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A Red Sky Two and a half years later, her voice still haunts me. From the other side of the fence, I hear her yell at her children as they play in the backyard. It’s a sunny day, and my wife and I are riding our bikes on a path that runs right beside this family’s home. We are enjoying a weekend vacation in Ashland, four hours south of our own home in Salem, Oregon. A blissful afternoon, we are all unaware that, just two days later, a fire will race up the path we’re riding on. It will level this entire neighborhood to the ground, including the mobile home we just passed, with the door that just clacked shut. Whole communities in several towns will be completely wiped out by just one fire – one of the many fires about to explode across our state. This particular fire, the Almeda fire, will consume 2,600 homes and three lives. Throughout the 2020 wildfire season in Oregon, at least twenty-one fires will each burn more than a thousand acres or cause significant structural damage or death. Over a million acres will burn, 40,000 people will be evacuated, and at least eleven people will be killed.

On Loss (May 2023)

Dignity and Civic Life We can envision a universal parameter of dignity for individuals: Each person is owed fundamental respect simply by virtue of being human. We can also appreciate the importance of ensuring dignified treatment of the myriad of groups that comprise our society, and in particular, those that have been exploited, marginalized, and disempowered. For Friends, the importance of human dignity rests on a strong spiritual basis:

On Dignity (July 2023)

What Friends Bring to Politics A few other Oregon Quakers and I were in an online book group. We read We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign. This book consists of fifty-three essays, each just two or three pages long, each including Scriptural references. It’s by and for people who are working towards more dignity for poor people – by challenging the ways that our institutions keep people in poverty. This book makes one thing clear to me – local government policies and actions have been major drivers of economic inequity throughout the history of our nation, especially in terms of housing inequality. It also seems clear to me that this level of democracy – the local level – is a critical place for us to work to make a positive impact on these issues.

On Dignity (July 2023)

Othering Among Friends As humans, we are taught from a very young age to categorize things based on their characteristics. In my former life as an elementary school teacher, it was part of my job to help young children develop a sense of what is the same and what is different. Children sort things by size, color, shape, texture, etc. This skill serves a purpose, but it also gets used in ways that are problematic.

On Dignity (July 2023)