Flags

Bildergebnis für declaration of independence

I just made a visit back to the country of my birth. I had wondered what I’d find there, and quickly realized I’d had no idea about the changes. America has a new president and a new mood in the land. The violent protests at Charlottesville, Virginia occurred during my visit. I tried to follow the arguments for keeping the statue. Heritage. History. Cultural good.

I watched the debacle from the other side of the country. I’m no Southerner; what do I know? And then I met an old college buddy for dinner. He suggested a great Mexican place. It’s in Creswell, a little city just 8 miles outside of Eugene, Oregon. We parked in front of the restaurant, and as I stepped out a big pickup truck raced down the center of the street. Confederate flags flew defiantly from either window. The flags were huge, and meant to be noticed.

“Welcome to my country,” my buddy said. I’d like to say I promptly forgot about the sight, but I haven’t. Let’s be very clear here. The Confederate flag has nothing to do with the history of the Northwest. In the rest of the world, the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and white supremacists. The noise of those big flapping flags was a loud slap across the face, a F-You to normal values and behaviors. Donald Trump and others argue that removing flags and statues = removing history.

I climbed on a plane a week later and returned to Germany. Now, if any country lives past, present and future history simultaneously, it is Germany. No busts of Hitler remain. Germans don’t want or need them. Instead, stumbling stones called Stolpersteine mark the last homes of victims murdered in the Holocaust. [1] Outdoor installations like Berlin’s East Side Gallery and the Topography of Terror, or Leipzig’s “Runde Ecke” Memorial Museum and the Stasi Bunker Museum are just a few of the national monuments and exhibits that grapple with the tasks of explaining why Nazi Germany came into being, and dictatorships and fascism in general.

America’s Declaration of Independence states, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…. [2] As I ponder this truth, I exhale. I held my breath in distress during my visit. I’m told, and I read, that this is who we Americans were all along. Truculent. Armed and angry. Shouting. Unwilling to try to understand how people with views different from our own think, or feel. From this side of the Atlantic, history appears to be repeating itself. We’ve experienced this kind of thinking and acting before. It did not end well.

I hope that the opposite version wins out.

NOTES: [1] Go to my earlier posts Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones and Stolpersteine 2: A Stumbling Stone for Luisa Lepman  to read more about Stolpersteine. [2] http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

© Jadi Campbell 2017.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

A Visit to the Food Bank, Part 1

Pablo Neruda Quote FFLC

I’m hard at work on my next novel. You’ll meet a psychotherapist with a fear of flying, cult members, and a woman with strange dreams. One character visits a food bank. It’s a brief scene, one page or maybe two, tops. Easy enough. Nonetheless, the scene matters.

I spent hours trolling the Web for information. The back of my brain always insists, Get it right, Jadi. Then I remembered I actually know several people who work at non-profits… and I’d never visited a food bank. So, in the interests of research (and a wonderful excuse to see what a friend does all day) I made an appointment to interview Beverlee Hughes, Executive Director of Food For Lane County [FFLC] in Eugene, Oregon.

I thought I knew about the reality of hunger. Uwe and I travel to out of the way places, and God knows we’ve seen poverty and malnutrition in countries and regions all around the globe. But the visit to FFLC brings it back home.

  • Fact: 20% of the U.S. population lives in poverty
  • Fact: 46 million Americans are on food stamps
  • Fact: The number of people needing services has tripled in a decade
  • Fact: 1 in every 5 people in Oregon is eligible for food assistance
  • Fact: Oregon State has highest rate of childhood hunger in the country (29.0%)
  • Fact: 30% of children in Oregon are food insecure *
  • Fact: 39% of Lane County residents are eligible for emergency food assistance
  • Fact: In some Lane County schools, 95% of all children are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches

What do you do with these facts? If you’re Beverlee, you get to work. She and her staff of 58 achieve an astonishing range of goals:

  • Emergency & Mobile food pantries (distributing just under 8 million lbs. of food/year)
  • Emergency Meal sites & shelters
  • 3 Child Nutrition Programs
  • Food Rescue Express & Fresh Alliance (distributing 1 million lbs. of food/year)
  • 2 gardens & a 6-acre farm that grow food & build self-esteem. FFLC hires at-risk kids and through internships teaches them teamwork, punctuality, customer services, etc. Daily lunches at the gardens teach people what freshly harvested produce tastes like.
  • Extra Helping, food for low-income housing sites
  • Rural deliveries
  • Delivery of once-a-month food boxes for low-income seniors
  • A farm stand outside PTA meetings where parents can pick up food as they leave
  • The Dining Room, the food bank’s sit-down restaurant in downtown Eugene, offering free 4-5 course meals. They serve up to 300 meals a night.
  • Shopping Matters, classes to teach people on limited budgets how to shop for food
  • Cooking Matters, free cooking & nutrition classes to begin in January 2014

 ***

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

* Food insecurity—the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports—is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

Photo Copyright © 2013 Jadi Campbell. (All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)