage to gently correct me when I got something wrong. I am thankful we had a dialogue — Jes helped me be accountable when I erred. Respectful conversations like these are desperately needed these days.
 

A man of honor

meador

For the recent Memorial Day, I posted a picture of a World War II serviceman with a couple paragraphs about his service. But his story deserves more.

When Doris Miller crawled out of his bunk one Sunday morning, he was looking forward to a fairly quiet day. Serving as a messman aboard U.S.S. West Virginia (BB-48), Miller knew most of his ship’s officers and crew were ashore on liberty. His first duties of the day after serving breakfast included collecting dirty laundry.

A Black man serving in a segregated navy, Miller’s skin color restricted him to the steward corps but his keen interest in other subjects meant Miller paid attention to things going on around him. In high school back in Waco, Texas, the six-foot-three-inch two-hundred-pound Miller had played fullback on his high school football team. After dropping out, Miller worked on his family farm and practiced his marksmanship by target shooting with his rifle. He reportedly worked as a cook at a small Waco restaurant during the Depression.

At 7:57 on that Sunday morning, as he gathered soiled laundry, the first of seven Japanese torpedoes hit the West Virginia. Miller reported to his battle station, a midships anti-aircraft magazine, only to find it in ruins. Reporting to a back-up muster station, the ship’s communications officer, Lt. Cdr. Doir Johnson, pressed Miller into service to help move wounded from the ship’s flag bridge. As the battle raged around them, Miller lifted his commanding officer, Capt. Mervyn Bennion, who had been badly wounded by flying shrapnel from the battleship Tennessee (BB-43), which was engulfed in explosions and moored alongside West Virginia. Miller moved the captain to a sheltered spot in the lee of the ship’s conning tower.

Lt. Frederic White took Miller and another sailor, intending to man the two unused .50-caliber anti-aircraft guns aft of the conning tower. White meant for Miller to supply the guns with ammunition but, when he was distracted momentarily, Miller had taken charge of one of the guns and was engaging the Japanese planes shrieking overhead.

Miller fired the gun until it ran out of ammunition. The West Virginia’s gunnery officer, Lt. C. V. Ricketts, then enlisted Miller’s help to move Capt. Bennion to the navigation bridge to get the mortally wounded commanding officer out of the raging smoke. Bennion had kept his wits about him, constantly issuing orders and inquiring about the state of his badly damaged ship. Here, the captain died. He was later awarded a Medal of Honor.

Although at one point the West Virginia listed nearly 25-degrees, Miller moved injured sailors along the oily and smoking decks to the relative shelter of the quarterdeck. All the while, fires and explosions raged around him. Ricketts wisely ordered counter-flooding so the giant ship eventually settled on a relatively even keel in the harbor’s shallow waters. It was soon engulfed by fire fed by fuel leaking from the flaming U.S.S. Arizona (BB-39). West Virginia was abandoned and Miller swam to shore, avoiding flaming patches of fuel oil atop the roiled water.

An accurate evaluation of Miller’s efforts on the gun is impossible to determine due to the utter chaos of battle. Some reports credit him with shooting down at least one Japanese attacker. Whatever the case, Miller’s actions were universally lauded for meeting the highest standards of bravery and courage in the face of the withering enemy fire and unspeakable violence going on around him.

Miller was killed in action when U.S.S. Liscome Bay (CVE-56) was sunk in November 1943. An escort carrier, Liscome Bay’s magazines catastrophically detonated in a Japanese torpedo attack off Butaritari Atoll, Gilbert Islands. It was the deadliest sinking of a carrier in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Wilton Lanning, Jr., a Waco community leader, penned a moving account of meeting Miller’s parents. Even as the child he was at the time, Lanning recalls the small flag with the gold star Miller’s parents displayed in their window. Lanning said decades later, he can recall the absolute pride Miller’s parents took in their son’s actions on the “day that will live in infamy.”

Personally, I always thought Miller should have received the Medal of Honor for his actions aboard the battleship West Virginia. I am not the only one who feels that way. In view of Capt. Bennion’s receipt of a posthumous Medal of Honor, I felt Miller’s actions at least matched his captain’s in courage and honor. But lobbying from organizations, newspapers and bills from two members of Congress couldn’t convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to acknowledge Miller’s heroic actions with an award higher than the Navy Cross. At the time, the Navy Cross was the third-highest award for valor. Later, Congress would revise the order of precedence, placing the Navy Cross above the Distinguished Service Medal, making the Navy Cross the second-highest award for valor.

When Adm. Chester Nimitz, pinned the Navy Cross to Miller’s chest on May 27, 1942 aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise (CV-6), it was the first time a Black man had received the honor. Now I’m not knocking the Navy Cross — it is a high honor, indeed. Nevertheless, I always thought Miller deserved more.

But from time to time — sometimes years late — even the Navy gets it right.

The Navy has long named its ships after its heroes, often relegating such courageous men as Miller to the nameplates of destroyers or support vessels. When CVN-81 is launched in 2029, she will bear a name somewhat different than her sisters. If you’re familiar with U.S. Naval nomenclature, you already know a CVN is no ordinary ship — a CVN is the pride of the entire Navy. Usually, CVNs are named for vaunted presidents or hallowed legacy vessels like Enterprise. But CVN-81 will proudly bear the name U.S.S. Doris Miller.

The pinnacle of naval power, CVN-81 is a magnificent Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier scheduled to be laid down in 2026. The U.S. Navy doesn’t name such ships lightly.

I don’t know about you, but I think naming the grandest symbol of naval might after Doris Miller is way better than a medal.