Disaster-Prone Oregon: As if 100 Nights of Rioting Weren’t Bad Enough

Current humidity is 10%, and the forecast is for 100-degree heat and “historically high winds.”* Today dawned red; the red turned to gray; and ash is falling like snowflakes. Even indoor air is smoky, nauseating, and congesting, and twilight lingers all day. Outside air has gone from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” to “hazardous.” Our shrubs, patio, and walkways lie beneath a thick layer of ash. Many rural areas have lost power, and five towns have burned to the ground.

When Peggy and I moved to Oregon in 1986, mountain real estate was in high demand, but now that global warming has melted glaciers and ever-worsening fires have turned rural idylls into death traps (Trump claims that the fire problem is caused by Democrats), the cautious have grown even more cautious. I live in the heart of a metro area of 300,000, so if I die in a natural disaster, it is unlikely to be a forest fire but rather the +9 Great Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. These quakes hit an average of every 246-years, the last one occurring 320-years ago at 9:00 p.m. on January 26, 1700 (the time and date have been determined from Japanese records of when the resultant tsunami hit Japan). Had the threat posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone been known when Peggy and I moved to Oregon in 1986, we would have gone elsewhere.

There have been numerous small quakes during our time here (one of which caused extensive damage to the state capitol), but they were along local faults while the Cascadia fault extends from California, through Oregon, through Washington, and through British Columbia before finally ending in Alaska. It is expected that Coastal communities will be completely flattened by the quake before being washed out to sea seven minutes later. Because the Coast is squeezed between mountains and ocean, few roads run east so there will be little chance of escape. Being sixty miles inland and 200-400 feet above sea level, the Willamette Valley won’t be swept out to sea, but setting atop hundreds of feet of Ice Age rubble will still mean major disaster, but back to fire-related news....

Peggy has a friend named Sandy who lives twenty miles from town and next door to the Willamette National Forest. A woman of more than average means, Sandy has spent forty-five years of her life and an enormous amount of money in building a world-class clothing button collection. The closer the fires get, the more Sandy worries, but because her husband pooh-poohs her worry, no steps are being taken to move their belongings to safety. Yesterday, the fire department toured Sandy’s property in preparation for using it as a staging area.

Throughout the day, TV programs are being interrupted by fire-related news, and evacuation orders are constantly scrolling across the bottom of the screen. The smoke is so thick that flame retardant can’t be dropped from planes or helicopters, and five towns have thus far burned to the ground. All the firefighters in the world couldn’t slow a fire that is moving too fast to approach. Peggy heard on the news that the nearest fire jumped thirteen miles in one night, but I can’t imagine that it’s true.

Volcanoes. Oregon has four volcanoes that the USGS characterize as “very high risk.” The one nearest Eugene is the 10,358-foot South Sister, which, despite being seventy miles away, can be seen from town. The South Sister has a bulge that has grown nine inches since its discovery in 1997. Because the prevailing winds blow away from Eugene, the worst likely danger would come from watershed destruction, Eugene’s water coming from the McKenzie River, which originates near the South Sister. (Because the McKenzie flows through the worst of the fires, Eugene's water tastes bad).

Landslides. These are only a problem in the wet season and usually along the Coast, where they sometimes close the only north-south highway (US 101, aka El Camino Real) for months, it being too dangerous to move a landslide that won’t stop sliding. Obviously, people occasionally die, and the only way out is sometimes by helicopter.

Friday Afternoon Fire Update. Another filthy day of coughing, nausea and daylong twilight, but, unless The Big One hits, we probably won’t end the day homeless in a school parking lot. By noon on Monday, the winds are expected to shift.

Friday Night Fire Update: 40% of Oregonians have been told to prepare for evacuation, and another 10% have already evacuated.

* Since I started writing this three days ago, the winds have dissipated, and the daytime highs have dropped by 25-degrees (the area being prone to temperature fluctuations), but the fires just keep getting bigger and more numerous. In California, things are even worse, but things are too bad here for me to worry much about
how things are down there.

** Friday Night Fire Update: 40% of Oregonians have been told to prepare for evacuation, and another 10% have already evacuated. s a link to local fire news and photos: https://www.registerguard.com/story/news/2020/09/10/holiday-farm-fire-frequently-asked-questions/5767238002/

Is This How You View Donald Trump? An Attempt to Understand.

I want to understand the difference between people who love Donald Trump and people like myself who despise him, it being obvious that our differences go beyond policy. When I came upon a nine-point list of traits (at bottom of post) that characterize people who are malevolent,* I discovered that every item on the list strongly represents my understanding of the character of Donald Trump. Because I view these traits in him as unavoidably obvious, I am unable to maintain a high regard for those who disagree. 

My alienation from such people saddens me, and I have observed that they use some of the same insulting words to describe me that I use to describe them, words like stupid, deluded, hateful, and unpatriotic. They say that I want to abolish the police, and that I love rioters and looters, although I strongly support the police, and would gladly see rioters and looters shot dead in the street if it were possible to separate them from other demonstrators. I say these things in the hope of making it clear to Trumpians that our disagreement isn't total, and that in this, at least, we can find some comfort.

We are all pained by our contempt for one another, but no one knows how to move beyond it. Or at least I don't. Millions have stopped talking completely, while millions more have agreed to stop talking about Trump. Neither approach works for me, yet my attempts at understanding and being understood have been so anger-laden and accusatory that they have made matters worse. So I ask you, not rhetorically, but because I want to know: three and a half years into Trump's presidency, how do you view his character? 

If you hate him as I do, then I will obviously understand, but for those few readers who regard him as honest, just, compassionate, and patriotic, to what do you attribute the fact that I hold the opposite view, and would you like for us to bridge the divide? While I have little belief that the angry torrent that separates us can be bridged, I am nonetheless making what I intend as a constructive effort. If my approach doesn't work for you, perhaps you have an idea that would. It is my blog, so while it makes sense that most of the time and work would be mine, the fact is that I need help. It is also true that no matter where you live or how you feel about Trump, everyone the wide world over has been wounded by the rage, chaos, and alienation that characterize his presidency. Perhaps you will say that these things aren't his fault, but surely you won't deny that they exist, or that responsibility for healing the wounds falls completely on the other side.

The following is the list of what I see in Trump. Even if you think I'm imagining these things in him, my hope is that if you understand the self-talk that underlies my hatred, you will find my hatred comprehensible. Whether this will represent progress, I don't know, but it's the only idea I have.

  1. Egoism. The excessive concern with one's own pleasure or advantage at the expense of community well-being.
  2. Machiavellianism. Manipulativeness, callous affect and strategic-calculating orientation.
  3. Moral Disengagement. A generalized cognitive orientation to the world that differentiates individuals' thinking in a way that powerfully affects unethical behavior.
  4. Narcissism. An all-consuming motive for ego reinforcement.
  5. Psychological Entitlement. A stable and pervasive sense that one deserves more and is entitled to more than others.
  6. Psychopathy. Deficits in affect, callousness, self-control and impulsivity.
  7. Sadism. Intentionally inflicting physical, sexual or psychological pain or suffering on others in order to assert power and dominance or for pleasure and enjoyment.
  8. Self-Interest. The pursuit of gains in socially valued domains, including material goods, social status, recognition, academic or occupational achievement and happiness.
  9. Spitefulness. A preference that would harm another but that would also entail harm to oneself. This harm could be social, financial, physical or an inconvenience.